With the World Cup draw out of the bag, Lee Davy takes a look at the permutations and comes up with a France v Germany final with the Germans eventually going on to take the crown for the second successive tournament.
It’s only a flag.
50 stars, and 13 stripes.
But it bugs me. Not the flag per se, but seeing it sticking out of every American home like a giant middle finger salute to the rest of the world. Americans are very proud to be American.
I’m English. I used to be British. Then I moved to Wales and realised that English men and women are about as welcome as a black Anthrax t-shirt on Sunday mass. This ignorant, xenophobic attitude drove me to shed my Britishness and to become George and Dragon English.
The Welsh hate the English because of sport.
The only time I have ever flown a flag outside of my window was the European Championships in 1996, partly because England hosted the event, and because I wanted to produce my giant middle finger salute to the Welsh nation.
Russia will host the 2018 World Cup in the summer.
I’ve already told my wife that I will go missing for a month.
England will be there.
America and Wales will be watching on TV.
The long and laborious qualification process is over. On Friday, all footballing eyes were on Moscow and Vlad, and the gang hired a bunch of fat former footballers to pull the balls out of the bag.
Diego Maradona was the man to hold England’s ball in his hand, not for the first time, as Gary Lineker reminded the viewers watching back home.
“Diego has always been good with his hands.”
England ended up in one of the easiest groups in the tournament, which always seems to happen.
From 1986 through to 1998 I had a £10 bet on England to win the World Cup. In the build-up, I convinced my mind that this would be the year. I would look at our squad and think, yes.
The last time we won anything, there was an Ice Age.
In 1986, my old man returned from the bookies with a World Cup predictor and a Panini sticker book. I loved that predictor. I figured out that England would win, beating Argentina in the quarterfinals, and then Diego scored the greatest World Cup goal of all-time, and one of the most controversial.
We were out.
I lost a lot of tears that day.
Let’s see if I can do a better job of sorting through this draw.
The Neil Channing School of Thought
I like to begin with the Neil Channing School of Thought when it comes to narrowing the field.
Who isn’t going to win?
The bookmakers are the best indicators.
Let’s wipe out everyone below this motley crew.
World Cup Winning Odds
For the longest time, it was odd for a team to win the World Cup outside of their continent. Brazil won in 1958 (Sweden-Europe), and then for the next 36-years the title stayed on continent.
A lot has changed since then with players from all over the world flocking to Europe to ply their trade. Brazil won again in 1994 (USA-N.America), and 2002 (Asia-Japan/S.Korea). The Spanish won their only World Cup in (Africa-S.Africa), and the Germans beat everyone in 2014 (Brazil-S.American).
If you look at the nuance of those wins, you will see that 1958 was a long bloody time ago, and no Asian, North American and African country was never going to win those tournaments.
That means in modern times; only Germany has won a World Cup on a continent swarming with talented international teams. Europe has hosted the World Cup on ten occasions, and the Pele inspired 1958 apart, European teams have crushed it.
So let’s narrow that list down by removing Brazil and Argentina.
World Cup Winning Odds
Only eight teams have ever won the World Cup since 1930.
Brazil – 5
Germany – 4
Italy – 4
Argentina – 2
Uruguay – 2
France – 1
England – 1
Spain – 1
In the last five World Cups, Spain and France won it for the first time, but they were excellent. France was hosting when they won, and Spain was the best team on the planet, winning the World Cup in the middle of two successful European Championships.
Taking a look at that short list, and two sides have never won the World Cup before.
Belgium is ranked #5 in the FIFA Rankings. They breezed through their group undefeated, and haven’t lost a competitive match since Wales surprised them at last summer’s European Championships. With stars like Thibaut Courtois, Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, and Romelu Lukaku, they are currently experiencing their “Golden Age”.
I believe Belgium will qualify behind England; they will beat Poland in a tight Round of 16 match before losing to the Germans in the quarterfinals.
Portugal played football that bored me to tears during the 2016 Euros, but with Cristiano Ronaldo in your side (like Maradona for Argentina in 1986) he showed that one man could carry a team to a major title. They will qualify second in the group after losing to Spain, squeeze past the hosts Russia on penalties before losing to France in the quarterfinals.
The Home Straight
World Cup Winning Odds
Let’s face it, England isn’t going to win the World Cup. They will go through to the knockout stages as group winners after beating Belgium, where they will face Colombia. With the South Americans pushed aside England face Brazil in the quarterfinals, and this is where we will see the biggest upset of the tournament with England going through to semi-finals where they will lose to France.
Spain will top their group after beating Portugal. Into the knockout stages and they will pass Uruguay and Denmark to death before losing to Germany in the semi-finals.
And that leaves a World Cup Final between Germany and France, and my £10 is going on a fifth German victory and the first defence of a World Cup since Brazil in 1958/62.
Round of 16
1a Russia v 2b Portugal
1c France v 2d Iceland
1e Brazil v 2f Serbia
1g England v 2h Colombia
1b Spain v 2a Uruguay
1d Argentina v 2c Denmark
1f Germany v 2e Mexico
1h Poland v 2g Belgium
Portugal v France
Brazil v England
Spain v Denmark
Germany v Belgium
France v England
Spain v Germany
France v Germany
Winners – Germany