The 2018 FIFA World Cup features plenty of strong teams with a chance to take home the golden trophy from Russia, but if the first week of games have revealed anything, it’s that there’s no clear favourite.
Germany lost their opener 1-0 to Mexico, and Brazil drew with Switzerland 1-1 after a frustrating performance from Neymar. Only so much can be drawn from the first batch of games, but countries like Russia and Belgium have put themselves in prime position to advance with high goal differentials.
With that, Football FanCast was lucky enough to be joined by former England and Liverpool left winger John Barnes to discuss his thoughts on the summer of football on behalf of Just Eat. Barnes shared on his expectations on whom he expects to have a fruitful few weeks in Russia…
FootballFanCast.com: What country do you have confidence in to make its way to the final?
John Barnes: “I think Brazil will. But they didn’t play particularly well against Switzerland as they had issues with Neymar. I think Neymar was trying too hard and trying to do too much. He wants to be the star.
“Spain will be strong once again even though they lost their manager. But they’ve got lots of experienced players who are able to cope with that. And France – I think France are a very strong team with plenty of attacking players.
“An outside guess for me is Belgium because, player-for-player, they probably have the strongest team in the World Cup. They haven’t played as a team, but if you look at the individual players they have, if they can get some kind of team spirit and team passion rather than just being individuals, they could be a surprise.”
FFC: Do you think a few of the results of these early games might have potential consequences on who makes it to the knockout stage? Is there an actual chance that Germany or Brazil don’t make it?
JB: “I believe so, yes. Brazil drew the first game, but Germany losing their first game could have consequence. But they’re experienced. They can come through in the next two matches.
“What you will find is that you may have one or two upsets, but generally speaking because of the way the seeding is done, the top two seeds will normally go through to the last 16 and to the quarter-finals. And I think when the quarter-finals come, you’ll see seven of the top teams there.”
FFC: If you had to pick a lower tier nation to surprise everybody and go far into the knockout stage, who would you pick?
JB: : “Croatia. I think Croatia are very good. They’re very experienced. They’ve got good players. They’ve got a good understanding and a good coach. So, yeah, that would be my dark horse.”
FFC: You’ve said before you believe Diego Maradona to be the best footballer ever. He was on that Argentina team that beat England on their way to winning the World Cup in 1986. Do you see Messi having a chance of pulling off a similar feat for this Argentina, even though they had a lacklustre performance in game one?
JB: Absolutely. Argentina are a decent side. He’s a fantastic player and still the best player in the world for me. Of course, Argentina are a team who, when it comes to the World Cup finals in the past, haven’t won.
“But it wouldn’t be beyond the realms of possibility for Argentina to win the World Cup. They’ve also got Sergio Aguero. They’ve got decent players, as much as they didn’t play particularly well in the first game. So, yeah, absolutely.
“But, Maradona for me is still is the best.”
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