Russia 2018 – The World is Waiting

The wait is almost over, in just a few days World Cup 2018 will kick off with host nation Russia entertaining Saudi Arabia with the eyes of the other 30 competing countries watching on awaiting their chance to lay down an early marker in the competition.

We’ve looked through the squads, the stats and can provide our tips for the tournament.

Winners

For us it’s proving very difficult to look past Brazil, the 5 time winners boast Neymar, Firmino and Coutinho among their attacking threat. A favourable group draw and their tournament experience will stand them in good stead in Russia.

A tricky qualification was navigated with ease, Tite’s men finished 10, 13 and 14 points ahead of nearest challengers Uruguay, Argentina and Columbia respectively.

Despite them being prone to a big stage wobble in recent times (defeats to France, Holland and the famous 7-1 against Germany) we are backing the South Americans to wrestle back a trophy last won by them in 2002 and end the recent European dominance.

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Dark Horses

It seems like an obvious choice and maybe not even a dark horse shout but the Belgians look in terrifying shape.

A starting XI with a spine of Courtouis, Vertonghen, De Bruyne, Hazard and Lukaku will make any opposition re-evaluate their tactics.

Unbeaten in qualification with 28 points from 30, a record only bettered by current World Champions Germany and scoring a tasty 43 goals over the 10 games proves they are in great form.

A golden generation expected to impress and justify their world ranking of 3.

The only downside for us is the manager. It’s hard to imagine a footballing world where Roberto Martinez can add a Jules Rimet trophy win to his CV.

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1st Plane Home

Now whilst they may not necessarily need a plane Russia is such a vast country that a lot of players may be taking long trips home after just the 1st week of their own competition.

Injuries mean that CSKA defender Viktor Vasin and key man Zenit St Petersburg’s Aleksandr Kokorin miss out. A late call up for a 39 year old Ignashevich indicate their struggles.

You’d fancy Uruguay to top Group A leaving 2nd place to be fought out by the hosts, an unknown Saudi side and a Salah inspired Egypt. The latter being our picks to sneak into the knockout rounds.

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Surprise Package

Any team that comes through South American qualifying cannot be underestimated. Add into this a victory over the French back in March and you have a side that could surprise and go a long way in this World Cup.

Columbia are the side we are talking about.

Their recently announced squad are littered with players from Munich, Milan and Barca.

James and Falcao will lead Los Cafeteros but will have the likes of Carlos Bacca, Davinson Sanchez and Juan Cuadrado backing them up, not to mention their wild fanbase!

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Top Goalscorer

We feel England could be coming home with a trophy this time around, Harry Kane is in with a great chance of returning with the golden boot to make up for losing his PL crown to Mo Salah.

England should progress through the group with a game to spare and you wouldn’t bet against Kane being on the scoresheet against both Panama and Tunisia.

Goals against the lesser opposition should rid the three lions of any nerves and lead them into the last 16 with a striker bang in form.

Captain Kane could notch 5-7 with relative ease over in Russia.

England v Turkey - International Friendly

Players Destined for the Post Tournament Move

We’ve picked out three to watch throughout the duration of the competition that appear destined for bigger things within the game.

Timo Werner – Germany

The young striker is currently starring for RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga.

In the Germany squad and whilst he may not feature prominently he’ll provide a good option from the bench. A potential replacement for Lewandowski should he leave Bayern as expected.

Leander Dendoncker – Belgium

One of the lesser mentioned Belgian galacticos is the Anderlecht defensive midfielder. Just the 4 caps to his name currently but making the cut ahead of the likes of Nainggolan shows a lot of faith.

Don’t be surprised to see top 10 PL side make a bid in August.

Kahraba – Egypt

Despite the reports Egypt are more than a one man team.

Kahraba is the nickname of 23-year-old winger Mahmoud Abdel-Moneim, who is currently on loan at Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ittihad from Egyptian giants Zamalek. In Arabic, Kahraba means electricity. He is a pacey direct winger and with the groups his nation find themselves in he could prove a vital part in navigating the Egyptians through to the knockout rounds.

