• Ladies and gentlemen!

    Here it is: My analysis of group H. It took me a lot of time to write down these descriptions. I'm not exactly sure whether I will be doing this again when the FIFA will be raising the number of participating nations from thirty-two to forty-eight. I hope you have liked my predictions and you're enjoying the World Cup. There have already been quite a few surprising results and great games which is a huge relief after a rather weak 2016 Euro. Leave a comment if you like and encourage your favorite team!

    Poland

    Team: Poland

    Strengths: Poland has a lot of strengths. Experienced head coach Adam Nawalka has been in charge of the national team for five years by now. Poland qualified impressively with eight victories, one draw and only one defeat, scoring twenty-eight goals but only conceding fourteen. Poland might have one of the world's very best strikers in its squad with Bayern Munich's Robert Lewandowski.

    Weaknesses: Poland has only won two of its last six exhibition matches, losing against teams like Mexico and Nigeria and getting draws against Chile and Uruguay.

    Prediction: Poland has an incredibly talented squad with strong goalkeepers, promising talents and experienced veterans and one of the world's greatest strikers. I predict Poland to surprise the world at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. I could imagine them going all the way to the semi-finals but can't see the squad going further yet and beating the world's greatest teams. Poland will finish the tournament in third position.

    Poland

    Senegal

    Team: Senegal

    Strengths: In the last year, Senegal has only lost three out of eighteen matches. The squad has seven players earning their money in England, six playing in France and three in Italy which shows how experienced this team is.

    Weaknesses: The team hasn't qualified for the previous three World Cups. The team has never won any important international tournament. Head coach Aliou Cissé has no significant experience and only coached Senegal's under twenty-three national team prior to becoming head coach of the senior squad.

    Prediction: Senegal doesn't have enough international experience to survive the group stage. They might have a chance at beating Japan but won't be able to compete with Colombia and Poland.

    Senegal

    Colombia

    Team: Colombia

    Strengths: Colombia has numerous international top players in its squad such as Arsenal F.C.'s goalkeeper David Ospina, Tottenham Hotspur F.C.'s defender Davinson Sanchez, Bayern Munich's skilled midfielder James Rodriguez as well as Juventus F.C.'s Juan Cuadrado and finally AS Monaco F.C.'s striker and the national team's captain Radamel Falcao. The mixture between experienced veterans and motivated youngsters seems to be particularly good. Argentinian head coach José Pékerman is one of the most experienced head coaches of the tournament, having been in charge of the national team for six years and being aged sixty-eight.

    Weaknesses: Colombia had some trouble qualifying for the tournament, finishing in fourth position behind Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina. The team's recent exhibition games had rather mixed results with a surprising defeat against South Korea, draws against Australia and Egypt but a surprising victory against France as well as against China. 

    Prediction: Colombia reached the quarter-finals four years ago. I expect the Colombian squad to repeat this success as the team has stagnated on a high level. However, the team's recent results are too unstable to go all the way and win the tournament.

    Colombia

    Japan

    Team: Japan

    Strengths: Japan is a successful squad in Asia and has won four AFC Asian Cups, the last one in 2011. The team is known for its strong team spirit as it never gives up and Japanese players have had a lot of success abroad over the past one and a half decades. Unsurprisingly, the last AFC Champions League was also won by Japanese team with Urawa Red Diamonds.

    Weaknesses: Japan's recent exhibition matches haven't been too encouraging as the team lost against Ghana, Switzerland and Ukraine earlier this year and drawing against Mali. Current head coach Nishino Akira has only been in charge for two months after previous head coach Vahid Halilhodzic was unexpectedly sacked. Japan has a rather old squad. Key players like F.C. Metz's goalkeeper Kawashima Eiji (35 years old), Galatasaray S.K.'s defender Nagatomo Yuto (31 years old), C.F. Pachuca's midfielder Honda Keisuke (32 years old), Eintracht Frankfurt's midfielder and captain of the national squad Hasebe Makoto (34 years old) and Leicester City F.C.'s striker Okazaka Shinji (32 years old) might all be competing in their last World Cup already. 

    Prediction: Japan's squad is too old and the head coach change just before the tournament had a negative impact on the team. Japan might be an important team in Asia but won't be able to compete with the best international squads. The team won't survive the group stage and might even finish last in its group. 

    Japan

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  • Ladies and gentlemen!

    The 2018 FIFA World Cup is Russia has already begun and we have already seen some fireworks of the beautiful game. I still want to analyze the two groups that haven't played yet. Today, I will analyze the teams in Group G. Enjoy and leave a comment if you like!

