The eyes of the sporting world will turn to Russia in June for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. At the showcase soccer event the field looks more open than it has in a long time, with six or seven teams having a genuine chance of winning the tournament. So who should you look out for, and what are the Socceroo’s chances?
As always, Germany are the favourites for this world cup – but the gap has narrowed. The usual suspects in Brazil, Argentina and France will also be there at the pointy end. All of these teams have weaknesses that can be exploited by less favoured competitors.
Germany have a healthy mix of experience and fearlessness in their squad, but they look like they will set the bar rather than be unbeatable – think Melbourne Storm since they were caught cheating the salary cap, rather than the Queensland Maroons.
Brazil are more balanced than in 2014, but some of the frailties Germany exposed last time are still there. Argentina features the best player in the world in Lionel Messi, but not much else. France, conversely, are blessed with plenty of depth but lack superstars.
Spain, Portugal and Belgium loom as dark horses. Each has the talent to beat the top four, on their day, but may struggle to do it consistently. Portugal have risen to number 3 on the FIFA world rankings as the major soccer nations keep their powder dry. Colombia also have the potential to go on a surprise charge, and will be a handful for the favourites.
England have been talking up their own chances, but they are ranked 16th in the world for a reason. Making it past the round of 16 would be a huge achievement for them. The hosts, Russia, will not make it out of their pool. They are the lowest ranked team at the tournament, and only qualified because they are the hosts.
Australia’s group will feature a tight battle for second place behind France. Unfortunately, that tight battle will most likely be between Peru and Denmark. Given that these two teams are ranked 11 and 12 in the world, while Australia is 37th, beating either would be enough to call the campaign a success.
Still, the Socceroos do have a good mix of experience and youth in their squad. They are also battle hardened after a tough home and away playoff against Honduras to qualify. They will be equipped to cope with high pressure games.
If you want to watch an Australian soccer team win, however, you are better off following the Matildas. The women’s team are ranked 4th in the world, and will be one of the title favourites in France.