Dutch Lion’s 2018 World Cup (Belated) Preview
You ever get or give those Happy ‘Belated’ Birthday messages? How do you feel about them? Do they still count even though they’re late? Well, it’s the thought that counts, right? In this case, I’ve been writing a World Cup Preview for weeks now but have been so busy that I’ve never gotten around to finishing it. Part of my problem was I’ve been unsure of who “Dutch Lion” is predicting to win the Tournament. So let’s blame it on him and get to it before the tournament is over.
I love the FIFA World Cup soccer tournament. It is truly one of the world’s greatest sports competitions. The fact that it’s held only every four years is simply not often enough, but that is also why we look forward to it so much. It’s the anticipation, the suspense. This year’s World Cup is being held in Russia.
This is the “Dutch Lion’s” Preview, even though the competition already began on Thursday, June 14. However, it’s still early enough that not much has been determined yet. Honestly, I’ve been too busy to even keep up with most of the results of the group phase, so let’s just move along with our thoughts and predictions. *PS Thank you to a great new magazine I found at the store the other day. Props to “Eight By Eight” Magazine published out of Brooklyn, NY. What an incredible publication, issued four times yearly.
There are eight groups of four teams each. 32 total teams will play a round-robin, three-game competition versus the other teams in their randomly chosen group. So even though the opening games have provided some surprising results, it honestly doesn’t mean much, if anything, as of yet. From what I’ve seen so far, it’s all upside down. As Goose and Maverick would say, we were “inverted”. That’s how this tourney has gone so far. It’s “inverted”. Thanks for the “classified” info Charlie. “I just really want to hear about the mig sometime Maverick” – Charlie (played by Kelly McGillis)
Speaking of inverted, even the teams that qualified for the tournament don’t seem right. It’s all helter skelter Bono! As most of you know, I love the Netherlands national soccer team. I love the Dutch! “You ain’t much if you ain’t Dutch!” Now that is a cool slogan. However, the sad thing is the Dutch team didn’t qualify this time. It’s really super lame.
The qualification stage held over 2016 and 2017 was a disaster, and not just for the Netherlands (20th). Chile (9th), Italy (15th) and the USA (27th) didn’t qualify either. The whole process needs to be revamped, as I detailed last December in a post about the Qualification Stage. That’s a story for another day but for now, let’s get excited about this World Cup!
Group A : Uruguay (Ranked 14th according to FIFA ranking), Egypt (45th), Saudi Arabia (67th), Russia (70th)
Group B : Portugal (4th), Spain (10th), Iran (37th), Morocco (41st)
Group C : France (7th), Peru (11th), Denmark (12th), Australia (36th)
Group D : Argentina (5th), Croatia (20th), Iceland (22nd), Nigeria (48th)
Group E : Brazil (2nd), Switzerland (6th), Costa Rica (23rd), Serbia (34th)
Group F : Germany (1st), Mexico (15th), Sweden (24th), South Korea (57th)
Group G : Belgium (3rd), England (13th), Tunisia (21st), Panama (55th)
Group H : Poland (8th), Columbia (16th), Senegal (27th), Japan (61st)
As you can see, it’s a shame that some of the best soccer teams in the world were left out and some really lousy teams qualified. Eight countries are in the tournament despite being ranked lower than 40th in the FIFA World Ranking.
Analyzing the groups, Group A is one of the weakest groups I’ve ever seen. Uruguay is 14th in the world and the other three countries are ranked 45th, 67th, and 70th. What a joke! Meanwhile, the “Group of Death” is Group C. They have the 7th, 11th, 12th, and 36th ranked teams. Since only two teams advance out of each group, that means one of the top 12 teams in the world won’t even be advancing to the Sweet 16, which is when the single elimination games begin. I almost feel bad for France, Peru, and Denmark. Of course, at least they all control their own destiny, unlike the teams that didn’t get to Russia in the first place.
“Dutch Lion” is now going to predict the winners and 2nd place finishers from each group and then he’ll use the matchups to determine his 2018 World Cup Champion. (Most of these predictions were made on Tuesday, June 19th. Some things may have changed but the “Dutch Lion” has been out golfing so whatever.)
Group A Champ: Uruguay – Of course they’ll win this group. If they don’t, it will be the upset of the century.
Group A Runner-Up: Russia – Do you believe in miracles? Yes!…. Al Michaels is rolling over in his grave but expect the host Russians to find a way to advance to the Knockout Stage. Was it foul play? Putin’s hackers? James Comey? Jared Kushner? Kaspersky’s Anti-Virus software? Maybe Philip and Elizabeth Jennings? or Paige? or Henry? Who knows! Maybe Hillary is behind this. Whatever form of foul play you believe in, bottom line is Russia will try their darndest to advance in the motherland. Russian fans are probably thinking, “We didn’t lose 20 million Russians in World War II in vain. That was nothing. Now THIS is war! And if we’re no good in soccer, it’s clearly the Americans fault, or the fact that we now have 20 million less Russian people and their descendants that surely would have produced 10 Leo Messi’s, 10 Ronaldo’s, 10 Pele’s, 10 Yohan Cruyff’s, AND 10 Diego Maradona’s. And if we had all of those players, we would’ve surely been ranked higher than 70th in the world. In fact, we’d even be higher than Italy, Germany, the USA, Afghanistan, Syria, Vietnam, China, and North Korea. And Cuba too. No communism, no socialism, no Marxism, no Gazprom, no Ukraine, nothing.”
