Top 5 Matches of 2018 FIFA World Cup
The countdown to the FIFA World Cup 2018 has begun and the fans around the globe are getting ready to witness the best national football teams taking on each other. But the commencement of the championship doesn't lead to the glamorous matches just like that. This is because the top-ranked teams usually play each other in the knockout stages of the competition, while the group stages are just a way to eliminate the weak.
Fortunately, every tournament has a few heavyweight teams drawn in the same group to begin the fireworks early. Although these are not knock out games, they lack nothing in seriousness. Now that we know which teams will be playing one another in those games, It's also worth noting that some of these matches will be each team's third of the group stage, meaning some teams might have already clinched a spot in the Round of 16 by then. That might affect their strategy and thus the quality of the game. But it's too tough to predict what the standings will look like at that point, so we'll view each game on its own merits. The results of these matches will decide who tops the group and effectively, who they play in the knock out stages.
let's take a look at the five best matches of the FIFA World Cup 2018 group stage, in no particular order:
Spain Vs Portugal (Group – B)
This meeting of Iberian Peninsula rivals pits Cristiano Ronaldo and the defending European champions against new-look Spain, a team that cruised through qualifying. The winner of this game will be in pole position to take Group B—can Spain rebound from a disastrous 2014 tournament? They are drawn in Group B, along with Morocco and Iran.
It could be one of the matches of the tournament, when they take on each other on match day one. As the Runner Up of their Group have to play the Winners of Group A - which includes Uruguay and the hosts Russia, both the teams will look to come out on top.
Portugal, who come under the leadership of the five times Ballon d'Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo, will be high in confidence after their European championship glory. They are currently ranked third in the FIFA rankings. Spain has cruised through their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign, only being briefly troubled by Italy but still finishing the qualifiers in style to ensure that they will be ready to challenge the game's elite in Russia. They are currently ranked sixth in the FIFA world rankings and it is fair to expect fireworks when these superpowers battle it out.
England Vs Belgium (Group – G)
England and Belgium are drawn together in group G, alongside Panama and Tunisia, making it close to a group of death. It may seem like an exaggeration to call this a group of death, but a much-inspired Tunisia will ensure a tough time for the European giants on their way to the knock out stages. England will play Belgium on 28 June at Kaliningrad stadium, which will be the last group stage match for both the teams. Going into the match, they will be sure of what to do to ensure qualification or take the top spot in the group.
Besides all that, it is the presence of superstars that makes this match interesting. Harry Kane is in prolific goal-scoring form in domestic competitions, and he will want to leave his mark on the international platform. On the other hand, Kevin De Bruyne & Co. will be eager to prove that they are more than just a bunch of superstars.
England, winners of the 1966 edition of the World Cup, are currently ranked 16 in the FIFA rankings. They have always presented fine footballers to the world, and this generation is no different. Belgium, on the other hand, have never won the competition.
Although they have produced commendable teams throughout different generations, their best finish so far is a fourth place in the 1986 edition. The current Belgium team is considered their golden generations by many, and are ranked 5th in the world. It will be a treat to watch when they face each other in the group stages.
Argentina Vs Croatia (Group – D)
Argentina has once again been drawn to the group consisting of Nigeria - in Group D alongside Croatia and Iceland. This time, it will not be the super eagles that pose a threat to La Albiceleste in the group stages but a determined Croatia that will give them a tough time. Argentina will play Croatia on 21 June in their second match of the group stages.
This could be one of the classic matches of the tournament in terms of quality displayed, as the match will feature a few of the finest players in world football today. Both teams prefer a midfield-based possession football, and it will be a beauty to witness.
Argentina, ranked 4 in the world, are in a long trophy drought that lasts over two decades. That is certainly not something that suits their reputation. Lionel Messi, one of the best footballers the world has ever seen, is yet to win a trophy with the national side and they will be looking forward to change their fortunes this year.
Croatia, on the other hand, has a fine bunch of talents in their squad, and arguably the best midfield featuring Modric, Rakitic and Perisic. The 1998 bronze medalists are currently ranked 15 in the world and will be looking to better their best finish in this edition.Set your reminders right now, as this is a match fans cannot risk missing.
Poland Vs Colombia (Group – H)
The World Cup has seen many Groups of Death in its history, but here is the Group of Life - Group H, featuring Poland, Colombia, Japan and Senegal. There is not much differentiating this teams and anyone can progress to the knock out stages. So, it will be an interesting match when these teams face off in the group stage.
Poland will play Columbia on 24 June in their second match of the tournament. Both the teams have some superstars in their squad, from Robert Lewandowski to James Rodriguez, so it will be a fine display of footballing talent.
Poland, who is ranked 7 in the world, will be making their eighth appearance in the tournament. Their best finish so far is the third place which they accomplished twice - 1974 and 1982. Their reputation as a footballing nation is in a decline after the nineties with no major achievements and they will be eager to show the world of their true power.
Columbia, on the other hand, are making their eighth appearance as well and are ranked 13 in the world. Their best finish so far is reaching the quarter-final, which they accomplished in the previous edition of the tournament and they will be looking to improve on it this year.
Maxico Vs Sweden (Group – F)
Mexico and Sweden are great teams with high potential, but unfortunately, they are drawn alongside the reigning World Champions Germany. With the Korea Republic being the other team to join them in the Group F, this would mean a Do-or-Die between the two.
Germany is expected to top the Group without much trouble, leaving only one spot left to chase for three teams. So, when Mexico take on Sweden on 27 June in their last group stage match, it will effectively be a knockout tie.
Mexico, who are appearing at the competition for the sixteenth time, are currently ranked 17 in the world. They have reached the quarterfinals on two occasions, in 1970 and 1986. Disappointingly though, they were knocked out in the round of 16 in the last six editions of the tournament and they will be desperate to go past that stage this year.
Sweden, on the other hand, has a glorious past in footballing history. They were the runner up in the 1958 edition, and, finished third a couple of times. But they are nowhere near that level at present and are currently ranked 19 in the world.
Seeing as how knockout games can lead to unexpected results, this is another game that is expected to be highly entertaining.