World Cup Quiz

Everyone knows the big dogs when it comes to the World Cup, with teams like Brazil, Germany, Italy and Uruguay winning an incredible 15 tournaments (75% of the competitions) between them. But what about the smaller teams? Underdog nations such as Iceland and Panama are making their debut this year, whilst other nations such as Japan and Iran who’ve never won, have made to another of many World Cups. Whilst most people’s Odds on who will win World Cup 2018 will lie with the bigger teams, remember those champions had to make their debut at some point! Take this quiz to find out who your second pick should be this year!

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Asian Chances at the Fifa World Cup 2018

Russia 2018

Other than the magical South Korean Semi Final run when they hosted the finals in 2002, Asian teams have always struggled. Yes there have been memorable moments (who will ever forget the Saudi Arabian goal in 1994) but more often than not they fail to make it past the group stage and are home before the serious competition starts. What about this year? Will they fair any better? Let us take a look……

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia have had one shining World Cup moment, when they scored perhaps one of the finest goals in World Cup history in 1994 with a solo effort that you need to check out now on Youtube. However, other than that they have been something of the boys to beat with some heavy score lines against them. Even though in 2018 they have been handed a fairly tame group, they would probably have to beat hosts Russia and get something out Egypt to progress which seems unlikely. 0 points and 0 goals is more likely.

Iran

Saudi Arabia may have a nice draw, Iran have the worst this years Fifa World Cup 2018. There is very little to say about the uninspiring Iran line up, other than that they will likely be on the end of convincing defeats to both Spain and Portugal. Again, they face a battle with Morocco to get 3rd in the group, but even that seems a stretch. Another Asian team who is more likely to get 0 points and 0 goals than anything else.

Australia

….well we may as well include them! With an ever impressive Peru, a robust Denmark and a star studded France, Australia cannot have been happy with the draw they faced. They lack experience, lack quality and they lack a chance.

South Korea

Always remembered for their run in 2002, they can expect little in 2018 as the draw was not kind. Germany will be looking to dish out a beating, and with a Swedish side that seem to hitting form at the right team and an ever robust Mexico, I am struggling to see where these points will come from and sadly for the Korean’s an early exit seems inevitable.

Japan

Always outsiders when it comes to the finals, but with an impressive qualification record, the draw will have pleased Japan. I don’t think they will fear Poland, Colombia and Senegal and this appears one of the most unpredictable groups in the contest. Picking up one win and holding on for a draw elsewhere may be enough to send them in the next round and out of all of the Asian teams, although I think none will qualify, if I had to choose one it would be Japan.

Hence, just like the African nations, I forsee very little hope for the Asian nations and they too could all find themselves down and out of the World cup after the group stage.

Why not check out our free World Cup Quiz?

Infographic – Best 11 at the World Cup

So we’re a few games into the World Cup now and as expected, it’s been really hard to predict the outcomes, as it usually is, going massively against the expected predictions. We’ve seen Argentina really struggle against a resolute Iceland, Germany bested by a rampant Mexico and as expected and England struggle to come through a game they should have breezed through.

Big tournaments throw up some surprises but even before this World Cup there were a few when it came to the players going into the tournament. Most fans and pundits would have selected a team they thought would have done well but what they probably didn’t know is the exact form of the players coming in to the tournament. WhoScored.com has a unique system for rating players and based upon these, the best 11 at the World Cup looks completely different to what would be expected.

If you’re as intrigued as we were, see our infographic below and try not to be too shocked at some of the players. Spain to win world cup odds are 9/2 which comes as no surprise as they continue to play some of the most attractive football in the tournament and have all but secured there progression to the knock out stages.

