OT - 2018 World Cup Storylines

Submitted by Ma1zeandB1ue on June 7th, 2018 at 1:43 PM

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? 



June 7th, 2018 at 1:56 PM ^

I am a soccer fanatic so I will follow for sure. I think Germany, with Hummel's and Boatang as CBs, stand a great chance at victory. Defense wins championships as they say. Also, a team that can afford to keep Leroy Sane @ home is pretty stacked. 

I'll be cheering for England but luck historically frowns on the Three Lions. Can't wait for the time tournament to start.


June 7th, 2018 at 2:55 PM ^

I thought Sane would make the cut too, but while he has been really great for City he has been hot/cold for the NT. It kinda makes sense that Low would go with experienced players in Reus and Draxler to play on the right side in an elimination tournament. 

Chuck Norris

June 7th, 2018 at 2:11 PM ^

Yes, once the NHL/NBA playoffs end (possibly by the end of this week) I'm all in for the WC. It alleviates the doldrums of midseason baseball.

Ethnically I'm French Canadian, so Vive la France I guess? 


June 7th, 2018 at 2:14 PM ^

Great thread. Soccer is my favorite sport, has been all my life since I could barely stand. I'm always willing to discuss no matter which teams are competing. 

I'm so pumped for next week, but it really is depressing that the US did not qualify considering how weak CONCACAF is. 

I'll be looking for Brazil's new, young talent to take a big step this year, especially after getting embarrassed like never before vs. Germany in 2014. I will also say what I said back in 2014, if Belgium ever wants to make it back to the semifinals (hasn't since 1986), this is their chance. Love their squad. They need to figure out a way to put it all together. I expect them to finish 1st in their group over England. 



June 7th, 2018 at 2:28 PM ^

My USMNT fandom is basically equal to my Michigan fandom so I have been down about this cup. Literally about a 1/3 of my mgopoints date back from the summer of 2010 because I had constructive points to add to the board and was in Ann Arbor taking one spring class so I had time to watch ever game lol. 


That being said, I love every part of the French team, (so much talent, so fun to play with on fifa) so I am going to ride that wagon. 


June 7th, 2018 at 11:31 PM ^

FRANCE: Against Australia, Denmark and Peru in Group C, they’d be expected to advance fairly easily.  They're younger than I thought they'd be.  Eighteen of their 23 are under the age of 30 and fifteen of them are 25 and under.  Fourteen of the 23 have fewer than 20 caps.

Questions: Can Manchester United’s Paul Pogba stay out of trouble?  Will Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann be a marked man after saying that he’s among the three best players in the world following Atletico’s Europa League championship victory?  Will we get to see Paris Saint-Germain’s Kylian Mbappé (age 19) and Barcelona’s Ousmane Dembélé (age 21) paired up top?  Will they miss any one from among Real Madrid’s Karim Benzema, Arsenal’s Alexandre Lacazette and Manchester United’s Anthony Martial who were kept off the roster?


June 7th, 2018 at 2:31 PM ^

France all the way. But most likely Germany will win it all they are completely stacked. Maybe USA can borrow their C Team for WC Qualifiers in 2022


June 7th, 2018 at 2:32 PM ^

Will definitely be following.  Interested to see how Messi and Ronaldo will do and will be pulling for Belgium.  Iceland's inaugural campaign will be something I follow as well and I'm looking forward to getting my son more into the beautiful game.


June 7th, 2018 at 2:56 PM ^

Mexico: Organized an orgy with 30 prostitutes as celebration before traveling to Europe and the press found out. A player's wife flew all the way to Denmark to ask him about photos published.


June 7th, 2018 at 3:13 PM ^

I will still watch the WC. IMO, it is one of the best sporting events and I wouldn't miss it just because the US didn't qualify.

Going in it is looking to be a very interesting WC. It might be the last time we see some of these great players in the WC. 

The guardian always puts together a nice overview of every team, down to the individual player.



June 7th, 2018 at 3:54 PM ^

I'll miss having the US to root for, of course, but the WC is just plain a great event regardless, and the USA is only a part of that even when they field decent teams in the finals. 

I guess I haven't been following this as closely as I normally would, but it's been a busy sports year for Michigan. 

I generally dislike Argentina, but I confess I would love to have Messi win a title. The Messi-Ronaldo rivalry is a dream for any sports fan. 

It'd be nice if someone other than Brazil or Germany, and perhaps Spain, won it this year. As random as single-game elimination and penalties is, the World Cup never produces random cinderella winners.


June 7th, 2018 at 11:12 PM ^

ARGENTINA:  This could be a World Cup swan song for Argentina’s 30-year olds, Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Leonel "Kun" Agüero, Angel DiMaria and Nicolás Otamendi.  They’re missing goalkeeper Sergio Romero due to his injury. In Group D with Croatia, Iceland and Nigeria, they’ll still be expected to advance, but I have to wonder if they peaked as a national team in 2016 after the Copa America loss on PK’s to Chile.


June 7th, 2018 at 4:55 PM ^

I wouldn't necessarily say Belgium is a "consistent underachiever."  This is a country of 11 million people we're talking about here.  It punches above its weight if anything.   


June 7th, 2018 at 10:10 PM ^

That's fair.  Making the quarters in two straight tournaments ('14 WC, '16 Euro) on paper is respectable enough.  They had potential to go further though (especially in the Euro, when they lost to Wales) - but you could say this about a few countries.  I wouldn't mention them in the same breath as England when it comes to flopping on the big stage.


