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Extra Time: 2018 FIFA World Cup Preview

Who is Going to Win the 2018 World Cup?

If you’re a fan of soccer, you know that finding groups of other people who share your passion can be difficult. It’s not like basketball, NFL football or even hockey where the sport constantly joins the mainstream.

Every four years, however, it becomes a huge talking point around water coolers the nation over, as the best players in the world put on the jerseys (or kits, if you’re a soccer fan) of their respective nations and take part in the FIFA World Cup.

At Friendly Kia, many of us are big soccer fans. Not only do we love going out for a summer evening and supporting our Tampa Bay Rowdies, but following the European and Mexican soccer leagues is a hobby of many sales and service staff here. Speaking of, Tampa Bay Rowdies’ own Joe Cole is a former England World Cup player, having been in the 2002, 2006 and 2010 World Cup.

[READ MORE: Tampa Bay Rowdies 2018 Season Preview]

As we’re inclined to do here on the Friendly Kia blog, we want to both provide our takes on the World Cup and talk about which teams we think are going to go far and possibly even win the tournament. We’ll do this by analyzing each group and who we think is destined to exit the group (by finishing in one of the top two spots), as well as talking about overall teams that are favorites to win and maybe even a couple of dark horses.

Although having the United States not qualify for the tournament is a detriment, it does allow people to pick teams and follow teams in which they may have not previously had interest without being accused of not supporting the brave (and old) United States Men’s National Team.

Let’s look at the 2018 FIFA World Cup!

What Groups Are in the 2018 World Cup?

Organized into eight groups of four teams, the FIFA world cup sees the teams play each other in their group before advancing to the round of 16, quarter-finals, semi-finals and finally the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final. Here are those groups.

2018 FIFA World Cup Group A

Teams: Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uruguay

Friendly predicts: Possibly the easiest group, we see this group being won by Uruguay with Egypt coming in second, predicated on the availability of Mohamed Salah, the dynamic center forward who lead the English Premier League in scoring for the 2017/2018 season and made it to the European federation’s (UEFA) Champion’s League final. Should Salah not see time in the tournament, hosts Russia are likely to advance in the second position.

2018 FIFA World Cup Group B

Teams: Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Iran

Friendly predicts: Perhaps the most imbalanced group between the likely teams who progress and who drop, Spain will take the number one spot with Portugal claiming second. Spain’s goalkeeper David De Gea lit up the English Premier League this past season, keeping the highest number of clean sheets (games in which no goals were scored against him). Portugal benefits from plenty of experience and star power in players like Cristiano Ronaldo, Joao Mario, William Carvalho and more. Portugal most recently won the UEFA Euros tournament back in 2016 – a mini world cup where the number of teams is limited to a single continental federation.

2018 FIFA World Cup Group C

Teams: France, Australia, Peru, Denmark

Friendly Predicts: With the incredible world-beating star power of players like Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe, we expect France to win this group unbeaten. France, by the way, are one of the top teams considered favorites to win the tournament. Second place will be a gritty battle. We think Peru will stun the world and go through as second place finishers, however.

2018 FIFA World Cup Group D

Teams: Argentina, Iceland, Croatia, Nigeria

Friendly predicts: With arguably the world’s best soccer player in Lionel Messi and support from players like center forward Sergio Aguero and defender Nicolas Otamendi (both featuring heavily during Manchester City’s English Premier League easy victory this season), we’d be blown away if Argentina lose a single match in this group, much less finish below first. Nigeria will defy the technical prowess of Croatia and underdog spirit of Iceland and place second.

2018 FIFA World Cup Group E

Teams: Brazil, Costa Rica, Switzerland, Serbia

Friendly predicts: Brazil will handily win the group with Costa Rica placing second. Brazil hits the 2018 FIFA World Cup as another favorite to win and with talent like the young Neymar, rising star Gabriel Jesus and experienced winger Willian in tow, they have a good shot at making good on their promise. We see Switzerland and Serbia both putting in a good shift, but taking enough points from each other for Costa Rica to sneak into the second-place spot.

