As clocks point in earnest to just a few more hours to go before the biggies unfurl their best in a truly one of a kind global spectacle, how do the teams stand in contention?
The common verdict from ground zero in Russia upholds the common proclamation: it’s anybody’s tournament in Germany, Brazil, Argentina and, Portugal. Maybe, more of a close battle between a well-rounded Germany attack vis-a-vis the feistiness of Brazil.
Who will stand aloft with the greatest possession in a sportsman’s career is something time will reveal. Conjecture often fails miserably.
But before that, a thought to the other teams in FIFA World Cup 2018
We know the magic Messi can produce. We know the prominence that Neymar holds. We are already aware of the significance of the five fingers for Christiano Ronaldo.
What’s going to be on offer is the kind of advantage each of these three champions drives through the cushioning support of an Aguero, Jesus and, Bruno Alves, respectively.
While what unites them is disconsolation and a lonely search- that of having not yet won a single World Cup title- how do some other teams stand in the FIFA World Cup 2018?
What will the FIFA World Cup 2018 unfurl is anyone’s guess. Bring on the beer mugs, slip into those fancy jerseys and get together to witness the action, a true feast for the eyes.
The math for this side is the easiest and most calculable. Lionel Messi= Argentina. And Argentina = Lionel Messi. While there are hopes and prayers with Argentina to make the most of what they couldn’t in 2014, 2010 and before, there will also be a stark realization.
Maybe there’s a sense in not clambering down on Messi’s shoulders alone. Maybe, it’s time for other stars like Aguero to stand in and offer able support to Lionel Messi.
It didn’t make for a great site to see Argentina rest on the possibility of doing something magical in the extra time added int the 2014’s finals. It didn’t make for a pretty picture to spot Messi deliver a freekick that went twenty rows back in the stadia.
Can things improve this time around? A victory beckons and Messi surely deserves one.
This is the best time for Spain to rule.
Both classicists and romantics who feel Spain are hugely due for their ‘greatest moment’ are sure that the FIFA World Cup 2018 would bring something hitherto less-experienced in the last four years.
A young, mercurial side with a coach who’s been connected closely to the core strength of players that form the plank of the unit- there may not be a better time for Spain to rule the roost than now.
What are the thoughts at this time in a certain Andre Iniesta’s mind?
Barcelona’s key strength will score the victory stroke, everyone hopes. The only goal that Spain was able to score back in the 2010 finals came at his behest.
The times of 2008-12, the period of Spain’s massive domination might be over. But it’s the chance for other youngsters- Barta, Koke, Moreno, Saul, Muniain, Carvajal- to stand up and script their own history.
Coach Lopetegui has been with REF for 5 full years, well enough to know his current lot inside out.
The team, moreover, has exuberance and a penchant for making it count in big match situations. Is the party on, then?
Whatever could be said in pure admiration of Brazil, has already been said, by a world in awe of a truly carnivorous side.
Few teams have won the World Cup once. Germany is different, surely. And then, there is Brazil- five-time winners who are driven to lift their sixth World Cup. Can FIFA World Cup 2018 be their year?
Fans think so. The troika of Neymar-Jesus-Fernandinho- believes. By now, more than half a world is in unison, awaiting Brazil’s uplifting moment in Russia.
But is it going to happen? For starters, the team will have to move beyond the outcry and sombre experience felt in the last time they lost at Belo Horizonte.
The side, nevertheless, with a troika of intelligence, defensive stability and consistency, will be eager to make it count.
This is also a great opportunity for units like France to emerge right on top. On pure form and current strength, only Spain seem capable of matching them on the serene abilities of the underdog.
Every now and again comes around a side that can match the virtuosity expected of it in key moments such as the FIFA World Cup 2018, for France, maybe, that time is now.
A young unit, importantly a vibrant unit, France are bolstered by a promise of several young talents- Adil Rami, Presnel Kimpembe and above all- their captain Raphael Varane.
Their fireplay of causing devastating counter-attacking style would be out on keen display one hopes.
If there’s one side that is the most improved unit in all of Europe- then it’s Denmark. Its presence may not make the likes of Germany, Argentina or Portugal shiver.
In fact, not even a bit.
But what Denmark does have, after all, is the confidence of its recent form.
Last 11 of its games have resulted in wins. This is a sterling, unmatched record ever since their loss in qualifying to Poland and Montenegro in 2016.
