We’re less than a week away from the 2018 World Cup and I figured it’s a good time to take a quick look at the CONCACAF teams involved.
Mexico, Costa Rica and Panama are the regions attendees this go round, down from the quartet of Mexico, Costa Rica, USA and Honduras in 2014. Three of those teams got to the Round of 16 with Costa Rica, surprisingly, making it to the quarterfinals. That’s highly unlikely this time around.
I really can’t say much about Panama. Its their first ever World Cup so all the best to them. Hopefully they do better than Honduras and come away with at least one point. In a group featuring England, Tunisia and Belgium its possible. With Roman Torres at the back they will definitely give a good defensive effort and maybe the wily oldies in attack, Luis Tejada and Blas Perez, can cause some discomfort.
Their reception will be much different from the one Costa Rica receives.
Los Ticos will be treated with respect by their group opponents, Serbia, Brazil and Switzerland. It’s really hard to tell if this team will make it to the Round of 16. A lot of the key players from four years ago return to the fold. The side will look to be as solid defensively as they were in 2014 with Keylor Navas marshaling his troops from between the posts. The trio of Bryan Ruiz, Marco Urena and Joel Campbell up top can cause some damage on the counter and will have to be as efficient as they were four years ago. Should they make it out of their group it will likely be in second place. That would be the end of their run as their opponents would be Germany, the likely Group F winner.
Mexico is the most talented of this trio and, as the ever-present CONCACAF representative, there will be some expectation again.
They should get out of their group behind Germany given their talent but it won’t be easy. Sweden will be tough to break down and South Korea has the attacking weapons to punish them if they aren’t careful defensively. If Juan Carlos Osorio’s rotates as he usually does that will affect his key players. That, along with the teams profligacy in front of goal, might undo them. The likes of Carlos Vela, Giovani dos Santos, Javier Hernandez, Andres Guardado and Hector Herrera have the experience and talent to make a difference when it matters. I still hope to see the Santos brothers play significant time together but that’s unlikely. Their trip, like Costa Rica’s, would end at the Round of 16 stage as they would face Brazil if they advance.
It wouldn’t surprise me if neither Costa Rica or Mexico made it out of the group stages nor would it surprise me if they both did. A bit of a cop-out there I guess. I expect that Mexico will make it and I give Switzerland the edge over Costa Rica. Hopefully Panama does well. It will be an interesting World Cup for CONCACAF teams but I don’t think it will be a particularly lengthy one.
Okay, so, just wait a second. You’re probably wondering why Argentina is up there and not the reigning champions, Germany, or European champions Portugal or even Brazil, who are always favorites.
Simply put, I’m just contemplating how three of the teams I’m cheering for will fare in the World Cup.
I say three of the teams because as I mentioned during the 2014 World Cup I had a certain hierarchy when it came to teams on the international stage. That hierarchy hasn’t changed and Argentina is really there only because I want Lionel Messi to win, as I did in 2014. I’d be remiss to say I usually add the African teams, whoever they may be, to my list of teams to cheer for when World Cup time comes around.
I’ll probably do a predictions piece closer to the tournament itself after a look at the CONCACAF teams. On to real business then.
The big question with Spain is whether the Diego Costa trick will finally pay off.
The disappointment in 2014 can probably be written off because he wasn’t fully fit or integrated into the side and in Euro 2016 they came up against an impressive Italy side. Still, they will be legitimate favourites for a reason. Few teams can match the mixture of experience and talent in this squad. They wont have the same expectations as 2014 and the loss in 2016 will have them even more determined to prove themselves. I think most folks will have them as a semifinalist.
It won’t be an easy road, with the possibility of facing either Argentina or France as early as the quarterfinals. It will probably be Argentina as I don’t see France finishing second in their group. Still, this Spain side shouldn’t fear anyone once they reach that stage and if things click in the attacking third they will be tough to beat, as you expect them to control the midfield regardless of the opponent.
France is coming of a tough loss in Euro 2016 and a solid qualification run. It’s an exciting group but there’s still a feeling they lack enough experience to go all the way.
As mentioned before, I expect they will be on the other side of the bracket from Spain and Argentina. That’s likely to lead to an interesting rematch with Portugal in the quarterfinals, or even worse, a feisty Uruguay side. There’s also Brazil to worry about on that side. I still don’t fully trust Didier Deschamps as I feel he hasn’t gotten the best out of Paul Pogba though only Antonio Conte and Massimiliano Allegri have so far. The balance in midfield will be key. The best choice would be to start Steven N’zonzi to control things in midfield with N’golo Kante and Pogba but we’ll see. There’s also the hope that the youngsters up to Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele, with 25 caps between them, don’t falter on the big stage.
