Thursday 14 June 2018

World Cup 2018

Interesting facts

Group A
  • The Russian coach has a bad relationship with some of the better players eg Denisov and avoids saying Denisov's name in interviews.
  • Saudi Arabia arranged a $$ deal with Spanish La Liga for 9 of their national team players to play there - however none were given any game time.
  • Egypt hasn't been to a World Cup in 27 years despite winning 7 Afcon trophies; they now boast the highest scoring African player in a Premier League season, Salah.
  • Uruguay (population 3.4 million) is the smallest nation to have ever won the World Cup.
Group B
  • Ronaldo has scored 600+ goals for club and Portugal combined.
  • "I would prefer to avoid Spain at the World Cup because of the way they play" - Lionel Messi
  • After a poor start to World Cup qualification, Morrocan coach flew to Amsterdam to convince Ajax's Hakim Ziyech out of retirement after Ziyech was axed from the African Cup of Nations. Ziyech struck two goals in Morroco's next match against Mali.
  • Captain Masoud Shojaei was banned for life because he played aainst Israeli side Maccabi Tel Aviv in a club match for his Greek club. Iran has a law that prohibits sports people from competing against Israeli opponents. Shojaei was later reinstated.
Group C
  • France scored 18 goals in 10 matches - the lowest of any nation who qualified automatically for the World Cup.
  • Denmark, Australia and Peru all qualified for the World Cup via the play-offs.
  • Australia travelled 250,000 km to qualify for the World Cup and played 22 matches to qualify. This is a record - and is unlikely to happen again given Australia's geographic position in relation to Southeast Asia and Central America/the Middle East.
  • Peru won only one of its first 6 qualification matches but lucked out when a 2-0 loss to Bolivia converted into a 3-0 win after Bolivia fielded an ineligible player. They then went on a streak, losing only twice in their next 11 games. They've waited 36 years to get to the World Cup.
  • Denmark don't mind not having the ball as they like breaking on the counter.
Group D
  • Argentina trailed 1-0 to Ecuador in their final qualification match but prevailed thanks to a Messi hattrick. They've lost in three major finals (Copa America 2015 and 2016; World Cup 2014) - is this a psychological problem?
  • Iceland are the smallest nation to qualify for the World Cup with a population of 330,000. They punched their ticket with a 2-0 win over Kosovo. Likely to be everyone's second team.
  • Iceland does not have a single player that plays at a club competing in the Champions League.
  • The Iceland coach is a part-time dentist.
  • "We know a lot about Croatia, they have been the hurdle that we have needed to step over to achieving something like this. We seem to be a married couple. Absolutely after the World Cup we are going to get a divorce from Croatia." Croatia and Iceland have met at least twice; once in a playoff for the 2014 World Cup and then they were in the same group during the 2018 World Cup Qualification. They meet once again in Group D this World Cup.
  • Croatia started with 13 points out of 15 in World Cup Qualifying but then only won 4 points in 4 games. A 2-0 win against Ukraine was critical to secure a playoff spot as Iceland pipped them to the post.
  • Croatia have struggled to get out of World Cup Groups - eg 2014 vs Mexico; 2002 vs Ecuador; 2006 vs Socceroos
  • Nigeria have qualified for every World Cup in the last 24 years except Germany 2006. They qualified this time around in a Group of Death with Cameroon, Zambia and Algeria - and were lucky because they fielded an ineligible player against Algeria yet had enough points in the bank for this to not matter.
Group E
  • The '7-1' is still talked about to this day - haunting Brazilian fans.
  • Switzerland hasn't progressed past the Round of 16 at a major tournament since 1954.
  • Despite topping its World Cup Qualification Group, Serbia's coach was sacked (the style of play was criticised)
  • Costa Rica shocked the World when they topped their Group in 2014 which had England, Italy and Uruguay.
Group F
  • Germany scored 43 goals and only conceded 1 in qualification.
  • Lahm, Mertesacker, Klose, Schweinsteiger and Podolski have retired.
  • Germany won the 2017 Confederations Cup with a "Youth Squad" - no seniors.
  • Low has the greatest win-loss record of any German manager
  • Mexico have reached and bowed out at the Round of 16 at the last six consecutive World Cups
  • South Korea have qualified for all World Cup Finals since 1982.
  • Sweden miss out on Zlatan Ibrahimovic who retired recently.
Group G

  • Belgium have never won a European Championship, let alone a World Cup.
  • England have lost all three of their penalty shootouts at World Cups - Germany have won all 4 of theirs.
  • Since Southgate's appointment, England have had 6 different captains.
  • Panama missed out on the World Cup in 2014 after losing their final match 3-2 vs USA, after leading 1-0 at the 83rd minute mark. 
  • In 2018, Panama beat Costa Rica with a Phantom Goal to win 2-1 (the ball never crossed the line), despite trailing 1-0. At the expense of the USA.
  • Panama brings the oldest team to the World Cup - average age just under 30.
  • Panama's coach led three different teams to the World Cup (Colombia in 1998 and Ecuador in 2002) - one of only two managers to do so.
  • Tunisia were the first Afican country to record a World Cup win (3-1 vs Mexico in 1978) - their only victory ever despite qualifying for the World Cup in 1998, 2002 and 2006 - and winning AFCON in 2004

Group H

  • Poland finished third in 1974 and 1982, and won gold at the 1972 Olympic Games.
  • Aliou Cisse (captain of the golden generation 2002 side) took over as Senegal's coach in 2015.
  • Colombia qualified for World Cups in the 90's but missed out on all the ones in the 00's.
  • Japan have had a recent bad run - bottom of group at the World Cup 2014 and an early exit in the Quarterfinals of the Asian Cup (their worst performance at an Asian Cup).
  • Japan did not qualify for a World Cup prior to France 1998, but since then have gone to 6 straight tournaments.

Predictions for first set of matches:

Russia 2 - 1 Saudi Arabia
Egypt 0 - 1 Uruguay

Spain 1 - 1 Portugal
Morocco 0 - 1 Iran

France 2 - 0 Australia
Peru 1 - 1 Denmark

Argentina 1 - 0 Iceland
Nigeria 1 - 2 Croatia

Costa Rica 0 - 1 Serbia
Brazil 2 - 0 Switzerland

Germany 3 - 1 Mexico
Sweden 0 - 0 South Korea

Belgium 2 - 0 Panama
England 1 - 0 Tunisia

Colombia 1 - 0 Japan
Poland 1 - 0 Senegal

My Hopes

  • Senegal, South Korea, Nigeria or Iceland and Australia go through to the knockout stages.

  • A new winner for the World Cup, but preferably not Belgium.
  • If a previous World Cup winner must win, either England, Brazil or Spain. In that order.

Andre Lim

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