Welcome to the Sportgo Guide to the 2018 World Cup!
The eyes of the soccer (er…football) world will turn to Russia beginning June 14th as the World Cup kicks off. If you are not a big-time soccer fan, this guide will give you the information you need to avoid potential embarrassment while watching with friends or out at the pub.
Before we break down each team in the 2018 World Cup, here’s a quick rundown of the competition itself.
Number of Teams: 32
Number of Groups: 8 groups of 4 teams. Each team plays a round robin with the top 2 teams from each group advancing.
Country Hosting: Russia
Duration: June 14th – July 15th
Defending Champions: Germany
Group C: No team has more firepower than the French in Group C and they will enter as favourites to advance. The second spot, however, will be tightly contested between the rapidly rising Peruvians and Danes while the Aussie’s have been spoilers in the past and should not be overlooked.
What you need to know: No side have been as difficult to predict in the past few World Cups as Les Bleus have been. They can be dominant and brilliant, plowing through their opponents at one moment (see 1998 or 2006) or can implode catastrophically (2002 and 2010). This year’s squad has all the opportunity to end as champions on paper – how they perform in Russia is another question.
Current FIFA World Ranking: 7
Best World Cup Finish: Champions (1998)
Player to Watch: Kylian Mbappe (Forward) – The blazingly fast forward burst onto the scene as a teenager, signing a record €180m transfer to PSG and has yet to slow down. On a French team already teeming with goal-scoring talent, Mbappe pushed his way to lead a dynamic attacking group alongside Antoine Greizmann and Oliver Giroud.
Random Story: If anyone can be trusted to keep the historically unpredictable French side on the straight and narrow it’s their manager, Didier Deschamps. He captained the 1998 French side to their lone World Cup title and lead them to the 2016 Euro Finals.
Odds of Winning: 6/1
What you need to know: The Australians very nearly missed their 5th World Cup thanks to a shaky qualifying run that required a victory versus Honduras to punch their ticket to Russia. Lead by 38 year-old national hero, Tim Cahill, the Socceroos will need their next generation of players to take the reins if they are to advance from their Group Stage.
Current FIFA World Ranking: 40
Best World Cup Finish: Round of 16 (2006)
Player to Watch: Tim Cahill (Forward) – Cahill has been the star of the Australian side for over a decade as their all-time leading goal-scorer. At 38, he’s no longer the most talented Australian in the lineup but will nonetheless be a player to watch. Cahill has scored in all 3 previous World Cups he’s played in and his tendency to rise to the occasion shouldn’t be underestimated.
Random Story: Manager Bert Van Marwijk lead a team to the 2018 World Cup from qualifying, but it wasn’t the Australian side – he was managing the Saudi Arabians before walking away in the midst of a contract dispute. Van Marwijk has no long-term plans with Australia either, as he will be leaving his post following the tournament.
Odds of Winning: 400/1
What you need to know: Just getting out of the CONMEBOL qualifying at reaching the World Cup could be seen as a victory for the Peruvians who haven’t been in the tournament since 1982, but their run of success in qualifying has them eyeing higher goals. The Peruvians have not lost an international match since November of 2016, a run which includes impressive victories over Uruguay, Paraguay, Ecuador, Croatia and Iceland.
Current FIFA World Ranking: 11
Best World Cup Finish: Quarterfinals (1970)
Player to Watch: Paolo Guerrero (Forward) – The leading scorer in Peruvian history will pair with another veteran forward, Jefferson Farfan, to lead Peru’s attack. Guerrero should be fresh (and potentially rusty) after testing positive doping result. More on that below.
Random Story: Guerrero, the Peruvian captain, was found to have traces of a cocaine metabolite in his system and was subsequently handed a 14-month ban from FIFA. Guerrero appealed, claiming it was a tainted cup of tea he drank and the ban was lifted just 2 weeks from the beginning of the tournament.
Odds of Winning: 200/1
What you need to know: The Danes and their supporters have every right to be optimistic with their draw into Group C. While facing the French is a difficult task for any nation, the Danes will be expected to pass the Australians so it will likely come down to their match-up versus the Peruvians to advance.
Current FIFA World Ranking: 12
Best World Cup Finish: Quarterfinals (1998)
Player to Watch: Christian Eriksen (Midfield) – On a Danish side that is short on high-quality finishers, Eriksen is the clear leader offensively. In his 9 international matches in 2017, Ericksen scored 9 times, assisting on 4 while remaining undefeated – this was culminated in a hat-trick versus Ireland to secure the Danes spot in Russia.
Random Story: While soccer fans are known for their hooliganism and unruly behaviour, Denmark’s fanbase known as ‘Roligans‘ are famous for their fun-loving and peaceful attitude towards supporting their team – basically the anti-hooligans. Check them out above following their victory over Ireland.
Odds of Winning: 80/1