The World Cup is one of the most, if not the, most captivating and unifying sporting events in the entire world. Soccer is a growing sport in the US, but is unequivocally the most popular game on Earth. From June to August, this beautiful sport is on the world stage, which graces us with its presence only once every 4 years.
The format of the World Cup begins with a group stage of 8 groups (A-H) that each contain 4 different nations. This year’s groupings are very well matched, and give each team a real chance of qualifying. However, there are obviously some teams which are powerhouses on the international stage.
Group E seems as if it will produce an exciting set of matches, as the tournament favorite, Brazil, will have to battle it out with other strong nations like Switzerland, and Costa Rica- who knocked off a formidable England 11 in the group stages of the 2014 World Cup.
There are plenty of people picking Brazil, Germany, and Argentina to win this year’s World Cup, and to be fair, the numbers would most certainly support those claims. However, who doesn’t love a good cinderella story? There are definitely a few dark horses in this competition, that can proverbially and literally take the entire world by storm. Who to look out for you might ask? These are the 2 squads that need to be talked about more and have a chance at taking home the World Cup to their respective countries.
The Polish National team has a chance at making a run at the Cup this summer, and that is much in part to team captain and star forward, Robert Lewandowski. Lewandowski lead the Bundesliga 2017-2018 in shooting, where he took 128 shots- well ahead of next highest Michael Gregoritsch, at just 98 shots.
In addition to taking shots, Lewandowski sure knows how to finish. The Polish national scored a whopping 29 Goals, which is 14 more than the second most goals scored by a Bundesliga player this year.
Along with Lewandowski’s prowess and nose for the net, Poland has 2 quality keepers to keep the ball out of their net. Starter, Lukasz Fabianski plays for Swansea City in the Premier League. Although Swansea had a tough go of it, Fabianski still managed 9 clean sheets in 38 appearances. Furthermore, he had not a single “error leading to a goal” throughout the entirety of the season. Although, in my opinion, Poland looks poised to make a run at the championship, their first step is to get out of the Group Stage where they will face the likes of a strong Colombian team, as well as Senegal and Japan.
Their first match will be played Tuesday, June 19th at 11:00 am vs Senegal.
14th in FIFA rankings puts Uruguay far away from where they want to be, which is unsurprisingly, World Cup Champions. However, I believe Uruguay’s solid central defense and forwards give them just enough to be a threat against any team in the tournament.
Uruguay’s forwards are second only to that of Argentina or Brazil, with World class striker Luis Suarez being the Superstar that the offense runs through. Edinson Cavani poses a very strong second option and striker partner for Suarez. Their chemistry on the pitch is undoubtable, as the two are very much alike. Suarez and Cavani were both born in Salto, Uruguay. They were only born a month apart, and both have similar goal scoring records for club and country.
In the 2017-2018 season Barcelona sniper Luis Suarez, scored 25 goals in just 33 matches played. Edinson Cavani scored 28 in his 32 Ligue 1 matches for Paris Saint-Germain. As much as they share these similarities on paper, Cavani and Suarez have shared words of a negative connotation on the pitch in the past.
This may be a storyline to look out for as the dynamic duo head off to Russia. Again, this is a high quality strike partnership but as the saying goes, “offense wins games, but defense wins championships.”
The Uruguayan defensemen are currently in great form. Center backs, Jose Gimenez and Diego Godin are both a center back duo for club and country- as they both are defensive rocks for spanish club Atletico Madrid. In addition to that solid central defense is a superb keeper, Fernando Muslera. After winning 23 of 33 matches and keeping 13 clean sheets for his club, Galatasaray, Muslera should pose a challenge to even the toughest of strike forces.
Uruguay will play their first match against Egypt on June 15th at 8:00 am.
Both of these teams will be ready for a war on the pitch this June, as they prepare for one of the most anticipated World Cups of all time. With Ronaldo and his Portuguese teammates coming off a big win in the 2016 Euros, will he show up to the same degree, again? Or will Neymar lead his team to the promise land and bring home the trophy to Brazil? This World Cup has no shortage of story lines, and is sure to be a thriller.
You can tune in to the opening match June 14th at 11:00 am est, where Saudi Arabia will face host country Russia.