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The stadiums are built, the friendlies are over and the stage is well and truly set.

We’re all hoping for a footballing summer to remember from Eastern Europe.

The world is waiting, World Cup 2018, let’s see what you’ve got!

The Brazil 2018 team image is sourced from; www.sportsbible.co.uk/football
The Belguim 2018 team image is sourced from; www.vivaonnews.com
The Russia flag image is sourced from; www.depositphotos.com
The Columbia fans image is sourced from; www.panamericaneworld.com
Harry Kane image is sourced from; www.metro.co.uk
Timo Werner image is sourced from; www.bundesliga.com

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Scotland Manager – A Nation Awaits, A Nation Expects

Russia 2018 was supposed to be “This Time.” A slogan that the Scottish Football Association decided was suitable for the most recent qualifying campaign, they failed. So who knows what the PR team will come up with for Euro 2020? “Please god! This time, c’mon now it’s our turn” maybe?

Less than a week after the usual high expectation and coming up heartbreakingly short ,the SFA have decide to part company with Gordon Strachan.

There were no excuses because he didn’t have any left to give. Despite the supporting words of other fellow managers in the recent days, Strachan had used up all his lives and had to go.

The 2-2 draw in Slovenia saw the nation miss out on a World Cup playoff place by virtue of goal difference to Slovakia. Of course, the damage was not done in Ljubljana, but earlier in a campaign that had started so poorly.

His departure on the back of a phenomenal 2017 will at least see the Scots climb the world rankings to a respectable position of 29th.

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After nearly 5 years at the helm, Strachan walks away with a win % of 47.5 from his 40 matches in charge. He has a decent record against what you would consider tournament nations, no defeats to the likes of Poland, ROI, Croatia and Denmark, however – like many before him, it was the disappointments of the Georgia’s and Lithuania’s that saw him come up short.

But who can become the first Scotland manager since Craig Brown to get the team over the line?

It is THE question that will preoccupy the minds of Alan McRae, Stuart Regan and other SFA board members, the supporters and the journalists but it’s fair to suggest that with the floundering reputations of those in high profile Hampden positions on the line, it will not be a quick appointment.

Going by the bookies it is a straight decision between David Moyes and recently appointed Interim Manager Malky MacKay for the Hampden hot seat. Most Scots will be dreading either of these men being given a chance. It doesn’t have to be a Scot, especially when the current choices are so poor. Allardyce has ruled himself out, Prandelli has thrown his hat into the ring and they are dreaming if they think they’ll be able to prise Michael O’Neill away from Northern Ireland.

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Scotland need to heed the word from their own national anthem. Flower of Scotland urges them to “be the nation again” and this is exactly what is required. All they have to do is look at other home nations and they’ll quickly realise they are somehow being left behind.

Northern Ireland have recently given international call-ups to players from clubs such as Linfield, Dunfermline, Shrewsbury, Doncaster Rovers and Wigan. In Slovenia, Scotland had the luxury of two Champions League players sitting on the bench.

Wales have a slightly more “premier league” XI than the others, and of course the talent of Gareth Bale to call upon. However a couple of injuries / suspensions and they too are scrambling for replacements.

Strachan’s last excuse was that of “genetics.”

Well Gordon, we’re sorry point this out but the Ireland’s are hardly picking from a freakish gene pool nor have they a single player of anything approaching world class…both O’Neill’s took their teams to the Euros and both have made the play-offs for Russia.

The wait for tens of thousands of Scots to board planes destined for a major tournament continues, 20 years without appearing in World Cups or European Championships is agonising to say the least. The next man has a reasonable squad capable, he just needs to find the right results at the right times.

Gordon Strachan image sourced from; www.thesun.co.uk/sports/football
David Moyles and Malkay Mackay image sourced from; www.thestandard.co.uk