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 (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 (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 (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 (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.
ST. PETERSBURG: Krestovsky Stadium (Saint-Petersburg Stadium)
Year Opened: 2017
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
Year Opened: 1956
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.
The 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.
Today’s the day the Copa America opens in Chile. For those of you who didn’t see my reviews of the first two groups, click on the links below:
That now leaves me with one last group to review. Here’s my review of Group C. Once again, thank you Google Translate for the Spanish and Portuguese translations:
-Brazil (5): Okay, we don’t need an explanation. We all know the story of how they all fell apart at the World Cup. What most don’t know is how much Brazil has improved since. After the World Cup, Dunga returned as coach of the national team and it seems like the games since have been a case of Brazil getting its groove back. They’ve won every game since including winning 3-1 against their traditional ‘Achilles heel’ France. They appear in good shape to redeem themselves at this Copa. This will be the first major tournament to redeem themselves. They could win it. However rebuilding a team doesn’t happen overnight. Even if they don’t win, as long as they show the world they’re getting back on track, that should matter.
Ok, nós não precisamos de uma explicação. Nós todos sabemos a história de como todos eles se desfez na Copa do Mundo. O que a maioria não sabe é o quanto o Brasil melhorou desde então. Após a Copa do Mundo, Dunga voltou como treinador da equipe nacional e parece que os jogos desde ter sido um caso do Brasil recebendo de volta seu sulco. Eles ganharam todos os jogos desde incluindo vencer por 3-1 contra a sua tradicional “calcanhar de Aquiles” da França. Eles aparecem em boa forma para redimir-se neste Copa. Este será o primeiro grande torneio de redimir-se. Eles poderiam ganhar. No entanto reconstruir uma equipa não acontecer durante a noite. Mesmo se não ganhar, desde que mostrar ao mundo que eles estão recebendo de volta aos trilhos, que deve importar.
-Colombia (4): This is the time for Colombia’s best era. Even though they only made it to the quarterfinals at the World Cup, they impressed the world with their fair play and immense talent like striker James Rodriguez and Juan Cuadrado who have since gone on to be the hottest new talents of the year.
Since the World Cup, Colombia has only lost to Brazil and have scored key wins against the United States and Costa Rica. They could top Group C but it all depends how well they play against Brazil. They could even win the Copa. It all comes down to playing like a top notch team. They already have an excellent reputation happening and whatever happens in Chile can add to it.
-Venezuela (69): Venezuela is the only CONMEBOL country never to have qualified for a World Cup. Venezuela is possibly the one CONMEBOL country whose favorite sport is not football. They take better to baseball and basketball. However Venezuela has shown improvement in recent years. They finished fourth at the Copa in 2011: the first time they ever made the Top 4 at the Copa. They didn’t qualify for the 2014 World Cup but they did finish sixth in the CONMEBOL playoffs. Venezuela hopes to add to their reputation in Chile but they face a stiff challenge. Their only wins in the past twelve months came to Peru and Honduras. 2015 is another chapter for a team seeking their first breakthrough.
-Peru (63): Some South American teams consistently rank the best in the continent and among the best in the world. And there are some teams that have an ‘up time’ and a ‘down time.’ Peru had their ‘up time’ back in the 1970’s that included two Top 8 finishes at two World Cups and winning the Copa in 1975. They’ve had a down time since with their last World Cup being in 1982. It’s not fair to say Peru is completely down. They did finish third at the last Copa in 2011. However the current lineup lacks players playing in European leagues and they’ve had recent losses to Chile and Paraguay. Nevertheless don’t count Peru out. Like Pele keeps saying: “Football is a box of surprises.”
This will be a tight one between Brazil and Colombia. I think Colombia will top the group with Brazil second and Venezuela third.
And there you have it. My third and last review of the Copa America groups. Tournament begins today and I’m sure it will be exciting. It may compete for attention against the Women’s World Cup but it should have a lot of fanfare nonetheless and a lot of excitement. My next blog on the Copa will come after the quarterfinals. Stay tuned!
