I'm not an expert on every one of these teams. I'm doing a preview based on what I know. There are a few teams where I have trusted the opinions of others but for the most part, this is what I have seen and my own judgement. This is just my opinion. As for the lineups, they aren't predictions but rather what I think they should be.
This is probably the group I know the least about. Russia have some OKish players but I doubt they would have qualified if they weren't hosts. I can see them going out in the groups. Now as for some of their players, Akinfeev shouldn't be the keeper but we all know he will. He's been awful at international level always providing us of a blooper in the 3 matches. He rebounds everything and just isn't a very good shot stopper. Aleksei Miranchuk will be one to watch, as he is a young and talented player. Will he end up in another league? Who knows. Russians don't tend to like going out of their country, but this one is quite good the few times I've seen him at Lokomotiv. I see Kokorin is still there. He was decentish in the last world cup. He's having a good season so far too, with 10 goals in 20 appearances. I think those 2 will be key figures in the World Cup for Russia, but I still see them being turned over by Uruguay and potentially Egypt.
Rausch - Vasin - Kudryashov - Dzhikiya - Fernandes
Dzagoev - Al. Miranchuk - Zhirkov
Kokorin - Smolov
Uruguay have stagnated quite a lot since their successes in the 2010 World Cup, and while they aren't the exact same side, you still have Suarez, Cavani, Cebolla Rodriguez, Muslera, the 2 Pereira's, and Godin. Some for the good (Suarez, Cavani, Godin) others for the bad (Muslera, Alvaro Pereira, Cebolla). They are a dull side that often score off set pieces or in the air and don't often require much effort to score without much possession. Their tactics are even more primitive than in 2014 and while I don't think they'll go far, they should at least have enough to get through the group stages. I think they'll narrowly do it though, as a fast game like Egypt's might trouble them. Especially given how poor their full backs are. Even Saudi Arabia's style might trouble them but I'd expect quality to shine in that one.
Pereira - Godin - Gimenez - Silva
Sanchez - Nandez - Valverde - Rodriguez
Suarez - Cavani
Egypt are a bit of an underrated side. They aren't world beaters in any way but they've got good lesser name players playing domestically in Egypt for Al Ahly or Zamalek. Salah is obviously their key player but they've got other puzzle pieces that fit in just fine. Saleh Gomaa and Trezeguet in particular are exciting players to watch out for and I think that Egypt will definitely do decently here. Even if they don't make it past the groups, I think they will make a good account of themselves having the best league in Africa and with Salah on their side, they have someone who can bail them out just in case things don't go their way.
Along with Tunisia, these are probably the side I know least about. They do have some quality and they have one of the best leagues in Asia, similar to Egypt in their respective continent. They also have a very fast game and some impressive technique. However, they have done better mostly due to the management. The quality isn't enough compared to everyone else in the group and I can see them coming bottom. They aren't quite as bad as said, but they aren't that good either.
They'll do what they always do. They'll play a primitive game relying on draws and penalties to get far. It can definitely work, at least if they get past the groups and they find at least one or 2 of their forwards on form. However, that's a big if. They've struggled to make it past their group in the last 2 tournaments and Morrocco and Iran are both so difficult to break down. Its almost to the point where their best chances of actually winning should tactics colide would be against Spain. I expect Pepe and Joao Mario to be key again. Both really impressed me in the previous tournaments. I think a big part will also have to do with who starts. If its the same suspects as always (Nani, Quaresma etc) I doubt they'll get very far but if they rotate to the newer exciting prospects, then they will be one to watch. Portugal to me at least have never been that dull, but that's because they have an exciting tactics for analysers such as myself.
As for this lineup, its only based on abilities. I think Ronaldo has become more ineffective on the wing, where as he's become really effective as a 9. Wouldn't be a bad idea.
Semedo - Pepe - Neto - Guerreiro
Joao Mario - Carvalho
Guedes - Moutinho - Bernardo Silva
I'll be honest, I'm not an expert on Spain. They have vastly improved since Del Bosque's departure though. They have some cracking players and insane depth. I do feel they will underachieve again, but that doesn't make them not be contenders. David De Gea will be the starter now, he has to be surely. He's an excellent keeper with outstanding reflexes and shot stopping. Its hard to pick out a weakness in this Spain side, but I think its the 2 central defenders. Pique is kind of getting on now and can be exposed from time to time. Sergio Ramos I do not rate defensively in the slightest. Luckily for him, I can't see anyone other than maybe Ronaldo pick him apart in the groups. Spain should get past the groups at least, then we'll see how they perform if they are to win the thing.