I’ll probably still blame Deschamps if it falls apart. Arsene Wenger next up on the plate perhaps?
Ah, Argentina. There really isn’t much to say about them is there?
It’s baffling that a side with this attacking quality has relied on one alien to win something, anything, in the last decade. There’s only so many times one can ponder why Angel Di Maria, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain can’t/won’t step up to the plate. True, the rest of the team, minus Javier Mascherano and an improved Nicolas Otamendi, is average but that doesn’t stop Messi playing his part. If Messi drags this side to a title as Diego Maradona did in ’86 it would shut a lot of mouths. Possibly. Maradona had one finals loss and one win sooo….. Even if he doesn’t win, Messi is still arguably the best ever.
Also, with Jorge Sampaoli, Argentina has possibly the best coach in the tournament. He hasn’t been able to get it all together for the Albiceleste just yet but you can’t sleep on him in this tournament.
As an aside, I’ll say I always have a soft spot for England. Not sure why. Interested to see how this group does. And, again, let’s not forget Germany. One of these teams will have to play them at some point in the tournament. I’d bet if that team gets past them they’ll win it all.
I think I’m starting to get excited for the World Cup. Finally. Nice read here on John Obi Mikel. I definitely have to agree with the title.
The talent that teams like Nigeria, Cameroon, Ghana and the Ivory Coast have produced at various times could certainly have won the World Cup if they didn’t continue to shoot themselves in the foot for various reasons. That Ghana side in 2010 were so close to the semis and Ivory Coast had some tough groups in 2006 and 2010. The likes of Senegal, Cameroon and Nigeria had their moments in the past.
I think Nigeria will be the standard-bearers for Africa in this World Cup but it will be interesting to see what Morocco, Senegal, Egypt and Tunisia do.
I’ll do some more World Cup stuff on the CONCACAF sides and the teams I’m cheering for and probably a bigger overall preview right before as well.
Some great points throughout, as always, by Michael Cox.
A lot of European clubs, not just the big boys, want to play stylish, attacking football. Or, at least, they want to present the idea that they can. The 1-0 game between Atletico Madrid and Arsenal did seem boring in comparison to the Champions League semis but it was simply a matter of excellent defending by Atletico. The idea of the club’s brand playing a part in that decision is very interesting and makes even more sense when you compare to international football.
Each continent certainly has stylistic similarities in terms of play but, ultimately, each international teams approaches the game differently. What makes the difference at the club level is that players spend months together learning each others patterns along with being constantly drilled in a specific style by their coach. There is much less time for international teams even during tournaments.
Perhaps that’s another reason the upcoming 2018 World Cup is yet to fully excite. There are sure to be some painful games early on as players, coaches etc get accustomed to each other again after exhausting seasons. Hopefully enough quality shines through and it doesn’t become a case of playing not to lose instead of playing to win.
It’s been way too long since I did this but I’m hoping to get back into it and eventually get a regular schedule again. There will be a lot of shorter pieces like this or posting various interesting articles like I used to and eventually transition to more of my writing.
Watching Arsene Wenger’s last home game was nothing like watching the last game at Highbury. No stakes, no real excitement. Just a meh feeling. A 5-0 win definitely looks good but it had little meaning. There was some decent football on display but none of these players excite me.
Arsenal is definitely a Europa League team now. The new manager, whoever they may be, has a lot of work cut out for them. I wouldn’t mind a squad overhaul but it the moves that are made have to make the Gunners capable of getting back into the Champions League in one shot.
Like all Arsenal fans, or at least I think all, I’m ultimately sad Wenger is gone. I’ve been on the Wenger out side of things for a while now but I’ve always appreciated what he did for Arsenal. The Europa League exit to Atletico Madrid was disappointing even though it was expected. The team’s lack of leadership and real quality was clear.
On to the new era Gunners.
I’ll keep it short as far as the Champions League final is concerned.
I hope Liverpool wins. If Mohamed Salah doesn’t falter on the big stage, and there’s no reason to believe that since he hasn’t so far, then Liverpool have a good shot. I would say they have an even better chance if they defend well and hit Real Madrid on the counter but that approach is unlikely. What I’m expecting is an open, fast-paced game. It will come down to goalkeeper mistakes/finishing chances. We shall see.
