The 2018 FIFA World Cup from Russia is in full swing now with many teams already playing two matches. So far the team that has surprisingly stood out is the host nation of Russia. Russia is 2-0 with a +7 goal differential outscoring Saudi Arabia and Egypt 8-1. They still have one more group stage game against Uruguay on Monday and the winner of that game will most likely end up winning group A.
Even more surprising in this group is the play of Egypt. Mohamad Salah sat out Egypt’s first game vs. Uruguay which was a 1-0 loss but was able to return vs. Russia. Even though he was able to net a goal against the host nation, Russia still pulled away with the critical 3 points. Saudi Arabia needed to pull off a monumental upset of Uruguay, to keep Egypt alive, however; that upset never came so Egypt have been eliminated.
Portugal and Spain played one of the more memorable World Cup Matches this year after drawing to a 3-3 ties. Cristiano Ronaldo had 3 goals in 13 career World Cup games coming into this match-up and scored the elusive hat trick against several of his Real Madrid teammates. Spain need to have a result in their favor against Iran if they want to move on to the knockout round. Spain currently sits in 3rd in group B just two points behind Iran.
No surprises here as France and Denmark have taken the top two spots in Group C. France faces off with Denmark on Tuesday with the winner most likely taking group C. Now France does come into this tournament as one of the favorites with a 15/2 odds of winning. They had a World Cup tuneup vs. the United States not too long ago and drew to a 1-1 tie. Denmark will need a little bit more out of their top midfielder Christian Eriksen who was able to score 11 goals in 12 World Cup qualifying matches.
Group D features another favorite in Argentina who had a surprising draw vs. Iceland in their opening match. Argentina does have a critical matchup vs. first place Croatia today and if Argentina want to advance, they must get a result in that game.
Croatia is a team that many believe can turn heads make a deep run in this tournament, like they did in the 2014 World Cup making it to the round of 8. If they can hold off a tough Argentina squad, then look for them to make some noise.
Brazil, enough said.
Mexico stunned the world when they pulled off a 1-0 result against Germany in their opening match. Germany is the favorite to win this year with 9/2 odds and having won the previous World Cup. Look for Germany and Mexico to advance even though Sweden currently leads this group. Sweden could dash those hopes if they do get a result Saturday vs. Germany which would essentially eliminate the defending champs.
This group features two teams in Belgium and England that many forget. England which many look to as a soccer powerhouse have struggled in the past few World Cups. Belgium a team that are very strong on both sides of the ball and can control the match if they’re on their game. They currently sit in the top two of the group and expect them to move on easily.
Group H is quite the toss up group. Japan, Senegal, Poland, and Colombia finish out the World Cup pool and the top two in this group get a knockout stage matchup with Belgium and England. Japan got off to a great start after their stunning 2-1 victory over Colombia. If Japan can get another result vs. Senegal on Sunday, they’ll punch their ticket to the knockout stage.
Argentina made it all the way to the World Cup final four years ago vs. Germany but didn’t quite have enough to pull it off. But, I’m taking them to win it all in Messi’s swan song. Messi’s image has taken a hit after he briefly quit the Argentinian national team but winning the World Cup will certainly boost that image. Also, look for a strong performance from Germany and Portugal as well in what is a little bit of weaker field this year with no Italy or Netherlands.
–Brian Berard (@RockyBerard)