Carvajal - Pique - Ramos - Alba
Busquets - Saul
Silva - Iniesta - Isco
A solid African side, difficult to break down and some interesting talent. I'd assume we're all familiar with Benatia. Hakim Ziyech, Younes Belhanda and Amine Harit are others I'm keen on catching. I've only seen a bit of Ziyech, where as the other 2 I'm keen on catching. From what I have heard of Morocco is that they work as a unit and I can't properly judge them but they will make things difficult for Spain and Portugal.
Similar with Morocco, insanely difficult to break down. This is their signature style. They do this at all levels and like Egypt, they have underrated players playing at domestic level. I'd assume they'll look for the 0-0 against the bigger teams and then try to attack a bit more against Morocco. Maybe even similar to what they did vs Argentina last time, try to settle into the game and then complicate the opposition on the break. An interesting side and as dull as they can be, they are interesting tactically.
I said this in the other thread, but I don't believe it will be a colossal failure if France don't win the world cup. I don't know what sets this apart from 2006 and 1998. Its a good team with a few world class players and great depth. Its not a golden generation. These sort of teams are normal for them. I don't think they'll win the world cup. They are capable of it, but there are other teams I rate higher than them like Germany and Brazil.
Mbappe will likely shine this time around and I think Griezmann will find his footing again. He's been performing better for France than for Atletico in recent times. I also expect Kante to do well where as Pogba might be his United self.
Kurzawa - Umtiti - Varane - Laporte
Kante - Pogba - Tolisso
Griezmann - Martial - Mbappe
They are a good side but aren't guaranteed to make it out of the group. They have a history of underachieving at the World Cups. Even in 1986, when they had a top team they didn't go very far. 2010 they failed to escape the groups. It will all depend on their match against Peru. They have some very good players like Christensen, Sisto, Eriksen. I'm not making any predictions with them or Peru as I rather not with my own team. I'll leave it at: they are a solid side.
Christensen - Bjelland - Kjaer - Larsen
Delaney - Wass
Sisto - Eriksen - Poulsen
I've talked about them enough. Like Denmark, I don't want to make any predictions within them as I rather wait until the first match before saying anything. Guerrero, Flores and Cueva will all be key. Cueva looks like he might not make the World Cup squad due to an issue with Sao Paulo, but thats an if. I think he'll make it as its beginning to calm down. The full backs if they are Trauco and Advincula, I will be confident.
Advincula - Rodriguez - Ramos - Trauco
Tapia - Yotun
Farfan - Cueva - Flores
They have a good manager and I don't think they will lose every game. I think they might get a draw against someone. I don't think they will go through though. I don't think they have a squad better than in 2014 and 2006 and while not far off either of those teams, I doubt it'll be enough. Aaron Mooy will be key as will Matthew Ryan who will do his best to keep some shots out. Juric is a canny striker but a bit wasteful and while the team does have a lot of personality, the quality will let them out. Ange has also kind of complicated the side. I don't even know how to do the lineup until march as its hard to know whether they will continue with their identifiable 3 at the back or if they'll try something new. Anyhow, I think it should be this
Risdon - Wright - Milligan - Gersbach
Mooy - Jedinak - Luongo
Leckie - Juric – Macclaren
La Albiceleste will need to click in this world cup otherwise we shouldn’t expect much. At least not compared to the Argentina of 2014 that was very defensive as opposed to their attacking quality but it worked. This time they aren’t sure what they want to play to, but nevertheless Sampaoli is a good manager and I can see them picking up form in time for the tournament. Similar to France, I don’t think they’ll win every game in the group but I still say they top it. Messi is probably going into the World Cup on good form as Barcelona have been great this season as has he. That will be vital for Argentina. I also think an on form Otamendi will be important, but I think the most important part will be finding that dynamic midfielder that Banega failed to be.
Mascherano – Otamendi – Mammana
Mercado – Paredes – Pizarro – Perotti
Aguero – Higuain
Iceland don’t have top individuals. You have the odd player that’s more than good enough for this level like Sigurdsson or Finbogasson. They are a lot better than their squad suggests though. They’ve qualified for the World Cup based on their style of play. They are very much a unit and while they don’t look threatening, I am tipping them to make it through their group once again. I’ll get to Croatia in moments but this Iceland side are a proper team.
Croatia have a better team on paper than Argentina in my opinion and have a side capable of winning the world cup. I think they’ll go out in the groups though. Unfortunately, they seriously lack tactical discipline and don’t play like a unit most of the time. They have enough quality to grind out results, but they have a history of not doing well in tournaments and I think this will continue on. They also have a bit of a weak backline and I think those 2 things will be their undoing.
