My World Cup 2018 Bracket

This week the most followed sports event in the world begins its once-every-four-year occurrence. The World Cup takes place in Russia and the eyes of almost the entire sporting world will be on the teams and the games as nations attempt to claim the title of best national soccer team in the world. This year some usual participants will be missing. The innovative Dutch , the defensive-genius Italians, the not-so -good but economically welcomed Americans. It will be a telling measure of interest in the sport here in the USA as we see what the interest level is without our team’s participation in the event.

Every March American sports fans put themselves out on a limb by predicting the outcomes of each game of our college basketball tournament. We fill out our “brackets” knowing that the upsets that occur each year will leave many of us looking like we know nothing about college basketball (which, of course, is actually the case). But filling out World Cup brackets is something we don’t generally do when that tournament comes around. So, in the interest of building interest in this year’s unAmerican World Cup, the Soccer Yoda will risk my world-wide reputation as a …..well…soccer yoda…by predicting the outcome of the tournament, from the group stage eliminations onward to the final. Here goes:

Group A: Russia – Saudi Arabia – Egypt – Uruguay

The Russians are hosts and although they are old, slow, overly physical and with few players playing outside of Russia, being host tends to bring out the best in teams and their supporters. The Uruguayans are easily the best of the group, especially if Luis Suarez remains on good behavior when not playing for Barcelona and doesn’t bite anyone. Egypt might have a chance but Mo Salah’s shoulder is a huge question mark. The Saudi’s had a great qualifying run but seem out of their league here.

Winner – Uruguay

2nd place – Russia ( some will say this is a crazy pick)

Group B: Portugal – Spain – Morocco – Iran

The Iberian Peninsula will own this group, but predicting the winner is tricky. The Spanish have a good mix of youth and experience while the Portuguese have Christiano Renaldo along with some other quality players. The Spanish lack a true world-class forward, but every other position is loaded. Portugal is better up front but the Spanish have the team and the experience to finish on top of the group.

Winner – Spain

2nd place – Portugal

Group C: France – Australia – Peru – Denmark

The French are as filled with top quality players as anybody in the tournament. From back to front, top to bottom the likes of Griezemann, Pogba, Kante, Mbappe, Varane, etc. will be a threat to take it all. Previous French teams have folded due to the pressure of the tournament, but this one could be different. Runnerup is a tossup…Peru can be decent but are missing one of their best due to injury, Australia can surprise and the Danes have a couple very good players.

Winner – France

2nd place – Denmark

Group D: Argentina – Iceland – Croatia – Nigeria

Messi and friends will take this group but Croatia has a midfield that can compete with anybody. Iceland is the tournament sentimental favorite but let’s be realistic, this is, after all, the World Cup. African teams have surprised in the past and the Nigerians could take second…..but if midfields really do win games then Modric, Rakatic, and  Kovacic will get Croatia out of the group. Actually, I don’t believe that the midfield is as indicative of who wins a match as some observers do, but I’m picking Croatia anyway.

Winner – Argentina

2nd place – Croatia

Group E: Brazil – Switzerland – Costa Rica – Serbia

Of course Brazil is the easy favorite in this group, but like several other groups second place is up for grabs. The Swiss were once the Cinderella of Europe, a spot now occupied by Iceland and they aren’t as strong as in previous Cups despite a high ranking by FIFA. The Serbs have some capable talent, especially Matic from Manchester United and Kolorov ,a good defender who plays for Roma. But the mystery squad is Costa Rica. On paper their goalkeeper Navas is the only top caliber player, but they surprised in the 2014 Cup ( which earned Navas his job at Real Madrid) and they appear to be stronger than four years ago. Logic says the Swiss should take the 2nd spot but my pro CONCACAF leaning tells me the Ticos will get out of the group.

Winner – Brazil

2nd place – Costa Rica ( a real upset pick)

Neymar and Coutinho will play brilliant offense for Brazil

Group F: Germany – Mexico – Sweden – South Korea

The favorite in this group is no secret, but unlike many other groups the runner-up seems apparent also. The Germans have been the most consistent high finisher for decades and that isn’t going to change this time. But Sweden isn’t as strong as usual and South Korea is a bit of a mystery, having qualified in a weak group, then switching coaches and going to a youth movement. Meanwhile Mexico has an experienced squad that can trouble many teams in this tournament, though the top teams seem a couple steps beyond them.