    Belgium

    Team: Belgium

    Strengths: Belgium might have the strongest squad it has ever had, a so-called golden generation. A look at the players' names lets any soccer fan's mouth water. Chelsea F.C.'s goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is one of the best of his kind. F.C. Barcelona's Thomas Vermaelen and Manchester City F.C.'s Vincent Kompany are among the most experienced and skilled defenders in the world. Manchester City F.C.'s Kevin De Bruyne is one of the most creative midfielders in the world. Manchester United F.C.'s Romelu Lukaku and Chelsea F.C.'s Eden Hazard are technically impressive strikers with solid records. The last time Belgium lost a match was back in September 2016, a 0-2 defeat against Spain. Since then, Belgium beat teams like Costa Rica, Egypt and Japan which also participate in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

    Weaknesses: The decision to sack passionate coach Marc Wilmots after the 2016 Euro and to hire a rather inexperienced Spanish coach with Roberto Martinez still seems quite risky too me. I doubt he has the capacities to lead such a strong team to its first title. Belgium has never ever won a major tournament so far.

    Prediction: Belgium will win this group and could go very far in the tournament. A lot of experts even give them considerable chances to go all the way and win the 2018 FIFA World Cup. I believe the team will make it to the quarter-finals but not further yet. If the team's impressive development continues however, they could very well win the 2020 Euro.

    Belgium

    Panama

    Team: Panama

    Strengths: Panama participates in a World Cup for the very first time which was became one of the most important historical events in the country. You will hardly find a more dynamic, motivated and passionate team. Panama's team spirit is very strong and they want to show the world that they deserve to play with the best squads in the world. The entire country will support them with boundless enthusiasm.

    Weaknesses: Enthusiasm isn't enough to win against the world's greatest soccer teams. The team's only notable success is winning the Copa Centroamericana back in 2009 and finishing as runners-up in 2007 and 2017. None of the players in the squad plays in any important European league. Captain Felipe Baloy plays for Municipal in Guatemala. Experienced thirty-six year old goalkeeper Jaime Penedo who has one hundred thirty-one caps plays for Dinamo Bucharest in Romania. Midfielder Gabriel Gomez has the highest number of caps with one hundred forty-four and plays for Atlético Bucaramanga in Colombia. Strikers Blas Pérez from Municipal in Guatemala and Luis Tejada from Sport Boys Association in Peru have scored forty-three goals each. Panama has also only won one of its last five exhibition matches, losing against teams like Denmark, Norway and Switzerland.

    Prediction: The team's lack of experience is more important than its enthusiasm. Panama won't survive the group stage.

    Panama

    Tunisia

    Team: Tunisia

    Strengths: Tunisia hasn't lost any of its last nine matches, drawing against respectable opponents such as Portugal and Turkey and winning against Costa Rica, Egypt and Iran.

    Weaknesses: Tunisia hasn't participated in the last two World Cups and has never survived the group stage in its four previous appearances. The team's only big success was winning the 2004 Africa Cup of Nations. The team's current squad is largely inexperienced with many players having less than ten caps. The best players are with French clubs that aren't exactly dominating Ligue 1 and only defender Yohan Benalouane plays for a relatively big team with Premier League's Leicester City F.C.. Head coach Nabil Maaloul has only been in charge for a little bit more than a year and his previous stint as national coach was very short and not exactly successful.

    Prediction: Tunisia should be able to beat Panama but I can't see them competing with either Belgium or England. That's why the team won't survive the group stage.

    Tunisia

    England

    Team: England

    Strengths: The last time the motherland of soccer has lost a match was more than one year ago against France. Since then, the team has defeated respectable opponents such as Costa Rica, Netherlands and Nigeria. The squad is quite homogeneous with all players having contracts in the Premier League and knowing one another very well. The team has one of the best strikers in the world with Tottenham Hotspur F.C.'s Harry Kane who has also become the captain of the national team.

    Weaknesses: Head coach Gareth Southgate doesn't have much experience since he has only coached Middlesbrough F.C. and the England national under-twenty-one football team before being in charge of the senior national team. The team is also lacking an experienced goalkeeper as all three keepers nominated for the tournament have less than ten caps and play for rather weak teams like Burnely F.C., Everton F.C. and Stoke City F.C.

    Prediction: England will finish second in this group and advance to the round of sixteen. However, I don't see the team going any further because of its inexperienced goalkeepers and coaching staff.

    England

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  • Ladies and gentlemen!

    It's time to take a look at the group of defending world champions Germany today. I'm quite busy these days, so pardon me if there are any mistakes in my descriptions. Do you agree with my predictions? Leave a comment if you like and enjoy the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia!

