This preview is the seventh in our World Cup preview series, designed to provide a refreshing breath of Minnesotan air in an otherwise murky swamp of content. To encapsulate that oh-so-true concept of Minnesota nice, we’re looking for the most likeable teams in Russia 2018. To check out looks at other groups, head to our preview hub: https://www.epluribusloonum.com/2018/6/11/17449884/a-2018-world-cup-preview-but-minnesota-style-russia
The Belgians are a sneaky group. You dismiss them as a second-tier soccer country only to look up and see them at the top of the world rankings. It then becomes no shock that they’ve performed so well. To go from not qualifying for the 2006 and 2010 tournaments to the quarters of Brazil 2014 is no small feat, a testament to the squad strength that Belgium currently enjoys. Goalkeepers Thibaut Courtois and Simon Mignolet both play for big English clubs (Chelsea and Liverpool, respectively), but they aren’t the only Belgian stars of the Premier League. Toby Alderweireld (Spurs), Vincent Kompany (Man C), Jan Vertonghen (Spurs), Kevin De Bruyne (Man C), Mousa Dembele (Spurs), Michy Batshuayi (Chelsea), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), and Romelu Lukaku (Man U) all will play a role for Belgium in the 2018 World Cup. Premier League fans, look no farther that Group G to see your favorite players in action.
Perhaps there was an under-the-table drawing of straws after the 1966 World Cup. Surely England drew the short one, because the Three Lions have done nothing but disappoint since winning the ‘66 Cup. The birthplace of soccer has been trending down in the past few tournaments, not even surviving the Group Stage in Brazil. The 2018 roster is full of names that many Americans, at least those who watch the Premier League, will know. Every single call-up is domestic. The biggest gap in the team will be at the back for goalkeeper. Fans will enjoy watching this established nation compete.
There was a cool story about Tunisia going around last week. Their goalkeeper would fake injury at sundown of their games so that Ramadan-observing teammates could grab something to eat. Tunisia hasn’t won a World Cup game since their first in 1978, but this year’s squad is young. That could mean inexperience, or it could mean a new darling.
There were bigger issues involved—and it shouldn’t have come down to this—but here’s the “goal” that qualified Panama for Russia 2018—and left the USA out. Nope, haven’t forgotten.