With the World Cup only one week away, I thought it would be a good time to bring up some storylines that the casual soccer fan might enjoy keeping track of since our own national team will not be attending. Obviously, there are more than what I will post here, so feel free to add on in the comments if you think of other ones!
Egypt - Qualified for the first time since 1990. They are severe underdogs, but have whom many consider one of the most exciting players in the world at the moment, Mo Salah. After suffering an injury in the Champions League final, his prognosis for the WC is still up in the air.
Iceland - Iceland has a population of approximate 350,000 people. In the Euro Cup in 2016, they advanced all the way to the quarterfinals, beating England to do so. Ultimately they lost to France, the runner-up in that tournament. The world is watching to see if they can have sustained success on the world's biggest international stages.
Belgium - The consistent underachiever (only to be matched by England). This squad has arguably some of the best talent in the world on its roster. With the likes of De Bruyne, Hazard, Lukaku, and Courtois, there is no reason for them not to be in the final four of this tournament. They are a strong dark horse for many people to win it all, but they have to prove they have moved beyond their youth to change the perspective around their team.
Argentina/Portugal - Messi vs. Ronaldo. This is a debate that nobody wants to get into, similar to the MJ vs Lebron mud puddle that we find ourselves mired in so often. Both players are considered two of the best to ever play. Both have struggled to lift their slightly above average international teams to win the World Cup. Messi was close four years ago, and Ronaldo helped Portugal to win the Euro Cup in 2016. Will either be able to achieve the ultimate victory on the international stage?
Brazil, Germany, Spain, France - The perennial powerhouses. Odds are that one of these teams will hoist the trophy come mid July. If you just enjoy watching beautiful soccer, these are the teams to follow. While Spain struggled mightily four years ago, they are back (or close to) their former strength. Brazil is hoping to redeem themselves from their fourth place finish while hosting the last WC. Germany could send their third string team and still compete. France is loaded with talent and can go toe to toe with just about anyone on any given day.
Question - Will you still be following the World Cup despite the fact that the USA will not be present?