Welcome to my column. I’m excited and beyond grateful to have this opportunity to share my thoughts and opinions on the sports world with The Phoenix’s readers.
My siblings and I grew up watching soccer. Whether it was MLS, the English Premier League (EPL) or any other league, we would be up early on Saturday mornings watching it live.
That being said, the World Cup is considered the “Holy Grail” of soccer — especially for my family. Even though United States didn’t qualify this year, I’m excited for what this year’s World Cup is going to bring.
The United States has participated in every World Cup since 1990 until they failed to qualify for the 2018 competition. Despite this, more tickets have been purchased by Americans than any other country, beside Russia.
Since the U.S. won’t be competing this year, I want a South American team to win. The 2018 World Cup will be played in Russia and a South American team has never won the World Cup in Europe. While some South American teams are looking to make history in that aspect, Germany is aiming to be the first team since Brazil in 1962 to repeat as champions.
I think Brazil, Belgium, France and Argentina are the big teams to watch out for this year. Three of those teams are ranked in the top four of the FIFA World Rankings in the world — No. 2 Brazil, No. 3 France and No. 4 Argentina.
I’m rooting for Brazil. They’ve established themselves as a tournament favorite and a force to be reckoned with. During their rise to the No. 1 team in the world, they built up some much-needed self-esteem after the 7-1 loss against Germany in the semifinals of the 2014 World Cup.
Brazil has the strongest lineup and coach of the teams in the World Cup. After doing an in-depth analysis of the top European teams, manager Adenor Leonardo Bacchi, commonly known as Tite, has brought new tactics to the team: playing in a compact manner to allow for a solid defense and an effective passing game.
Brazil’s captain and forward Neymar is a player to watch. He’s currently one of the best players in European soccer, especially in the French League where he plays for Paris Saint-Germain F.C. With him headlining the team, Brazil has a good chance at being the highest powered offence in the cup. Neymar is currently favored to win the Golden Boot, the player with the most goals in the tournament.
Along with Neymar, Brazil has the talent to back him. The starting goalkeeper is Alisson Becker. Becker’s the second string keeper on his club team, but he has proven he’s ready to start for his national team. The defense is highlighted by Dani Alves and João Miranda — a central figure in Tite’s team. The midfield is dominated by regular starter Paulhino.
The No. 1 team is Germany. Yes, they’re still a team to look out for considering they’re the defending champions. Despite winning the World Cup in 2014, I don’t think they’re going to win. I believe they’ll be eliminated sometime after the round of 16, due to a lack of experience and the pressure of maintaining the title.
While they’ve added a lot of talent to the team, the lack of experience can’t be ignored. Players like Timo Werner, Joshua Kimmich and Niklas Süle will probably be the framework of the team in years to come, but they aren’t quite at the level of their predecessors.
All Belgium needs is a good coach to win. Led by captain Eden Hazard, they have a group of talented players highlighted by forward Romelu Lukaku and midfielder Kevin De Bruyne. But, despite my older brother’s 2014 prediction of Belgium winning this year, I don’t think manager Roberto Martinez will be able to get them to the finals.
France is a team blessed with youth and depth in all areas. They only have five players on their roster over the age of 30. Hugo Lloris, the captain — one of the oldest players on the squad at 31 years old — should be able to lead the younger players to victory. Their downfall lies in their manager, Didier Deschamps. After cutting some talented French players from the squad — Dimitri Payet, Anthony Martial and Alexandre Lacazette — there are worries he won’t be able to extract the most from the squad.
Many people are hopeful for Argentina to make it all the way to the finals, especially considering this could be Lionel Messi’s last World Cup ever. They have a great offense, but their problem has always been their defense. Their fate lies in the power of their defense. If they can shape up and hold their own, they have a good chance to win the title.
Group play runs through June 30 when the round of 16 starts.