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July 11, 2018

The 2018 FIFA World Cup Catch Up

July 11, 2018

The 2018 FIFA World Cup has exceeded expectations when it comes to being dramatic and unpredictable, but have you kept up? Are you like me and love all sports but aren’t heavily invested in soccer, or perhaps you have been busy this summer and missed out on some of the most exciting moments that have already occurred in this year’s World Cup. Not to worry, this article is here to help all people, from people who know nothing about soccer but want to be able speak about one of the world’s single greatest sporting event to the most passionate fútbol fan that may have missed some key moments.

Brief History:
The World Cup is a way that the people of the world can come together, and first started in 1930. FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association), soccer’s governing body, runs many tournaments worldwide but is know for the organizing and managing the World Cup, and has done so since 1904. It has a president, a congress, and even has committees to ensure strategic guidance and oversight are provided as well as passing particular orders for the game.

The FIFA World Cup is played in two stages, and first begins in a stage called the “group” stage. In this stage each team in a group will play one match against the other three teams in their group. Each group is decided by a process called the “Final Draw”. Each of the 32 qualifying teams is first put into four “Pots” which is determined by the 2017 FIFA World Rankings with the host team and top seven teams in Pot 1 while the lowest ranking qualifying teams are in Pot 4. Each team in Pot 1 will randomly occupy the first positions in each group A – H (except the host team which is always the first position in group A) and then Pot 2 teams will randomly be drawn to the group that is next up (alphabetically) while also having their position randomly drawn as well. No two teams from the same confederation (teams basically from the continent) can be placed in the same group, so some of the teams in Pots 2-4 may need to skip groups to ensure that everything works out geographically (except Europe because they qualify the most teams). Once Pot 2 is finished with placement, 3 and 4 will follow until the official groups are formed. A win in Group play is awarded three points while a tie is awarded just one. After each of the three matches are played, the two teams with the highest point total each advance to the “knockout” stage, which is a single elimination tournament with 16 teams present.

Biggest Surprises from Group Play:
Before we dive into a deeper analysis of the knockout round in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, let us first review some of the biggest shocks that happened in the group stage of the tournament. The first shock and probably the largest surprise that has happened so far occurred on the opening day of the tournament. Russia, the lowest ranked team in the competition, thrashed a Saudi Arabian team that has not faired well in their World Cup history with a final score of 5-0. This gave Russia, the hosting team, a boost of confidence as well as a much greater potential to make it out of their group, in which they did. We also saw the defending champions Germany fall to the closest thing to (some) Americans have to root for, Mexico. It only took one shot from Hirving Lozano and impeccable defense from Guillermo Ochoa of Mexico for them to prevail 1-0. This surprising win helped to keep the Germans out of the knockout stage, and spoiled chance of being the second team to ever repeat in the World Cup. Iceland also gave a bit of a surprise in their first ever World Cup when they tied Argentina, but it was more so a celebratory and prideful moment for a country once the first goal for this country was scored. Argentina will again be apart of the surprises in this year’s group play, and again will be on the wrong side. Lionel Messi, a consensus top three soccer player in the world who has been voted the world’s best player on five separate occasions, had a chance to win a game for Argentina with a penalty, but missed high and wide right. He has had his hardships with penalty taking but his team has done enough to make it to the elimination round, and hopefully provide him with another chance to show he is the best.

Knockout Round Matchups and Expectations:

This is where the list starts to get a bit more serious. This is a team that just took the world champion Warriors to 7 in the Western Conference Finals without their main facilitator and good friend of LeBron James, Chris Paul. Let’s not forget that they also have a guy named James Harden, who is the front-runner for the 2017-18 NBA MVP. This team is full of complementary pieces for LeBron James and there is no state tax in Texas so his max contract would be worth a but more here. The Rockets would have to be in a trade scenario with the Cavaliers, and would most likely send away Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, and maybe some future draft picks in exchange for the King but would most likely have to part ways with Trevor Ariza as well. Clint Capela also has to resign, and this will not be cheap because he showed his value to the team, but that will be negotiated once the James decision is made. If I’m LeBron James and I’m thinking about heading out West, Houston is one of the only team I am considering because they clearly have the fire power to compete with not only the champions, but everyone else in the NBA.

