We are barely a month away from the most exciting football action to ever hit the world. I am talking about the 21st edition of the World cup 2018 that will be hosted in Russia. You have probably caught on with the ongoing vibe and buzz surrounding the World Cup 2018. It is undoubtedly one of the most hyped up event of the year and one of the single biggest tournaments to that will be hosted in Russia and Eastern Europe for the first time. It promises to entail the most memorable and heart wrenching moments in football.
It is a highly competitive game that pitches the prowess and spirit of 32 teams, with 20 of the qualifying teams making back-to-back appearances. All the teams will be looking to secure the World Cup that is previously held by Germany who won the tile back in 2014. There are many twists and emotions in the game especially when some of the favorite’s teams are send home. This year is set to be an interesting one with countries like Iceland and Panama making their first debut in the World Cup 2018.
FIFA World Cup 2018
For this edition of the 2018 world cup, there would be a total of 64 matches played in 12 venues located in 11 cities. We will start of the FIFA World Cup on June 14 where the hosts Russia will battle it out with arch nemesis Saudi Arabia for a spot at the finals. It will also start without the participation of the U.S who was unfortunately kicked out of the World Cup draw late last year. Some of the favorite to take home the cup include hosts Russia, Spain, Netherlands and France. Although you can never tell, it is set to be a tough one this year.
It will be a thrill to see some of the greatest players and Messi and Ronaldo captain their respective teams for a battling chance. The tournament apart from Moscow will also be hosted in the following cities: Saint Petersburg, Sochi, Nizhny Novgorod and Rostov-on-Don among others. The final match to crown the team the winners will be played in Moscow and it is expected to kick off on July 15.
2018 FIFA World Cup qualifications groups
The World Cup draw 2018 took place in Moscow, Russia. We have compiled a comprehensive list of the breakdown of the groups for the tournament which kicks off with hosts Russia and Saudi Arabia at the Luzhniki Stadium on the 14th of June.
World Cup qualifiers 2018 Africa.
It is Egypt’s first time at the world Cup final ever since back in Italy in 1992. It also marks their third appearance at the tournament in spite of being crowned African Cup of Nations champions for the seventh time. They have no goal scoring record at the World Cup finals but would be looking to end the streak. They qualified following wins over Uganda, Ghana, and Congo and only losing one match.
Egypt will be their biggest threat in the group with the likes of PFA Player of the Year Mohamad Salah who has a great season in the English Premier League. He has scored 5 goals during the qualifications and will be looking to maintain the form. But they will face a strong sided Uruguay would also pose a tough competition with a well packed team with players all across the world in the group stages. But will the help of Arsenal’s Mohamed Elneny and Ramadan Sobhi the team will be unstoppable.
This would mark the 5th appearance of the team in the tournament. During the qualifications, Morocco did not lose any match, drawing three of their matches. They have only managed to advance past the group stages once in 1998. They will be depending on the guidance of Medhi Benatia and forward Boutaib and Ajax’s Hakim Ziyech. Morocco’s fans hoping for Sofiane Boufal to pull a win for the home team.
Nigeria had earlier knocked Argentina 4-2 in a friendly match with Alex Iwobi scoring twice. They will be hoping to relive the glory when they face Argentina again in St Petersburg on June, 26. It would be the Super Eagle 6th World Cup appearance and would carry the hearts of all Africans to clinch the title for the continent. Nigeria won’t play second fiddle to anyone as the Super Eagles have made it past the round of 16 at the World Cup and have clinched the African Cup of Nations on three occasions. They will be represented by Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi and Leiciester’s Kelechi Iheanacho.
They had a rather easy time in the group stages winning 4 out of the 6 matches and drawing the rest. The team is well structured with experienced players like Monaco’s Keita Balde who has a lot of experience in the tournament. They had one of the most controversial qualifying matches against South Africa. But they managed to pull through the 2-1 defeat against South Africa over a pre-meditated penalty to win the replay fairly 2-0. This lead to the disbandment of the referee for life by the governing board FIFA.
There best bet will be Liverpool forward Sadio Mane who has had an impressive season at the Premier League. He was the force behind Liverpool’s advancement into the finals of the UEFA Champions league where they are set to take on Real Madrid. Apart from Mane, Senegal also have the expertise of Napoli’s Koulibaly who is an impenetrable defender. They also have Keita who is an up and coming talent that has showed his skillset and prowess in Monaco. Senegal has always had a trick up their sleeves in the tournament with the previous year shocking everyone by beating France to reach the quarter finals.
