Molly's Blog: World Cup Group Stages Russia set for Round of 16? My predictions!

With the World Cup having kicked off today with hosts Russia taking on Saudi Arabia, I took a look at the eight groups and made my predictions.

by Molly_Burke Thursday, 14 June 2018 06:12 PM Comments

Group A

While Group A doesn't seem to be a particularly exciting group, it still hosts some major talent in Mohamed Salah, Luis Suarez and Edison Cavani - all whom will have to shine if they are to see their country reach the knockout stages. 

While Uruguay's striking pair are vital to any success the team will hope to achieve, it is the rest of the side's ability that makes me believe they will top the group. Whilst Salah was arguably one of the best players in the world last season, Egypt don't have the quality in other areas to match up to Uruguay. 

A defensive partnership of Atletico Madrid's Jose Gimenez and Diego Godin, as well as Juventus' "Uruguayan Pogba" Rodrigo Bentancur and Inter's Matias Vecino in the middle will be important in beating Egypt and Russia to the top. 

As for second place, it was a tough choice between Egypt and Russia. If Salah continues his form into the World Cup he could quite possibly lead them to glory, however Russia being the hosts means they are guaranteed brilliant support and top atmospheres at each of their games which could help them to pip Egypt to that second place spot. Today's comprehensive win will be a big help towards achieving that (the table below was done before today's game hence Russia's goal difference isn't on the money!).

Group B

Group B is a fairly easy group to predict, however recent events regarding Spain's manager may hand Portugal an advantage in claiming the top spot. 

I think it's fair to say that Iran will have no chance in making it out of this group and I can't see them picking up a single point either. And while Spain and Portugal are clear favourites to reach the Round of 16, Morocco are likely to put up a good fight. 

Sporting the Morocco shirt this summer will be the likes of Juventus' Mehdi Benatia, Championship winner Romain Saiss and Ajax's Hakim Ziyech. Whilst these names are no match for Ronaldo, Isco etc, I wouldn't be surprised to see them overperform this World Cup.

Up until Spain sacked Julen Lopetegui I was convinced they would top the group and most likely go on to win the whole thing, but now I'm not too sure. Portugal will be looking to impress following their Euros success and there is no denying they have a very strong team, however I think the talent of the Spain squad will be too much for them and they will be beaten to the top on goal difference.

Group C

I think there's no doubt that France till top Group C. A team that is capable of not taking Anthony Martial, Alexandre Lacazette or Karim Benzema is a very good team. A front three of Kylian Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann - as well as Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante behind them - is extremely frightening and I can't see Denmark, Peru or Australia stopping them. 

Denmark are taking a very strong team to Russia, with the likes of Kasper Schmeichel, Simon Kjaer, Andreas Christensen, Yussuf Poulsen, Christian Eriksen and Kasper Dolberg all standing out. Denmark have an all-round good team and while I can't see them progressing any further than the Round of 16, I think they will comfortably finish second. 

Group D 

Group D - the group of death. This group is going to be extremely entertaining and, whilst I have predicted Iceland and Nigeria will both only gain a point, I think each game will be very tight and I wouldn't be surprised if the final outcome is completely different. 

However, one thing I am sure on is that Argentina will top the group. Argentina narrowly missed out on the 2014 World Cup thanks to a last gasp winner from Germany's Mario Gotze in the final, and with Lionel Messi now 30 years old, he will be determined to win what may well be his last World Cup.

As well as having the best player in the world in their squad, Argentina also have the likes of Nicolas Otamendi, Angel Di Maria, Paulo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero - so they're certainly not short on talent. 

I've gone with Croatia for second place - a side that I can see doing very well if they are at their best. I would find it very difficult to doubt a team that has some of the world's best in Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, as well as the likes of Dejan Lovren, Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic. 

Meanwhile I think both Nigeria and Iceland will be unlucky not to progress. Both have capable squads, with the Premier League's Alex Iwobi, Victor Moses, Kelechi Iheanacho and Wilfred Ndidi likely to impress for Nigeria, while Iceland will be looking to replicate their surprising Euros journey in which they reached the quarter-finals. However, I am not convinced they will be able to perform as well as either Argentina or Croatia in this group.

Group E

Brazil are my favourites to win the World Cup this year, with the South American side looking to overcome their embarrassing departure from the last World Cup in a 7-1 hammering by Germany in the semi-finals. With a potential attack of Neymar, Gabriel Jesus, Willian and Philippe Coutinho and still having the options of Roberto Firmino, Douglas Costa and Fred on the bench, Brazil are going to be frightening. 

I've opted for Switzerland to finish in second place, with Stoke's Xherdan Shaqiri sure to impress in the group. However, I think Serbia are likely to threaten, with Aleksandar Mitrovic to be a vital player if they are to fight Switzerland for that second place spot, following the striker's recent hat-trick in a friendly against Bolivia.

Despite Costa Rica impressing in 2014, reaching the quarter-finals, I can't see them doing it again in what may prove to be a very tough group for them. 

Group F 

Defending champions Germany are almost guaranteed to finish top of Group F, with none of the other three teams looking capable of matching them. It's difficult to find any weakness in a team that were able to exclude Leroy Sane from their squad - a decision that they will hope they won't regret. 

I also think Mexico are likely to progress comfortably with a squad that includes some very good players such as Miguel Layun, Andres Guardado, Javier Hernandez and Carlos Vela. 

Neither Sweden or South Korea look as if they have the talent and ability to pick up many points in this group and perhaps their toughest test will be for the third place spot. I can see Son Heung-min impressing in what little South Korea will have to celebrate, with Sweden failing to turn their side into anything other than an average team without their former star man Zlatan Ibrahimovic. 

Group G 

Group G is most certainly the group that I will be paying the most attention to, as we hope to finally see England impress at a major tournament. However, I can't see the Three Lions topping the group when they are up against the likes of Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne of Belgium. 

If we are at our best when we play Belgium next Sunday then we could possibly take a point from the Red Devils, but I am still quite certain we will fall short and finish second. While we actually finished bottom of the group four years ago, I really can't believe Tunisia - a team whose best player is probably Wahbi Khazri - would be capable of finishing above us.

Panama are making their debut at the World Cup this summer, but I think it is very unlikely that they are going to cause any upsets and will surely finish bottom.

Group H 

The final group is the one that I think is the toughest to predict. Bar Japan, each of the other three teams have their own top players, such as Cheikhou Kouyate, Idrisa Gana Gueye, Diao Keita Balde and Sadio Mane for Senegal; Kamil Glik, Lukasz Piszczek, Piotr Zielinski and Robert Lewandowski for Poland, while Colombia have James Rodriguez, Carlos Bacca and Radamel Falcao to choose from. 

However, I can see the quality of Lewandowski proving vital for Poland, and if he is able to replicate his Bayern Munich form then they will comfortably top the group.

As for second place, I think it will be a thrilling battle between Colombia and Senegal, with the African side in particular not to be doubted. 

Tags

world-cup, Russia, Brazil, salah, england, lewandowski