The Best 11 at the World Cup

African Chances at the World Cup

World Cup

Pele one famously said that he believed an African nation would win the World Cup by the year 2000. That has never really come close to being a reality, and 18 years later we still await the first real African contender. Will 2018 be the year this finally comes through for Pele, or will we see the African nations fail to materialise once again. With a strong duo from South America and 3-4 European nations having their best teams in years it may prove difficult but let us have a look at each team and their hopes…

Egypt

Two words define the chances of Egypt…Mo Salah. If he is fit and playing well, they may stand a chance of getting out of the group. If not….they won’t. It is a rare thing for them to qualify for a World Cup and to be fair they have been handed a group that is passable. Uruguay will be the favourites of course, but if Egypt can counter the home advantage of Russia they may well make it through. The last 16 meeting with Portugal or Spain should see their end…

Morocco

Speaking of Portugal and Spain, Morocco find themselves in the group with the two European giants.  It would take a miracle for them to progress out of this group, but if they do a tame Last 16 may await with Uruguay. Iran are the third team they will face at the group stage and with both teams knowing a 3 point win is what matters in that meeting, it is too lose to call. An exit at the group stage beckons.

Nigeria

Not the force they once were, and looking very week in the build up, Nigeria may also struggle to get past the group stage. Argentina should coast a relatively easy Group D and Croatia have been looking solid enough to clinch second. If Nigeria want to contend they will have to overcome an unpredictable Iceland. Lacking the stars they once had, this will be a tough ask to get out of the group.

Tunisia

Faced with England and Belgium in the group, I don’t imagine Tunisia will be seeing the latter stages. Never looked impressive in qualification and nor have they improved since. A bottom of the group clash with Panama is their only hope of scoring any points.

Senegal

If I was a betting man and had to pick one African team with the best chance of making it out of the groups, my money would be on Senegal. Poland and Japan are not the most intimidating of opponents, and even group favourites Colombia are not the team they were 4 years ago. Senegal have some really player for player quality and a good team ethos.  I don’t see them making it past the Last 16 where England of Belgium will await however.

All in all, 2018 does not mark a high point for the African nations. Anyone of them will be overjoyed to make it past the group and I think it will be nothing sort of a shock if any of them are still around come the Quarter Finals.

A Closer Look at England’s World Cup Opponents

England World Cup

As we have now just passed the 50-day mark until the World Cup, can we officially say it is time to get excited? For England fans, so disheartened by the last few major tournaments, let’s say that any excitement is also mixed with a little trepidation. However, there are some good signs coming from the recent performances of Gareth Southgate’s men that suggest they could leave a more positive impact in Russia.

Before getting into the possibilities of how far England could go, they will, of course, have to navigate the group stage. When the draw was made, Southgate would have been reasonably happy with Belgium, Panama and Tunisia. However, it might be a little trickier than it looks. Here is a quick run-down of those three opponents:

Belgium

They are the favourites (5/6) to top Group G, and even the most ardent England fans would find that difficult to argue against. There is so much to like about this Belgium side: a world class keeper in Courtois; brilliant defenders in Vertonghen and Kompany; the midfield of De Bruyne, Nainggolan and Hazard; the attacking options offered by Mertens and Lukaku. In fact, Belgium’s stock has risen so much in recent years that they are considered the value bet at 12/1 to win the World Cup. You can check out thebookiesoffers.co.uk for the latest free bets to back them, England or anyone else.

Key man: Kevin De Bruyne – it’s his time to stake a claim to be the best player in the world.

BelgiumThis Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY

 

Tunisia

England play Tunisia in their opening fixture and they may be in for a tougher game than most believe. The North African side are now ranked as high is 14th in the world, England by comparison are 13th. It would be nevertheless a huge shock if they beat England and went on to qualify from Group G (5/1 odds). However, don’t be completely shocked if the Tunisians come away with a point from that first game. They are hard to break down and could sucker punch England if they are not careful.

Key man: Wahbi Khazri – something of an enigma at Sunderland, but now much improved at Rennes (on loan). He is one of those players who can make a goal from nothing. Beware.

Panama:

Panama have qualified for the first World Cup in their history, so it is likely their biggest aspiration will simply be to avoid being the group whipping boys. Can they cause an upset? Probably not. They are priced around 50/1 to win the group and up to 2000/1 to win the World Cup. However, they will likely draw inspiration from fellow Central Americans, Costa Rica, who confounded the odds to reach the quarter finals in 2014. That, of course, came at the expense of England, so you can guarantee that Southgate won’t take the Panamanians lightly.