Hoy es el día de la Copa América se abre en Chile. Para aquellos de ustedes que no vieron mis opiniones de los dos primeros grupos, haga clic en los siguientes enlaces:
-Brasil (5): Muy bien, no necesitamos una explicación. Todos conocemos la historia de cómo todo se vino abajo en el Mundial. Lo que la mayoría no sabe es cuánto Brasil ha mejorado desde entonces. Después de la Copa del Mundo, Dunga volvió como entrenador de la selección nacional y parece que los partidos desde haber sido un caso de Brasil conseguir su ranura espalda. Han ganado todos los partidos desde incluyendo ganar 3-1 en contra de su tradicional ‘talón de Aquiles’ de Francia. Aparecen en buena forma de redimirse en esta Copa. Este será el primer gran torneo de redimirse. Podrían ganar. Sin embargo la reconstrucción de un equipo no sucede durante la noche. Incluso si no ganan, siempre y cuando muestran el mundo que van a obtener de nuevo en marcha, que debería importar.
-Colombia (4): Este es el momento para la mejor época de Colombia. A pesar de que sólo llegaron a los cuartos de final en la Copa del Mundo, que impresionó al mundo con su juego limpio y el inmenso talento como el delantero James Rodríguez y Juan Cuadrado que han pasado ya a ser los mejores nuevos talentos del año.
Desde el Mundial, Colombia sólo ha perdido ante Brasil y ha anotado victorias clave contra Estados Unidos y Costa Rica. Podrían rematar el Grupo C, pero todo depende de lo bien que juegan contra Brasil. Incluso podrían ganar la Copa. Todo se reduce a jugar como un equipo de primera clase. Ellos ya tienen una excelente reputación sucediendo y lo que sucede en Chile puede agregar a ella.
-Venezuela (69): Venezuela es el único país de la Conmebol que nunca se ha clasificado para una Copa del Mundo. Venezuela es posiblemente el país uno CONMEBOL cuyo deporte favorito no es el fútbol. Toman mejor béisbol y el baloncesto. Sin embargo Venezuela ha mostrado una mejora en los últimos años. Acabaron cuarto en la Copa en 2011: la primera vez que jamás se ha hecho en el Top 4 en la Copa. Ellos no califican para la Copa del Mundo de 2014, pero lo hicieron sexta final en las eliminatorias de la CONMEBOL. Venezuela espera agregar a su reputación en Chile pero que se enfrentan a un duro desafío. Sus únicas victorias en los últimos doce meses llegaron a Perú y Honduras. 2015 es un capítulo más de un equipo en busca de su primer gran avance.
-Perú (63): Algunos equipos sudamericanos clasificar sistemáticamente los mejores del continente y entre los mejores del mundo. Y hay algunos equipos que tienen un “tiempo de” y un “tiempo muerto”. Perú tuvo su “tiempo de atrás en la década de 1970 que incluyeron dos Top 8 acabados en dos Copas del Mundo y ganador de la Copa en 1975. Han tenido un tiempo de inactividad ya que con ser su última Copa del Mundo en 1982. No es justo decir Perú es completamente. Hicieron tercera final en la última Copa en 2011. Sin embargo, la formación actual carece de jugadores que juegan en ligas europeas y han tenido pérdidas recientes a Chile y Paraguay. Sin embargo no cuentan Perú cabo. Al igual que Pelé sigue diciendo: “El fútbol es una caja de sorpresas.”
Okay. I just have one last group to go. But before I head into it, I’ll give you the links to my other Group reviews for those that missed:
And now here is my last group review for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup:
-France (3): France is one team loaded with talent and prowess but still looking for their first big break in a major international competition. The highest ‘Les Bleues’ have ever finished at a World Cup or an Olympics is fourth and they’ve never made it past the quarterfinal of a Women’s Euro.
No doubt they come to this World Cup with something to prove and the hopes of finally proving it here and now. France has been very impressive in their play these past two months. They’ve only lost to the United States. This could be their year.
-England (6): England is one of those countries that has constantly seen football as a man’s game leaving the women getting the short end of the stick. That was made evident in the 2003 movie Bend It Like Beckham. Things have gotten better as many Premier League teams have their own women’s teams like Everton, Aston Villa, Arsenal, Chelsea and Liverpool to name a few. They even have their own league, the WSL. Heck, even Prince William gave the national team a royal send-off before they left for Canada. However as they improve, so does women’s football as a whole and they struggle to show their greatness. They’ve only gotten as far as the quarterfinals in the World Cup. The ‘Three Lionesses’ did however make the finals of the 2009 Women’s Euro.