France vs. Argentina (6/30 10:00 AM)
Lionel Messi has his chance at redemption from missed opportunities in the group stage and looks to build on his success on his first goal scored against Nigeria. France’s Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe must play very well in order to extinguish the fire in arguably the best player in the world. France is one of the favorites to win the trophy in Russia on paper but easing through group play without hitting top gear can be dangerous. On the other hand, Messi can only get better and he will as the tournament continues.

This is a great matchup and by the way the bracket is set up, we are going to see a lot of the heavyweights take each other out.

Will’s Take: Argentina over France: 2-1

Uruguay vs. Portugal (6/30 2:00 PM)
Cristiano Ronaldo is the player to watch in this game and if Portugal looks to make it out of the round of 16 for the first time since 2006, they will have to live and die behinds his legs. Uruguay is led by Luis Suarez and Edison Cavani, which as a pair a formidable, but can the rest of the team support them to take down one of the best players to have played the game of soccer.

The match should be a shootout, and I think this goes in favor of Portugal. A striking match will always be in favor of any team Ronaldo is on.

Will’s Take: Portugal beats Uruguay 3-2

Spain vs Russia (7/1 10:00 AM)
Diego Costa of Spain and Denis Cheryshev of Russia have both had more than impressive starts to the World Cup. They have each scored three goals, but Cheryshev is leading a Russia team, that wasn’t projected to make it to this round, to put up video game numbers to this point.

I believe Russia will ride the wave of playing in their element to at least the quarterfinals, and maybe further depending on the play of other games.

Will’s Take: Russia takes down Spain 2-1

Croatia vs. Denmark (7/1 2:00 PM)
Croatia’s Luka Modric is most likely playing in his last World Cup and is making the most of it by scoring two goals in a dominant group stage. Though Cristian Eriksen has only scored one goal, he will lead Denmark to battle against a great Croatian team.

Croatia is the better team and will prove this with stifling defense and imposing their will offensively.

Will’s Take: Croatia shuts out Denmark 2-0

Brazil vs. Mexico (7/2 10:00 AM)
Philippe Coutinho and Neymar Jr. of Brazil are most likely the deadliest tandem we have remaining in the Cup, but they have a formidable opposition in Mexico’s Carlos Vela and Javier Hernandez. Although Mexico has not shown the offensive production they are capable of, the pace of the game should allow both teams to have plenty of shots at goal.

This is another intriguing match up that will be fun to watch with both teams having similar styles of play.

Will’s Take: Brazil defeats Mexico 3-2

Belgium vs. Japan (7/2 2:00 PM)
Romelo Lukaku is clearly the best scorer Belgium has to offer, and has scored four goals thus far, but is going against a Japanese team that quiet talent. Shinji Kagawa is Japan’s best player but has not scored since the opening minutes in the first match.

Romelo will continue to score the ball and I believe Kagawa will match his intensity and find the goal just as many times as the Belgian does.

Will’s Take: Japan stuns Belgium 2-1

Sweden vs. Switzerland (7/3 10:00 AM)
This may be the most even match we will see in the round of 16 in the 2018 World Cup. Andreas Granqvist of Sweden has played a huge part in the advancement of his team, even with a quiet showing from Emil Forsberg. Xherdan Shaqiri of Switzerland has made his presence felt throughout group play by constantly staying involved in the offense.

Emil Forsberg will emerge as the player we have previous seen on Arsenal and greatly effect the match against Switzerland.

Will’s Take: Sweden over Switzerland 1-0

Colombia vs. England (7/3 2:00 PM)
England’s golden boot leader Harry Kane (who has five goals) will lead them against Yerry Mina and James Rodriguez (who is battling injury) in the final game of the round of 16. Sources report that Columbia’s manager Jose Pekerman was “very worried” about his star midfielder.

Without Rodriquez playing for Columbia, they will not have enough to slow a great England team who only loss because of resting players against Belgium.

Will’s Take: England explodes against Colombia 4-1

Now that you have all the information needed to be properly put up to speed about the 2018 World Cup, pick the team you want to root for, whether it be an underdog or the favorite. The go out and get a vuvuzela, paint your chest or face, and show as much spirit as possible and enjoy the rest of the championship just like the rest of the world does. The FIFA World Cup is another way we as people on this earth can bond and celebrate the similarities we share as people, and competing in a sport that is recognized by almost every country is the perfect way to do so.

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