Dark Horses

Belgium: The Red Devils are loaded with talent, but their lack of international success in years past and their shaky defense make them a dark horse.

  • Best Case Scenario: Semifinalists
  • Worst Case: Round of 16
  • Players to Watch: Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku
  • Breakout Candidate: Yannick Carrasco

England: The Three Lions got a great draw in the group stage, but a quarterfinal date with either Germany or Brazil would likely spell the end to their World Cup aspirations.

  • Best Case Scenario: Quarterfinalists
  • Worst Case: Round of 16
  • Players to Watch: Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Dele Alli
  • Breakout Candidate: Marcus Rashford

Portugal: The reigning European champions surprised the footballing world once, and could do it again; however, with the introduction of South American giants Brazil and Argentina, it seems unlikely.

  • Best Case Scenario: Champions
  • Worst Case: Round of 16
  • Players to Watch: Cristiano Ronaldo, Pepe, Joao Mario
  • Breakout Candidate: Bernardo Silva

Colombia: The breakout side of Brazil 2014, Colombia remain a dangerous attacking unit, but their defense and lack of world class players outside of James and Falcao (and their status as world-class is also questionable) make them firm dark horses.

  • Best Case Scenario: Semifinalists
  • Worst Case: Round of 16
  • Players to Watch: James Rodriguez, Radamel Falcao, Juan Cuadrado
  • Breakout Candidate: Edwin Cardona

Uruguay: Luis Suarez and co. were semifinalists in 2010, but a round of 16 date with either Spain or Portugal would be tough to overcome. Additionally, the dynamism of Mo Salah and Russia’s status as hosts suggest that a group stage exit for Uruguay could be in the cards, however unlikely that may be.

  • Best Case Scenario: Quarterfinalists
  • Worst Case: Group Stage
  • Players to Watch: Edinson Cavani, Luis Suarez, Diego Godin
  • Breakout Candidates: Jose Giminez
MOSCOW, RUSSIA – DECEMBER 01: Gareth Southgate, Manager of England looks on during the Final Draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia at the State Kremlin Palace on December 1, 2017 in Moscow, Russia. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Worth a Watch

Nigeria: An exciting, free-flowing, attacking side that got drawn in a rather difficult group.

  • Key Player: Alex Iwobi

Egypt: This African nation’s hopes rest on talisman Mo Salah’s shoulders, but an easy draw could see them advance in their first ever World Cup.

  • Key Player: Mo Salah

Mexico: El Tri are always a threat to advance to the Round of 16, but a matchup with Brazil at that interval may prove too difficult a test.

  • Key Player: Javier Hernandez

Costa Rica: As previously stated, Costa Rica were a penalty shootout away from the semifinals in Brazil, and the group they conquered in 2014 was far more daunting than the one they face this year.

  • Key Player: Joel Campbell

Poland: With the best pure number 9 in World Football and a relatively light group, Poland could make it as far as the quarterfinals if they play their cards right.

  • Key Player: Robert Lewandowski

Russia: The hosts got pretty lucky with their draw, and yet are still underdogs to advance to the Round of 16. However, with their nation behind them, advancing out of the group stage remains a possibility. Advancing past Portugal or Spain, however? Not so much.

  • Key Player: Aleksandr Kokorin

 NEXT: Predictions 

Predictions

Round of 16:

  • Portugal over Uruguay
  • Spain over Egypt
  • France over Croatia
  • Argentina over Denmark
  • Brazil over Mexico
  • Germany over Switzerland
  • England over Poland
  • Belgium over Colombia

Quarterfinals:

  • France over Portugal
  • Brazil over England
  • Spain over Argentina
  • Germany over Belgium

Semifinals:

  • Brazil over France
  • Spain over Germany

3rd Place:

  • Germany over France

Final:

  • Brazil over Spain
  • Champions: Brazil
  • Golden Ball: Neymar
  • Golden Boot: Gabriel Jesus
  • Golden Glove: David de Gea
  • Best Young Player: Gabriel Jesus

That’s all for now. I’m sure that things will change as we approach June, but for now, all we can do is sit back, enjoy the remainder of the domestic season, and gear up for what should be a thrilling tournament.