Reacting to the 2018 World Cup Draw

The draw for the 2018 World Cup has concluded, with surprises, favorites, and Groups of Life and Death. Italians look away.

Group A: A little help for the hosts

Hosts Russia came out first, as is traditional. Uruguay joined them from Pot 2, with Mo Salah’s Egypt from Pot 3. Saudi Arabia rounded up the first group,

Uruguay are the favorites in the easiest group of the eight. Liverpool midfielder Mohamed Salah and Egypt will contend with Russia for the second spot, and the Saudis appear to pose no threat.

Group B: The Iberian Supergroup

Portugal was the second team out of Pot 1, and are joined by Spain, Morocco, and Iran.

Portugal and Spain are two of the best teams in the tournament, and whoever wins the group will make a deep run in the knockout stage. Iran and Morocco stand little chance of advancing in place of the Iberian duo. That first matchup will be fun.

Group C: France’s to lose

France will bring their young squad up against fellow Europeans Denmark, while Peru and Australia will look to exploit the Danes’ over-reliance on Christian Eriksen.

France should run away with Group C á la 2014 Colombia. Denmark doesn’t seem to be equipped for a World Cup, as Christian Eriksen is the only notable attacking star. However, Mathias Jorgensen and the defense could be difficult to break down. Australia desperately needs answers in the coming year to inject life into the Socceroos’ aging squad. Don’t underestimate Peru, the fifth-placed South American side.

Group D: Stars, old and young

Argentina, Croatia, Iceland, and Nigeria form the most star-studded group so far. Lionel Messi and Argentina look the part of a favorite, while Luka Modric’s Croatia and Gylfi Sigurdsson’s Iceland will battle it out for the second spot. Nigeria doesn’t seem cut out to contend yet, but a promising generation of young talent headlined by Alex Iwobi will get a shot at the world’s finest.

Group E: A challenged favorite

CONMEBOL champs Brazil came out of Pot 1 to face Switzerland, Costa Rica, and Serbia. The two European nations are capable of causing trouble for anyone if given the opportunity, while Costa Rica is a challenge once again. Los Ticos went all the way to 2014’s quarterfinals before bowing out on penalties to the Netherlands.

Group F: A Confederations Cup rematch

The defending world champs face the harshest test of any seeded side. Germany will face CONCACAF champions Mexico, and then turn around to face Emil Forsberg and Sweden. Last year’s Bundesliga assist king leads a dangerous Sweden side. If Mexico and Sweden meet on the final day of the group stage, an electric atmosphere will take shape in Russia.

Group G: European domination

Belgium and England face few tests in Tunisia and Panama, and should advance. In what order, though? Belgium has the talent to beat anyone, but can’t seem to play well together. England. . . well, they’re England.

Group H: 

Disputed top-eight Poland face a tough task. A star-studded Senegal attack including Sadio Mane and Keita Balde Diao will present defensive concerns. Japan might challenge better than in recent years.

The real focus is Colombia. 2014 World Cup’s top scorer James Rodriguez has ignited into one of the world’s finest center attacking mids. Radamel Falcao and Freddy Guarin are very good once again. Jeison Murillo anchors the defense. Colombia is so good, it’s frightening. Los Cafeteros will wreak havoc in the latter knockout rounds in Russia.

The group winners will be. . .

A: Uruguay

B: Spain

C: France

D: Argentina

E: Brazil

F: Germany

G: Belgium

H: Colombia

 

Wait, where’s Italy?

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James Rodriguez finally leaves Real Madrid!

Colombian star James Rodriguez has finally completed a move away from Real Madrid, after being linked to Inter, Arsenal, PSG, Manchester United, and others. But he hasn’t gone to any of the aforementioned teams.

Speculation had grown over James’ future after Real manager Zinedine Zidane repeatedly left him on the bench, choosing to play Casemiro in a defensive 4-3-3. The Spanish giants initially demanded close to £75 million for him, which ruled out most clubs as potential destinations for Rodriguez.

Yesterday it was announced that James (Haw-mace) has moved to Bayern Munich! Real Madrid put the correct price tag on the world class CAM. However, sources report that the German club has decided to loan him for two years, with an option to buy. This is the staggering bit: the fee. Bayern will pay £5 million each year of his loan, and then have an option to buy him permanently for only £30 million! Incentives could see the total fee rise to £45.2 million, well below Madrid’s asking price.

This is a ridiculous deal for the Bavarians. Remember when 22 year old James Rodriguez won the Golden Boot at the 2014 World Cup, scoring in every game? Remember how he took control of the round of 16 clash against Uruguay? (And that ridiculous volley!)

At age 25, the Colombian wizard hasn’t even hit his prime, but has notched 46 goals, 45 assists, and 27 Man of the Match awards in just over 10,000 minutes of game time. The list of active players to go 45/45/25 in 10,000: James, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Neymar. That’s it.

 

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