I really can’t wait for the World Cup to start…and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Who else keeps looking at the calendar as part of the countdown? Only me? What? SERIOUSLY?  Of course I know the date of the opening match smart arse. I just check the calendar because I’m excited, that’s all. Sigh. People just like to be mean.

Anyway, it kicks off on Thursday with so much to be expected. I have a few characters to look out for in this year’s World Cup. Each character will represent a team or the teams that I feel will stand out in their way (whether positive or negative). Please note these teams as I feel that their performances could leave lasting memories once the tournament is done.

HOSTS: To be the host of a major tournament, let alone the FIFA World Cup, attracts a lot of attention to you as a football nation. People start to wonder if ‘they play football over there’. Luckily for this year’s hosts, the Russian league has produced some of the finest teams to grace the European stage (CSKA Moscow and Zenit St. Petersburg come to mind from recent times) so no one’s in doubt about their pedigree. In addition, the Russian National Team will be lifted by the crowds every time they step on the pitch so I expect that they will perform. Who knows what they can achieve? They have good players and they’re not really under any pressure. It will be nice to have the hosts go far in this tournament. Better to be a Germany (2006) or South Korea (2002) who made people dream, than to fall spectacularly like South Africa (2010) or USA (1994) who just managed to mark their attendance.

BACK FOR THE CROWN: These guys are the ones who once ruled this tournament, got knocked off, regrouped and now are back to reclaim the crown. You know them already: Brazil and Spain. Boasting the most expensive players in the world (Neymar and Coutinho), Brazil are one of the favourites to blitz their way to another World Cup victory. Thing is…they were favourites in 2014…till they met Germany. Hmmmn. Let’s hope they meet someone else. Spain is also back. They have restructured the set-up to have more of actual football players and less of models (like Morata). The football is back to be amazing and this time; it’s for glory once again. Both teams are top contenders for sure.

THE CHAMPIONS: Germany is the team to beat. They’re also the team that Mexico would wish they didn’t have to play first! Germany will be wary of starting badly. They will also want to try and retain the trophy so expect a business-like approach from the get-go. This team is so talented that they dropped Sane of all people. That should be enough to scare anyone facing them. However, I’m confident that Sweden and South Korea (along with Mexico) will be up for the challenge so keep an eye on Group F; it’s full of classic clashes in the making.

TIME-WASTERS: There are so many of these. Every tournament year, they’re given the nickname ‘Dark Horses’. By the end of the rollercoaster, they end up where you pretty much expected them to. You’ll be pissed at the energy spent expecting anything more from these guys. France, Belgium, England, Nigeria (you’d be surprised at the expectations here), Argentina, Portugal, Colombia and even Croatia. They’ll provide some amazing moments…but that’s about it. Don’t stress yourselves over these ones. They’ll kill ya. Trust me.

ONES TO WATCH: These are not dark horses (before the lot of you will take me up on my last point) but they will be intriguing to watch over the next few weeks. They also belong in groups that they can REALISTICALLY qualify from. They include Senegal, Japan, Sweden, Serbia, and Egypt. The likes of Mane, Okasaki, Forsberg, Ivanovic and Salah have the chance to put their countries in World Cup folklore. They have good teammates around them so I don’t see why they can’t make a splash in Russia. They could fail (and very badly too) but it will be fun either way.

FREE POINTERS: These are the LOLs of the tournament. The teams that will be competing for the Highest-Goals-Conceded Award or the First-To-Officially-Exit-This-Tournament Award or the You-Should-Not-Have-Bothered-Coming Award (feel free to add more). I only have 2 candidates: Panama and Iran. I feel sorry for them already. Imagine being in a group that has Harry Kane and Romelu Lukaku in it. Both players will be looking at Panama to aid their cause for the Golden Boot (lol). Cristiano Ronaldo and the whole of the Spain team will be looking at Iran like a plate of fried chicken (lol…now I feel like eating fried chicken). Seriously, anything other than massive scorelines (against them) will be a surprise for me.

Hope you’re ready. Did you catch how I think you should prepare for Russia? You should.


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