Winner – Germany

2nd place – Mexico

Group G: Belgium – Panama – Tunisia – England

Finally a group with a battle for the top spot. The Belgians get the award for “best team coming from a little country”, usually reserved for the Netherlands. They are loaded in most positions but have a history of underperforming…having come within a Chris Wondolowski fluff ( and a potentially horrible offside call) of losing to the USA in 2014 and then failing to dent Argentina. England, meanwhile, has a solid if unspectacular lineup, unless one counts Harry Kane as a world class scorer. Panama and Tunisia will be trying for respectable losses except when they play each other. I”m taking the Belgians on their talent, but England could win the group, despite my prediction.

Winner – Belgium

2nd place – England

Kane will try to make his mark on world soccer for England

Group H: Poland – Senegal – Colombia – Japan

This might be the most interesting group in the tournament. Poland looked very good in qualifying out of Europe and Colombia has a lot of that magical South American talent. Senegal has some quality players and if Mane can make better decisions on the field with Senegal than he has with Liverpool, they could score some goals. Japan has lots of energy and hustle but should be a step behind the others in quality. This is a tough call, but Colombia has the ability to take the group and Poland’s experience should take it past Senegal. This will be a great group to watch for scoring, they can all put the ball in the net.

Winner – Colombia

2nd – Poland

Round of 16

Based on the above predictions, these will be the first knockout round matches and winners. There will be some very good matchups in this round.

Uruguay vs Portugal – This is one of the early knockout round heavyweight clashes. Both teams know that on paper they are a step below the top favorites, but also believe, with luck and a couple good performances, they could be in the run for the semifinals…at least. But that means getting through this match. Uruguay has top quality in Suarez and Cavani up top and Godin in the back. But the midfield is young and inexperienced. Portugal counters with Renaldo, Quaresma and a quality midfield. They are aging in the back, though. Therefore I expect a high scoring game with Portugal’s ability and experience coming through.

Winner – Portugal

Spain vs Russia – The Russians will have the crowd and Putin behind them , but even that won’t get them past Spain’s quality, experience and overall superiority.

Winner – Spain

France vs Croatia – Another clash of quality teams in the round of 16. Croatia boasts an excellent midfield of Modric and company. Mandzukic and Perisic provide goal scoring and Lovren improved drastically during the year to lead a decent back line. But France has it all…..if they can get over …being French….which means they must work together and keep off-the-field distractions to a minimum. If they can do that, they will run past the Croats.

Winner – France

Argentina vs Denmark – This is a cakewalk for the Argentinians. Denmark has enough to get out of it’s group, but that effort will leave nothing left to battle a top squad like the South Americans.

Winner – Argentina

Messi will try to top off his career with the World Cup title

Brazil vs Mexico – If there is a big early tournament upset, this could be it. The Mexicans have some talent, they play together well and the Brazilians can be inconsistent. However, Brazil has a 7-1 2014 loss to Germany to constantly remind them that it takes total commitment in a World Cup and I don’t think that this one gets past them.

Winner – Brazil

Germany vs Costa Rica – Costa Rican keeper Navas will have a very busy day and will show why he is considered a world-class goalkeeper. But the Germans will still get something in the goal and that’s likely more than the Ticos will do.

Winner – Germany

Belgium vs Poland – The Belgians have Hazard, De Bruyne, Lukaku, Kompany…..and that’s not all….it sounds like a Premier League all-star team and they have Courtois in the goal to boot. The Poles have a good qualifying record. They scored lots of goals, but more importantly, they gave up alot also. They won’t be able to hold off this much talent.

Winner – Belgium

Colombia vs England – Ok, this might be the biggest game in the round. The Colombians have  some excellent players but England has a full complement of decent players themselves. Kane and Vardy have something to prove on the world stage and the midfield of Alli, Henderson and Lingard  is good enough to supply them against this opponent. Call me crazy, but I like England in this one.

Winner – England

Quarterfinals

Portugal vs France – This round gets down to the basics of who are true contenders for the Cup and who are not. IF (big IF) the French play up to their talent, they are better than Portugal, even if Portugal does have Renaldo.

