In just a few months, one of the greatest sporting events will begin, the 2018 FIFA World Cup. From June 14 to July 15, 2018, 32 teams will battle it out for that coveted trophy in rounds of pulsating action that will electrify audiences. Qualifying for this global showpiece was not an easy thing, with 210 teams competing for 31 open spots (as the hosting nation, the Russian team automatically qualify).
A Tough Qualification Journey
Brazil became the first country to secure qualification to the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Their campaign was impressive. This was after they had changed their management and coach, with Tite being appointed in June 2016.
This team has undergone a successful rehabilitation after their disastrous campaign on home soil in the last World Cup tournament. In 2014, they suffered a complete humiliation from eventual winners Germany as they got thrashed 7-1. They didn’t recover from the loss, hiding in the semifinals, with the Netherlands beat them 3-0, placing them third.
It seems they are out to correct the mistakes of 2014. The team looks more cohesive and creative thanks to the introduction of new young talents. They have not lost any qualifier and the strategy of having different captains for each game seems to be working for them.
They need to add a sixth crown to the five they have won in the past. Will they do it in Russia?
Germany secured qualification by beating Northern Ireland 3-1 to finish top of their group. This team is the defending champions of the tournament, as they won in Brazil in 2014 by beating Argentina 1-0 in overtime. The team boasts of youthful talents who ensure that the winning machine will always rumble even with the departure of stars like Philipp Lahm, Schweinsteiger, and Podolski.
They were stopped by France in the Euro 2016 when they lost 2-0 in the semifinals. But a youthful team that only had three world cup winners won the Confederations Cup in Russia by beating an experienced Chile side 1-0.
The team has been known for its swift football and the abundance of talents in its ranks. They have reached the semifinals of every major tournament since their humiliating group stage exit at the 2004 Euros. Since then, they have developed their football structure and placed priority on the youth. The results have been impressive. If they manage to retain the World Cup they will prolong their dominance on the global stage.
A Messi hattrick against Ecuador helped Argentina to qualify to the World Cup after a stuttering qualifying campaign. During this time they had to change coaches in a bid to save the sinking ship.
They were beaten by Brazil in the 2007 Copa America final. The 2010 World Cup in South Africa saw them lose 4-0 to Germany in the quarter-finals, yet they were among the firm favorites. The 2012 Copa America saw them lose on penalties. In the World Cup held in Brazil, they came up short and lost in the final to Germany 1-0.
The bad luck followed them as they lost back to back Copa America finals to Chile. Their poor form in the qualifiers nearly had them next year’s tournament.
Argentina has one of the talented squads in football today but they need to win major honors to make history. This generation currently being led by Captain Messi needs to stand up if they are to be counted among the best in Argentina.
Will This Tournament Be Closely Fought?
With some of the powerhouses cleared to participate, the draw will see if who will face who. Judging from the surprises in the qualifiers, Russia 2018 promises to be a soccer fest.