As Denmark enter the FIFA World Cup 2018, theirs will be a spring of confidence in each step.
But whether this confidence can translate into reassured wins depends on how well players like Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen play.
France and Denmark- the fans state- are expected to qualify easily ahead.
One word! David versus Goliath.
What else could the FIFA World Cup 2018 mean for the relatively noiseless island of Europe?
In a crowd support of only 330,000, Iceland may not have the most astonishing comfort and support. But they have the power to surprise. What may still dwell on in England’s mind would be to remember the devastating blow they received in 2016, when Iceland knocked them out in the run to the Euro quarter-finals.
Iceland would only proceed to prove that their win wouldn’t be a flash in the pan.
They qualified ahead of Croatia and Ukraine ahead of the FIFA World Cup 2018.
And their key talent seems to be Cardiff City’s Aron Gunnarsson, on whose able shoulders rest the hopes of a dainty-sized fan-base.
Every World Cup likes as much as it dreads the cause of a great upset. Can the FIFA World Cup 2018 show something in the form of Croatia?
What they have on offer are some great playmakers in Luka Modric, Mario Mandzukic, Ivan Rakitic and, Ivan Perisic.
But their strength may look the most on paper.
Not the most difficult side to beat but also one that plays to full potential and makes interesting moments every now and again, the only thing that can spur Nigeria in Russia is that they’re the only side to have qualified from Africa.
And the only thing that may cause a dent to their hopes would be the onerous pressure it imposes- precisely, being the only African side expected to excel at the mother of all Football battles.
The John Obi Mikel-driven side would love to make it count. And Nigeria would ultimately rest on the abilities of talents like Alex Iwobi, Kelechi Iheanacho and, Victor Moses.
They didn’t have much of a problem in beating Russia 4-2, especially having been 2-0 down.
But what can they bring in the World Cup?
Most fans regardless of who they support would suggest that a place in the quarter-final does not look beyond the reach of Switzerland.
Not only do they have the crucial experience in playing in different world cups, 10 to be precise, they’ve got a core set of players who’ve stuck around from their Under-17 days and now a part of the national set-up. Team spirit, therefore, should not be a problem.
In Valon Behrami, an experienced campaigner, who has represented the team in three previous world cups, FIFA World Cup 2018 being his fourth, would make the Swiss clinch their fists in excitement.
In Basel’s Manuel Akanji, the Swiss seem to have found the best possible defender. But it all matters most when the two come together with nine other players.
Back in 2014, they might have impressed the most, which was 4 years ago.
But this is a side that’s been a regular in the FIFA World Cup for quite some time. Arguably, in West Ham’s Javier Hernandez, Mexico has a world-class talent that can rub shoulders with the best in the game.
Can it make it count in FIFA’s signature event?
The third feistiest unit among the likes of France and Spain, can Belgium make it count?
Even as they are placed in a relatively top-heavy group where the only mega monster for them is England powered by Harry Kane, Belgium would want to thump Tunisia and Panama to emerge on top of their group and eventually, who knows, even to the quarter-finals.
Purely on current form, they do not seem any less compelling than an England.
For a team that has a Romelo Lukaku up front and a genius in Eden Hazard- remember the surname- and a quality goalkeeper in Thibaut Courtois, there’s an alliance of talent and capability.
A team that also has backup-up talents in Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen, would want to make every moment count.
You cannot imagine a Football tournament in the absence of this world-beating side. If this grandiose team could be expressed through a mythical figure then perhaps calling Germany the He-Man of FIFA would suffice. Even as the past masters- Klose, Schweinsteiger, Lahm, Podolski- have retired, a new brigade has risen.
The likes of Julian Draxler, Joshua Kimmich, Timo Werner, Jonas Hector and, Kevin Trapp are slated to write a new chapter in the annals of the German footballing history.
And nothing would give them as much strength or hope as the presence of some old-guards, Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller, Toni Krooz, Sami Khedira and, Jerome Boateng.
The world expects Germany to deliver, whose recent form isn’t the most compelling. They lost to France. Can they make amends?
There’s hope in coach, Joachim Low suggesting that for starters- Germany wishes to not “defend” the title, rather “claim” it again. Although, it didn’t reflect that well that the famous Real Madrid midfielder Kroos shared that it may not be possible this time.