A Look At A 48 Team World Cup

In January 2017 the FIFA Council approved a 48 team World Cup for the 2026 edition. Up from the current 32 teams.

A lot of time is left of course and the host(s) are not chosen yet, though a joint bid by USA, Mexico and Canada is the leading candidate. However increasing the number of countries is almost certain to lower the quality of matches. It is also very difficult to come up with a good format that is not as straightforward as 32 (and other numbers that are power of two)

FIFA has already agreed on the format and the plan is to have 16 groups of three teams with two team advancing. This already  makes the group stage meaningless and arguably unfair. A three group means three games per group, take for example,

Group

Team A

Team B

Team C

Matches

Team A vs Team B

Team B vs Team C

Team A vs Team C

How will a group like this be scheduled without team having more rest days than the other? Or that the last match can have both teams qualifying with a mutually beneficial result.

The allocation is another issue and as mentioned can cause a weakening and dilution of the tournament.

Asia will have 8 slots instead of the current 4.5

Africa 9 instead of 5

North, central America 6 instead 3.5

South America 6 instead of 4.5

Oceania 1 instead of 0.5

Europe 16 instead of 13

Plus 2 more slots in as yet undetermined playoffs, which can depend on the number of hosts as well.

An existing football infrastructure or hosts capable of  building it is another barrier that is at least not lessened by this kind of expansion. It remains to be seen if this effects the number of serious bids that are already few enough as it is. FIFA already requires at least one 80,000 capacity stadium and more with 60,000. The final decision on the hosts is expected in 2020.

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World Cup 2018: Stars Of The Group Stage

Mohamed Salah & Harry Kane are set to star at the World Cup

Eight groups and 32 teams. Not necessarily world wide stars but some players will shine in the group stage even though their team might not make it out of the group or perhaps fade after reaching the last 16. Below is a list of sixteen such players, two for each group.

Group A
The hosts, Russia, are not favorites to go far in the World Cup and that would be a failure for the country. Alan Dzagoev could be a star and needs to be for Russia to be a hit.
Egypt’s Mohamed Salah is on fire in the English Premier League and if does anywhere near as well in Russia he will be remembered and revered even more.

Group B
Cristiano Ronaldo led his team to the Euro 2016 championship, though he missed most of the final. His World Cup form has been mixed but he will be the star for Portugal.
Isco is Spain’s rising star and primed to leave a mark at the World Cup stage.

Group C
Antoine Griezmann will likely make a very big move after the World Cup. He can also lead France in the group stage and beyond.
Christian Eriksen can score spectacular goals and his goals can come in bunches as they did in the UEFA qualifying playoffs.

Group D
Lionel Messi left his national team mark when his hat trick rescued the Argentina team. Now he can and will do the same in Russia.
Luka Modric, late in his career, will pull the strings in midfield for Croatia.

Group E
Neymar is now the undisputed star of the Brazil national team. The selecao will live by his tricks and goals.
Keylor Navas in the Costa Rican goal will inspire and lead his team in the group stage.

Group F
Manuel Neuer is the leading figure of the German team. The goalie, sweeper will be one of the headliners of the group stage.
Javier Hernandez will score the goals to lead Mexico in the three group matches and beyond.

Group G
Kevin De Bruyne is at his peak for Manchester City. His pace and talent will create and finish for Belgium.
Harry Kane is the prolific goal scorer than can over English disappointments at the World Cup.

Group H
Robert Lewandowski will star and overcome his national team’s shortcomings to be one of the early stars in Russia.
Juan Cuadrado will create and cross from the midfield and wing for Radamel Falcao, Carlos Bacca et al to score the goals for Colombia.

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FIFA World Cup 2018: Top Two Forwards Of Each Team

The 2018 World Cup in Russia is just over five months away. Many bigger and not so bigger names have the chance to shine on the world stage, each of 32 teams’ forwards will try to make a bigger name for themselves and help their team advance to the knockout stages and play into July.

Below are two forwards from each qualified team with the best chance to become (bigger) heroes in their country and around the world.