* What just happened there? I have no clue. I’ve been brainwashed….. by a Russian KGB agent and he told me what to write there, OR the “Dutch Lion’s” computer was hacked by Kaspersky or one of those Russian Facebook hackers or maybe Hillary. It definitely wasn’t President Trump…… or Elvis. He’s not alive, I swear, shhhhh. The Russians told me I couldn’t write that but I did anyway. Not to worry. They’re not gonna read all this gibberish so it shall remain an unpunished secret.
Group B Champ: Portugal – Some people think Ronaldo is the greatest player of all time. Maybe he is. I don’t think so, but I’m not the Babe Ruth of soccer fandom either.
Group B Runner-Up: Spain – They won the World Cup in 2010. They stunk it up in 2014. 2018?…… probably somewhere in between.
Group C Champ: France – One of the best teams in the world I feel.
Group C Runner-Up: Denmark
Group D Champ: Argentina – Some people think Lionel Messi is the great player of all time. Maybe he is. I don’t know, because I’m no Grantland Rice. Some people think the “Dutch Lion” is the next Grantland Rice. Others think he’s the next Uncle Ben’s rice.
Group D Runner-Up: Iceland – My wife loves ice. She needs it overflowing from all drinks. “Hey wife, want some booze with that ice?” Interesting note for nosy people….. One time back in ’99 the “Lion” had a keg party. A girl showed up. The “Lion” made a date with the girl despite her better judgment. He wrote down the date of the date on a post-it note. Long story short, said girl is now the “Lion’s” wife. PS Blue horseshoe LOVES post-it notes. PICK: Iceland
Group E Champ: Brazil – Phil Swift here, this time for Flex Seal! Brazil better “Flex Seal” their defense a la Phil Swift using the Flex Tape on the sawed-in-half boat if they want to make up for the sins of the 2014 World Cup. Remember that 7-1 ouster vs Germany in the Semis and the embarrassing 3-1 3rd Place game loss to the Dutch….. while at home in Brazil? Ugh-sauce! What does a Brazilian do to get over that brutal, heartbreaking loss in 2014 on home soil? Well, he goes to “Carnival” every year in Rio. That’ll make you forget about bad soccer real fast. Well, at least after a couple of years and plenty of pina coladas with tequila chasers. Did somebody say “chaser”? That’s what Germany and Netherlands did in ’14 to goal-scorers……. after they kept scoring goals on Brazil’s porous, non-Flex Taped defense. They chased ’em to the corners after their “look at me” slides for the crowds. See how that worked its way back around to Phil Swift?
Group E Runner-Up: Switzerland
Group F Champ: Germany – Simply the best team in the world. I know the Mexicans beat the Germans in the opener, but let’s be honest. Germany is still better.
Group F Runner-Up: Sweden – Everyone is all hyped up on Mexico. Hold your horses General Custer. “Remember the Alamo!” Mexico is decent on offense. I watched the 1st half of the opener and I’ll admit they played pretty well on offense. However, their defense isn’t that good. I’ll pick Sweden based on them beating out the Dutch in the Qualifiers. I think Sweden is very good actually. Plus, the Swedes have really good pastries while the Mexicans are not very good at desserts. They have those churros which I buy at Sox Park but c’mon man. Those are weak compared to Swedish meatballs and Swedish women and Swedish everything!
Group G Champ: Belgium – The Belgians are awesome! Watch out for Belgian waffles being thrown out on the field after goals. It’s gonna be like the Red Wings fans throwing octupusses (octupi? octupy? Octopussy?) on the ice after Red Wings hat tricks. Hold the maple syrup! This is turning into an NHL paragraph. We’ve got Red Wings, Maple Leafs, Belgians, and Nordiques. What! What is a “Nordique” anyway? Or a “Hab” for that matter? PS Canada didn’t qualify either. Major bummer.
Group G Runner-Up: England – The Brits are pretty good right now. Harry Kane is a stud. Winston Churchill famously said, “We Shall Never Surrender”! (Unless you’re Neville Chamberlain, who famously said, “Sure we will. In fact, we’ll just give it all away and hope a bunch that Hitler will go soft on us.” I’m just kidding, Chamberlain didn’t actually say that. Meanwhile, Churchill knew better, you know, that Hitler was the devil and wanted to see the world burn with himself as the master arsonist. So Chamberlain didn’t say it exactly, whereas he only thought it and acted in that manner. You know, in the manner of you surrender everything including your own extra ice box to a hot Hitler in the Summer of 1940. It must be rough being a descendant of Chamberlain what with all the teasing and the people taking advantage of you, knowing that you’ll never fight back, and that you’ll concede everything including your countrymen just to appease a brutal dictator and his Axis Powers buddy Benito Mussolini from Italy.) What am I talking about? I have no clue. I’m full stream of consciousness at 2:36am. Check that! It’s now 2:39am.