Key Man: Gabriel Gomez – 143 caps and counting for the midfielder whose main job will be to screen the defence. He will likely be very busy in Russia.

And a quick note on England:

KaneThis Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-ND

 

England should qualify with Belgium to reach the Last 16, where one of Colombia, Poland, Japan or Senegal will await them. After that (if successful), they are likely to come up against the likes of Brazil or Germany. The question for many fans is what will constitute success? You could argue that a run to the quarters would give Gareth Southgate’s young side something to build on. 16/1 if you fancy the Three Lions to go all the way.

The World Cup -What would be a “good result” for England?

Russia 2018

Following England at the World cup over the course of my lifetime has been nothing but frustration, pain and disappointment. With the national team on something of a decline, and arguably devoid of any of the World Class players we used to have, the 2018 World Cup has England fans in a mixed frame of mind. In the likes of 1998, 2002 and even 2006, anything short of winning the whole tournament would have been a let down. But what actually constitutes success and failure in the 2018 version?

Obviously, not making it out of the group would be a disaster, Last time around, we had a dicey group and could be partially forgiven for not making the knockout stages. This time however, a failure to progress would surely mean the end of the Southgate era. Belgium provide tricky opposition, and despite being on a 17 match unbeaten run, England should not fear a side who have yet to prove themselves on the biggest of stages. Tunisia and Panama, you would expect without an disrespect, are not on the same playing field as England and anything sort of convincing wins would be a cause for concern.

Then that would leave England in the last 16 possibly with meetings against Senegal, Poland or Colombia (or  Japan if they can cause a surprise). Again, none of these are opposition England should fear, Colombia are not the team that they once were and Poland are something of a one man team. Again, whatever your feelings are on England, you have to believe that, when you look at the teams here, an exit at the Last 16 stage is also something that must be considered a failure. Even if Southgate is “planning for the future”, and I do believe in giving managers a chance, there has to be a line drawn and if he can’t manage this out of the group and past the 4 teams  that are an option in the Last 16, then time for a change.

The Quarter final must be considered  a success. Being one of the Top 8 in the world, and in with the likes of the teams who will be in is a result. A valiant loss to one of the big boys is nothing to be ashamed of. Anyone who reaches the World Cup Quarter Final is a quality side. The Semi Final would be something England have not done for 28 years, and a Final appearance….well, let us not get too far ahead of ourselves.

Either way, this should be a very interesting Summer and with a likeable collection of young, hungry players, playing a likeable style of football, I am sure the nation will be behind the team. What will happen? It is too hard to tell but I for one have a certain degree of optimism that this could be a very happy summer and we may hear those three lions roaring once again. One thing that will happen…..is drama!

Golden Boot Contenders

World Cup Golden Boot

One of the most popular bets placed prior to the World Cup is regarding which player will walk away with the Golden Boot, for netting the most number of goals in the tournament. Usually anyone who nets 5 or more can be hopeful of winning it but let us take a look at some of the leading contenders and assess their chances . Who is your money on?

Lionel Messi – Always likely to lead the betting, and the out right goal machine has a nice easy group to start racking up goals. Although Argentina are happy with a 1-0 win, unlike his club, Messi should be able to push on add to his tally. But will he get enough?

Antonie Grizmann – The closer it gets, the more I am thinking 2018 may just be Griezmann’s year. In an attacking French team, he is the main man and with his current form he is going to be troubling defences. Will France get far enough to allow him to score the 5 or 6 needed though?

Neymar – Proven himself to be one of the worlds best players and almost justifies his price tag, and with a big money move again looming, as well as his desire for revenge on last World cups humiliation, this man may just be the one to watch.

Harry Kane – A goal machine against weak opposition in the Premier League, Harry Kane may just well fill his boots with the matches against Panama and Tunisia. A brace in those games will set him up nicely, and with a price tag of 25/1 in some places, he may well be the man. But you will need to check around and perhaps take a look at football acca tips.

Gabriel Jesus – If Neymar doesn’t deliver for Brazil, then Jesus will be the man too. Whether they both play, and whether there is enough in the team for them both the net enough goals to be contenders. A cheeky bet may have been placed on Jesus by this writer.

