FIFA World Cup 2018 Russia Preview
The world’s biggest sporting event, the FIFA World Cup, kicks off on Thursday as the host country takes on Saudi Arabia.
All of the 21st World Cup games will be played in various stadiums in Russia, with round robin games running until June 26.
Five-time champion Brazil is expected to be this year’s favourite, with 7-2 odds to take the illustrious title of World Cup champions. The South American powerhouse is followed closely by the 2014 World Cup champion Germany, whose odds are 4-1. France, Spain, Belgium and Argentina are also included on the list of favourites.
Each of these teams will have to get through their round robin matchups in order to capture the World Cup.
This year’s World Cup will feature many major storylines, but there are some significant stories to watch while going into the games:
Can Messi finally capture a world cup?
Arguably the greatest player in the history of the game, Lionel Messi is still chasing the elusive World Cup title. Messi has been unable to have any real World Cup success in the past, but fans are wondering if this could be his year. There are questions about Argentina’s strength as a team with some pointing to holes in their defence and in the mid-field. Can Messi overcome all of that and lead them to a World Cup?
With a squad full of premium talent, Belgium is poised to make a deep run in this year’s World Cup. The roster features players like Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne, Mousa Dembele, and Eden Hazard, making Belgium a team to watch in this year’s World Cup. They are grouped with England, so the first round of games is expected to be exciting. Hazard left Belgium’s final tune-up game with an injury, and although it wasn’t serious, it will still be something to monitor.
This small nation, which has a population of just under 335,000, shocked the world in the 2016 Euro Cup as they made it all the way to the quarter-finals. Captivating viewers with an attractive style, Iceland showed it belonged on the international stage. The country will now look to replicate this success in the 2018 World Cup. Key players for Iceland include Gylfi Sigurdsson, Birkir Bjarnason, and Aron Gunnarsson.
Uruguay’s 2014 World Cup was derailed when star player Luis Suarez bit an opposing player on the shoulder and was suspended for the remainder of the tournament. With Suarez back in the lineup for this year’s tournament, all eyes will be on the star striker as he looks to redeem himself for his 2014 blunder. First match for Uruguay is Friday 8 a.m. against Egypt.
Egypt is to be a surprise at this year’s World Cup. The African nation could be one of the two teams to emerge from a group that is comprised of Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Uruguay. Egypt plays a very defensive style of game and looks to its star, Mohamed Salah, to do the bulk of the goal-scoring. Salah was the leading scorer in the English Premier League this season, but is carrying an injury going into the World Cup and will miss Egypt’s first game Friday against Uruguay.
The World Cup will look different this year. The United States, Netherlands, Italy, Chile will all be watching from home this year, as as they failed to qualify for World Cup 2018.