World Cup 2022 Preview: Group C

It’s crazy that this World Cup will be taking place in November. This is the first World Cup ever to take place in the months of November and December. Why so late in the year? Well, the COVID pandemic delaying a lot of athletic events could have a lot to do with it. But I feel it has more to do about the weather. With the average maximum temperatures in June, July and August being above 40 Celsius, it’s no wonder this desert climate would have the World Cup put on hold until November with an average maximum just being under 30 Celsius and a December maximum average just under 25. Which makes pure sense.

Now my next group of focus is Group C. With two of the teams being in FIFA’s Top 15, many think the two qualifiers to the knockout stage are the most obvious, but anything is possible in football. Favorites can be surprised in the end and team you thought we long shots actually get in. So here’s my run-down:

-Argentina (3): Even though Argentina has a lot of top calibre players over the years, all the attention seems to be focused on Lionel Messi. It’s always been about how a major championship has always stood in his way. He missed the World Cup by that much. He missed the Copa America by that much. When will he win one? He and his Argentinean teammates finally won a Copa America last year! As well as a CONMEBOL-UEFA Cup of Champions back in June.

Joining Messi in his fifth pursuit of a World Cup is star midfielder Angel Di Maria and defender Nicolas Otamendi who also rank in Argentina’s ten most capped players ever. The Albiceleste has a lot of seasoned veterans and has included some new young blood as part of their lineup for Qatar. Argentina has a history of firing coaches after the World Cup. Since World Cup 2018, the team has been coached by Lionel Scaloni who actually played on the very first World Cup team for Argentina that Messi played for: 2006! Since the Copa America, Argentina have not had a loss. They’ve had notable wins against Brazil, Chile and Italy, and draws against Ecuador and Paraguay. They come to Qatar as the team most expected to win and Messi’s last chance for a World Cup. Their moment is theirs to prove.

-Saudi Arabia (51): This is Saudi Arabia’s sixth World Cup appearance. Their best-ever result is a Round-of-Sixteen finish in the 1994 World Cup. Most recently in 2019, they were runners-up in the Arabian Gulf Cup. Expectations are not high for Saudi Arabia, but one advantage they have over most other teams is that they’re best conditioned in playing in desert climates. That’s an advantage that could pay off unexpectedly.

The Green Falcons are an interesting lineup. The Saudi team will often be coached by a foreign coach while the players won’t be allowed to play for foreign teams. The coach is currently Frenchman Herve Renard. The team has racked up recent wins against North Macedonia and Iceland, draws against United States, Ecuador and Australia, and losses against Colombia and Japan. Qatar is another chance to prove that they have what it takes.

-Mexico (13): Mexico is commonly seen as a sleeping giant. They’re a team capable of going far, but waiting for their World Cup moment. Only once did they ever win a knockout round game at the World Cup and that was back in 1986 when they hosted! They’ve all lost out in the Round-of-Sixteen these past seven World Cups. Since Russia 2018, they’ve won the 2019 CONCACAF Gold Cup and were runners-up to the US in 2021. They look forward to being co-hosts with the United hosting in 2026. However they come looking for glory here in Qatar.

The current Mexican team play in a mix of clubs in Mexico, Europe and the United States. Their coach is an Argentinean: Gerardo Martino. This should be interesting when El Tri play Argentina. Recently they acquired wins against Peru, Nigeria and Jamaica. They’ve also drawn against Ecuador, Costa Rica and the United States. They’ve also endured losses this year to Uruguay and Colombia. 2022 could be the year Mexico takes their team in a new direction.

-Poland (26): This century, Poland has been known as a team to blow a lot of their chances. At the 2002 World Cup, they were expected to go far, but lost out in the group stage. They made it to the quarterfinals of Euro 2016 and expectations were big for them at World Cup 2018, but again they were ousted in the group stage. Bad luck continued as they wer out in the group stage of Euro 2020.

Robert Lewandowski is the captain of the team. Already he holds the team records for most caps and most goals. Joining him will be star defender Kamil Glik and top midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak. Since their Euro 2020 disappointment, they’ve been coached by Czeslaw Michniewicz. Since Euro 2020, they’ve had notable wins against Wales and Sweden, draws against the Netherlands and Scotland, and notable losses against Belgium, the Netherlands and Hungary. 2022 is a chance to go beyond expectations.

MY PREDICTION: And now that moment where I will have to do the eventual. And that’s make two predictions for the teams that will advance to the knockout stage. I believe it to be Argentina and Mexico.

And there you have it. My review and predictions for Group C. Hard to believe it will all start in 12 days. The excitement never dies, does it?

World Cup 2018 Preview: Group H

Hard to believe it’s finally about to start. The very first World Cup game starts at 8:00 on Thursday June 14th in Luzhniki Stadium and it ends there too on Sunday July 15th. And at the end of it all, only one country is left smiling! Anyways on with my last group review: Group H. How do they stack up?

Poland fixed-Poland (10)- Poland has a football success that usually is strong one quadrennial, weak another. This time around, it looks like Poland has its strongest team in decades. They topped their World Cup qualification en route to Russia. They’ve even produced a superstar in Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski.