If Real Madrid win then hats off to them. Winning the Champions League three times on the trot in this era would be a superb achievement. Madrid has had an extremely tough run this season and there were very few times that it seemed they were on the ropes in the knockouts.
There’s a World Cup this year and I don’t know about you but I’m not excited yet. Maybe it’s because of Russia, maybe Qatar or FIFA still trying to restore its reputation after the scandal a few years back. It just doesn’t feel like a World Cup year.
The growing behemoth that is club football also acts as a distraction despite the fact that most of the major leagues in Europe have been a formality for a few months.
I think/hope it will turn out alright as Brazil’s did in the end. No Oranje for me to cheer for but there’s still France and Spain, all the African teams and the federation of Lionel Messi, I mean Argentina. It’s his last chance and I really would like him to win the big one to end all arguments. Except he’ll still have his critics even if he carried Argentina to the final while using a mind-control device to guide Gonzalo Higuain on his key one-on-one opportunities, and organized the defense at the same time.
The sure favorites right now would be Germany, France, Brazil and Spain but there should be a lot of intriguing games. One other factor that will certainly provide entertainment will be the introduction of VAR, as reported here by CNN.
I’ll probably do some more preview stuff as we get closer.
Will that really happen though? I guess it may be dependent on the results of the ongoing investigations but who knows how long it will take for that to be finished. Definitely some good pints and questions raised but I think 2018 may be too close for any substantial change to occur.
Well, now that it seems all the furore surrounding the 2022 World Cup has died down, for now, it’s time to look at the World Cup that’s only three years away. Looking good aren’t we?
The article presents a great picture of the hurdles in terms of preparation though it does fail to mention the issue of racism in Russian football and what would be done to combat that. I guess it looks bleak enough as it is. No luxury hotels for the “FIFA Family” and all. I especially love Sepp Blatter’s quote at the end.
“In my opinion the World Cup in Russia will be able to stabilise all the situation in this region of Europe that is suffering now,” said Blatter in response for calls to move the tournament because of the Ukraine issue. “I am sure that football is stronger than any other movement.”
Your soon-to-be reelected FIFA president ladies and gentlemen.
Great article here. For all the hubbub surrounding Qatar, there is a very real prospect of danger to fans, players etc. at the Russia World Cup. Unfortunately, I have this sinking feeling that something of note, something bad of course, will occur during the World Cup. Three years is still a lot of time to set measures in place but it can’t eradicate however many decades of such actions. Guess we’ll see.
I’ll try and make this quick.
If you haven’t already fallen into the trap of not giving a s$%t what goes on in FIFAWorld, and gotten back to focusing on just the football then shame on you.(If I have to tell you I’m kidding then, well(shrugs shoulder))
The recent saga concerning the bidding process for the 2018 and 20122 World Cups(which I hope they make into a movie sometime soon. Wonder who will play Sepp Blatter?) sprung back into the news last week.
The news that investigator charged with looking into the actions etc of officials and the bidders, Micheal Garcia, quit as he felt his report has been inaccurately portrayed. That then prompted FIFA to state they would release a redacted version of Garcia’s report with Sepp Blatter spinning webs to the media.
All of that prompted some interesting articles from authors on ESPN FC and the Guardian.
The Guardian’s Owen Gibson was understandably irked with the whole situation and how things have been manipulated by FIFA(or at least certain officials within the organization).
I didn’t think that FIFA would publish the report in any manner even after Garcia’s resignation but apparently ESPNFC’s Gabriele Marcotti did. Kudos to him. I would have preferred the WikiLeaks route(Would have made the movie that much more exciting) but it does look like we’re getting something.
Another great piece from Gabriele Marcotti.
I can’t help but think of Sepp Blatter as the real life version of Tywin Lannister from now on. He’s doing whatever it takes to stay in power and if you watch the end of the video above(the one linked to the sentence about Sepp Blatter spinning webs) he acts like he’s not too interested in retaining his office but he’s probably just waiting to see who may challenge him so he can crush them behind the scenes.
Until next time.
(Shaking head). While there’s a lot more detail going around concerning the issue, this snippet of quotes from those involved, and the summary of their actions, is astounding.
There’s still likely to be plenty to happen between now and 2022 as far as Qatar goes so I guess we’ll see. What’s to be done about FIFA, though?