    Germany

    Team: Germany

    Strengths: Germany are the reigning world champions. Die Mannschaft has also won last year's 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup with a reserve squad. The last time Germany hasn't at least reached the semi-finals of a World Cup was twenty years ago. Joachim Low is by far the longest-serving head coach of the tournament and knows his players very well. The team consists of a balanced mixture of experienced veterans like captain and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer of Bayern Munich, defensive midfielder Sami Khedira of Juventus F.C. and striker Mario Gomez of VfB Stuttgart but also exciting youngsters like Bayern Munich's full-back Joshua Kimmich, Bayer Leverkusen's wide midfielder Julian Brandt and RB Leipzig's striker Timo Werner. In addition to this, Real Madrid's midfielder Toni Kroos is the heart and soul of this team.

    Weaknesses: Germany has only won one of its last six exhibition games, losing to Austria for the first time in three decades. Germany only won by one goal against Saudi Arabia at home one week before the start of the World Cup. There has also been some tension around the team because German-Turkish midfielders Mesut Ozil and Ilkay Gundogan took controversial pictures with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Sandro Wagner who was in the provisional squad wasn't chosen for the tournament and decided to retire from the German national team and made some controversial statements. The fact that Manchester City F.C.'s midfielder Leroy Sané didn't make the final squad was also discussed controversially in public even though the player reacted very professionally. There just seem to be a few too many controversies, discussions and distractions around the team these days

    Prediction: Germany will win this group and reach the semi-finals again but this year's squad doesn't have the same team spirit as it was the case four years ago. I predict Germany to finish in fourth position.

    Germany

    Mexico

    Team: Mexico

    Strengths: Mexico has participated in every of the last six World Cups and always been eliminated in the round of sixteen. The team has a lot of experience, Liga MX is still easily the strongest in all of Central and North America and a somewhat aged squad is complemented by youngsters like PSV Eindhoven's striker Hirving Lozano, C.F. Pachuca's midfielder Éric Gutiérrez and Club América's defender Edson Alvarez.

    Weaknesses: There has been quite a controversy around El Tri before the start of the tournament. It was reported that all but one player of the squad participated in a wild sexual orgy with thirty prostitutes to celebrate West Ham United F.C.'s striker Javier Hernandez' thirtieth birthday. No matter to what point the rumors might be true, it has certainly put a lot of pressure upon the squad and harmed its reputation at home.

    Prediction: Mexico will finish in second position behind Germany. However, Mexico is likely to meet Brazil in the round of sixteen and won't go any further.

    Mexico

    Sweden

    Team: Sweden

    Strengths: Sweden has eliminated four-time World Cup champion Italy in its qualification play-off match which was a big surprise. After the departure of star player Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sweden has developed a strong team spirit. The team has a balanced squad with players who are between twenty-three and thirty-one years old. 

    Weaknesses: Sweden has only won one of its six last exhibition games, losing against Chile and Romania while drawing against Estonia, Denmark and Peru. The team has only scored three goals in these six matches. Sweden has a solid defense but is lacking creative midfielder and strong strikers. The squad's best striker is currently Marcus Berg from United Arab Emirates' team Al Ain who has scored eighteen goals in fifty-seven games.

    Prediction: A clever head coach, great defense and strong team spirit have helped Sweden surprise a weakened Italian side. This trick won't work twice. Sweden's squad is too weak to compete with international heavyweights like Germany and Mexico. The team won't survive the group stage this year.

    Sweden

    South Korea

    Team: South Korea

    Strengths: South Korea has managed to surprise the world once when it finished fourth at the 2002 FIFA World Cup it co-hosted with Japan. South Korea still has several elements nowadays that made this unexpected success happen. This resilient squad never gives up. It has a strong team spirit thanks to a homogeneous squad. Tottenham Hotspur F.C.'s striker Son Heung-min is one of the best football players this country has ever had.

    Weaknesses: Head coach Shin Tae-yong has only been in charge for a year and has only won six out of eighteen matches. The team could only win three of its nine exhibition games this year, losing against Northern Ireland, Poland, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Senegal. Most players don't have much international experience as they are playing in the weak K League 1. In the past five years, only one South Korean team could win the AFC Champions League.

    Prediction: Resilience and team spirit are important elements but can't compensate the lack of depth and talent when playing against teams like Germany and Mexico at group stage. South Korea will be eliminated after three matches.

    South Korea

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  • Ladies and gentlemen!

    After a longer break, it's time to take a look at the final four groups of the upcoming 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Let's start with Group E today. Do you agree with my predictions?

