Football, football, rah rah rah. Yes, it’s here again – the World Cup!
Haven’t those four years flown by! The 2018 World Cup takes place from June 14 – July 15, giving football fanatics a mouth-watering month of non-stop action. But what if you’re just not into the footy, but want to try impressing your family and friends with a bit of knowledge about this major sporting event?
Here’s a bit of an insight from Avant Life on the World Cup, who’s playing and a few star names to keep an eye out for. Oh, and of course, how England will do….
Let’s start with the basics, what is the World Cup?
Taking place every four years, the World Cup is an international football tournament where countries from around the globe battle it out to be crowned the world champion. The competition is made up for 32 teams spanning across every continent (well, all of them apart from Antarctica!) and each country which makes the finals has had to go through a qualifying process.
The World Cup format is simple: it starts with eight groups of four teams, the top two teams from each group going through, then it’s a straight knockout competition. The original draw dictates who plays who (for example, the winner of group A will play the runner-up of group B) then it’s whittled down to the two finalists, and there can only be one winner.
Who is taking part in the World Cup?
The 2018 edition of the World Cup is being held in Russia, and the following teams have qualified, in a rundown of the groups:
Group A: Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uruguay
Group B: Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Iran
Group C: France, Australia, Peru, Denmark
Group D: Argentina, Iceland, Croatia, Nigeria
Group E: Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia
Group F: Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea
Group G: Belgium, Panama, Tunisia, England
Group H: Poland, Senegal, Colombia, Japan
Who are the favourites to win the World Cup?
Reigning champions Germany will be a formidable force at the World Cup once again, with Joachim Loew’s squad having the perfect balance of the wisdom of experience and the electric excitement of youth. Argentina, the runners up in 2014, will also be huge threat to the competition, thanks to boasting arguably the finest forward line of all the teams involved.
Expect to see Brazil and their samba-style of play in the latter stages of the competition – it might be somewhat a road to redemption for Seleção after the humiliation they suffered at the hands of Germany at their home World Cup in 2014. But in terms of squad depth, experience and talent, France could well claim the title this year, thanks to the plethora of high-profile names at their disposal.
Let’s not write off a Spanish challenge either – especially with the iconic Andreas Iniesta set to bow out from international football, the added incentive for the Spaniards is there.
The big one: how will England do?
Where to start. After a relatively impressive qualifying campaign, manager Gareth Southgate has really stamped his ideas and visions onto the team since taking the reins. Long gone are the days of England being described as a ‘long ball team’ (i.e. booting the ball up to a big striker) – a new philosophy of ball retention, wide positioning and tempo has been instilled. The optimist in us would think that, with the club form of the players, we would stand a chance. Cue the music.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The squad is extremely inexperienced in comparison to previous England squads, and the competition from other countries has never been tougher.
Expect England’s star men to be captain Harry Kane and Dele Alli, whilst the likes of Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford and Jesse Lingard will make an impact either from the starting XI or the bench. But with England’s miserable recent track record, the players can go without any fear and give it a good go. Here’s hoping!
Who are the players to keep an eye out for at the World Cup?
The World Cup is the grandest scale of them all in football, so as you’d expect, all the best players are on show. Regarded as arguably the best two players of all time, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi will be representing Portugal and Argentina respectively, so expect dazzling displays when either of them is on the pitch.
From Brazil, keep an eye on Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and Coutinho – a formidable attacking trio packed with skill, tricks and guile. Heralded as the ‘Egyptian King’ by Liverpool fans, Mo Salah has had an unbelievable season with his club and will be hoping to emulate similar success for Egypt, while Belgium’s Eden Hazard will set the pitch alight with this pace and trickery.
Whoever wins (let’s hope it’s England), the World Cup is the pinnacle of sporting events. Sit back, relax and enjoy the next five weeks’ footballing feast!