Because our knowledge of soccer is not exactly what anyone would characterise as extensive, we feel as though we are highly qualified to make some preliminary predictions concerning the upcoming 2018 FIFA World Cup tournament in Russia next month.
Group A has the host nation Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Uruguay. We will say Uruguay. They are ranked 17th according to FIFA’s system. Of the other three, the only other team in the top 50 is Egypt at number 46. Russia is rated as the 66th best side in the world, which proves that it pays to host and Saudi Arabia comes in at 70th.
FIFA only started providing rankings in 1992 and France was listed as 18th in 1998 when it won. In 2006, Italy won from the 13th ranking.
Group B consists of Iran, Morocco, Portugal and Spain.
That one is a no-brainer. Spain all the way. Or Portugal. Portugal is ranked fourth and Spain eighth, so falling back on France as the lowest ranked to ever win the tournament, we would rate both Spain and Portugal as legitimate chances. Iran and Morocco are both in the top 50, at 36th and 42nd repectively.
Group C has Australia, Denmark, France and Peru.
France is rated world number seven, Denmark 12, Peru 11 and Australia 40. The Socceroos had to fight as though their lives depended on it to make the tournament, so we will select them to advance beyond the Group stage, for purely nationalistic reasons.
Group D is Argentina, Croatia, Iceland and Nigeria.
In terms of ranking, they are Argentina (5), Croatia (18), Iceland (22) and Nigeria (47).
Three of those teams have the opportunity to go beyond the Group stage, but we will go with Argentina, if only because Argentina is near Brazil and Brazil is the country that gave us Pelé.
We will have a look at the remaining four Groups in another article, as space constraints prevent us from doing so here.