The Fifa World Cup is now well underway and thus far, there has been no shortage of talking points. The curtain was raised by Qatar and Ecuador back on November 20th, but within just five days of The Maroons officially opening their own party, they had been eliminated thanks to back-to-back defeats.
Canada are also on their way home. The Maple Leafs were appearing at the tournament for the first time since 1986 however, they too have been sent packing. An unlucky 1-0 defeat against Belgium – in which Bayern Munich star Alphonso Davies missed a penalty for the North Americans – and a 4-1 drubbing at the hands of 2018 finalists Croatia were enough to send them on their way.
Elsewhere, four-time champions Germany have also made hard work of the group stages, the stage they exited in Russia four years ago when entering as reigning champions. They were stunned by Japan in their opening game before Niclas Füllkrug – who this time last year was scoring in Werder Bremen’s defeat at Holstein Kiel in Germany’s second tier – salvaged a point against Spain in Die Mannschaft’s second game.
Brazil have been in fine fettle throughout their first two matches, winning both despite the absence of their superstar Neymar. According to online bookmakers, the Selecao are the favorite to lift the FIFA World Cup trophy for a sixth time this winter. And thus far, they are living up to the billing.
Here are three of our predictions for the rest of the soccer showdown in the desert.
Morocco eliminated in the quarterfinals
One of the feel-good stories of the World Cup thus far has been the progress of Morocco. The Atlas Lions disappointed four years ago, losing to Iran and finishing bottom of their group with just one point. This year, however, they have more than made up for that.
They earned a battling point against Croatia in their opening game. In their second, they stunned the world with a brilliant performance against Belgium, with two late goals from Roman Saiss and Zakaria Aboukhlal earning them a deserved 2-0 victory. Now they know if they win their final group game against Canada, they will progress – and they may even top the group if the Croats don’t beat Belgium.
We feel that Morocco have more than enough about them to not only qualify for the last 16 but also win their first knockout match when they do. If they top their group, they will face either Germany, Japan, or Costa Rica with a place in the last eight up for grabs.
Chelsea winger Hakim Ziyech has been in scintillating form thus far, and their defence hasn’t conceded a goal in over nine hours of football. Bet against the Moroccans at your peril.
England fall in the last eight
Another team we expect to fall at the quarterfinal stage is England. But while reaching the last eight would be a major achievement for the previously mentioned Moroccans, The Three Lions falling at this stage would be a major disappointment.
Gareth Southgate has done a sterling job at the helm of the national team during his six years in charge. He led them to a first World Cup semifinal since Italia ‘90 four years ago. He would go one better last summer when he led them to the European Championship final, their first major final since they won the World Cup back in 1966.
And this tournament got off to the perfect start for his young lions. They thumped Iran 6-2 in their opening game and truly looked like one of the favorites to lift the trophy. In the second game against the USA however, it was back to boring old England, laboring to a goalless draw.
We’re not saying that England, aren’t up to the required quality to win the World Cup, we feel that they’re probably one of the top two-or-three nations at the tournament this winter. But the problem for Gareth Southgate is that they are on a collision course with France.
Les Bleus are the reigning champions and have been in blistering form thus far, and the pair are set to meet in the quarterfinals. Didier Deschamps’ side will have too much, and England will be left heartbroken once again.
France to retain the trophy
And that brings us nicely to our final prediction. France will win the World Cup once again.
Many had tipped the French to struggle this year. They were in a group with Denmark – who had just beaten them home and away in the recent Nations League campaign – and also had the small matter of the so-called ‘Champions Curse’ to conquer. But thus far, they have passed every test with flying colors.
Victories over the Danes and Australia in their opening two game saw them qualifying from a tricky-looking group with a game to spare. In doing so, they became just the second set of reigning champions to qualify for the second round in 20 years.
And if that wasn’t menacing enough, the brilliant Kylian Mbappe is in the form of his life. The Paris Saint-Germain superstar is currently the top scorer in the tournament and his two goals against Denmark clearly showed that he is up to the task of being Les Bleus star man. We expect him to lead the French to glory once again just as he did as a 19-year-old prodigy in Russia four years ago,
Whereas back in 2018, the striking sensation was a very raw talent. Four years on, he has matured into his country’s main man, and it’s added pressure that he looks to be thriving under.
If our prediction is correct and Didier Deschamps’ side goes on to lift the trophy at the Lusail Stadium on December 28th, the French will be the first nation since Pele’s Brazil in 1958 & 1962 to successfully retain the trophy and win back-to-back World Cups. History beckons.