Winner – France

Brazil vs Belgium – Wow, a game for the talent appreciators of the world. Brazil has Neymar, Coutinho, Firminho, Jesus, Thiago Silva, Marcelo ..just to name a few. And, in a major change for Brazil…a great keeper in Alisson. Belgium has the aforementioned Premier League all-stars. This is a match for the ages and Brazil comes through due to their …..Brazilian…..ability to create great plays.

Winner – Brazil

Germany vs England – The Germans are loaded as usual and ,of course, can play like a fine-tuned machine at times. Their defense comes complete from Bayern Munich and includes arguably the best keeper in the world in Neuer. Their midfield has so many good players they could probably supply a couple other teams and still have a great midfield left over. If they have a weakness it is depth up top where Mueller, Werner and Gomez are talented but have no replacements except from the midfield. Their forwards may cost them eventually, but not against a good but not great England side.

Winner – Germany

The Germans will advance toward the top, as usual.

Spain vs Argentina – Another great match. Messi needs a World Cup title to call his own and he has help up top with Aguerro, Higuian and Dybala. But the rest of the squad is somewhat weaker than the forwards and Spain has the talent and depth to take advantage. Perhaps more significant, Argentina has trouble playing together and up to their talent level. Spain has no problems playing as a well-oiled machine. In a friendly, Spain blasted Argentina 6-1. It won’t be that bad, but Spain will win this and leave Messi still without the big trophy.

Winner – Spain

Semifinals

France vs Brazil – Only once have the French have been consistently good throughout the tournament and that was at home. Brazil has won the championship five times and although playing in Europe has been a problem, this group plays for European clubs and being far away from home won’t bother them. I think their inconsistency catches up to the French against the talent and experience of Brazil.

Winner – Brazil

Spain vs Germany – Neither team has a wealth of scoring power, but both can boast experience and talent everywhere else. This could be a classic defensive battle, but if I had to put my money on one of these sides putting together a magical goal it would be the Spanish. Iniesta, Isco and Silva can put a great goal together and that will be enough to down the Germans.

Winner – Spain

The Spanish have this crew again, although a bit aged.

Final

Brazil vs Spain – Two great teams with the utmost of respect for each other. It’s a long tournament and by this time a month of frequent matches will take it’s toll. The Brazilians are younger, faster and more likely to have the energy and depth to break through at this point in the tournament.

World Cup Champion – Brazil

So there it is…….the Soccer Yoda has spoken. Now lets see how my bracket stands up to the craziness of world soccer. One thing is for sure though. This will be a great World Cup to watch, even without the USA.

 

 

 


8 Comments on “My World Cup 2018 Bracket”

  1. John Stephenson says:

    I agree with about 90% of your analysis except for the comment of Spain not having a “World Class Striker”.

    I believe that Diego Costa embodies all that you could desire from a front man. He is tough, strong, quick, elusive, and, most importantly, finishes…….

    No other player transcends a match like he can. He put opponents off of their game.

    I am betting on Germany to win, but I believe that Diego Costa will have a monster tournament….

    Like

    • socceryoda says:

      Your not the only one to bring up Costa. His time off seems to have hurt his game. I’m sure he will score as he will get lots of chances against the weaker teams, but when they hit the top teams I don’t he can can produce by himself. Brazil is younger, faster and more well rounded, I think. Thanks for the comment!

      Like

  2. Bob Pinard says:

    Like the Costa Rico win and picking the Germans is too chalk. Brazil is the only team to win outside their continent.

    How will travel, time zones and weather come into play?

    Also, Russian gang fighting will happen, hope it does not hurt any players.

    Like

    • socceryoda says:

      One cannot deny the talent of the Germans, but I didn’t pick them to win. As to travel, etc. A month of matches wears down older teams which is why I went against the Spanish in the final. Of course, now it’s all up in the air with Spain sacking their head coach. Thanks for the comment!

      Like

  3. Bob Pinard says:

    Great post as usual

    Like

  4. Bob pinard says:

    Great picks. Everyone missed on Deutchland, you picked in upset in C R and how many picked Japan on friendly points?

    Spain vs who? Brazil looks comfortable and relaxed especially if Neymar stays up front and their back 4 and goalie are solid

    Thoughts

    Like

    • socceryoda says:

      Like everybody else I missed badly on Germany, lots to comment on that in next post. I also missed with my crazy upset CR. Right now Brazil looks very good, Belgium is a mystery…which Belgium shows up, the one that was outplayed by Japan or the one that finished the last 25 minutes against them?

      Like


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