The 2018 Fifa World Cup is here and the action in Russia will certainly serve up some high-quality entertainment for football fans across the globe, writes DEAN WORKMAN.
Five things to expect from matchday 1 at the World Cup:
1. Spain to edge Portugal despite managerial drama
On Wednesday, just two days before Spain’s opening game against Portugal on Friday, the Spanish Football Federation President announced the sacking of their head coach Julen Lopetegui, with Fernando Hierro stepping in. This would have undoubtedly shocked the La Furia Roja squad in the middle of their preparations for the clash against the European Champions. While Portugal remain a dangerous team and possesses one of the greats in Cristiano Ronaldo, the 2010 World Champions have a side packed with talent and experience across the pitch. The Spanish players know what it takes to win and their World Cup campaign could well be a test-case to see if an experienced, battle-hardened squad could ‘self-manage’ themselves to glory.
2. Messi to shine against Iceland
Argentina come up against Iceland on Saturday in their opener and will be hoping to have star man Lionel Messi firing from the get-go. Argentina’s reliance on Messi is frightening. The last time someone other than the Barcelona man scored in an official game for La Albiceleste was almost 19 months (12 official matches), a shocking stat considering the firepower which the South Americans possess. While Iceland have continued to improve since their showing at Euro 2016, expect Messi and Co to run riot against the Icelandic side in their first ever World Cup game.
3. Neymar to fire Brazil past Switzerland
Brazil take on Switzerland on Sunday evening as they begin their journey to banish the memories of the last World Cup. While Brazil are not as reliant on Neymar as Argentina are of Messi, his importance in the team is highlighted by his goal-scoring record for the Seleção, 55 goals in 85 matches. Switzerland are a well-organised team who are always very difficult to break down. In a tight game a moment of magic may be required and expect Neymar to step up, as he has done so many times for the national team.
4. Germany to face tough battle against Mexico
Defending champions Germany face Mexico on Sunday afternoon and will face a tough task if they are to overcome a good Mexican side. Die Mannschaft have a side more than capable of retaining their crown in Russia but do not come into the tournament in the best of form. Before a 2-1 victory over Saudi Arabia in their final warm-up game, Germany had not won a game in 2018 ― the five-game winless run their worst since 1988. Mexico, however, come into the tournament after qualifying in style and will certainly give Joachim Low’s team a fight on Sunday. While Germany are expected to win, I wouldn’t rule out the Mexicans from grabbing something from the game.
5. England to ease past Tunisia
The Three Lions open up their World Cup campaign against Tunisia on Monday evening. With an average squad age of 26, third lowest in the tournament, Gareth Southgate’s team come into the tournament full of confidence. They qualified for the tournament with ease and have since impressed in their friendly matches, playing with a freedom which previous teams lacked. Tunisia may be Africa’s highest ranked nation at the tournament, but I expect England to have too much on the day and will ease past the North African team.
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