June 7th, 2018 at 6:53 PM ^

That is kind of a false narrative. Belgium didn't even qualify for the 2010 WC. 

I can't really remember the 2014 WC other than the world class effort and performance that Tim Howard put on against Belgium. 2016 Euro was a huge let down. I think at the time they might have been top 5 in the world and lost to Wales. 

This WC is probably the end of their "Golden Generation." Players like Eden Hazard, Lukaku, Carrasco, De Bruyne and Batshuayi are right in their primes. Other players like Dembele, Fellaini, Mertens, Vertongen, Kompany, Vermaelen are past or right at the end of their prime. 

Biggest thing holding them back might be their own manager, Roberto Martinez. De Bruyne criticized the manager openly for being too defensive. His role when he plays for City under Pep allows him to be more of an aggressive playmaker. Depending on who he plays next to in the MF, he might have more defensive responsibilities than he has become accustomed to.

I'm thinking leaving Naingolan off the roster, is something that is going to bite him in the end. Naingolan would have been the perfect pair for De Bryune in the MF. His ball winning and versatility can free De Bruyne to play a more forward role.


June 7th, 2018 at 5:45 PM ^

Tough to call Argentina slightly above average.  They've been a top 5 team in the world for 20 years (and most of modern soccer history) and like you said, are the defending runners-up after losing by the thinnest of margins which wasn't fluky at all.

They're 5th most likely to win it this year by oddsmakers, not far outside of your top 4 list.  They really probably should be included there as a "perennial powerhouse."

Appreciate the post though.  I'm definitely looking forward to the event but crushed the USMNT isn't playing.  Watching USMNT WC matches is about my favorite thing in all of sports so without them in it, I'm more of an interested observer.


June 7th, 2018 at 7:40 PM ^

Not following as closely as if the US were in it - so depressing, that - but still following, of course. 

As far as storylines, I found the Israeli-Argentina friendly cancellation an interesting one.

Would love to see new blood, i.e. none of Germany/Brazil/Italy/maybe Spain/maybe Argentina in the finals. I guess we don't have to worry about Italy, so 1 down there.

I'm Batman

June 7th, 2018 at 11:04 PM ^

Well i was born in England and moved to America when i was five, so you can all probably guess where my loyalties lie.

England winning the World Cup and a Lions Superbowl are the only two championships ive yet to see the teams i love win. England winning the World Cup though would be my greatest moment as a sports fan if it ever happens.


June 7th, 2018 at 11:18 PM ^

Disappointed that the USMNT won’t be in the tournament, but as a fan of the sport since I first played it in high school in the 60's, for me the World Cup remains one of the premier international sporting events.

I was in the stands when Bulgaria upset Germany on July 11,1994 in the New Jersey Meadowlands. http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/matches/round=796/match=3096/classic-match/index.html  I hope to be alive the next time when World Cup matches are played in the United States.  I’ll definitely follow this year’s tournament.

Other than rooting for players from the EPL team I root for, I’ve got no rooting interest this time around.  Because of the seven-hour time difference between the eastern United States and Moscow, any matches televised live in the United States will be on much earlier than prime time. There’s going to be some distractions at offices, just not as much as there would’ve been if the USA had been in it.


June 8th, 2018 at 12:50 AM ^

Going to be in Portugal and Spain during the entirety of the tournament, and am hoping that both teams advance through the early stages to keep the excitement at fever pitch in bars and on the streets. Look forward to sharing it all with my daughter, a soccer-mad follower of the US women's team and NWSL who has recently warmed to the men's game.


June 8th, 2018 at 12:15 PM ^

Great post! I'll be watching LOTS of futbol, I work from home, so I'll have all the matches I can on. My love for international soccer began during the 2006 World Cup, and ever since I'm glued every 2 years (WC, EC). I am a big Germany fan, because of heritage, and I am really excited after the last World Cup and the Confederations Cup last year. The thing I love most about the WC is the environment in the stadiums, the crazy fans and their songs (fuck vuvuzelas). 


Die mannschaft!!


June 8th, 2018 at 9:13 PM ^

Glad to see theres some other people on mgoblog pulling for England . Thought id be the only one.  I also am rooting for Portugal ... like their team even outside just Ronaldo.


my pick to win it all though is France . Argentina has got a tougher group than people think... may struggle to get out of group stage 

I Bleed Maize N Blue

June 9th, 2018 at 10:57 PM ^

Saturday afternoon the USMNT got an improbable end of 1st half goal from Julian Green, against the run of play, to go up 1-0 on the home French team.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet" data-lang="en"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">IT. ONLY. TAKES. ONE.<a href="https://twitter.com/J_Green37?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@J_Green37</a> beats Hugo Lloris near post to give 🇺🇸 the lead on French soil. <a href="https://t.co/gJ59iqOcBO">pic.twitter.com/gJ59iqOcBO</a></p>&mdash; U.S. Soccer MNT (@ussoccer_mnt) <a href="https://twitter.com/ussoccer_mnt/status/1005542601297219585?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">June 9, 2018</a></blockquote>
<script async src="https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>

France's Mbappé eventually tied it up, but it's the first goal and result for us against them. US G Zach Steffen made some key saves, two right at the end of the game to keep the tie.

As far as the World Cup goes, France F Olivier Giroud had a nasty head-to-head clash with US D Matt Miazga on a corner. Both players were subbed out. Concussion could be an issue.