Poland is not just Lewandowski. There’s also midfielder Jakub Blaszczykowski and defender Lukasz Piszczek. The team features a good mix of young and older talent. They were very impressive in World Cup qualifying. The team has had some notable wins in the past year against Lithuania and South Korea, but they’ve also had 1-0 losses to Nigeria and Mexico. Russia 2018 is yet another chance for Poland to seize the moment.

Senegal flag-Senegal (28)- 2002 seems like a memory. It was Senegal’s first World Cup and they surprised defending champions France in the opening game of that World Cup and en route to going to the quarterfinals. They’ve failed to return to the World Cup scene until now. They hope to show the world they still have what it takes.

After 16 long years, The Lions Of Teranga come back via coach Aliou Cisse who played for that Senegalese team in the World Cup. Most of the players play for teams with the Premier League or France’s Ligue 1 or Ligue 2. Senegal have had some noteworthy wins in the last year such as to South Africa and South Korea. However they’ve also lost recently to Croatia 2-1 and also had a scoreless draw against Bosnia. Senegal returns to the World Cup stage here in Russia with lots to prove.

Colombia-Colombia (16)- This appears to be a new era in Colombian football. They first had a chance in the 90’s to make a name for themselves at the World Cup, but poor performances marred by political strife in their country prevented that from happening. Then they made a return to the World Cup scene in 2014. There they made it to the quarterfinals for the first time ever. On top of that, striker James Rodriguez won the Golden Boot for scoring six goals.

Rodriguez is back, along with midfielder Carlos Sanchez, striker Radamel Falcao and Arsenal goalkeeper David Ospina. Colombia has had some recent noteworthy wins such as 3-2 against France and 4-0 against China. However they’ve also lost 2-1 against Paraguay and 2-1 against South Korea. Chances are Colombia can go further than they ever have here in Russia 2018.

Japan-Japan (60)- Japan is one Asian country that has been struggling to show how talented their team is. The Samurai Blue have made it to the Round of 16 in 2002 (which they co-hosted) and 2010, but that’s as far as they’ve ever gotten. Japan has produced a boom in football back with the boost of the J-League in the 90’s but they’re still waiting for their big moment. Sure, they’ve won many AFC Asian Cups in the past, but they feel they have more to prove internationally.

This past year has had its ups and downs for Japan. They recently won against Paraguay 4-2 and won against Australia 2-0. However they’ve had some notable losses to Brazil 3-1, Switzerland 2-0 and Belgium 1-0. Remember anything can happen in World Cup play and Japan could just surprise everybody during Russia 2018.

So that’s my summary of the Group H teams. As for the two I feel will advance, I will have to go with Poland and Colombia.

STADIUM SPOTLIGHT

ST. PETERSBURG: Krestovsky Stadium (Saint-Petersburg Stadium)Krestovsky

Year Opened: 2017

Capacity: 67,000

World Cup Groups Hosting: A, B, D, E,

Additional World Cup Matches Contested: Round of 16, Semi-final, bronze-medal match

Situated on Krestovsky Island in St. Petersburg, this stadium is not just known for its design, but its enormous cost to construct: an estimated $1.1 billion! It is considered one of the most expensive stadiums ever built. The high cost had a lot to do with a delayed civic loan, wind damage and flooding to materials and a withdrawal of a major corporate funder. Its opening in 2017 is nine years later than expected. The design of the stadium is based on Japanese designer Kisho Kurokawa’s ‘ Spaceship’ design. The stadium is situated where the old Kirov Stadium used to be. After the World Cup, the stadium will be the host venue for FC Zenit St. Petersburg.

MOSCOW: Luzhniki Stadium Luzhniki

Year Opened: 1956

Capacity: 80,000

World Cup Groups Hosting: A, B, C, F

Additional World Cup Matches Contested: Round of 16, Semi-final, Final match

This stadium has an immense amount of history with it. Actually during the days of the USSR, it used to be known as Central Lenin Stadium. After the collapse of the USSR and the doing away of Communism, the stadium has been named after the Luzhniki district it’s situated in. During the days of the USSR, the stadium was the centrepoint of the national Spartakiad sports celebrations. It was also the host venue for the 1980 Summer Olympics, 1973 Summer Universiade and 1986 Goodwill Games. Since the fall of Communism and the emergence of the Russian Federation, the stadium has hosted the 1999 UEFA Cup Final, 2008 UEFA Champions League Final and the 2013 World Championships In Athletics.

RUSSIA-LANDSCAPE-ARCHITECTUREThe stadium has had three renovations in the past. The most recent being before the Confederations Cup in preparation for the World Cup. World Cup renovations include a demolishing of the old stadium to have a new stadium with enclosure. The self-supported wall and facade of Lenin Stadium was maintained. New construction allowed the stadium to be connected to a main building. After the World Cup, the stadium will be the host venue for the Russian national team.

And that does it! This is the last of my group previews for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Hard to believe the opening ceremonies are 24 hours away, give or take. One thing for sure is that it will deliver a full month of excitement and surprises.