Cristiano Ronaldo – A list cannot be a list without the main himself on it. However, as great as he is, carrying this Portugal team to enough wins to make Ronaldo a contender the award may just well be a step too far!

Romelu Lukaku – Similar to the comments on Harry Kane, with a nice easy group, this may play into Lukaku’s hands, a man who traditionally does well against weaker opposition!

If you are betting person, this is going to be a very tough call to make. I don’t see an Italians, Germans  or Spaniards netting enough to contend but all it takes, as happened in 1994, is one hat trick plus in a game and then you are well on your way to nabbing the award. Who are you picking? Who are the outsiders? Any tips for underdogs? Let us know

 

Will Belgium’s golden generation finally come good?

belgium-world-cup-squad-official

Every so often, a nation unearths a golden generation of footballers – not just one or two talented players but a whole group of them, all peaking at same time in terms of ability, experience and availability.

It’s important to capitalise on a so-called golden generation. Spain did, in winning the 2010 World Cup. Germany did by triumphing in 2014. Further back, France’s best squad of players for a generation won the tournament in 1998. It doesn’t always work out, though. Despite a team that included David Beckham, Rio Ferdinand, John Terry, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Wayne Rooney, England couldn’t get past the quarter-finals in 2006.

Now it’s Belgium’s turn to cope with such lofty expectations. Belgium’s current crop of players have been lauded for some time, and make no mistake, it’s the best squad they’ve had for years. Trouble is, now they have to deliver and make a serious impact on the tournament. In 2014, they reached the quarter-finals (losing to Argentina). Two years later, at the European Championships, it was another quarter-final finish, this time exiting at the hands of Wales.

Surely, this Belgium squad is better than simply reaching the last eight of a tournament? That’s the pressure that sits on the shoulders of team coach Roberto Martinez. He may not get another World Cup from this group of players – some of them definitely won’t be around in four years’ time. This, then, is surely the nation’s optimum time for glory. If you’re betting on Belgium with williamhill.com, 888sport.com, unibet or another online provider, you’re sure to find them among the favourites.

Or at least they should be. Belgium’s big build up to the tournament hasn’t exactly been smooth. Martinez took the controversial decision to omit Radja Nainggolan from his squad, citing ‘tactical reasons’. On the face of it, this could be a mistake. Nainggolan is not a conventional player – he’s a bit of a loose cannon – but he could have given Belgium a vital edge in terms of attacking creativity. He’s exactly the type of wild card player who could win a game with a decisive goal from nowhere, and he’d have gone into the tournament off the back of a successful season with Roma.

That’s a strike against Martinez even before a ball was kicked. Then there’s the omission, from the final squad of 23 players, of Christian Benteke. The big striker had a rotten season with Crystal Palace but has a decent international goalscoring record of 12 goals in 34 matches. Without him, Belgium are light in the centre-forward area, with just Romelu Lukaku and Michy Batshuayi (just back from injury) as recognised strikers, though Dries Mertens, primarily a wide player can add support. Nevertheless, it feels like a gamble from Martinez.

There’s also concern over the fitness of captain Vincent Kompany, who suffered a groin injury in the pre tournament friendly against Portugal. This is nothing new of course; Kompany is the wrong side of 30 years of age and his last few years have been blighted by injury. He’s still in the squad but when Belgium’s other central defenders include Thomas Vermaelen, perhaps the only centre-back in world football with a worse injury record than Kompany, Martinez should be worried.

The group draw has been relatively kind on Belgium, who are odds-on to top their table, though England could push them for that. Other group opponents Panama and Tunisia shouldn’t hold any fears. Once into the knockout stages, opponents will come from Group H – Poland, Senegal, Colombia or Japan. Then, into the last eight – which is the very least Belgium should achieve – a meeting with Brazil or Germany is highly likely.

That’s when we’ll really see how good this Belgium is.

