Kaleb Olson: I think France will win this one, although it is a toss up with Germany. This French team is so deep and talented that I can’t even see Didier Deschamps messing this one up. Some may be backing off Les Blues after their lackluster draw against the USMNT, but I think they worked the kinks out and saw what they needed to work on.
Ben MacKenzie: At the risk of sounding like every inexperienced noob in the world, I’ve got to go with Brazil. Tite’s defensive schemes have turned a fading giant back into the cream of the South American crop, and, as strong as the European sides are, Brazil can match them talent to talent.
Teresa Petersen: I’m leaning towards France for this one. (I am not a betting person, and these predictions are likely to show you why.)
Bill Stenross: France
Eric Ely: France. Kaleb hit it spot on mentioning the depth of this team. Quality abounds and, as much as I want to follow my heart and say Brazil, my mind says France.
Jake Brown: Germany
David Baker: Germany
Dave Laidig: Germany
Kyle Nelson: Spain
Kayla Roste: Spain
Joe Leyba: Argentina
KO: I think this Senegal team is one that could surprise some people. It has a solid midfield with some Premier League starters filling those spots. Les Lions de la Taranga have one of the best center backs in Kalidou Koulibaly of Napoli, however their fullbacks are untested and have much to prove. The biggest question facing this Senegal side is if Sadio Mane can keep his fitness after a chock full club season with Liverpool. If he can, expect him to join Moussa Sow and Balde Keita in peppering opposing goalkeepers.
BM: Though Group B predictions are heavily weighted to the northern part of Iberia, I think Morrocco has a better than even chance of causing havoc by upending Portugal, Spain, or both. The Lions of the Atlas dominated a strong qualifying group with Cote d’Ivoire striking talent and a Malian side that’s been a rising threat in African competitions. Since qualifying, they’ve kept up the intensity by beating fellow qualifiers South Korea and Serbia. The strong side adds blossoming young talents like Real Madrid’s Achraf Hakimi and Schalke’s Amine Harit.
TP: Wild guess? Colombia. No really good reason to pick them.
EE: Croatia. Argentina is my runner-up pick to underperform, Iceland is well organized, but I’m not sure where the goals will come from, and I simply don’t know what to expect from Nigeria. All that said, Croatia do well to win the group and ride that momentum to a deep run in the knockout stages. Runner-up pick: Uruguay.
KO: Roberto Martinez is a moron. This is possibly the most talented Belgian side in recent memory, but there is a mohawk-sized hole in the midfield. Martinez decided not to call up Radja Nainggolan, who is the best central midfielder in the Belgian player pool. The reason given for the snub was a “tactical decision” which is a load of crap. Nainggolan is the difference between a semifinal and a round of 16 exit. A close second has to be Spain, who made the confounding decision to sack its coach a day before the start of the tournament.
BM: I did a little digging, and in each World Cup since the expansion to 32 teams, one of the top 5 teams in the world has flamed out in the Group Stage. With apologies to millions of fans, Argentina fits the profile of a lot of those prestigious teams whose victory champagne never makes it out of their luggage. Shaky qualification run? Check. Aging defenders? Check. Team strategy that hinges on the presence of a single player? Chiggity-check-mate! They even face the kind of brutally defensive side (Iceland) that has started the unravelling of predecessors. Messi may be the GOAT, but he’ll be the scapegoat at the end of June.
TP: England. But maybe everyone expects them to underperform, so they will really be performing up to their expected level.
EE: Germany. I don’t trust Timo Werner on this stage and have my doubts about Mario Gomez as well, despite a good run of form since moving from VfL Wolfsburg to VfB Stuttgart. Great midfield options and Neuer in goal withstanding, I have my doubts.
KO: Nigeria. It’s Nigeria
BM: I mean, Nigeria, but to avoid repeating Kaleb, I’ll offer up Belgium’s argyle as a solid runner-up.
TP: Nigeria, Iceland, and Colombia.
EE: Brazil. It’s an iconic look.
KO: Mario Gomez has been banging in the goals ever since his January move to VFB Stuttgart. He has a nose for goal and kind of reminds me of Christian Ramirez with his play style. Gomez isn’t the fastest, but his positioning and finishing ability means he’s always a threat to score with the ball at his feet. He won’t start the tournament right away with Timo Werner expected to fill the 9 spot for Germany, but if the youngster hits a road block, expect Gomez to be a super sub and pour in the goals.
BM: With the caveat that I never do well at predicting this stuff, I’d pick Gabriel Jesus, both because I think Brazil will score boatloads of goals, and because I think that Neymar will do more distribution than domination.
TP: I like Olivier Giroud, just because he’s been a favorite of mine for almost as long as Mario Gomez.
EE: Luis Suarez
JB: Luis Suarez
DB: Mo Salah
JL: Gabriel Jesus
KO: Let’s go back to Belgium for a moment. There is a 21 year old midfielder that could fill Nainggolan’s spot for The Red Devils. Youri Tielemans is poised to make an impact on the world stage. The youngster moved to AS Monaco last summer from RSC Anderlecht and could be the latest name to leave Monaco for a high transfer fee.
BM: While it’s not startling to pick a Frenchman, I’ll go with a midfielder rather than the young strike force of Mbappe/Dembele. I’ll pick Corentin Tolisso, who was third in goals for a little club called Bayern Munich this year, and is poised to sub-in for, if not supplant Blaise Matuidi for Les Blues in this tournament. As a vital link between the mercurial Paul Pogba and the workhorse N’Golo Kante, Tolisso’s performance can help determine France’s final position.
TP: There are 736 players listed on FIFA’s World Cup Player Browser, so my odds aren’t good for this, but I’m going to say Nigeria’s (and Chelsea’s) Victor Moses.
EE: Rodrigo Bentancur. Although not a starter at Juventus, he’s only 20. Too young? Maybe, but this could be a breakout moment for a young player on a good team set up for a successful tournament.
JB: Ousmane Dembele
DB: Trent Alexander-Arnold
DL: Calvo (of course)
KN: Emil Forsberg
JL: Christian Cueva
KO: I’m mostly Swedish, so I guess Sweden? I’ll mostly be pulling for players from the club teams that I support to do well like Francisco Calvo and the Liverpool lads scattered across the competition.
BM: I’ve always been partial to the French, and I always need to send positivity towards my students’ preferred teams, lest I get trash-talked for the next four years. So that means I need to put some positivity/sympathy with Russia, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Nigeria, and Mexico. While my family’s nations of origin didn’t qualify, my wife and now son claim Serbian and German heritage, so I’ll give them a cheer or two. I’ll pull for Calvo and Costa Rica and, because my mom insists on adopting underdogs, Iceland. So basically…30% of the field, I can do that right?
TP: No U.S., no Norway, no Italy; those are my top three. I can cheer for anyone else, and that makes the Cup fun to watch because I can enjoy each match without being stressed out about the next round. That said, I’ll cheer for Costa Rica, Switzerland, and Colombia. I’ll also cheer for individual players to do well: Giroud and Mario Gomez and maybe a few others.
EE: Brazil. Quite simply, they have to do well. My Brazilian friends are still smarting from the humiliation of 2014.
JB: Costa Rica
Do you agree with our predictions? Disagree? Let us know why in the comments below,
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