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FIFA World Cup 2018 is 120 Days Away

Group H should come down to a battle between Seleccion Colombia and the 7th Rank Team in the World, Poland.

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World Cup Predictions.

If you aren’t aware, FIFA’s 2018 World Cup kicks off on June 14 in Russia. The World Cup draw split 32 teams into eight groups (A-H) in December of last year. After three matches, the two top teams within a group move on to the Round of 16. The last days of European qualifying saw the ‘Gil Azzurri’ (Italy) and La Naranja Mecanica‘ (Holland) miss out on the World Cup. The failures shocked fans around the globe. Italy last failed to qualify for the World Cup in 1958, nearly six decades ago. Gianluigi Buffon, the Azzurri’s goaltender and captain of Juventus, had played in four straight tournaments dating back to 2002.

Russia against Saudi Arabia on June 14 at 7:45 PM or 11:45 AM EST. Before we know it, summer will arrive, so let’s examine the World Cup’s most intriguing storylines to date and make some World Cup predictions 120 days out.

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Reuters

Grupo de Muerte is Dead

FIFA, the governing and organizing body for the World Cup, changed rules prior to December’s drawing. Instead of seeding only the top eight team based on global rankings, FIFA ranked all 32 teams. The new rule should create more balanced groups, instead of the two to three elite teams placed in one group.

SI.com’s Daniel Rapaport believes Group F could be the de-facto “Grupo de Muerte.” The draw includes defending champions Germany, Mexico, Swedenand South Korea. Rapaport writes, “Germany is still the heavy favorite to win this group, but Mexico was really impressive in qualifying and will be full of confidence. Sweden is fresh off an upset playoff victory over Italy, while South Korea had some difficulty in qualifying but just beat Colombia’s full side in a friendly.”

The Day Four Germany versus Mexico match could be the game of the group stage, featuring El Tri’s Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez and Rafa Marquez versus Germany’s Mesut Özil and Mario Götze. Also, futbol fans worldwide will be glued to their screens to watch Portugal led by Cristiano Ronaldo versus Spain on Day Two.

Poland and Colombia lead Group H

Grant Wahl host of the Planet Futbol podcast described Group H this way, “With Poland, Colombia, Senegal, and Japan…nobody in the group will be seen as a real threat to win the tournament, but you could envision scenarios in which any of the four advances to the knockout rounds. It’s not a Group of Death, but rather a Group of Extreme Parity.”

You may know that the FTS head writer is Colombian and will be heavily invested in the Los Cafeteros‘,” World Cup run. La Seleccion is currently ranked 13th in the world. We expect Group H to come down between Colombia and #7 Poland. Wahl and others are predicting a strong showing by the African contingent of teams, including Group H’s Senegal. We will be rooting for La Seleccion to make it to the Round of 16 and the Quarterfinals.

Players to Watch

Lionel Messi

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Can arguably the best footballer in the world finally bring the 2018 World Cup home to Argentina? Messi spoke with TyC Sports in November and accepted a challenge. If Argentina wins, Messi agreed to march from his home in Arroyo Seco to San Nicolas in Argentina. That’s about a 25-mile walk.

We wonder if he will keep his word, but more importantly, the Barca forward faces a career-defining World Cup in Russia. The little magician almost single-handedly earned qualification for Argentina and now most of the futbol world believe this World Cup shapes his legacy. Pele and Maradona, two of the greatest, have stated publicly Messi needs a World Cup title to be the ‘G.O.A.T.’ They are not wrong. Los Pibes de Argentina are in Group D and face off against Iceland on June 16. The weight of the futbol world will be on his shoulders, again.

Cristiano Ronaldo

Portugal is in Group B and currently ranked third in FIFA world rankings. Their star, Ronaldo is one of the greatest footballers in history and the all-time leading scorer for Portugal and Real Madrid. Ronaldo has been named the Best FIFA Men’s Player for the last two years running. The 33-year-old forward has also won five Ballon d’Or. Ronaldo and his arch-rival Messi are tied at five.

For Portugal to make a run, they need to be competitive and potentially defeat their hated neighbors Spain in group play. It won’t be a simple task, but if Portugal has a deep run in Russia, Ronaldo’s legacy as the greatest striker ever could become a reality.

Neymar Jr.

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The $263 million man for PSG leads South American powerhouse Brazil to the World Cup. Brazil (FIFA World #2) has won nine consecutive games since 2016. Under the direction of Tite, they were the first foreign team to qualify for Russia 2018. Brazil was sixth in the CONMEBOL standings when Tite took over and has returned the team to dominance. Brazil may have one of the easiest paths to the Round of 16. They’re an early favorite to win a sixth title and should battle Germany for the World Cup.  Group E consists of Costa Rica, Serbia, and Switzerland.

Antoine Griezmann

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The 26-year-old French genius and striker for Atlético Madrid led Les Bleus to the top spot of Group C with a 2-1 victory against Belarus in October. Griezmann scored in the first half and then set up Olivier Giroud. Griezmann is considered the best striker from Europe and a future Ballon d’Or winner. His coach on Atlético Diego Simeone says, “Antoine has improved in every department. [His level] of fitness, tactical awareness, personality, aggression, intensity, ball recovery, attacking potency – and that is all his own doing.” European rivals Denmark and South American qualifier Peru may offer competition to Les Bleus in the group stage, but we expect France to reach the Round of 16 at least.

Luis Suarez

The 31-year-old striker for FC Barcelona will lead Uruguay through Group A alongside host nation Russia, Saudia Arabia, and Egypt. La Celeste is not the dominant CONMEBOL team they typically are. They’re currently ranked 21st in FIFA World Rankings, behind Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, and Colombia. Will Cavani and Suarez’ aggressive styles of play be enough to get them to the Round of 16? Suarez is Uruguay’s all-time leading goalscorer and has scored five goals in World Cup play. But, we don’t expect La Celeste to make a deep run to a title. Please don’t bite anyone Luis.

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