Tunisia on the other hand scored four goals to edge out Cong, Libya and Guinea. They have also a history of facing Belgium and England in the previous tournaments. They took home the 2004 African Cup of Nations but have failed to perform same way since then. They will have former Sunderland midfielder Wahbi Khazri to even the chances for qualifications.
South America World Cup qualifiers
Lionel Messi has been waiting tirelessly for their first title win and this time would be looking for redemption for the last World Cup. Argentina has had a tough time in recent years like losing the finals in 2014 to Germany and afterwards losing consecutive Copa America finals to Chile in 2015 and 2016.
Argentina is spoiled in the attack with incredible players like Sergio Aguero, Angel Di Maria, and Gonzalo Higuain. They lack a strong defense but they would be dependent on the expertise of Manchester City’s Otamendi and Barcelona’s Mascherano. Iceland would be looking to make their first appearances at the World Cup a memorable one. Even though they lack a recognized team of players, they squad consists of 9 different players who scored for their team. They also have an outstanding player, Gylfi Sigurdsson who can be depended on anytime to score.
Brazil will be the main team to beat in the group having proven to be the fiercest side in the history of the tournament. They are in the lead for their 6th World Cup win making them the most accomplished team in the world. It will be a moment of dejavu for the Brazilians given that they hosted the last tournament where they fell to an embarrassed trashing from Germany 7-1. The team boasts of the world’s most expensive player Neymar Jr., alongside Barcelona’s blue eyed boy Philipe Coutinho, Gabriel Jesus and Marcelo.
The Brazilians secured their spot at the tournament following an impressive 41 goals in the World Cup qualifiers tables. Eyes are all on Neymar who expected to shine during the tournament but fingers are crossed following his recent injury playing at PSG. Apart from Neymar, Brazil has a star studded line up with stars from different leagues such as Marcel, Dani Alves, Thiago Silva and Roberto Firmino. Philipe Countinho will also be a man to watch following his move to Barcelona from Liverpool.
Colombia has a spread team with highly active players both in the attacking and defending positions. It will all be up to Davidson Sanchez who plays for Tottenham and Barcelona’s latest rising star Yerry Mina. They had managed to pull of an amazing win with a single point above Peru and Chile. Colombia always put forward an entertaining match despite not qualifying past the semifinals.
Peru will be marking their first return to the World Cup after 36 years. There best performance was during 1970 where they lost to Brazil at the quarter finals. They will however have to face a stiff competition from Australia and Denmark. They advanced to the group stages after edging out New Zealand during the playoffs. Captain Guerrero who led the team to the stages will face a stiff competition from France and Australia.
They have took home the title twice and will be looking to make a comeback after finishing second behind Brazil during the South American qualification stages.Barcelona’s winger Louis Suarez will be a man to watch in the tournament especially given with their smooth qualification into the game. They would also have the expertise of PSG’s Edinson Cavani who has had an incredible season in Ligue 1. They also have Atletico Madrid’s Diego Godin who will tighten the defense up.
World Cup qualifiers Europe
Belgium had shown an incredible game during the qualifications winning 9 out of 10 games with a draw to Greece. They had a compiled 43 goals will 11 goals by Manchester United forward Romen Lukaku. This would mark their 14th World Cup appearance. They have a great line up especially in the attack area with Eden Hazard and De Bruyne who are unarguably the best wingers in the Premier League.
Belgium has a formidable team with star players for the English Premier League. They also have a strong midfield with the likes of Thomas Meunier, and center backs Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen.
This would be Croatia’s 5th World Cup with their best performance back in 1998 where they finished in 2nd runners up. It would be nice to see how Real Madrid’s Luka Modric and Barcelona’s Ivan Ratikic steer their team to the qualifiers.
Denmark had put up a spirited fight during the playoffs here they edged out The Republic of Ireland. Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen was outstanding netting 8 out of the 10 goals in qualifications. It will as be nice to see the skills and prowess of Lord Nicklas Bendtner and Leicester’s Kasper Schmeichel.