    Team: Brazil

    Strengths: After the humiliating 1-7 defeat against Germany in the semi-final at the 2014 FIFA World Cup and a crashing 0-3 defeat against the Netherlands in third place play-off, Brazil is on a mission to not only improve its game play but to add another trophy to its already stunning connection. Some of the key players from four years ago have become more experienced and are now among the best players in the world like Paris Saint-Germain's attacker Neymar, Chelsea F.C.'s attacking midfielder Willian and Real Madrid's left back Marcelo. In addition to this, several highly skilled youngsters are now part of the squad such as A.S. Roma's goalkeeper Alisson Becker, Real Madrid C.F.'s defensive midfielder Casemiro and Manchester City F.C.'s Gabriel Jesus. Brazil's recent performances have been particularly stunning as the squad has only lost one single game in 2017, the Superclasico de las Americas against Argentina.

    Weaknesses: Brazil's squad has been going through numerous changes since the last World Cup. Six players have less than ten caps for the national team. Coach Tite has only been in charge for two years. The team hasn't won any title since the 2013 FIFA Confederations Cup and was eliminated during the group stage of the 2016 Copa América Centenario. The last World Cup also revealed that the team is much too emotional in decisive games and has serious issues to play calmly and professionally. 

    Prediction: Brazil will make it to the quarter-finals due to the quality of several inidvidual players in its squad but it won't go any further because the team lacks calm, cohesion and experience.

     

    Team: Switzerland

    Strengths: Switzerland has a quite balanced squad this year. Younger players like Borussia Monchengladbah's defender Nico Elvedi, West Ham United's midfielder Edimilson Fernandes and Schalke 04's striker Breel Embolo already have a lot of experience from playing in the world's best leagues. Veterans like Juventus F..'s defender and captain of the national team Stephan Lichtsteiner, Bologna F.C.'s Blerim Dzemaili and S.L. Benfica's Haris Seferovic have lots of experience and leadership as well. Head coach Vladimir Petkovic has been successfully working with the team over the past four years and had already coached six different Swiss teams in the past.

    Weaknesses: The last time Switzerland made it beyond the round of sixteen in a World Cup was when the country hosted the tournament way back in 1954. Switzerland is yet to earn a major trophy. 

    Prediction: Despite a balanced squad and great coach, the team doesn't have the individual qualities of Brazil or the energizing team spirit of Costa Rica. Therefore, I believe the team won't make it past the group stage this year. 

     

    Costa Rica

    Team: Costa Rica

    Strengths: Costa Rica has had an outstanding 2014 FIFA World Cup, advancing to the quarter-finals for the first time ever, when the team lost against the Netherlands in a controversial shootout. The team continued its streak of successes and reached the semi-finals of the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup. Costa Rica convinced with remarkable team spirit during both tournaments.

    Weaknesses: The team doesn't have as much international experience as most of its concurrents and six players in the squad play in local Liga FPD. The team has lost four of its five last games with defeats against Panama, Spain, Hungary and Tunisia. The team didn't pass the group stage of the 2016 Copa América Centenario and only finished fourth out of six teams in the 2017 Copa Centroamericana. Head coach Oscar Ramirez doesn't have much international experience as he has only been in charge of the team for less than three years and only got the job because former head coach Paulo Wanchope was forced to resign after a post-match brawl.

    Prediction: Costa Rica's team spirit and the teams recent successes will push it beyond the group stage but it would be a surprise if the team went further than the round of sixteen.

     

    Team: Serbia

    Strengths: Serbia dominated its qualification group, finishing in first position ahead of Ireland and Wales, scoring twenty goals in ten games. The team has a balanced squad with experienced veterans like captain and A.S. Roma's defender Aleksandar Kolarov and Zenit Saint Petersburg's defender Branislav Ivanovic and promising youngsters like S.L. Benfica's midfielder Andrija Zivkovic and Newcastle United F.C.'s striker Aleksandar Mitrovic.

    Weaknesses: The young national squad is yet to earn its first major trophy. The team didn't make it to the 2014 FIFA World Cup and only advanced beyond the group stage once, back in 1998. Head coach Mladen Krstajic doesn't have much experience as Serbia is the first squad he is in charge of and he was only appointed as permanent head coah in December 2017.

    Prediction: The team's and the coach's inexperience will be the main reasons why Serbia won't survive the group stage against more competitive teams like Brazil, Costa Rica and even Switzerland. If the team gets more international experience and continues to focus on a balanced squad, it might have a bright future ahead but this time hasn't arrived yet.

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  • Ladies and gentlemen!

    We're already halfway through. This is my analysis of group D of the upcoming 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Without further ado, here are my predictions!

