This summer billions of people will simultaneously turn their attention to Russia for one month, and not because of election collusion. From June 14 to July 15, 64 exciting matches play out across Russia to decide who has the best national soccer team in the world. This tournament features heavyweights like Argentina, France, Brazil, and defending champions Germany, as well as teams making their first ever appearance, such as Iceland, Serbia, and Panama. The tournament will also be highlighted by some of the biggest stars in world soccer; Lionel Messi (Argentina), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Neymar (Brazil), and Mo Salah (Egypt).
We must also mention that the United States team has brought shame upon the entire nation by failing to qualify for the first time since 1986. While having an overall lackluster qualifying campaign, the US took to Trinidad & Tobago (who had already been eliminated from qualifying for the World Cup and were playing with their C squad) where they needed a tie at worst to qualify for Russia. They failed. Miserably. For more raw emotional reactions to this game, see Mr. Nichols.
We have made our picks for which teams will make it out of their groups and added a little very important analysis.
Group: A (Countries who will escape)
Egypt: Expect Tahrir Square level madness when they make it out of the group stage.
Uruguay: Team Uruguay will be traveling with extra muzzles, in case someone gets hungry on the pitch.
Portugal: Expect a performance as good as the statue of Cristiano once out of the group stage.
Spain: A young squad that could make a run to the trophy, like you running back to the tapás bar for you eighth croqueta.
France: Expect the France Squad to have the same level of diversity as a New York City Private School.
Denmark: Contrary to popular belief, the players will not be wearing clogs on the pitch.
Argentina: Striker Gonzalo Higuaín has arrived in Russia a little early. (SIDE NOTE: This is an offsides joke.)
Croatia: Get ready to get really familiar with the ‘ć’ at the end of everyone’s last name. (i.e. Modrić, Perisić, Mandukić)
Brazil: Brazil, like their government and their 2014 World Cup stadiums, is likely to collapse at the back due to a poor defense system.
Costa Rica: Hopefully they’ll bring enough coffee to get them to show up for their Round of 16 match with Germany.
Germany: Die Maschine will reign supreme.
Mexico: It’s been reported that the only Mexican wall in 2018 will be goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa.
Belgium: Their play will be as delicious as the Belgian Waffles in the park.
England: As is expected from England at major tournaments, and political unions, we can predict a quick and efficient Brexit… sorry, we meant exit.
Poland: Contrary to popular belief, no skiers will be traveling with the team. (LewandowSKI, FabiańSKI, BłaszczykowSKI)
Colombia: It seems that the only American presence at this year’s World Cup will be the DEA agents following the Colombian team.
Italy, USA, Chile, Netherlands: Oh, wait…
This year’s groups are very even, meaning we aren’t overwhelmed with must-see games in the group stage, but this builds a ton of excitement for the knockout stage, that promises to be thrilling. Here are a few of the guaranteed matchups you are not gonna want to miss.
Russia vs. Saudi Arabia 6/14 11 am EST. This is the opening game of the tournament, and while on paper doesn’t sound very entertaining as a soccer game, there’s a lot of potential for excitement. Being it’s the first game there will be a Russian designed opening ceremony performance that can only be entertaining.
Portugal vs. Spain 6/15 2:00 pm EST. This is probably the most exciting game in the group stage as it pits defending European champions Portugal and their captain Cristiano Ronaldo against a Spanish team who is still in their ‘golden age’ and have dominated major tournaments in the last 10 years.
Argentina vs. Iceland 6/16 9:00 am EST. Iceland, while you might not expect much from them, are a team to watch this year. After having a Cinderella run at Euro 2016, that saw them defeat England in the round of 16 before eventually losing to hosts France in the quarterfinals, the possibilities for their first World Cup appearance are high. This will also be the first game for Lionel Messi and Argentina, who were finalist at the last tournament. Many people believe Messi needs to win the World Cup to cement his legacy as the greatest of all time, so it’ll be interesting to see how Argentina, who struggled in qualifying, perform at the finals.
Germany vs. Mexico 6/17 11:00 am EST. Germany are the defending World Cup champions and are tapped for another deep run in the tournament. They’ll begin their title defense against Mexico, who have a lot to prove and would like to finally exercise their demons and make it past the round of 16, after six straight tournaments of exiting at that stage.
Brazil vs. Switzerland 6/17 2:00 pm EST. Brazil currently have the most World Cup titles of any country, with 5, and have good chances of making it 6 this year. Led by star player Neymar, Brazil is oozing with offensive talent as is expected from them, and will probably put on a show every time they step on the pitch. Switzerland who have one of their strongest teams in years are looking to put together a good run this year in a strong group that also features Costa Rica and Serbia.
England vs. Belgium 6/28 2:00 pm EST. This is one of the few games in the group stage that pits two heavy hitters against each other. England who are always expected to perform well at the World Cup, this year are fueled by a young, quick, and offensive core that look like they could finally put together a magical run, that they haven’t seen since their only championship 52 years ago. Belgium, led by stars Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard, have what is probably their strongest team ever, are strong candidates to be highly successful in this tournament.
THE FINAL 7/15 11:00 am EST. Of course we have no idea who for sure will play in this game, but we can guarantee it’ll be great. The last three finals have all gone into extra time, and most of the teams that are favorited to make it to the final are all highly offensive, and will hopefully provide an entertaining finale to an entertaining month.
Best Player: Isco (Spain)
Best Young Player: Kylian Mbappe (France)
Best Goalkeeper: David De Gea (Spain) (Unless Manuel Neuer of Germany Plays)
You can find all of the games on the networks of Fox (Fox, FS1, FS2). The tournament is spread out across 4 time zones in Russia, but most of the games will start around 10am-2pm Eastern Time.