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England will be looking to pull a rabbit out of a hat trick to end the drought that has seen them locked out of the Last 16. They also will be looking for a backup for Joe Hart ho has had a poor season at West Ham. Jack Wilshere will make the cut in midfield despite mixed results in Arsenal. But all eyes will be on Harry Kane who has had an impressive goal scoring season in the EPL.
He will be backed by fellow team mate Dier and Manchester City’s Sterling who is formidable in the attack are. England has a long history of losing out on the title with the current one the last tournaments in 2014 where they exited during the group stages.
France will play favorites for the group but will need to fix on their mistakes which led to a loss to Sweden and a draw to Luxemburg during the World Cup qualifiers. They would also be looking forward to claiming their title after the loss at the hands of Portugal during the Euro 2016. There has been a rollercoaster of emotion when it comes to the team who crashed out of the group stages in 2002 and 2010, and losing their finals in 2006 and only reaching the quarter final stage in 2014 ever since there in in 1998.
France has a strong attacking forward with the likes of Anthony Martial and Lacazette. Despite the loss of the 2016 Euro, they wouldn’t have to struggle in this group. They had earlier qualified for the tournament ahead of Holland and Sweden despite only scoring a total of 18 goals. The men of the match would be Antonio Griezzman, Mbappe, Pogba, Giroud and Lacazette.
Germany would be hoping to retain the title for the first time since 1962 by Brazil. They are faced with a difficult task with odds set against them from retaining the cup. . Germany would have a hard time picking the squad given that many of their players; Philip Lahm, Schwensteiger, Podolski, Klose, and Metersacker have retired. Joachim Low will really have to think deep before chosing from the wide variety of quality players in Germany. They would also have the services of Manuel Neur who despite injuries is sure to make the first team.
This would mark the first appearance of Iceland even with few international players in the national team.Iceland would be the latest entry to the group showing a lot of strength and potential especially after knocking England from the European championships even though it is just a small country. They have Gylfi Sigurdsson who is remarkable when it comes to free kicks.
Poland always struggle in the qualifiers stages but put up a spirited fight. They have the highest scoring player Robert Lewandowski who netted 16 goals more than any other player during the qualifications. They had an easy time during the qualifications winning 8 out of the 10 matches with a total tally of 28 goals. They have good goalkeepers who have to be former Arsenal players Wojciech Szcesny of Juventus and Arkadius Milik of Napoli.
Leawndowski will be looking forward to clinch the World’s Cup golden boot with the impressive goal scoring. Poland will be making a comeback after 12 years of being out making their 8th entry into the tournament.
This would be an interesting match that would pitch Portugal who are currently the reigning champions in Europe against Morocco who have fought tooth and nail to land a spot at the tournament despite not conceding a goal. The 2010 World Cup winners will be fan favorites in the group but would also face stiff competition from Iran side under Carlos Queiroz’s well packed team who are sure to bring surprises to the game. Cristiano Ronaldo will be looking to make a name for him in the tournament and prove to be the best player in the world as he shuts down critics.
In the history of the country, Russia will be hosting the World Cup for the first time. All eyes will be on Stanislav Chercheshov’s side with the hope of the locals on their shoulders. Since they are the host, they automatically qualified to the finals to mark their 4th appearance after breaking form the Soviet Union in 1990. Russia has a good chance of being the winner of the 2018 world cup
This marks Serbia’s 12th appearance in the World Cup with their best performance being placed 4th position during the 1930 and 1962 but have never advanced past the group stages since 1998. They have a strong defense with Kolarov from Manchester City, Ivavonic a former Chelsea player and Matic who has had an impressive season at Manchester United.
The match against Portugal and Spain will be the highlights of the tournament scheduled on 15th June. Ever since former Barcelona midfielder Ander Iniesta picked up the World Cup back in 2010 the team has undergone numerous changes. New surprises also come with Iker Casillas being replaced with De Gea from Manchester United. There would also be a lack of a proper attack for Spain. But Spain beat Portgula 1-0 in South Africa in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers tables and knocked them out of the Euro 2012 two year later.
