2018 World Cup: Spain, France or Argentina? Who Will Win It All?
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.
Euro 2016 contenders how France Germany Spain are prepping – ESPN FC
Euro 2016 contenders how France Germany Spain are prepping – ESPN FC
I think Italy, England, Portugal and Croatia are more dark horses than contenders. Too much issues with all of those sides. Italy don’t convince, Portugal are too Ronaldo-dependent, Croatia hasn’t put it all together and England have a lot less experience than usual. Still interesting to see how they all do during this break.
The Spain before greatness: World Cup 1982 | These Football Times
The Spain before greatness: World Cup 1982 | These Football Times.
Good piece here. Spain were consistent underachievers until recent times. Always so talented.
Spain No Longer Strike Fear into Hearts of Opponents | Bleacher Report
Spain No Longer Strike Fear into Hearts of Opponents | Bleacher Report.
True. Spain’s transition isn’t going too well.
I’m not sure I agree with everything the author is saying or the opinions he presents. I don’t think there’s a lack of options for the Spanish national team, there may be a lot less experience to choose from but there’s no shortage of talent. It’s just a matter of Vicente Del Bosque getting the transition right in terms of altering Spain’s style. As the author mentioned, he doesn’t seem to want to do it so that may ultimately be his, and Spain’s, downfall. The side has enough talent to still be a force but the aura of invincibility was washed away against the Netherlands. We’ll see what happens.
Until next time.
Vicente del Bosque looks to replicate Spain’s club dynamic ahead of Euro 2016 – ESPN FC
Vicente del Bosque looks to replicate Spain’s club dynamic ahead of Euro 2016 – ESPN FC.
Again, a lot of focus on the new generation coming through.
Not so sure about the club dynamic being replicated. Since Euro 2008 it’s been pretty certain where the majority of players in the national side would come from. Barcelona and Real Madrid. This new generation of players means the clubs being represented in the national side are more varied, though you’d expect the two Spanish giants to still provide a healthy amount of representatives.
Spain Rebuild Slowly but Surely After World Cup Blowout | Bleacher Report
Spain Rebuild Slowly but Surely After World Cup Blowout | Bleacher Report.
There’s a lot more to talk about with Spain’s rebuilding than a change in players that was always going to occur. Maybe it happened a bit sooner than most expected but it was definitely going to happen. It’s the change in style that’s most important and whether or not Vicente Del Bosque can get all the pieces to fit by Euro 2016. On talent alone they’ll be favorites though.
Spain is finally fighting against match fixing, the ultimate crime in football | Sid Lowe | Football | The Guardian
Spain is finally fighting against match fixing, the ultimate crime in football | Sid Lowe | Football | The Guardian.
A bit of news on whats going on in Spain with match-fixing. We’ll see what happens.
Spain: Vicente Del Bosque needs time to transition into next Spanish generation – ESPN FC
Spain: Vicente Del Bosque needs time to transition into next Spanish generation – ESPN FC.
As a fan of the Spanish team, before the Euro 2008 win if that matters, I was fine with Vicente Del Bosque staying on. I think most would have a similar sentiment. The Spanish boss has a tough task on his hands in this transition.
Despite their under-performance in the 2014 World Cup, Spain will miss the quality and experience of players like Xabi Alonso and Xavi. David Villa will be missed as well but if they can work out the best way to get Diego Costa firing then they’ll be fine in that aspect. Of course, his introduction into the side is the biggest question in this period of transition but there are others.
I think with all the talent still available, and the ones coming through, Spain will be fine. As the author, Graham Hunter, states, Vicente Del Bosque just needs time.
Spain vs. Brazil: Did Diego Costa Choose Correctly?
Diego Costa, with his goal-scoring prowess, big-money move, dodgy hamstrings and newly chosen nation, has been one of the main stories in World Football recently.
One of the biggest topics surrounding the Chelsea forward was his decision to choose Spain over his native Brazil on the international stage. The decision came before the 2014 World Cup, and fans of his home country made their feelings known during the tournament with vociferous boos when he was on the ball for Spain.
That reaction was an interesting one as you feel that Marcos Senna and Eduardo, two of many other Brazilian-born players who sought the international experience elsewhere, would not, and, in Eduardo’s case, did not face anything similar. Senna’s case is particularly interesting as he was an integral part Spain’s Euro 2008 squad.
It is Costa, though, who, thanks to his ability and increased profile, basically chose where he wanted to play where the other two players were limited by the competition they faced.