Play for the national team has been a struggle in recent years. They failed to advance past the group stage of the 2013 Women’s Euro. They also suffered a blow knowing that there won’t be a Great Britain team for the 2016 Olympics remembering the difficulties getting Great Britain teams were for London 2012. So it’s no wonder they’ll be looking for Canada for glory. They did however win the Cyprus Cup back in March where they beat Canada in the final as well as Finland and Australia. The last eighteen months have also been consistent for England as they’ve won most of their matches, losing only to France, Germany and the U.S. Their reputation can increase after this World Cup which will be a plus because at last year’s World Cup, the men failed to advance past the group stage for the first time since 1958. Trust the girls to give England that well-needed upper.
-Colombia (28): Colombia is an emerging nation in women’s football. They competed in their first World Cup in 2011 and they’ve finished second in the last two Copa America Femininas. They even have a berth in the 2016 Olympics upon their second-place finish at last year’s Copa and with winners Brazil automatically competing as host nation.
However ‘Las Cafetaras’ are still relatively inexperienced in terms of international play. The only UEFA team they’ve ever won against is Wales and they’ve never won against Mexico. They have some good talent that even plays in American and European leagues but they still have along ways to go to contend for bigger things. Nevertheless it’s all uphill from here. It would be interesting to see how far they go over time.
-Mexico (25): Mexico is one team on the move in women’s football. They’ve competed in two previous World Cups and one Olympics. They’ve been runner-up at the CONCACAF Cup twice and medalists at the Pan Am Games three out of four times.
‘El Tricolor’ have a talented line-up with no less than twelve players playing for American or European leagues. This is the team that is most likely to pull an upset as they have drawn against England in their last meeting. Their qualifying chances are very good. They could also progress well but they have a mixed record from the past twelve months. They’ve won against Italy, Czech Republic and Colombia but lost to Canada, U.S., Costa Rica and South Korea. Nevertheless whatever happens in Canada, El Tricolor have a bright future.
I feel France will take the top spot in this group. I feel England will most likely be second but Mexico could surprise. Mexico will definitely be third at the least.
Year Opened: 1983
World Cup Capacity: 54,500
World Cup Groups Hosting: C,D,
Additional World Cup Matches Contested: Round of 16, Quarterfinals, Final
The stadium was built with the intention of being a highlight during Expo 86.It consisted of a unique air-supported dome until 2010. Highlights of its use have primarily been CFL games and concerts. Noteworthy use in the past include Vancouver Canadians baseball games, the Pope’s visit in 1984, and ceremonies venue for the 2010 Winter Olympics and Winter Paralympics.
Vancouver however has a special liking to the sport of football. BC Place’s first ever event in June of 1983 was actually a soccer match starring the Vancouver Whitecaps who were then part of the NASL. The Whitecaps have had a loyal following over four decades and whatever name changes over the years and their transfer to the MLS five years ago were met with open arms. The Whitecaps have since gone on to be the fifth-most attended team of the MLS. It’s no wonder with this kind of football support Vancouver was easily chosen as a venue for the 2015 Women’s World Cup. One noteworthy item: all the tickets for the final at BC Place are sold out.
And there you have it. My last Women’s World Cup group review. More WWC blogs to come like my experience at the Trophy Tour, tournament analyses and my own experience at a Round of 16 game (Yes, I have a ticket!). The Cup all beings in Edmonton on Saturday the 6th!
Group C may look like a more relaxed group as compared to groups like Group B, Group D or Group G, but don’t be so quick to dismiss. There have been teams from nowhere that would come to surprise and finish high, if not win. Group C may come with one of those surprisers and it could be any of the four teams. All four have reputations of being ‘sleeping giants’ and it could be right here in Brazil where they finally arrive. Here’s my rundown:
-Colombia (5)- Colombia is one of many great teams who never had the change to deliver well at the World Cup. There was a period in the 90’s when they were one of the best teams in the world but during those three World Cups, they only made it past the Group Stage once and even then only got as far as the Round of 16. It’s a question of what it was: not all being together, political tension at the time, best players sidelined. We’ll never know. But now there’s a new Colombian team picking up where the previous one left off. They’re currently ranked in FIFA’s Top 5 and they’re hoping to deliver this time around. They have the players and the clout. They also have a good coach in Jose Pekerman who often selects players for a specific role rather than their profile. He was successful in coaching Argentina to the quarterfinals in 2006. They’ve even played well in recent games, tying Netherlands 0-0 and beating Belgium 2-0. Colombia can finally arrive on the World Cup scene here in Brazil.
