The Foul Throw World Cup predictions
Right, it’s happening. We’ve studied the squads, memorised the groups and cast our eyes across each nation’s recent form. Now all we have left to do is nail our colours to the mast. We – being Will Jones and Will Almond – stand either side of a grounded gauntlet.
Here they are, our Wold Cup 2018 predictions. Or half of them at least.
Who will win the 2018 World Cup?
Jones: Brazil. This is not the Brazil side of 2014. Neymar is now the cherry on top rather than the sole support rod preventing the entire cake crumbling into a sticky mess. Fred is no longer their number 9, instead Gabriel Jesus and Roberto Firmino will battle for the right to lead the line. 2014’s spine of César, Luiz, Ramires, Gustavo, Oscar et al. have all been replaced and improved upon. In fact, of the 23 men who wore the famous yellow and blue four years ago, only 6 survive to make the trip to Russia.
Finally, in Tite, the seleção have a coach capable of harnessing the considerable attacking talents at his disposal without sacrificing defensive discipline. This new Brazil feel a lot like the old Brazil – the one that used to win World Cups all the time. They’ll just be hoping to avoid the Germans in the last 16.
Almond: Brazil. I’ve been adamant about Germany for months - even as recently as the weekend. But the sign of a good man, albeit a poor football writer, is to change your mind when you think you’re wrong. So... Brazil. The more I think about it, it’s gonna be Brazil. I still have my doubts about certain individuals in this team and the shadow of 7-1 does hang over them, but they’re a better side now and will be under less (understatements aside) pressure in Russia.
I’ve picked the gauntlet back up, polished it and handed it back on a small red cushion here. Pathetic. But I hope at least ultimately correct.
Jones: ^ Coward.
Who will be the top scorer?
Jones: Neymar. I only hesitate here as a question mark hangs over the Brazilian’s fitness. However, recent friendlies, and his performances in them, are enough to convince me that Neymar is ready to go firing on all cylinders.
As for his competition for the golden boot, I don’t foresee Argentina or Portugal progressing deep enough into the competition for Messrs Messi and Ronaldo to threaten. As for those likely to be in the shake-up at the business end, Germany, Spain and France are more likely to share the goals around. Perhaps Griezmann can run him close, but Neymar – who is certain to be on penalty duties too – gets my vote.
Almond: Kane. We’ve come a long way from Just Fontaine banging in 13 in ’58, and even Ronaldo’s 8 goals in 2002 are an outlier. Recent history suggests it’ll take you about six goals to win a golden boot. So even though I think he’ll probably only play four or five games, I’m picking Harry Kane. I just think we’re going to get a lot of chances against Panama and Kane could easily get two or even three. I also just fancy him to grab one against Belgium. And then we’re into the last sixteen… Yes I’ve fallen for the England hype in the process of writing my answers to this. Yes I’m only going to be disappointed. No I don’t care. Bring on the big screen tears. I’ll be crying right along with you boys.
Who will be the surprise package?
Jones: Nigeria. This was a tough call between Peru, Nigeria and Serbia, all of whom I think have the capacity to do very well and escape their groups. I’ve gone with Nigeria to be the true unexpected stars of the tournament though. For me, group D, in which the Super Eagles are thrown in with Argentina, Iceland and Croatia, is the most exciting group of the competition too.
Nigeria look like a proper team, with an exciting array of attacking talent including the likes of Alex Iwobi, Victor Moses and Kelechi Iheanacho being backed up by a solid midfield and defence. They can go far here. They might even manage to upset the French in the first knockout round should they meet.
Almond: Senegal. Koulibaly, Keïta, Mané and Konaté provide a strong spine to this side. They’ll work hard, be physical and play with skill and finesse. They’ve got a tough group, but I think they’ll prove themselves first by getting out of it. Honestly, as an England fan, I think I’d rather play Colombia in the second round than Senegal.
Who will let themselves down?
Jones: Argentina. Almost a coin toss for me, between them and France, but of the two it’s the Argentinians who I think are most likely to exit at the group stage. Much is made of the South Americans’ embarrassment of riches when it comes to their attacking talents, but football is a game of defence as much as attack.
Messi is a wonderful footballer, the best I’ve ever seen, but he needs more around, and specifically behind, him. He deserves that – unfortunately, I think he’ll be let down in Russia.
Almond: Yeah, I mean it’s Argentina isn’t it. As I’ve cautioned before, don’t believe in Argentina. Like, ever. Croatia have got problems of their own, but there’s a serious chance that Argentina might not make it out of this group. France 2002, anyone?
There is no evidence that Argentina will actually be any good. In their last seven games they’ve drawn with Venezuela, Peru and Uruguay and been beaten by Bolivia and Spain. “Spain?!” I hear you cry, there’s no shame in that. It was 6-1. There is shame.
That’s part one of our predictions, and we’ve covered conventional ground here. If you’re wondering who’ll have the best celebration; who we think is most likely to outperform their xG at this year’s tournament; or our bet for who’s going to crumble under penalty pressure, then make sure to read part two.