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2018 World Cup: From Russia With Love-ly Football

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Four years ago, the world’s game called Brazil home for a month and it was quite the show. Names like James Rodriguez, Neymar, Thomas Muller, Lionel Messi, and Xherdan Shaqiri all showed up in style with Messi being awarded the ‘Golden Ball’ (best player) and James Rodriguez taking home the ‘Golden Boot’ (most goals scored). Many big-time footballing nations did not disappoint, while others bowed out relatively quickly. Italy, Spain, and England were all eliminated in the group stage while France got knocked out in the quarter-finals. Host nation Brazil was trounced by powerhouse and eventual champs, Germany in the semi-finals and eventually came in fourth place. Argentina and Messi fell just short to Germany in the title game with the Netherlands finishing third. Fast forward 4 years and it’s now Russia’s turn to host one of the greatest sporting spectacles: The FIFA World Cup.

Roughly half of the planet tuned into the 2014 World Cup and although some big-name countries will not be present at this year’s tournament, we expect viewership to be extraordinary. Italy, Netherlands, United States, and Chile will all be absent from this year’s World Cup as they did not perform well enough to qualify. Despite these notable countries and markets not being directly involved, the overall excitement, the availability to stream the tournament outside of regular cable, and with a whole host of talented young footballers hitting the pitch, the desire & access to get your eyes on this World Cup has never been bigger.

If you’re betting on this year’s World Cup, we believe there are a few teams to watch for sure. If we were making soccer sports picks, we would consider characteristics such as: experience of the squad, current form, stars and leaders, and of course the head coach. We are eager to see plenty of nations compete and for many established as well as up and coming names stamp their legacies in Russia. Let’s take look at some of the players to look out for and our predications for the 2018 World Cup.

 

Top Players at 2018 World Cup

The World Cup is the biggest stage in the footballing world, period. It is the stage that can change player’s lives depending on their form. If you play amazingly, teams could be targeting you for the next big transfer…if you play poorly, you could see yourself out of the starting eleven when you club hit’s the pitch next. Overall, here is a list of players to watch out for in this summer’s World Cup as we anticipate some tantalizing performances:

  1. Neymar – Probably the world’s third most popular soccer player behind Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi. Coming off a major transfer to PSG and more recently an injury, we think Neymar could win player the of tournament if healthy as he may have something to prove.
  2. James Rodriguez – He became a household name after winning the Golden Boot in the 2014 World Cup. He had a decent season with Bayern Munich so how far can he lead Columbia?
  3. Antoine Griezmann – He put up some impressive numbers with Atletico Madrid this season accomplishing 19 goals and 9 assists in La Liga. With good form and rumors he will be headed to Barcelona, look for Antoine to be in the running for player of the tournament.
  4. Kevin De Bruyne – With a masterful season for Manchester City, De Bruyne will look to continue his form and lead Belgium deep into the tournament.
  5. Kylian Mbappe – At only 19, this young Frenchman is going to be the next generation of football. He’s going to want to impress and with a talented roster, he will be put in situations to make an impact.

 

Obvious Honorable Mentions to Watch:
1. Lionel Messi
2. Cristiano Ronaldo
3. Mo Salah
4. Paul Pogba
5. Paulo Dybala
6. Edison Cavani
7. Eden Harzard
8. Harry Kane
9. Robert Lewandowski
10. Gabriel Jesus

 

Best Teams in 2018 World Cup

Our professional sports picks experience is telling us that there are really only a handful of teams that we believe can win this summer’s World Cup. Here are our top teams:

  1. Germany – Defending World Cup champions and they are essentially 2 deep at every single position. They will be going far.
  2. Brazil – An experienced squad led by Neymar. They will surely want to have a redo from the 2014 World Cup so keep an eye on their run.
  3. France – Arguably the most talented midfield and forward combo in the tournament. The question is, will the talent perform when needed?
  4. Spain – A star studded squad with the world’s best goalkeeper in David De Gea.
  5. Argentina – A powerful offense with Messi, Dybala, Higuain, and Aguero, but will their defense be good enough?

 

2018 World Cup Predications

From top to bottom, it is going to be very hard to differentiate Germany and Brazil. We think these are the two best teams in the 2018 World Cup & if they both win their groups, we predict that this will be the final. Germany is a bit more well-rounded, but we think Brazil’s forward group of Neymar, Jesus, Coutinho, and Firmino will be devastating to any defense. If Neymar is anywhere near full-strength, we see goals-a-plenty for this squad. Look for Brazil to make amends to their embarrassing meeting against Germany in the last World Cup and raise the trophy July 15th.

Image Source: SB Nation