Russia
Fyodor Smolov: 27 years old Krasnador forward with almost dozen goals to his name while playing for his national team. Regular scorer at club level and European club competitions.
Artem Dzyuba: Zenit player struggling with injuries. One of the stars of Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.

Saudi Arabia
Mohammad Al-Sahlawi: Top scorer for club (Al-Nassr) and country with a more than one goal every two games goal scoring record over his career.
Nasser Al-Shamrani: A veteran on the team who featured for his national team as long ago as 2005.

Egypt
Mohamed Salah: One of the stars of the 2017-2018 European season leading the way for Liverpool after moving to England from Roma.
Ahmed Hassan Mahgoub: Not a regular for club (Braga) but still young at 24.

Uruguay
Luis Suarez: The infamous player still going strong for Barcelona and his national team.
Edinson Cavani: The owner of many missed chances is still a crucial part of the puzzle for the teams he plays for.

Portugal
Cristiano Ronaldo: Needs no introduction of course, heading towards the end of his career and it is his last chance to make as strong an impact at a World Cup.
Andre Silva: Young forward with a very good national team record (11 goals in 18 caps) and praised by many but struggling for minutes and goals in his first season in Italy.

Spain
Alvaro Morata: Almost super star level scoring regularly for Chelsea and his country.
Diego Costa: Hot headed but important player who fulfills certain characteristics, back in Spain after over three years in England.

Morocco
Khalid Boutaib: Regular scorer for club (Yeni Malatyaspor) and country. French born.
Youssef El-Arabi: Plays in the Qatar Stars League, also French born.

Iran
Sardar Azmoun: 22 goals in 30 caps. The hope of the national team.
Karim Ansarifard: Regular scorer in the Greece Superleague and the national team. A rising star in his mid 20s.

France
Antoine Griezmann: In demand forward likely to move from Atletico Madrid after the World Cup.
Kylian Mbappe: One of the most expensive players in the world, still only 19.

Australia
Tim Cahill: Still going strong at 38. His country is very reliant on him.
Mathew Leckie: One of the stars of his national team’s qualification for the World Cup.

Peru
Jefferson Farfan: Top scorer for country, one of the key reasons Peru are back at the World Cup.
Raul Ruidiaz: Good scorer in his native land and in the Mexican league.

Denmark
Nicklas Bendtner: Lord Bendtner is still a key player for the national team.
Kasper Dolberg: Rising star for Ajax and Denmark. In demand across Europe.

Argentina
Lionel Messi: Needs no introduction. Scored the goals that rescued Argentina from a near World Cup miss.
Sergio Aguero: Super star. Prolific scorer everywhere.

Iceland
Alfreo Finnbogason: One of the national team’s leading scorers.
Kolbeinn Sigthorsson: Scorer of a historic goal – the winning goal vs England – at Euro 2016.

Croatia
Mario Mandzukic: Key man for Juventus and country. Tall center forward.
Nikola Kalinic: Poor form at club a concern.

Nigeria
Ahmed Musa: Not always at his best but crucial for country.
Kelechi Iheanacho: Some important goals for Manchester City before moving to Leicester City last summer.

Brazil
Neymar: Record transfer holder and prolific scorer, now his own star at PSG.
Gabriel Jesus: A rising star at Manchester City.

Switzerland
Haris Seferovic: Not always consistent but his goals are needed for country.
Admir Mehmedi: The same as Seferovic. Can be inconsistent and miss chances.

Costa Rica
Marco Urena: MLS player who plays an important role up front.
Bryan Ruiz: Veteran captain who has starred in several European leagues.

Serbia
Aleksandar Mitrovic: One of the stars of World Cup 2018 qualification.
Aleksandar Prijovic: A good goal scorer at club level.

Germany
Thomas Muller: Can play anywhere in the front line. Typical strong German player.
Timo Werner: At 21 a rising star of the Bundesliga, Champions League and the national team.