I just edited this at 2:45am. Nobody cares. Just get on with the predictions.
Group H Champ: Columbia – South American teams are fun to watch. I’ll take Columbia….. and the over. What does that mean? It means they’re gonna score A LOT of goals.
Group H Runner-Up: Poland – The Poles….. enough said. Nevermind. What! Did somebody say “Nirvana!”
So if “Dutch Lion’s” predictions above prove correct, then here are the Knockout Stage matchups moving forward. If you didn’t know, the Champ of each group faces a runner-up from a different group. So we don’t have a true bracket to look at quite yet until the Group Stage is complete. Therefore…..
Round of 16 (June 30 – July 3)
1A vs 2B – Uruguay vs Spain – I’ll take the Spaniards in a close one. PICK: Spain
1C vs 2D – France vs Iceland – This is a mismatch. The French will fry the Icelanders until they melt into a buttery topping to be spread on a croissant. PICK: France
1E vs 2F – Brazil vs Sweden – I love the Swedes but they can’t beat the Brazilians. PICK: Brazil.
1G vs 2H – Belgium vs Poland – The Belgians will beat the maple syrup off the Poles. Too much waffle talk? At least I’m not waffling on this pick. PICK: Belgium
1B vs 2A – Portugal vs Russia – The Russians can’t weasle their way past the Round of 16, can they? Remember they are ranked 70th in the world. Portugal is 4th. The ONLY chance they have is to combine the Miracle on Ice team with Tom Brady and the Patriots in their comeback over the Falcons, combined with the 1985 Villanova Wildcats, throw in a dash of Chaminade, stir in a little debut season of Las Vegas Golden Knights, and then top it off with the shenanigans of the 1974 USSR basketball team in that wretched cheating scandal. Then and only then do the Russians have a slight chance at even hanging with Ronaldo and the Portuguese in this match. PICK: Russia. (Just kidding! PICK: Portugal)
1D vs 2C – Argentina vs Denmark – Possible upset here. The Danes are good, not great Danes (get it?) but they are solid (ranked 12th). Sometimes Argentina seems to rely on Messi too much. For all his greatness, one man does not make a team. In a tournament marked by its upsets, at least so far, I’ll PICK: Denmark.
1F vs 2E – Germany vs Switzerland – Another possible upset! Switzerland is quietly ranked 6th in the world! Germany dominates in every tournament and every Cup, but maybe their luck runs out here. Ugh! I need Gary “The Gut” Goombah’s advice on this one. Gary says, “Ride the wave of upsets and throw your money into a Swiss bank account. The Swiss will keep watch over your winnings!” PICK: Switzerland
1H vs 2G – Columbia vs England – There’s just something about that Harry Kane! PICK: England in yet another upset. The Brits advance! The Three Lions roar!
Quarterfinals (July 6 – July 7)
- Spain vs France – I see London, I see France, I see the Spaniards in their underpants. Does that mean the French just pantsed the Spaniards? Perhaps. Maybe it just means that I wanted a good rhyme. PICK: France
- Brazil vs Belgium – One of the toughest games to predict in this tournament. This might be a classic matchup. I can’t wait to see Neymar vs Kevin De Bruyne! PICK: Brazil
- Portugal vs Denmark – I’m gonna stick with the star power and go with Christiano Ronaldo and the Portuguese. PICK: Portugal
- Switzerland vs England – The English luck runs out vs the underrated Swiss. My gut tells me to stick with the Swiss. PICK: Switzerland
Semifinals (July 10 – July 11)
- #7 France vs #2 Brazil – Have you seen this Paul Pogba guy on France? He’s incredible. How about Antoine Griezmann! France is talented. Watch out! Another intense matchup awaits here in the Semis. Neymar, Fred, Taison, Danilo, Marcelo, Cassio, Coutinho, Jesus!……. Don’t worry, I’m not taking the name of the Lord thy God in vain. Jesus is a real player. I hope these teams play each other. It has the potential to be amazing. PICK: Brazil
- #4 Portugal vs #6 Switzerland – Another close potential matchup. PICK: Portugal
3rd Place Game (July 14)
France vs Switzerland – PICK: France
Championship (July 15)
#2 Brazil vs #4 Portugal – This is for all the marbles in 2018. This is the game that counts for the next four years. I’m torn. I can see Brazil making up for their flame-out four years ago in their home country. Think about that motivation, fueling them every day for four years. Meanwhile, Portugal desperately wants to give one of the all-time greats, maybe THE greatest of all-time Christiano Ronaldo a World Cup Championship so he can ride off into the sunset as he cements his legacy. Bottom line me “Dutch” …….One man doesn’t make a team. A team makes a team. In this case, the Brazilians have too much motivation to let down their countrymen again. The five-time World Cup Champs will win it for the sixth time, their first since 2002. Brazil gets it done. PICK: Brazil
There you have it. Now sit back, relax, and enjoy each and every 90 minute game of running and kicking balls around a gigantic grass field, in which one goal often is enough to win the match.