Vida – Lovren – Jedvaj – Strinic
Modric – Brozovic
Perisic – Kovacic – Pjaca
These strike me as the worst in the group. They are definitely better than the Nigeria we saw in Brazil as well as right after Brazil, but I’m not convinced by them and I think they’ll finish bottom of their group while putting up a fight. Without contradicting myself, I found these to be a bit lucky in the last World Cup. They do have some interesting players though, like Moses Simon and Kelechi Iheanacho but overall they are weaker than the other 3 teams in the group. Maybe not on paper compared to Iceland but they aren’t as good as a unit.
We will see a much better Brazil than what we saw at their own world cup. To begin with, they actually have a proper number 9 like Brazil should have. Last time, they had Fred and Jo. Not exactly world cup winning material. Compare that to what they have now in Gabriel Jesus who is excellent and has been excellent for Brazil. Defensively they’ve also improved a lot. Miranda is arguably the best center half in international football at the moment. I don’t think Marcelo needs introduction.
I think their 2 weak points come within the goalkeeper spot as well as midfield. Paulinho has improved a lot but other than that, it doesn’t seem that strong. I’ve never rated Fernandinho and Renato Augusto, while a good player in my eyes is also not world cup winning material. He’s really only there because he was at Corinthians with Tite, who is the current Selecao manager. I’m also not convinced with Alisson who I don’t rate very much. Very limited keeper and prone to a howler. However, we must remember Brazil have historically struggled in the midfield and goalkeeper positions, yet they have 5 world cups because they are so good everywhere else. I can see the same happening here. I still think they are below Germany, but these are my second favourites to win the tournament. Neymar will be huge.
Alves – Miranda – Silva – Marcelo
Augusto – Arthur
Coutinho – Paulinho – Neymar
I’ve never rated Switzerland, and my opinion on them has only gotten worse. I don’t think they have very good players and I don’t think they are very good as a unit either. Shaqiri isn’t the same player he was 4 years ago and they have some shocking forwards. They’ve gotten worse and I think they have potential to be one of the worst sides in the tournament. I can see them look to Blerim Dzemaili for goals while Ricardo Rodriguez will provide work on those flanks. Don’t really see what else to say about them though. They simply aren’t that good.
For me, these are the best CONCACAF side at the moment. They have some decent players and play as a unit. Joel Campbell I hope shows Wenger what he’s made off here, because while he’s not the same player he used to be, I blame that on him being burnt out and not given a chance. Bryan Ruiz I can see be a part of the squad again, I’ve always seen him as Costa Rica’s best. While I don’t think they’ll replicate their performance of 2014, I do think they’ll finish second in the group.
Same issues that apply to Croatia also apply here. Good squad, but little work ethic, they don’t play as a unit and aren’t very tactically disciplined. They don’t have quite a good a squad as Croatia though and while there are some players who are good for a worldwide level like Matic, I just see them as a bit overrated. Many were fearing drawing these in pot 4 but they aren’t the worst side from there and I think they’ll be beat by Costa Rica and Brazil. As for Switzerland, that could go either way but I’d give Serbia the edge just due to quality.
Joachim Low’s move at the confederations cup was genius. He gave the star players a rest while trying to make sure the team doesn’t stagnate. This team will be very different to that of 2014. Timo Werner as the forward, Leroy Sane on the left and Goretzka as a ten with Kimmich as the new right back and some of the older guys like Muller, Boateng and Kroos still fitting in completely.
Definitely my favourites to win the tournament. Often if an international manager stays too long, the team can become stale. However, Joachim Low has worked around this and I think they can even be better than in Brazil. As for the goalkeeper, I still think Neuer is better than Ter Stegen. A lot of people are making too rash a judgement here. Ter Stegen has been the best goalkeeper in Europe this season, but we are forgetting that Neuer is injured and that has made it easier to make that statement. Manuel to me is still number 1 and he’ll be back for the world cup.
Kimmich – Boateng – Hummels – Howedes
Kroos – Can
Muller – Goretzka – Sane
Many people that have met me know I don’t rate Mexico and never have done. However, this Mexico side is worse than usual. I don’t think they’ll do awful as they do have good players and play as a unit somewhat, but Osorio while he has good ambitions, has had awful execution to those. Too much rotating messing around with the chemistry and the team has stagnated as its very similar to the team they had in 2010.
Chicharito isn’t good anymore, Vela isn’t the same. They need to implement some of the new guys like Orbelin Pineda and Hirving Lozano who I think both could make a big impact. Of course though we will see Ochoa, Chicharito, Vela, the Dos Santos brothers and Peralta. Players who really aren’t doing enough at any level to maintain their place. 2010 was 8 years ago and they need to try something new.
