After years of waiting, the FIFA World Cup returns to our screens as the greatest spectacle in sport hits the Middle East this Sunday. The fact that the competition is being held in Qatar isn’t exactly sitting well with the majority of fans and pundits out there, but there has still been an attempt from the masses to forget about all of that in favour of what we all know and love – the beautiful game.
Eight groups of four teams are set to compete in the final World Cup before the capacity is extended from 32 to 48 in 2026. The expectation is that we’ll see a whole lot of unpredictable scorelines, goals and potentially career-changing performances, but in reality, most folks just want Qatar’s effort to go off without too many problems.
We can’t picture a scenario in which that happens but for the sake of keeping the peace, we’re going to look towards the actual football that’ll be played over the course of the next month or so.
While there’s not exactly a Group of Death heading into the World Cup, we’d say Group H is as close as it comes. Portugal, Uruguay, Ghana and South Korea will all fancy their chances in a quartet like this and given the close proximity between games, we’d say this is one to keep an eye on.
It may have been a long time since their unlikely Euro 2016 triumph, but Portugal should feel somewhat confident about their chances here. They’ve got a nice blend of young talent and experience and although Cristiano Ronaldo may be casting a shadow over their tournament somewhat, they’re still viewed as the favourites in the final group of the WC.
They’ll be seen as vulnerable at the back, for the first time in a long time, but we can picture them shooting forward at will. We don’t think they’ll be fancied for going too deep into the knockouts but once they get there, anything is possible.
The reputation of this Uruguay squad speaks volumes as for years now, they’ll found success on the international stage. Alas, they can’t afford to get too far ahead of themselves, especially when you consider the ageing element of their first team stars. It may not be the ultimate decider but when the legs get weary, they could be in a spot of bother.
They’re definitely going to be in a comfortable position for all three fixtures and won’t get blown out of the water, but when it comes down to it, we expect them to lose out based on a few late twists and turns.
There are a few things that this Ghana team has going for them: a united team spirit and a passion for revenge. It’s not as if taking on Uruguay is going to be their only priority in a group with two other teams in it, but that’ll be a particularly important clash for them – and when you throw that together with some ‘all out’ attacking play, we’re excited to see what they can produce.
We can see them relying on a lot of pace in the final third and even though they may fade down the stretch, we can see a scenario in which they get enough points to edge through to the next round at the expense of two similarly-matched sides.
The big news for South Korea, who had a few bright moments in 2018, is that Son Heung-min looks set to be fit for the group stage – and that’s someone who is more than capable of leading a team to the knockouts all on his own. Unfortunately, we’re just not sure the overall talent is there, especially in comparison to some of the more explosive sides in the group.
South Korea vs Uruguay is the opening game in this entire group and that’ll reveal a lot about how we’re going to proceed. We expect them to put up a fight but struggle to keep up with the rest of the pack, although as we saw in Russia, they could easily throw a spanner into the works – and that’s what we’re hoping from the unofficial GoD.
Prediction: Portugal – 1st, Ghana – 2nd, Uruguay – 3rd, South Korea – 4th