2018 FIFA World Cup Group F

Teams: Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea

Friendly predicts: Following the draw, South Korea were our favorites to top the group, but following poor performances recently, we actually think they’ll miss out on going through. Instead, ceding the top spot to Germany with a surprising and spirited second-place finish from Mexico. Mexico have had issues with their team management but still possess a massive well of talent who we expect to show up on the world’s biggest stage.

2018 FIFA World Cup Group G

Teams: Belgium, Panama, Tunisia, England

Friendly predicts: Belgium possess talent at every position which includes the attacking forces of Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne. They’ll win the group. Second place is harder to pick. Although England’s recent quality (going back to the 2016 Euros) has been poor, we do expect them to take the second-place spot in this group.

2018 FIFA World Cup Group H

Teams: Poland, Senegal, Colombia, Japan

Friendly predicts: Poland and Colombia are favorites.. Picking between these teams is difficult as both possess a special kind of talent that seems most obviously-displayed during these big games. On the other hand, Senegal has underestimated talent in Sadio Mane, a player who quietly helped propel the English team Liverpool to their Champion’s League final. Japan will drop. In possibly our hottest take since we told everybody to buy a minivan, we predict Colombia to win the group with Senegal making a surprise surge that earns them second-place.

soccer stadium border from south america

Teams and Players to Play Close Attention To in the 2018 FIFA World Cup

Above, we mentioned that France and Brazil are the two favorites to win the tournament. We also expect Spain to make a good showing, making it to at least the quarter-finals. Belgium, who ended the United States’ World Cup dreams four years ago has been building a talented side that could accurately be described as the “dark horses” of the tournament.

Having beaten the weary United States team in the World Cup Qualifiers to advance, Costa Rica is the one team from Central America that we think may be able to inflict some unexpected damage, returning to the quarter-finals for a second consecutive tournament.

As far as players to watch in the 2018 World Cup go, we’d recommend keeping an eye on the following:

  • Nemanja Matic (Serbia) – A clinical midfielder with excellent passing and the ability to drive a game from the center, Matic is slated to make some headlines in the group stage and may single-handedly prove our prediction of Serbia dropping incorrect.
  • Lionel Messi (Argentina) – The best (or second best, depending on how you lean) player in the world. He will score many goals.
  • Paul Pogba / Antoine Griezmann (France) – Two of the biggest names being talked about are the midfielder Paul Pogba and his expected target, the center forward Antoine Griezmann.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) – Hot or cold for both club and country, arguably the best (or second best) player in the world has a lot to prove after his Euros 2016 final game.
  • Gabriel Jesus (Brazil) – On the winning side of the 2017/2018 English Premier League, the young Gabriel Jesus (only 21 years old) seems to be just getting started. The 2018 World Cup could be a massive opportunity to show what he’s capable of.
  • Eden Hazard (Belgium) – One of the most entertaining players to watch, Hazard is fast and smart with the ball, often confusing defenders by rapidly changing directions and making impossible passes.
  • David De Gea (Spain) – Goalkeepers aren’t the most interesting position to watch, but De Gea is from another planet. Helping to lead English side Manchester United to a league-high 19 clean sheets this past season with acrobatic saves, De Gea is ready to build a brick wall in front of Spain’s goals during the tournament.
  • Mohamed Salah (Egypt) – Should he feature, Mohamed Salah is sure to score some goals. Billed as the next Lionel Messi, his ability to cut and shoot the tightest of angles is unrivaled and has made him a phenomenon in the 2017/2018 UEFA Champion’s League. Injured in the final, which his team Liverpool subsequently lost, we hope he shows up to win a few important group stage points for the unassuming African side.

border with three soccer balls

Kia Wins the World Cup of Value, Reliability and Comfort

With a fascinating local club and huge soccer atmosphere in Tampa Bay, the 2018 World Cup is the perfect opportunity for you to get into the sport. Go out and watch some games at the many sports bars we have here in the North Tampa Bay or find a watch party and enjoy the festivities.

There’s something deeply fascinating about watching the world come together to play sports. Extra Time is our segment where we talk about soccer – be it local with the Rowdies or mega international events like the 2018 FIFA World Cup, to subscribe, bookmark the category here.

If you have any questions about our own local sports in Tampa Bay or would like to test-drive a trophy-winning Kia model, be sure to reach out to us today!

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