World Cup Predictions: Who will win the coveted trophy?
World Cup mania has well and truly begun. With just one week to go, the excitement (as expected) is building to a crescendo. Who will lift the most coveted trophy in world football? Who will flop? Who will be the surprise package?
Here’s my take on how things will go:
How far will England get?
I’m going to be wildly optimistic and make a bold claim straight away. England will make the Semi Finals. Beyond that, I have no idea. It’s a lottery but we probably don’t have enough know-how or class to go the full way. Semi Finals would be some achievement, though. This squad feels like a breath of fresh air. I’ve been one of those England fans crying out for new blood to be given a chance, and youth certainly has a chance to showcase their talents on the biggest stage in football.
Not only is it refreshing, but it’s an excitingly different approach to the way England normally set up. Lots of pace, no fear, low expectations. A truly heady mix. Then again, we’ll probably draw against Tunisia or Panama and then limp out in the first knockout round.
Your England starting XI:
I’m in two minds about Rashford over Lingard, but sticking to Southgate’s likely formation here’s my XI. Three at the back, two wingbacks, one holding midfielder, two attacking midfielders, two attackers:
GK: Pickford, DF: Maguire, DF: Stones, DF: Walker, LWB: Rose (if fit), RWB: Alexander-Arnold, CM: Henderson, CM: Alli, CM: Lingard, FW: Sterling, FW: Kane
England’s top goalscorer:
You can’t really look beyond Harry Kane, who is due a good tournament. Plus he’ll likely fancy freekicks and penalties. Plus, he’ll likely claim every goal anyone else scores anyway.
It’s difficult to call as I think there are a few strong teams, without any of them particularly standing out. Having said that, I think Brazil ooze class. This Brazil squad combines the extremely sexual skills of Neymar, Coutinho and co, with the defensive qualities of Fernandinho (who’s had a brilliant season with City), Casemiro (CL winner) and Thiago Silva. Add the best looking keeper in the tournament, Alisson (or the worse looking, Ederson), and the spine of the team looks great. Then there is Marcelo, Willian, Firmino, Fred, Jesus, Paulinho (christ that felt horrible writing him), Marquinhos, Douglas Costa and Miranda to add to that spine and you are looking at an extremely talented squad. Talented, but also for the first time in a while, balanced.
Saying that, Neymar needs to get fit — and stay fit.
Argentina. Heartbreak for Messi once more after an all South American final.
Brazil, Argentina, Spain, England. Lol.
Group H is a fairly open one. I’m going to lump on a Sadio Mane inspired Senegal to get out of the group and also cause one of the bigger nations trouble. The other team that really gets the juices flowing is Croatia. I fully expect them to get out of their group, missing out on the top spot to Argentina. I think their blend of established top-class players like Modric, Perisic, Mandzukic, Lovren, Rakitic and co, are supplemented nicely by some truly exciting young footballers — Kovacic and Pjaca the pick of the bunch.
In all fairness, I’ve been drooling over Perisic and Pjaca for years.
Portugal. I’ve said it for ages that this Portugal squad is very poor. How they won the Euros is a mystery. Even with Ronaldo, who’s powers have seriously dwindled, I just don’t see any depth in quality and at best they will reach the Quarter Finals. If I was them, I’d be happy with the first knockout round.
Golden Ball Winner:
Lionel Messi has a point to prove, I think. Does he actually though? Probably not. But those idiots who say ‘he needs to win the World Cup’ should be silenced. In what is likely to be his last World Cup, I expect him to absolutely pillage the group stages and then fire the Argies into the Semi Finals and beyond.
Best Young Player:
I’ve heard a lot of chat about the French lads Mbappe and Dembele. Personally, I don’t think both will start. Possibly one of them. I would have gone for Leroy Sane had he made the Germany squad (madness), so therefore, I’m going to tout two players less in the limelight. Firstly, Raheem Sterling. For me, he’s England’s number two key player and integral to our progression. Secondly, I’m going to go for Timo Werner, who looks likely to start up front for Germany after a decent season for Leipzig.
From an English perspective, aside from Sterling, it would be nice to see youngsters like Trent Alexander-Arnold and John Stones get good tournament experience under their belts.
Golden Boot Winner:
Messi once more. He’ll hammer goals in against Iceland and Nigeria, and with the Argies getting to the final he’ll have plenty of opportunities. Any of the Argie strikeforce have a chance to be fair — Aguero and Higuain.
Golden Glove Winner:
David De Gea. He’s a top class keeper who will benefit from the opposition struggling to get the ball. Plus he has Sergio Ramos in front of him. A significant upgrade to the usual tosh he has in front of him at United.
As previously said, I think Timo Werner will light up the tournament and add a shed load of money onto his value. German strikers historically love the World Cup and with the creative forces of Ozil and co behind him, I think Werner will have a lot of joy in a fairly easy group.
I hate to say it but Mo Salah. I love him, he’s amazing. But he can’t be that well prepared for the tournament following his shoulder injury in the Champions League final. I think he’ll rush back and have zero impact for a poor Egypt team, albeit made better by his appearance.
Your own bonus prediction:
Adam Lallana to get a late call up to the England squad. Or, Russia to descend into full-frontal global war.