With the month-long festival of football less than a day away it seems fitting to make some (not so bold) 2018 World Cup Predictions. Brazil, Spain, France, and England all look much stronger than they did four years ago. Russia 2018 could be set to be the most exciting World Cup to date.
2018 World Cup Predictions
It seems impossible to conjure the notion that the reigning world champions could lose their crown.
The German squad have everything needed to repeat. Their coach, depth and star power match any side in the competition. They are loaded with top-class performers such as Neuer, Hummels, Boateng, Gündoğan, Özil, Kroos and Müller.
Added to this is the rise of younger players such as Timo Werner and Joshua Kimmich. This new generation of German talent will be all too eager to make an impression on a global stage.
Joachim Löw remains one of the very best coaches in international football. His experience of tournament football and knowledge of his players will prove invaluable once again in Russia. His tactical expertise in the last World Cup was best shown in Germany’s 7-1 dispatching of Brazil in the Mineirão. He’ll no doubt be hoping for similar results this time around.
Germany will be expected to top their group relatively easily. This will lead to a favourable draw for the round of 16 stage, in turn providing easy access to the quarterfinals. Once Löw’s men reach that stage, they will stand just three games away from retaining their title.
You shouldn’t bet on them doing anything less.
Golden Ball: Neymar
There should be no doubt that Brazil will reach the semifinals, and Neymar will be the force that drives them there.
An unfortunate injury ended Neymar’s star display at the last World Cup in his native Brazil. Having suffered a similarly cruel twist of fate this club season, the Brazilian has come back in time to lead his country.
Neymar has come into this tournament with plenty of rest after his injury. And he has already settled back into his role for the national team, scoring twice in his return to the side last month in games against Croatia and Austria.
Being Brazil’s third all-time top scorer at just 26 is a testament to how well Neymar performs for The Seleção. Having contributed to 45 goals (goals and assists) in just 31 games this past season, it’s clear Neymar is entering the peak of his powers.
Detractors of the PSG star will point to the fact that many of these stats were accumulated in the French league. However, Neymar did manage six goals and three assists in just seven Champions League appearances this past season.
Considering his level of play, and the likelihood of Brazil to reach the tournament’s latter stages, if he replicates anything close to that level of production in Russia, then he looks like a leading candidate to be named player of the tournament.
Golden Boot: Thomas Müller
Having led the tournament in scoring before in 2010, Müller has the know-how to do it again.
Standing on 10 World Cup goals, Müller needs just three more to break into the top five goal scorers in World Cup history. His goalscoring will propel Germany far in this tournament.
Müller is now 28. He’s in his absolute prime, and a big performance in this World Cup would cement his legacy as one of Germany’s greatest ever players. Having scored 38 goals for his country in 91 games despite never having played as the primary striker, it seems almost certain that the Bayern star will be in the running for this year’s Golden Boot.
Like his fellow compatriot Miroslav Klose, Müller steps his game up during World Cups. He ended the 2014 World Cup as the second highest goalscorer, and this tournament may be his last chance to truly impact yet another World Cup to the best of his abilities.
Once all is said and done, he’ll be lifting his second Golden Boot from the last three World Cups.
Golden Glove: Manuel Neuer
It was tempting to opt for David De Gea here. But Spain play Portugal in their group, and they just sacked their manager two days before their first game. This was enough to side with the Bayern man.
Germany have a relatively easy group. They should expect to pick up clean sheets in each of those games against Mexico, Sweden and South Korea. Having also predicted them to win the tournament, naturally, they’ll play the most games. This will give them the best chance to keep clean sheets.
Germany’s backline of Kimmich, Hummels, Boateng and Hector is arguably the best in the tournament. These defenders will only increase Neuer’s chances of keeping clean sheets.
Neuer is also, obviously, a world-class goalkeeper. He won the award in 2014, and his experience with the national team will only aid his quest to become the first goalkeeper to win two World Cup Golden Glove awards.
Young Player of the Tournament: Gabriel Jesus
Coming off the back of a successful domestic season with Manchester City, Jesus has kept Brazil’s starting striker role in the face of fierce completion from Liverpool’s Roberto Firmino.
Jesus has a great strike rate for his national side, netting 10 goals in just 17 games. This is made even more impressive considering he is just 21 years of age. Having stated that Brazil will reach the semi-finals, Jesus will have to play to the best of his ability for this to happen.
If Jesus plays an integral part in his team’s progression in Russia, then there is no reason why he can’t walk away from the tournament as the best young player. As talented as Kylian Mbappé and Ousmane Dembele are, they both play on the same team. This will cancel out either of their chances of winning the award.
Jesus is the premier young player on a tournament favourite. Therefore, he has the best chance to win the award of any young player heading to Russia. This is without mentioning that Jesus is a striker, and these awards always favour forwards.
If Jesus scores three or more goals, then he’s a lock to win the award.
Breakout Performance: Christian Eriksen
Eriksen’s game has improved every year since Mauricio Pochettino took charge of Tottenham Hotspur.
During qualification for the tournament, Eriksen played in 12 games and scored 11 goals whilst adding three assists. That is staggering production.
Denmark are in a group with France, Peru, and Australia. If Eriksen were to single-handedly drag Denmark out their group and past either Argentina or Croatia in the round of 16, then he’d be a massive candidate for breakout performer of the tournament.
Maybe this would prompt Barcelona to make a move for him. It has been reported in the past that the Catalan Giants are keen admirers of the Danish magician. Daniel Levy might have something to say about that though.
Biggest Surprise: Uruguay
The Uruguayan national team have everything to make a deep run in this tournament.
They have experience, leadership, and star power. They have an excellent centre-back partnership in Godin and Giménez. And they have the best strike partnership in the tournament in Cavani and Suarez. Godin and Suarez are also valuable from a leadership standpoint. Their vast experience of top-level knockout football will help their teammates adjust to the rigours of the World Cup.
Uruguay have a favourable path to the quarterfinals too. They should easily top their group of Russia, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. This would leave them facing Portugal (assuming they finish second in their group behind Spain) in the round of 16.
Uruguay will win that match, as well as a potential quarterfinal with France. It’s a somewhat bold prediction, but Uruguay will get to the semifinals. They’ll be led there by their strike force of Cavani and Suarez. And given the nature of knockout football, who knows what they could do once they get there.
Biggest Disappointment: Portugal
Having exited the previous tournament in the group stage, the reigning European Champions won’t be having any kind of success in Russia.
In what will surely be Ronaldo’s last World Cup, Portugal will exit to Uruguay in the round of 16. This will be after finishing as runners-up in their group to Spain.
This Portugal side simply doesn’t have the quality of previous years to make a serious run in this tournament. This is a great shame for Ronaldo, who is clearly one of the very greatest players to have ever played this game.
It’s just a pity for him that he’ll never capture World Cup glory.
The England Prediction
England will beat out favourites Belgium and top their group, eliminating Panama and Tunisia from the tournament.
This will ensure a round of 16 draw against Poland, who’ll finish as Group H’s runners-up behind Colombia. England should see off Poland with relative ease, resulting in a quarterfinal contest against Brazil.
Brazil will simply be too much for England. Southgate’s men will exit the competition in the quarterfinals at the hands of The Seleção.
This would be a vast improvement from 2014 and one which would satisfy England fans across the nation.
Here’s to hoping England surprise us all though and add another star to the famous shirt.
Main Image Credit:
Embed from Getty Images