-Greece (10)- This is one team whose prowess over the years has grown considerably. Their first World Cup was in 1994 and they were uninspiring: losing all three of their matches and scoring no goals while conceding ten. Things have really picked up for Greek football since. They were the surprise winners of Euro 2004. They returned to the World Cup and even though they didn’t advance past the Group Stage, they still had the benefit of winning a game: 2-1 against Nigeria. For 2014, they’re a top-ranked team in good hands with Portuguese coach Fernando Santos who has been very successful coaching in both Portugal and Greece. He guided Greece to the quarterfinals of Euro 2012 and to a consistent track record since, losing only to Bosnia-Hercegovina and South Korea. This is possibly Greece’s best team ever and there’s no better time than now for them to prove themselves.
-Ivory Coast (21)- At every World Cup since 1986, there’s been at least one African country that advances past the Group Stage. Some have made it as far as the quarterfinals. Many have expected the Ivory Coast–or Cote d’Ivoire– to be that team but ‘The Elephants’ have played below expectations in their two World Cup appearances in 2006 and 2010. Even though they have Didier Drogba, one of the greatest African football players ever, he can’t be a one-man team. Nevertheless the team has been very consistent in recent years. Much from the help of French coach Sabri Lamouchi who has guided the team these past couple of years. They finished second in the African Cup of Nations in 2012 and even tied Belgium 2-2 in a friendly this year. Even at 36, Drogba still looks and plays strong and the team consists of other good talents like Manchester City star Yaya Toure and promising young gun Serge Aurier. This could finally be The Elephants’ year.
-Japan (47)- No other nation has experienced increased growth of football in the last 20 years the way Japan has. It all started with the creation of the J League in 1993 when football really took off and helped Japan qualify for their first World Cup in 1998. They’ve qualified for every World Cup since even co-hosting in 2002 where they made it to the Round of 16 for the first time. Success continues for the Blue Samurais. They’re coached by Italian Alberto Zaccheroni They feature star players in the top European leagues including Keisuke Honda with AC Milan and Shinji Kagawa with Manchester United. From the first year Zaccheroni assumed the role of Japan’s coach, they won the 2011 Asian Cup. They’ve has mixed results in international play these past two years but have shown their strength trough ties against the Netherlands 2-2 and wins against France 1-0, Belgium 3-2, Ghana 3-1 and South Korea 2-1. They may rank low on FIFA’s chart but they could perform above expectations here.
Now my prediction for the two that will advance. It’s a toughie but I believe it will be Colombia and Greece that will advance.
Now that I’m done all the stadiums that will just hold Group Stage, I’ll now be focusing on stadiums that will host matches in the knockout rounds. One is brand new while one is older and has a reputation. Both will be known for their capacity and features and are both expected to have sufficient post-World Cup use.
Year Opened: 2013
World Cup Capacity: 46,154
World Cup Groups Hosting: A, C, D, G
Additional World Cup Matches Contested: Round of 16 (D1 vs. C2)
Pernambuco is a new stadium that was built not just for the World Cup but for last year’s Confederations Cup too. Pernambuco is a new stadium not just built for the World Cup and for Recife to have a new football stadium but also to give a financial boost to a deprived area of the city. Plans for the surrounding area include a university campus, indoor arena, hotel and convention centre, plus commercial, business and residential units and a large entertainment complex with shopping centres, cinemas, bars and restaurants. The biggest feature of the stadium is its intent to be a ‘Green Arena’ relying on solar power and even serving the purpose of being a solar power plant to power 6,000 people when not used for game play and be part of the research and development of solar power in Brazil. Football club Nautico Capibaribe is expected to make this stadium home after the World Cup.
Year Opened: 1973
World Cup Capacity: 67,037
World Cup Groups Hosting: A, C, D, G
Additional World Cup Matches Contested: Round of 16 (B1 vs. A2) & one quarter-final
Castelao is one of the few stadiums at this year’s World Cup to go through two major renovation projects. The first came in 2000 and it was a three-stage project that lasted a year. Then once it was assigned as a hosting venue for the World Cup, it was given a twenty-month reconstruction project starting in March2011: a mere ten years after the first set of renovations were completed. Whatever the situation, Castelao was the first World Cup venue to be completed, back in December 2011. Castelao was one of the venues for last year’s Confederations Cup. Castelao Stadium has always been a venue that has hosted big events in the past. Castelao plans to continue to host major concerts and serve as host venue for Ceara and Fortaleza Sporting Clubs.
And there you have it. My take on Group C and two more stadiums reviewed. Five more groups and six more stadiums to go.