Mexico
Javier Hernandez: Back in England after time in Spain and Germany. Divides opinion but a pure goal scorer.
Raul Jimenez: Experienced forward. Super sub at his club (Benfica).

Sweden
Marcus Berg: Veteran who plays an important role in the post Ibra era.
Alexander Isak: Youngest goalscorer for the Swedish national team.

South Korea
Son Heung-min: Doing well for Tottenham in England. A key player for the national team.
Ji Dong-won: Not the most prolific at Augsburg in Germany but important for his native country.

Belgium
Romelu Lukaku: His country’s big hope. Strong and experienced at only 24. Subject of a big move to Manchester United last summer.
Dries Mertens: Almost a late bloomer. A star in the Serie A for Napoli.

Panama
Blas Perez: 36 years old veteran still going strong for the first time qualifiers.
Gabriel Torres: Scorer of important goals to qualify for World Cup 2018.

Tunisia
Youssef Msakni: Qatar based top scorer.
Ahmed Akaichi: Saudi Arabia based forward whose goals will be needed in Russia.

England
Harry Kane: Outscored everyone – including Messi and Ronaldo – in the 2017 calendar year with 56 for club and country.
Jamie Vardy: His pace and work ethic will be needed in Russia.

Poland
Robert Lewandowski: One of the world’s best will carry his country forward.
Arkadiusz Milik: Injury has hampered his progress but is very capable.

Senegal
Sadio Mane: An offensive star for Liverpool and country.
Moussa Sow: UAE based veteran whose contribution is required.

Colombia
Carlos Bacca: Highly experienced goal scorer. Sometimes struggles in Europe.
Radamel Falcao: Back to his best at Monaco after years of injury and falling form.

Japan
Shinji Okazaki: Valuable experience in England has helped this veteran.
Takuma Asano: Once of Arsenal now based in Germany. He can and must step forward and add important goals.

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FIFA World Cup 2018 Group Stage Draw

Group A
Russia
Saudi Arabia
Egypt
Uruguay
Group B
Portugal
Spain
Morocco
Iran
Group C
France
Australia
Peru
Denmark
Group D
Argentina
Iceland
Croatia
Nigeria
Group E
Brazil
Switzerland
Costa Rica
Serbia
Group F
Germany
Mexico
Sweden
South Korea
Group G
Belgium
Panama
Tunisia
England
Group H
Poland
Senegal
Colombia
Japan

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World Cup 2018 Line Up Complete

We now know the identity of the 32 teams that have qualified for the FIFA World Cup that will take place in Russia in 2018. The final inter continental playoffs are now finished with Australia and Peru joining the other 30 teams.

As widely reported this coming World Cup is missing a few big or very familiar teams. Italy, Holland and the USA won’t be in Russia next year as they failed to qualify  and each team will have to restart and reorganize their grass roots football structure. Other power houses missing include the Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Chile.

The 32 qualified teams are listed below along with the pots they will be placed in for the draw that takes places on December 1 2017. Eight groups of four will compete for the World Cup between 14 June and 15 July 2018.

Russia 1
Brazil 1
Iran 3
Japan 4
Mexico 2
Belgium 1
South Korea 4
Saudi Arabia 4
Germany 1
England 2
Spain 2
Nigeria 4
Costa Rica 3
Poland 1
Egypt 3
Iceland 3
Serbia 4
Portugal 1
France 1
Uruguay 2
Argentina 1
Colombia 2
Panama 4
Senegal 3
Morocco 4
Tunisia 3
Switzerland 2
Croatia 2
Sweden 3
Denmark 3
Australia 4
Peru 2

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World Cup 2010 Day 31, A Brief Recap Of The Final

Spain World Cup
Spain 1-0 Holland
Andres Iniesta (116′)