He’s continued to put himself in the forefront with a fantastic start at Chelsea with nine clubs in nine games. His latest victim, Arsenal, came right before the international break. That break, and Costa’s current position in the limelight, provides an interesting topic to look at.
Did Diego Costa make the right decision to choose Spain over his native Brazil on the international scene?
Both nations are going through changes at the senior level but, just as he is with Spain now, Costa would be a primary player for his native Brazil. He is one of the most in-form forwards in the world and one whose style makes him a must-have the way the game is progressing.
We’re not really concerned with why the decision was made, though if you’re interested some Costa’s thoughts are put to paper in this article from the BBC, but whether it was the best choice for him internationally. Three things that need to be considered where that’s concerned are how he will fit into the team’s chemistry, their style of play and potential success on the international stage.
The best international team in the last few years, Spain, had such chemistry mainly due to the core of Barcelona players in the squad and the masterful man-management of Vicente Del Bosque. Recent World Cup Winners, Germany, also boasted of off-field practices that enhanced the team’s ability to play together in Brazil.
One needs to look no further than Costa’s current team, Chelsea, to see the potential for team chemistry that can be created in either side.
Costa already has two Spanish international teammates, Francesc Fabregas and Cesar Azpilicueta, at Stamford Bridge, and his budding on-field relationship with Fabregas should be especially beneficial for him, Fabregas and Spain. There’s also his knowledge of former Atletico Madrid mates Koke, Juanfran, Raul Garcia and others who may or may not see time for Spain in the near future.
The Brazilian contingent at the club consists of Filipe Luis, Ramires, Oscar and Willian. All those players should be a part of their national setup for years to come, not to mention the likes of Lucas Piazon and Wallace who could break through. Costa will develop relationships with these players and could have formed a core group for Dunga, or whoever is in charge for Brazil.
Judging how the two teams play is a bit easier as Spain, despite proclamations of the death of tiki-taka, still look to dominate possession despite missing the influence of chief architects; Xavi and Xabi Alonso. Brazil is definitely the more direct of the two, and probably more suited to Costa’s game.
A look at their most recent fixtures show the contrasting styles of the two sides.
Spain, surprisingly, lost to Slovakia in what was an extremely lively performance from Costa. A mixture of solid goalkeeping and lack of chemistry with some of his teammates made it another goalless night. That game was, as Bleacher Report’s Sam Tighe states, indicative of the troubles arising from introducing Costa into the Spanish setup. The Chelsea man did eventually break his duck against Luxembourg while Spain played a more direct game.
It’s difficult to foresee a player of Costa’s talent failing to adapt to the Spanish style, though, but it does seem Vicente Del Bosque is willing to be more direct to get the best out of his best forward.
In their two friendly games against Argentina and Japan, Brazil’s more direct play was clear.
They have benefited from some poor defending in the higher profile game against Argentina, and you’d feel that Costa would have put away the chances Brazil’s striker on the day, Diego Tardelli, did. The game against an experimental Japan side highlighted the importance of Neymar but that shouldn’t be an issue as Costa played a support role to the prolific Radamel Falcao at Atletico Madrid.
In the case of style it may be a bit of moot point.
What it really comes down to is the category that’s most difficult to judge. Which team will have the better future?
Both sides are going through a transitional period, Brazil infinitely more so, and have plenty of competition within their respective confederations to contend with.
At first look Spain is, rightly, well ahead. The major problem they have is changing their style but there is no shortage of talent ready to replace the old guard. That was on show against Luxembourg but there is still a lot of experience with players like Fabregas, Gerard Pique and David Silva in the mix.
Brazil has Neymar leading the way along with a conveyor belt of young talent but questions will arise over inexperience, midfield creativity and goalkeeping.
Player selection issues aside, Brazil’s overall problem is the need to appease a demanding fan-base and recapture a football identity that provides beautiful, and successful, football.
So did Costa make the right decision?
It’s too early to tell given that Costa’s only played seven games for Spain so far, with only just over half of that number being competitive.
That question may not be fully answered until the 2018 World Cup as it presents the easiest chance for side-by-side comparison. In the meantime one can look at how the sides fare in the 2015 Copa America, Euro 2016 and, if they make it, the 2017 Confederation Cup as well as any possible friendly meetings in between.
We can do nothing but keep an eye on one of the major talents in World Football and the two nations he’s inextricably linked with.
Spain undone by their own revolution – ESPN FC
Spain undone by their own revolution – ESPN FC.
Continuing the postmortem on Spain. Another great piece by Michael Cox.