It’s that time of the year when office chatter is all about one thing, and one thing only, FIFA World Cup.
The 21st edition of the World Cup is only a few days away. Thursday night will see hosting nation Russia take on Saudi Arabia in the opening match of the tournament and kick off what will surely be four weeks of emotional rollercoaster for football fans worldwide.
Nobody wants to look ignorant at the water cooler so it’s time you freshen up your football knowledge before the tournament begins. There is one question you won’t be able to dodge if you want to go out in public this week, who do you think will win the World Cup? Whilst there are no wrong answers, we’ll give you the means to impress your colleagues with your football knowledge.
Like every year there are clear favourites on paper and there are no surprises on our list of top contenders either. We’ve narrowed down our list to five teams – Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany and Portugal. I promise there is a good reason why each of these countries has a spot on this list.
We agree with the Gatorade commercial for the 2018 World Cup “ Lionel Messi – Destined To Life The World Cup.” The 6.17kg heavy golden trophy is the last one missing in Messi’s trophy cabinet and after coming so close in 2014 he will be more determined than ever to showcase his magic and lead Argentina to their third World Cup title. It’s not only Messi that is putting Argentina on our top contenders list; it’s the combined attacking power of Argentina’s selected forwards. We’re talking about Aguero, Di Maria, Higuain, Dybala and Messi, who each won their domestic league titles this year!
You can’t have a favourites list for the World Cup without having five-time champions Brazil on it. After finishing on top of the South American Round Robin group, it’s hard not to see the team lead by Neymar making a push deep into the tournament this year. The team is stacked with talent on every position, with plenty of power subs if the going should get hard.
On paper, the $38 million prize money for winning the tournament should be going to France. There isn’t a team in this year’s tournament that can compete with the star-studded French team, however, this was also the case in the 2016 European Championship. France has got a fairly easy group stage, which should see Pogba, Griezemann and co, gain momentum for the knockout stages.
If there is a team that finds its form for tournaments, then it’s Germany. The team lead by Joachim Low is known for shifting it up a gear when it’s go time. The latest demonstration of that German talent was during the 2017 Confederations cup, which the defending World Cup champions won. Winning the Confederations Cup doesn’t just boost the moral of “Die Mannschaft” but it also means they’ll have experience playing in Russia. The Germans had another impressive qualifying and seem in good shape to defend their title in Russia.
Last but by no means least on our favourites list we have Portugal. The 2016 European champions are thriving with confidence and came out on top of a tough qualifying group to secure their spot in the World Cup. Ronaldo and his team arrived in Russia on Saturday, beginning their preparations for their first group match against Spain. The Portuguese have gotten the hardest group out of our favourites by far, but it only means they get to show their full potential from the start.
As we promised there are no wrong answers, but there are answers that will raise an eyebrow or two. If you are going to back these teams you’ll need some strong reasoning to get your colleagues to approve. Whilst we are all hoping for a Leicester City like underdog fairytale, the odds are stacked against the lower-ranked nations.
We’ve got two nations making their World Cup debut in Russia, Iceland and Panama. Whilst all England fans might have just gotten a flashback to the 27th of June 2016 after reading the name Iceland, the odds of the two teams meeting are slim. The earliest that the two teams can meet in the semi-finals, if not the final.
The other newcomer has already created some big waves across the pond, snatched away the last North American qualifying spot from the US of A. Panama might not have a star-studded squad but their fans will make sure that every game they play will be a party, which might inspire an upset or two. The opening match against Belgium will tell us just how strong the defensive-minded team is. After all, England fans should be heavily invested in the underdog as the second group match for England sees them taking on Panama.
The World Cup isn’t just a display of athletic dominance and the chance for a country to rally behind their national team, it’s also a chance to admire the new kits developed specifically for the tournament.
We can’t write about the 2018 World Cup kits without mentioning the Nigerian kit. It sold out in minutes and the high demand for the kit sees the sale of counterfeit shirts rise steadily, putting the kit on the top of our World Cup fashion list.
The real winner of the Nigerian success is Nike, who signed The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) in 2015 for just $3.75 million and will profit considerably from the craze for the Nigerian shirts. Nike is also sponsoring nine other participants of the World Cup, including England who signed a 12-year contract expansion worth $457 million.
Whilst the Nigeria kit is making headlines for all the right reasons there are also the kits that are a little less aesthetically pleasing. The Spanish and Belgium shirts, both sponsored by Adidas, got a lot of criticism for its design. Both teams playing in red are going for a throwback look, Spain bringing their 1994 jerseys back to life whilst Belgium is playing in jerseys that remind us of the 1984 kit.
The most questionable kit award of the tournament, however, has to go to Iceland. The underdogs are the only team sponsored by Errea. Whilst the Errea sponsored kit for the 2016 European championships was elegant, this year’s kit has a strong concept but lacks in execution to bring across the fire that burns inside the descendants of the Vikings.
Don’t just take out word for it, let us know your opinions on this year’s World Cup, whether it’s predictions or fashion based opinions, we want to hear it all.