This will be Spain’s 14th World Cup, and all eyes will be on players Isco, Morata and Silva. It was back in 1998 when Morocco last appeared in the World Cup finals with only a group
Sweden seemed to have found the replacement for Zlatan Ibramohivic who plays for LA Galaxy through Marcus Beg.The player sealed the net 8 times during the qualifications. They would also have Victor Lindelof who due to injuries has always been side lined at Manchester United. He holds the defense of the team and played a crucial defensive role during the qualifications. Sweden will be looking to make an historic comeback after missing out on 3 editions of the tournament. They were knocked out of the last 16 by Germany.
Switzerland showed their determination finishing off second in the group behind Portugal. The controversial penalty sealed by Rico Rodriguez was enough to secure them a spot and send Northern Ireland home. Costa Rica had an exemplary performance during the 2014 World Cup where they edged out Uruguay and Italy before they were held to a 0-0 draw with England. However their reign and hopes for the title were cut short by Netherlands.
Switzerland had shown a strong defense during the Euro 2016 but unluckily were edged out from the competition by Poland in the last 16 on penalties. They will depend on the formidable game by Lichtsteiner from Juventus and Yonn Sommer as well as regulars such as Xhedran Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka. As for Costa Rica, it will be their 5th appearance at the World Cup has been grouped with Brazil for the third time. Serbia will show a defensive side with strong defense back exemplary defenders like, Matic and Kolarov.
2018 World Cup draw – ASIA
Australia will be looking for the first chance to the title marking their 4th appearance in the World Cup. They will be looking to bring out their A-game back in 2006 where they managed to get into the 16 round up before they lost to the winners of the tournament.
This would be its 5th time at the World Cup and are heading in looking strong especially with all the wins during qualifications against South Korea and Qatar. It will be up to Rubin Kazan’s Sardar Azmoun who has scored 7 goals in the qualifications to secure a spot for Iran in the round 16.
Japan on the other hand was successful during the qualifying group matches beating Australia 2-0 in a rather emotional match. They reigned on top of Saudi Arabia with a 1 point different and third placed Australia. They managed to concede 7 goals in the qualification stages and 4 clean sheets in the total 10 matches. Eiji Kawashima is prolific with goal keeping skills managing over 80 caps for Japan this far in the competition.
Japan will be relying on Leicester’s Okazaki who was instrumental in winning the Premier League for his team last season. Japan are in the 6th World Cup race but faced a stiff competition especially in the group advance stages from the sides of Saudi Arabia and Australia.
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South Korea struggled during the qualifications and dropped major point by drawing against Syria and Uzbekistan. They however have Tottenham’s Heung Min Son. During the 2002 World Cup, South Korea shocked the world by finishing third runners up in the tournament. It would mark their 9th entry into the event.
They qualified to Group A after finishing second in the qualification stages behind Japan. There best performance in the tournament was back in 1994 where they reached the last 16 but were unfortunately edged out by Sweden. Al-Abed who scored 5 goals during the qualifications will be the man to watch alongside Saudi Arabia’s national hero Al-Muwall, with the experience of Al-Shehri.
For the beginning match pitching Saudi Arabia and Russia would be a hard nut to crack given the low world rankings of both teams. It can be anyone’s match since both the teams are equally placed but Russia will be playing favorites due to the home advantage. This is pretty good group with none of the teams ever winning the world cup in their history..
2018 FIFA World Cup – North, Central America and Caribbean
Despite making their 5th appearance at the World Cup, they would have been placed with Brazil in the same group for the third time. They were second in qualifications behind Mexico who only lost one watch. Real Madrid’s goalkeeper Keylor Navas will secure the goal with former Arsenal’s forward Joel Campbell in attack.
As for Mexico, there haven’t had an impressive show in the previous tournaments but have always gave other teams a hard time on the pitch. All eyes will be on West Ham’s striker Javier Hernandez who has had a not so much satisfying game in the EPL managing to score only 5 goals. But if he continues with his goal scoring streak like against Croatia, he would seal his fate as the greatest Mexican goal scorer in the tournament.
Also eyes will be on Real Sociedad’s player Carlos Vela who had a time at Arsenal but has started to recover his glory at MLS. This would mark Mexico’s 7th consecutive participation in the tournament. It has been incredible how Mexico always end up in the group stages since 1966.
Panama also had a near escape of death by managed to finish a point ahead of USA and following the win to Honduras to mark their first appearance in the tournament. Most of their players play for MLS and it was all praise to Roman Toress who scored the equalizing goal against Costa Rica.