I unfortunately don’t think much will change with Osorio. I rate him as a manager but he isn’t doing a very good job with El Tri in my opinion. Group exit for Mexico. They also got kind of a tough group as South Korea in my eyes are better and while I don’t think they are worse than Sweden, they are more of a unit.
Pizarro – E. Alvarez – Moreno – Layun
Pineda – Gonzalez
Lozano – Tecatico – Vela
Weaker than Denmark but play as a unit as I literally just mentioned. They can be pragmatic and that’s due to what their quality suggests. They’ve also stagnated a bit but not quite as long as Mexico have. They are no mugs. They did knockout Italy to get here after all. I don’t know much else about them unfortunately so we’ll leave it there.
I’m no expert on them, but I do know a fair bit and while they were poor in the qualifiers, I can see them clicking here and getting past the groups in second. They are a big case of quality over quantity. Son Heung-Min is great and I can see him linking up well with Hwang Hee-Chan. These are often a composed side but a bit lightweight. I think they’ll definitely do better than in 2014. Ki is also very good and I hope to see some of Lee Seung Woo in this tournament.
Nothing they’ve done in the last 4 years have convinced me that they are favourites. They have very good players as usual, but aren’t much of a unit and are just individuals. This means they can easily grind results, but to actually win the tournament I have my doubts. I think they’ll top the group with 9 points, but that really isn’t saying too much because they aren’t that good in reality.
Ciman – Vertonghen – Vermaelen – Alderwereild
Tielemans – Witsel
Hazard – De Bruyne – Mertens
I don’t religiously follow England like some of the people on this forum, which makes sense. I’m only 30% English and have little relations to them within my life despite my origins being from there. From what I have seen, they are really bad. Worse than their squad suggests. Like Belgium, I think they’ll grind results but Southgate really doesn’t have them playing good football. It’s not even just dull, its dull and awful.
That said, if they do click they can be one to watch out for as they do have some good players. Dele Alli and Harry Kane are great and I also like John Stones but Southgate needs to get them to perform and while I think they’ll be better here than in the qualifiers, I’m not expecting too much from them.
Walker – Stones – Jones – Rose
Alli – Dier
Rashford– Lingard – Sterling
I know very little about them unfortunately. Based on their squad, I can’t see them doing much and are really here to help get some of these players abroad. The Tunisian league is one of the top leagues in Africa but unlike Egypt they don’t have a top, top player like Salah. Not much else to say, that’s about as much as I know.
I like them, but they are the worst side in the World Cup. They have some OKish forwards but really they got a bit lucky to get as far as they did. They didn’t have a great qualifying campaign and relied on some heavy bottling to get here.
I hope to see a bit of Alberto Quintero and Luis Tejada as well as Blas Perez who was a good player in the MLS during his best moments. They have nothing to lose so they may as well, those players have experience and can do some damage to all the backlines in this group. There is one thing that should be mentioned though, they are excellent in tournaments and often overachieve. I don’t think they’ll do it here but it’s something that could be interesting to point out.
They have an excellent squad. Lewandowski, Zielinksi, Krychowiak and Pizczek are all very good players and I can definitely see them progress through their group as one of the 2 teams. They’ve also always been decent at tournaments. I can’t say I’m an expert on them otherwise, but they have a great squad and if they perform to a unit like I’d guess they would, then they’ll put in a decent campaign.
Los Cafeteros are a team I still have my reservations on. They are not the same side they were in 2014, and are a lot duller and a lot more “unsure”. By that I mean, they don’t know what they want to play for. Quality wise, they are still the best team in this group and they have a ton of depth. However, Pekerman’s team has become a bit stale.
I originally wanted to rule them out of getting past the groups, but I still have my reservations. They grinded out their way into the World Cup, and none of these sides are exactly world class. They might be able to continue it for at least 3 matches and escape the first round.
Arias – Sanchez – Mina – Fabra
Sanchez – Barrios
Cuadrado – James – Cardona
Senegal have a really good squad, but I haven’t actually got to see them yet. Not sure if they play as a unit all I know is they have some really decent players like Koulibaly, Mané, Gueye and Keita. I’d like them to do well because I’m a fan of the team they got together, but they didn’t do well at the last nations cup and I have my reservations on them because of that.
I know less about them than South Korea. From what I have seen, it’s the same problem they have had since the beginning of time. Very lightweight but with a good style of play. I honestly think this group is up for grabs for anyone so who knows. They’ll rematch Colombia and maybe this time they can get the better of them.