Russia 2018 World Cup Group Stage – Predictions, Picks, Analysis

Which teams will advance from the group stage at the 2018 World Cup in Russia? This page provides analysis, picks and group predictions for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The tournament is scheduled for June 14 through July 15 in Russia.

Group A – Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uruguay
The host country is in one of the easiest groups at this year’s World Cup. Saudi Arabia and Egypt are minnows in world’s soccer, combined for one single appearance in the knockout stage. Uruguay is a two-time world champion, but has been in decline since reaching the semifinals in South Africa eight years ago. Russia is not exactly in peak form, having only one win in its last ten international matches. However, they will have strong support from the home crowds and their competition is not too formidable. It won’t be easy but the hosts should be able to advance.

Experience: Uruguay (4), Russia (3), Saudi Arabia (2), Egypt (2)
Talent: Uruguay (4), Egypt (3), Russia (2), Saudi Arabia (1)
Intangibles: Russia (4), Uruguay (3), Egypt (2), Saudi Arabia (1)
Total: Uruguay (11), Russia (9), Egypt (7), Saudi Arabia (4)

Prediction: Uruguay tops Group A; Russia grabs second spot.

Group B – Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Iran
Reigning European champion Portugal and former World Cup winner Spain are the overwhelming favorites to advance out of Group B. Morocco last appeared in the World Cup twenty years ago. Although the Atlas Lions are a talented squad, history matters in this tournament; it’s hard to see them overcoming the likes of Spain and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal. Iran is the weakest link in this group and is unlikely to provide much of a challenge. All eyes will be on the match between Portugal and Spain, which will likely determine the group’s winner. Moreover, there is a historical rivalry between the two sides which should increase the intensity by three-folds.

Experience: Spain (4), Portugal (3), Iran (2), Morocco (1)
Talent: Spain (4), Portugal (3), Morocco (2), Iran (1)
Intangibles: Portugal (4), Spain (3), Morocco (2), Iran (1)
Total: Spain (11), Portugal (10), Morocco (5), Iran (3)

Prediction: Spain wins Group B; Portugal finishes a close second.

Group C – France, Australia, Peru, Denmark
Highly talented France is the obviously favorite to win this group. This leaves the other three teams vying for the second spot. Despite a tough qualifying campaign, Australia’s stocks have been rising in recent years. They won the Asian Cup three years ago and are led by experienced players like Tim Cahill and Mile Jedinak. Peru has seen steady improvement over the past four years. The White and Red finished third at the 2015 Copa America and eighth in 2016. In qualification, they earned wins over Uruguay and Paraguay. Denmark is a consistent performer in European soccer, though their World Cup record leaves much to be desired.

Experience: France (4), Denmark (3), Australia (2), Peru (1)
Talent: France (4), Denmark (3), Peru (2), Australia (1)
Intangibles: France (4), Denmark (3), Australia (2), Peru (1)
Total: France (12), Denmark (9), Australia (5), Peru (4)

Prediction: France dominates Group C; Denmark also advances.

Group D – Argentina, Iceland, Croatia, Nigeria
On paper, Argentina should be able to advance as the group’s winner. However, there are a lot of upsides with the other three teams which should make Lionel Messi and company a little nervous. Croatia is a top-tier European team with lots of club talents – among which is Muka Modric of Champions League winner Real Madrid. Although their World Cup record is spotty, no team wants to face them in a meaningful match. Nigeria enjoys probably the most consistent World Cup record among the African teams, with three appearances in the Round of 16 including four years ago in Brazil. Iceland will make its World Cup debut in Russia. However, we should not underestimate them considering what they did on their Euro debut.

Experience: Argentina (4), Croatia (3), Nigeria (3), Iceland (2)
Talent: Argentina (4), Croatia (4), Nigeria (3), Iceland (2)
Intangibles: Argentina (4), Nigeria (3), Croatia (2), Iceland (2)
Total: Argentina (12), Croatia (9), Nigeria (9), Iceland (6)

Prediction: Argentina wins Group D; Nigeria edges Croatia for second.

