Every four years, we as sports fans get to see the best athletes in the world represent their countries in one of the biggest tournaments of their careers.
The 2018 FIFA World Cup is the 21st FIFA World Cup, and it takes place in Russia starting from June 14 to July 15.
It is the highest honors for the athletes as individuals to play for the country that believes in them.
It’s also great as a fan to watch all the different countries compete for the World Cup.
And every year it’s different countries and players who surprise us. This year we have already been surprised by some of the teams who are in and out of the World Cup.
There are a total of 32 national teams who qualify for the competition. Of the 32 teams, 20 will be making it back to the tournament following the last World Cup in 2014.
The defending champions, Germany, will be making their return to the World Cup as they look to repeat as champions.
Russia qualifies automatically as the host team.
Iceland and Panama will both be making their first appearances at a FIFA World Cup.
Egypt returns to the World Cup after a 28-year absence.
Morocco returns after a 20-year absence.
Peru returns after a 36-year absence.
Senegal returns for the second time after being eliminated in the quarter-finals in 2002.
Saudi Arabia, Sweden, Poland, and Tunisia qualified for the first time since 2006.
Serbia and Denmark return to the World Cup stage after missing it in 2014.
Of those teams out of the World Cup are four-time champions, Italy. This is the first time they have failed to qualify since 1958.
The three-time runner-up, the Netherlands, failed to qualify for the first time since 2002.
The United States failed to qualify for the first time since 1986.
Other Nations who failed to qualify from the last World Cup are Cameroon, Chile, Greece, Ecuador, Honduras, New Zealand, Ghana and Ivory Coast.
Each of these teams has been in and out of the World Cup qualifies for the past two to three tournaments.
This time around we will get to see different teams in different groups.
Here’s what the groups look like:
As you look at the group stage, you probably wondering who’s going to make it to the Knockout Stage. Let’s pick the best two teams in each group.
Group A is fascinating because it has the host city, Russia and the upcoming Egypt team led by Mohammed Salah. At least we hope that Salah is cleared to play in the World Cup after the injury he suffered in the UEFA Champions Cup.
I personally believe that Salah will be the best player in this group. Yes, even better than Uruguay’s Luis Suarez and Edison Cavani.
Of course, we can’t count out Uruguay that easily. Though Salah may be the best player in that group. Uruguay is the best team and should finish ahead of Egypt and Russia.
Group B is one that everyone’s eyes will be on as two of the favorites are in the same group together (Portugal and Spain).
But will Spain collapse and miss the Knockout Stage again for the second straight World Cup? If that happens then, the field is left wide open for Morroco or Iran to take. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Morroco did make it though.
Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo looks to continue his excellent run of three straight UEFA titles in hopes to turn it into an International Cup title for the first time in his countries history of FIFA.
How about Group C? France looks to be the favorite to come out of that group. But who will lead them there? Is Paul Pogba ready to lead his country or will it be Antoine Griezmann or Olivier Giroud?
How will Peru fair after finally making it back to the World Cup? Can Australia’s Tim Cahill finally get them past the Knockout Stage? A surprise win over France would definitely help their case. But many are looking at Denmark as the next team to advance.
Brazil is the favorite here! At least we would hope so. In the last World Cup, we all saw Brazilian winger, Neymar, injured his back. As a result, they lost their next match 8-1 against Germany. Not saying that Neymar could’ve helped on defense, but the whole team was disorientated.
Brazil should quickly move to the Knockout Stage, but can Costa Rica and Serbia join. Or will Switzerland find a way to make it?
Serbia’s tough, experienced defensive front led by Branislav Ivanovic and Aleksander Kolarov could help them make it to the knockout stages despite not putting up as many points as expected.
Does anyone have a real chance against Germany? They are the most complete team and my favorite to win it all again this time around.
Could we see Mexico’s Javier Hernandez and Andres Guardado led their team to the Knockouts or do we see an aging Sweden team took their chance?
Belgium has a big chance to make it far in the World Cup with their robust and tight defense. Defensive captain, Vincent Company looks to help Belgium in their run. Of course, it will take the legs of Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard and get some points on the pitch.
Can England make it out of Group Stages alive? Harry Kane, Danny Welbeck, and Raheem Sterling look to take England to the next level this time. But the biggest question is the young defense. That may cause issues for England in the World Cup.
With that issue, Panama and Tunisia could possibly make a run for the Knockout Stage.
Wondering what heroics Colombia’s James Rodriguez has this year? What can he and teammate Radamel Falcao do to make it to the Knockout stage?
Poland will look to slow down Columbia as their star Robert Lewandoski leads them.
Lewandoski and Rodriguez are teammates on Germany’s Bayern Munich team, so that should be a fun face off for the Group Stages.
Could we see both or one of these players face their other club teammates? Let’s keep watching and find out.
Because you know Japan’s Keisuke Honda won’t give up his chance for what could be his last possibly World Cup.
Senegal will also be looking to make a push for the Knockout stage.
But what do you think will really happen? Who’s your favorite country to cheer for?
Make a prediction of the two teams coming out of the group stage and see where they fall and who they play in the knockouts.
Below is a link where you could predict it all.
From the group stages to the finals, keep who you got and share it here.
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Featured Image: Photo Courtesy of Research Snipers