Fernando Torres was once again on the bench as Pedro got another start. Holland had their suspended players back and therefore had a full first choice side. The game started unevenly with small fouls, especially by the Dutch, dominating the proceedings. English referee Howard Webb was influencing the game somewhat with a succession of yellow cards. It was not so much a question of the cards themselves but if or not they would be awarded by all referees for the same fouls in a consistent manner. Despite the so-called chippy play neither team adapted a defensive stance but they did manage to almost neutralize one another. Spain’s Sergio Ramos was the first to produce and get good chances when he headed the ball once low and then crossed well into the Dutch area. The best chance of the first half fell to Arjen Robben but he failed to beat Iker Casillas in the Spain goal. The second half was more open with more chances but again neither team had a stranglehold. Spain continued to enjoy better possession stats however. The introduction of Jesus Navas for Pedro livened up Spain further as his wing play opened up space on more than one occasion. Robben had another clear chance but again failed to get it past the Spanish goalie. So extra time was needed with the threat of shootout looming yet again. Substitute Fabregas had a chance to end it before that but failed on a clear chance. John Heitinga somewhat inevitably received a second yellow and reduced the Dutch to 10 men. Torres finally came on very late, for David Villa, and was part of a move that freed Iniesta who in turn placed the ball well and just beat Maarten Stekelenburg for the winning goal.
Spain became the World Cup champions for the first time and deserve a place in the best teams of all time list if for nothing else than holding the European and World Cup trophies at the same time.

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World Cup 2010 Day 30, A Brief Recap

Uruguay 2-3 Germany
Edinson Cavani (28′) Diego Forlan (51′) Thomas Muller (19′) Marcell Jansen (56′) Sami Khedira (82′)

The 3rd-4th places matches at World Cups have produced an average of almost four goals per game and the 2010 edition did not disappoint. As expected the game was pretty open. Germany started a changed side with Miroslav Klose on the bench with a knock and Dennis Aogo, Hans-Jorg Butt and Marcell Jansen starting in place of Lukas Podolski, Manuel Neuer and Philip Lahm. Uruguay were much closer to the full squad with (the constantly booed) Luis Suarez back. The game was open if not spectacular. Muller’s opening goal from a rebounded shot was followed by Cavani for a half time tie. Diego Forlan provided a lead for Uruguay with another rather long range shot that fooled the German goalkeeper. Marcell Jansen tied it soon after when a high cross was missed by both Fernando Muslera and Diego Lugano. The game was lively and saves were required by both goalies and before the game could go to extra time Sami Khedira headed in over the hands of Muslera and into the far corner. And so the Germans took third place for the second World Cup in a row.
Of note, Klose was not able to attempt to tie or break the record for most World Cup goals scored and Brazil’s Ronaldo will probably be holding on to that record for a while yet. Also, Canadian Hector Vergara became the record holder for most World Cup matches as a referee, linesman or assistant at 14.

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World Cup 2010 Day 27, A Brief Recap

Spain 1-0 Germany
Carles Puyol (73′)

Thomas Muller was missing from this second semi-final due to suspension and that put the so far successful German 4-2-3-1 in doubt. Piotr Trochowski got the start instead. Spain featured Pedro and David Villa with Fernando Torres on the bench. The early signs were not positive for Germany as they sat back and Spain deployed their possession and passing game. Jerome Boateng was not having a comfortable night as Sergio Ramos was taking advantage of the right wing. The game was slow with the Germans surprisingly not pressing for the ball. The first half featured very little real chances on Manuel Neuer and the feeling was that the Spaniards needed to convert their possession into something or regret it later. The second half showed glimmers of liveliness but again the Spanish were playing their game without getting their goal. Bastian Schweinsteiger and Lukas Podolski were rarely seen and would perhaps be the disappointments of the night. Joachim Low, the German coach, seemed to realize mistakes and made two changes which he probably wasn’t expecting to need to. Marcell Jansen and Toni Kroos came on for Jerome Boateng and Piotr Trochowski. The game changed little however and it was left to Carles Puyol to show determination as he rose ahead of team mate Gerard Pique to head in from a corner. Germany woke up and opened up leaving wide open spaces behind them. Pedro could have easily made it 2-0 if he had taken advantage of one of the openings. Amid apologies to his team mates he was soon replaced by David Silva. Germany came close to punishing Spanish misses but never really too close and so Spain will play Holland for what will be a first World Cup crown for either team.