Group E – Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia
Brazil and Switzerland are the top favorites to advance from this group. Five-time world champion Brazil has been enjoying a surge in confidence. In the three warmup matches leading to the World Cup, the Selecao avenged their crushing defeat to Germany four years ago and dominated fellow World Cup participants Russia and Croatia. The talent is always there with Neymar headlining a team of stars, but their confidence is seemingly back and that’s always important for Brazil. Switzerland is the most overachieved team in world soccer. The Swiss always compete well at major tournaments, though they have been the beneficiary of several good draws.  On paper, they appear to be getting lucky once again with Brazil being the only legitimate threat. However, they should be wary of Serbia who topped a solid group in qualification that included Gareth Bale’s Wales, Ireland and Austria.  Costa Rica is the weakest link in this group and is unlikely to secure one of the top two spots.

Experience:  Brazil (4), Switzerland (3), Serbia (2), Costa Rica (1)
Talent: Brazil (4), Switzerland (3), Serbia (2), Costa Rica (1)
Intangibles: Brazil (4), Switzerland (3), Serbia (2), Costa Rica (1)
Total: Brazil (12), Switzerland (9), Serbia (6), Costa Rica (3)

Prediction: Brazil easily wins the group; Switzerland finishes second.

Group F: Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea
One thing Germany has done so well is to win its group at major international tournaments. One could not recall the last time the Germans failed to achieve this feat. This can be attributed to superior preparation and scouting. Despite this being the Group of Death, we still expect Germany to top this group. This leaves the other three teams competing for the second spot. This is where it gets interesting with each match essentially being a death match. Not only wins and losses matter, the margin of victory also matters.  The end outcome may very well be decided by goal difference. South Korea is assumed to be the underdog against Mexico and Sweden, but the Koreans have twice advanced out of the group stage reaching as far as the semifinals in 2002. Mexico has reached the knockout stage in seven consecutive World Cups, excluding 1990 which the team was banned from participating. In last year’s Confederations Cup held in Russia, El Tri reached the last four. The Mexicans obviously have the talent and pedigree to compete against the very best teams. Sweden is a top team in Europe with a strong World Cup record including a runner-up in 1958 and three other semifinal appearances. The most important match in the group will be between Mexico and Sweden, where the second spot will be determined.

Experience: Germany (4), Sweden (3), Mexico (3), South Korea (2)
Talent: Germany (4), Mexico (3), Sweden (3), South Korea (2)
Intangibles: Germany (4), Mexico (3), Sweden (2), South Korea (1)
Total: Germany (12), Mexico (9), Sweden (8), South Korean (5)

Prediction: Germany wins Group F; Mexico edges Sweden for second place.

Group G – Belgium, Panama, Tunisia, England
This group features two European powerhouses in Belgium and England. The two teams are the overwhelming favorites to advance. Though a talented soccer country, Tunisia has never reached the knockout stage in four attempts. If it were a lesser pair of European teams, they might have a chance. But former World Cup winner England and rising star Belgium may be too much for Les Aigles de Carthage to handle. Panama will be making its World Cup debut. Unfortunately, this tournament has not been kind to debutants. The match between Belgium and England will ultimately determine the winner of the group.

Experience: England (4), Belgium (3), Panama (2), Tunisia (2)
Talent: Belgium (4), England (3), Tunisia (2), Panama (1)
Intangibles: Belgium (4), England (4), Tunisia (3), Panama (2)
Total: Belgium (11), England (11), Tunisia (7), Panama (5)

Prediction: Belgium draws with England to win Group G

Group H – Poland, Senegal, Colombia, Japan
This is the most balanced of the groups with no clear favorite. Poland is the highest seed, but Colombia could stake claim as the favorite with its talented roster, anchored by James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao. Senegal is an underrated team who made the quarterfinals in its lone World Cup appearance in 2002. Many of its players are plying their trade in top European clubs, so the quality is there. Even Japan, whose coach was recently sacked, could be a threat. Despite struggling mightily in recent friendlies, the Samurai Blue still has quality players in Keisuke Honda, Shinji Kagawa and Shinji Okazaki – who will look to put up strong performances in possibly their last hurrah as members of the Japanese NT.

Experience: Poland (4), Colombia (3), Japan (2), Senegal (1)
Talent: Colombia (4), Poland (3), Senegal (2), Japan (2)
Intangibles: Colombia (4), Poland (3), Senegal (2), Japan (1)
Total: Colombia (11), Poland (10), Senegal (5), Japan (5)

Prediction: Colombia wins Group H; Poland finishes second.

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