    Argentina

    Team: Argentina

    Strengths: Argentina has participated in all but four FIFA World Cups, winning two of them in 1978 and 1990 and finishing in second place in 1930, 1990 and 2014. The current squad includes one of the best football players of all time with FC Barcelona's forward Lionel Messi who is the captain of the national team. The team includes experienced veterans like Paris Saint-Germain's midfielder Angel di Maria but also promising youngsters like Giovani Lo Celso, another Paris Saint-Germain midfielder.

    Weaknesses: Head coach Jorge Sampaoli has been in charge for less than a year as we speak and the national team has head six different head coaches in the past eight years which underlines the fact that the team hasn't been particularly successful despite its incredibly talented squad. Argentina's qualification didn't run very smoothly either as the team lost against underdogs like Bolivia. Since then, the team has won two and lost two of its friendly games, including a surprising 2-4 defeat against Nigeria and a horrible 1-6 loss against Spain. 

    Prediction: Despite its talented squad, Argentina has several important issues including an inexperienced head coach, unstable performances and the fact that the team's star players are already in their thirties. The quality of the squad is good enough to survive the group stage and to make it through the round of sixteen. However, Argentina could meet a stronger opponent like Spain in the quarter finals. I predict Argentina will be eliminated in the quarter finals.

    Argentina

    Iceland

    Team: Iceland

    Strengths: Iceland has shook up the world of football over the past few years. The team qualified for the 2016 UEFA European Championship for the first time ever and made it all the way to the quarter finals, beating England in the process and drawing against later champions Portugal. The team has now qualified for its first FIFA World Cup, winning its qualifying group in front of teams such as Croatia, Ukraine and Turkey. Expectations of and pressure on the team are still rather low since the small country is considered an underdog and this status could help the charismatic squad. Dynamic head coach Heimir Hallgrimsson has been in charge for five years and has guided the team through its unexpected successes. The homogeneous squad doesn't include any star players and convinces with excellent team spirit.

    Weaknesses: Among the team's obvious weaknesses, one has to cite its lack of experience but this could even lift this squad up. Since its qualification, the team has only won two out of its six friendly games, losing against Czech Republic, Mexico and Peru. The squad is among the oldest of the tournament, as there are only five players under the age of twenty-five in the regular squad right now.

    Prediction: Iceland will upset the world of football again and advance to the round of sixteen in spectacular manner. However, the team might face France in the round of sixteen. The French squad already eliminated Iceland 2-5 two years ago. History might repeat itself once more. Iceland will get eliminated in the round of sixteen.

    Iceland

    Croatia

    Team: Croatia

    Strengths: The team has a solid squad with many internationally experienced players such as Bayer Leverkusen's defender Tin Jedvaj, midfielder and captain Ivan Rakitic of FC Barcelona fame and Juventus F.C. attacker Mario Mandzukic. There also some promising youngsters who are still playing in Croatia who are slowly integrating the team such as Dinamo Zagreb's goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic and Hajduk Split's midfielder Fran Tudor.  

    Weaknesses: Croatia hasn't won any titles since its inception back in 1990. The team failed to advance past the group stage since its surprising third place at the 1998 FIFA World Cup. Head coach Zlatko Dalic has only been in charge of the team since last October.

    Prediction: Croatia seems to be a team going through changes these days. It has a new head coach, slowly integrates younger players in the squad and has had quite mixed results over the past two years. This simply isn't enough to compete with Argentina's talent and Iceland's enthusiasm. Croatia won't survive the group stage.

    Croatia

    Nigeria

    Team: Nigeria

    Strengths: Nigeria has had a lot more practice in form of competitive games than most countries at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The team made it to the final at the 2018 African Nations Championship and to the 2017 WAFU Nations Cup final. Out of eight games played so far in 2018, Nigeria has won five against respectable opponents such as Poland.

    Weaknesses: Nigeria is missing a star player. Captain John Obi Mikel is past his prime and currently plays for Tianjin Teda. The team has called up seventy-eight different players over the past twelve months which underlines the fact that the squad hasn't found its regular squad yet. The idea to let Nigerian coaches work with the team over the past few years has failed terribly. Nigeria has had ten different Nigerian coaches between 2010 and 2016 and none of them was particularly successful. Current head coach is Gernot Rohr, a sixty-four year old German coach who hasn't had a very successful career.

    Prediction: Nigeria's squad seems to be too disorganized to compete with the talented Argentinian squad, the motivated Icelandic squad and even the more balanced Croatian squad. Everything but finishing last in this group would be a massive success. Nigeria won't survive the group stage in my opinion.

    Nigeria

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