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World Cup 2010 Day 26, A Brief Recap

Uruguay 2-3 Holland
Diego Forlan (41′) Maxi Pereira (90′) Giovanni Van Bronckhorst (18′) Wesley Sneijder (70′) Arjen Robben (73′)

This semi final started with Holland looking the more assured. Even though Holland were missing key players Gregory van der Weil and Nigel De Jong due to suspension they seemed not to be affected defensively or otherwise. That was partly due to Uruguay missing a key figure of their own in forward Luis Suarez. The game wasn’t the speediest or the most urgently played one until Holland captain and full back Giovanni Van Bronckhorst decided to go for it. He shot from the left side and 30+ yards away almost straight in to the far top corner. Uruguay were stunned, probably as much as Holland themselves, but responded. Uruguay gained and won more of the ball and before the half was over Diego Forlan tied it from a more central location. The ball swerved and left Maarten Stekelenburg in the Holland goal only able to get fingertips to it. The second half saw Holland replace Demy De Zeeuw with Rafael Van der Vaart. The Dutch coach, Bert van Marwijk, probably realizing the extra defensive presence in midfield was not really required. The game’s shape didn’t change too much however as Uruguay maintained some useful balls if not overall control of the possession. That all changed when Wesley Sneijder shot another ‘semi-deflected’ ball low into the far corner. Replays showed that Robin Van Persie was perhaps (very few) inches offside as the ball moved very near to him and in to the goal. Moments later a good cross lead to a headed third, one that left Fernando Muslera stranded and motionless in the Uruguay goal. Uruguay tried and got a goal back in added time to get an over all fairer final score but not a trip to the finals.

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World Cup 2010 Day 23, A Brief Recap

Germany 4-0 Argentina
Thomas Muller (3′) Miroslav Klose (68′, 89′) Arne Friedrich (74′)

Germany exposed the defensive frailties of Argentina and at the same time managed to frustrate the South Americans to shots straight into the hands of Manuel Neuer. A defense still featuring Nicolas Burdisso and Martin Demichelis in the center and Nicolas Otamendi on one side was exposed as early as the third minute when it failed to deal with a German freekick. Germany’s 4-2-3-1 featuring Mesut Ozil, Lukas Podolski, and Thomas Muller behind a lone forward has been trouble for most and with the aid of Bastian Schweinsteiger and Samir Khedira did its job and even more against the Argentinians. On the other side Lionel Messi had a World Cup he would like to forget as in this game he was limited to moves far away from the German goal and when he did manage to get closer two or three German players blocked any progress. Carlos Tevez worked hard as usual but didn’t really come close to the required. Gonzalo Higuain’s World Cup ended almost as disappointingly as the rest because the German defense did an even better job than before considering the talent it was facing.

Spain 1-0 Paraguay
Xabi Alonso (pen miss 61′) David Villa (83′) Oscar Cardozo (pen miss 59′)

The first half produced little as Spain were frustrated by the Paraguayans who had made six changes from the team that started against Japan days earlier. The new starters which included the likes of Jonathan Santana and Dario Veron were solid but if the changes were to inspire more goals it failed to materalize. The second half seemed to be headed in the same direction as the first but a series of back to back to events added excitement as well as question marks. First Gerard Pique granted a penalty to Paraguay when he almost blatantly held on to Cardozo. The same Paraguayan took charge of the penalty and had it saved, some players seemingly insisting on shooting low and off center. Barely two minutes later David Villa found a 50-50 penalty and Xabi Alonso scored, but the ref demanded a re-take (because of players moving into the box early?) and this time it was saved. Spain found slightly more impetus from the events but it took them a long time to convert. Substitute Pedro ran into the area and shot towards the corner of the net, his ball hit the post and came back to the feet of Villa, his shot in turn bounced off the post and just made it inside the goal at the other post. Spain held on and made their way to a semi final meeting with the Germans.

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