Paul Oberjuerge header image 2

Sorting the World Cup Best from the Rest

November 20th, 2017 · No Comments · Fifa, Football, France, Russia 2018, World Cup

The 32 teams are set.

Last nation into the tournament was Peru, with a 2-0 aggregate victory over New Zealand in the inter-confederation playoffs.

Here are the nations that will participate in Russia 2018 — 31 of them, with the host Russia making it 32.

Let’s break these down into contenders, long shots, also-rans and no-hopers.

These evaluations might change a bit, after the draw is made, on December 1, for next summer’s tournament. But this is what we have at the moment.

The most accurate method for picking out “teams to beat” is to look for previous World Cup success. For half a century, the final has always given us the “usual suspects”.

Not since Czechoslovakia in 1962 has an outsider team reached the final, and in that one the Czechs were easily defeated by Brazil, 3-1.

Championship contenders

(Your winner will come from this group)

1. Germany (four championships)

2. France (one)

3. Brazil (five)

4. Argentina (two)

5. Spain (one)

6. England (one)

7. Belgium (none).

Notable: The top four are probably 90 percent sure to produce the winner (to pick a number out of the air). Germany and Brazil and Argentina must always be considered highly, and France gets in there because of its astonishing array of talent, from Paul Pogba to Antoine Griezmann and N’Golo Kante — plus, France has reached the final in two of the past five tournaments. … It is too early to count out Spain, even if its core is getting old. England, like Spain, is in Pot 2, but this could be the best England team since the 1990 semifinalists. Belgium has scads of individual talent, from Kevin DeBruyne on down, and it has maybe a 5 percent chance of making its first final.

Long shots

(Possible winners … in a sports movie)

These are the sides who would deeply surprise us by winning, but if they catch a batch of breaks one of them might be able to get to the semifinals.

1. Portugal.

2. Switzerland.

3. Colombia.

4. Uruguay.

Notable: Portugal won the 2016 Euro Cup and cannot be counted out if Cristiano Ronaldo is healthy. This probably is his last go-round as a key player, and he will want to add the World Cup to his long, long list of accomplishments. Switzerland is sneaky good, with all their Balkan immigrants coming to the fore. Colombia rivals just about anyone for raw talent, and two-time champion Uruguay is a cunning, experienced side.


(These guys could reach the final eight, but going out in the round of 16 is far more likely)

1. Mexico

2. Poland

3. Costa Rica

4. Croatia

5. Russia

Notable: Mexico has mastered “getting out of the group”, but the knockout phase continues to perplex El Tri; Poland is here because an easy draw in Euro qualifying has the Poles up to No. 6 in the world, putting them in Pot 1 and making likely a soft-ish draw. Costa Rica made the quarters four years ago, Croatia has Luka Modric and Mario Mandzukic and Russia has home-field advantage — even though it is the lowest-ranked team (65 in the world) in the tournament.


(The nations which may have a highlight or two but will be ecstatic with a last-16 berth.)

1. Denmark; 2. Sweden; 3. Peru; 4. Iran; 5. Iceland; 6. Serbia; 7. Morocco; 8. Nigeria; 9. Australia; 10. Japan; 11. Egypt; 12. Tunisia; 13. Senegal; 14. South Korea; 15. Panama; 16. Saudi Arabia

Notable: Iran, a defense-first-second-and-third side, appears to be the most formidable of the 10 Africa/Asia sides. Every team from Morocco at No. 7 to South Korea at No. 14 could get out of the group phase, but probably only one will. First-timer Panama and Saudi will vie to see who is the worst team in the tournament.

Let’s check back on this on December 1, after the draw, in Moscow.


0 responses so far ↓

  • There are no comments yet...Kick things off by filling out the form below.

Leave a Comment