 

 

England at the 2018 World Cup

In my life time of watching football, I am used to pundits, fans and the press hyping up the England teams chances of excelling at a major tournament. But this time around things are different….with new players, a new manager and a long term plan seemingly in place, there is a feeling this World Cup is a stepping stone to greater things. But I assure you not one fan, player or management staff will be thinking that come the big day….just how will England do?

Despite the relative inexperience of the players and manager, England breezed through the qualifiers and whilst never being outstanding, rarely looked troubled. It is the same old story you may say, but the qualifiers can give you a hint. England struggled in the run up games to Euro 2016 and looked vulnerable at times, but not in this campaign.

Gareth Southgate has been to the big tournaments in the modern era and understands what they are all about. The little touches he will bring, as a man of experience, may be the difference in keeping the squad focused. He has quietly built his own system, introduced his own players and got a team functioning as a team. The criticism always levelled at the previous “Golden era” was that we have a collection of individuals rather than a unit….that can no longer.

The wing back system Southgate seems to favour, is one that will be unique in the tournament. Southgate saw that system function superbly under Glenn Hoddle and seems to be set on imitating it. Opposition may not be used to such a style and we say indeed see it work to England’s advantage. The core of the defence remains strong, the wing backs we have offer great potential both defensively and going forward and the system is very flexible.

Even the most pessimistic England fan must sense qualification is likely. Tunisia and Panama are weak sides, and lack the quality and experience to frustrate England for long. The Belgium game will be key and that will tell us all we need to know. Playing against a team unbeaten in 17 matches, with world class players in every position on the big stage will test any team. A victory in that match may allow England to dream big! That will get the nation dreaming and probably thinking about having a flutter perhaps even on NetBet Sport World Cup Betting

Should the group stage prove passable, Senegal and  Colombia await in the Last 16, both of which England would start as favourites. If that occurs and England earn a Quarter final berth, then that will be mission accomplished for Southgate and company. Anything before the Quarter Finals will be labelled a disappointment, anything after it will be an over achievement.

With Kane, Ali, Sterling and co, along with a solid defence and a dependable set of goalkeepers, any of the opposition who England may face in the latter stages would have to take them as a serious threat.

Will going into a tournament without the hype, as something of an underdog, help the team achieve? Only time will tell

If you have a little time on your hands in the build up then why not check out our England or  World Cup Quiz

Russia as a World Cup venue

Russia 2018

The selection of Russia as a venue for the World Cup 2018 was met with much criticism at the time, and as the political dynamic in the world changes, the criticism continues to grow. Never in my lifetime can I remember as much debate about whether a nation is worthy to host a contest in the run up the finals. Well for now anyhow – l suspect it will equally as controversial in 4 years time in Qatar 2022.

Russia itself is a vast vast country and it goes without saying that there is going to be a lot of travelling involved. Russia is the biggest nation ever to host a World Cup and the distance between the furthest two stadiums is equivalent to a continent. For many players and teams it won’t even feel like playing in the same country. One can’t help but feel some ground rules should have been made about which Stadiums should be used, but alas….fans can expect 14 hour train journeys and multiple flights to get across to games. Not ideal? Part of the fun? And what about the affects on players. If you play into the latter stages the air miles these guys will rack up is going to be huge. Travelling across a country will have wear and tear on the bodies and minds of the players. Perhaps we may be surprised by the mental resilience of some of the smaller nations.

There is no doubt the Stadiums are all high tech, with the first final to played on a plastic pitch due this year, the facilities are second to none. Putin and Russian want to impress, they want to showcase Russia to the world and the best way to do that is going to be how  it looks on TV. I expect a huge spectacle, a lavish opening ceremony and a huge focus on the greatness of Russia.

Concerns have been raised with the LGBT community about their safety fears. The last think Russia wants is to have negative press so I hope that they are prepared!

There has been concern about Russian fans, their hardcore hooligans and crime rings. Russian authorities promise big punishments if they are caught and hopefully that will keep things at bay. But I fully expect come June, to see police battling with drunken fans and riots in the streets….a  sad state of affairs in the modern game.

All that aside my favourites will be the French and if you are interested in their odd at this years World Cup check out: https://www.signupbonuses.co.uk/ – why not get a cheeky bonus!