The World Cup is around the corner and SoccerNews.com team continues with World Cup specials ahead of the showpiece tournament in Russia. The highly-anticipated event will be upon us in no time and we feel it’s fair to have a look at all different aspects of the competition ahead of us.
We kicked it off with Group Previews and had a look at Potential Surprises so it’s now turn to focus on Potential Disappointments.
Which teams and players do you think are going to be the biggest disappointment(s) in the 2018 World Cup?
We have prepared a list so feel free to add comments and share your own ideas below.
A host nation traditionally carries the biggest burden. Russia are no exception. Stanislav Cherchesov’s men will have the eyes of their own people – and world in general – scrutinizing their every move at the tournament.
Zbornaya have grabbed the automatic promotion as hosts which in its own merit never stands as a blessing in disguise. Quite the opposite, though. Russia are lacking a competitive edge following a string of international friendlies which have only exposed all of the team’s frailties and are definitely earmarked as one of the teams likely to disappoint.
Russia have won only three of their last 12 matches – friendlies and FIFA Confederations Cup included – and will face a tough challenge rising up to the occasion at home soil.
The World Cup hosts have, admittedly, given a favourable group stage draw. The likes of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay should be enough for Russia to seal their passage through – albeit as the runners-up – but we are prone to predict they could end up suffering dearly and ending up being thrown further down in third place at best, behind Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani and Mo Salah and co.
One-man team Portugal. That’s the moniker reigning European champions were given due to the overpowering persona of Cristiano Ronaldo who’s got the propensity to put anyone else in his shadow.
The Real Madrid superstar, however, turned into a proper leader as he carried the banner for his team even when he was sidelined with injury in the Euro 2016 final. Ronaldo will once again hit the spotlight in Russia, but we doubt the Portuguese side will have enough about them to mount a World Cup challenge and join the likes of Brazil and Germany in a race for the title.
Morocco and Iran are not strong enough to hold them down in the group stages but the knockout stages could end up bringing a negative surprise for the Fernando Santos’ men. After all, Portugal had been a bit fortunate to scrape through the Euros and winning the title does not automatically makes them a World Cup challengers.
Despite having one of football’s all-time greats – just as Portugal – Argentina have struggled to impose themselves as a major force at the international level for quite a long time. Leo Messi’s failure to lead Argentina to international glory has been a blemish on his glittering resume and hte Barcelona superstar will once again carry the nation’s burned on his own shoulders.
Having been pitted against the likes of Croatia, Nigeria and Euro 2016 surprise package Iceland, the South Americans are likely to be given a run for their money in group stages already. Group D has been named group of death and rightly so when you look at the teams challenging for the top two places.
The likes of Dybala, Higuain, di Maria, Lo Celso and all other talented individuals Argentina boasts in their ranks should be enough to throw a bid at the coveted trophy but March internationals once again revealed all Argentina’s defensive frailties which could turn out to be a major issue in Russia.
Turning our focus towards the players, there are couple of names that stick out as an obvious choice.
Neymar and Robert Lewandowski
Brazilian powerhouse Neymar will be carefully watched at the World Cup in Russia. The PSG forward hasn’t played since the end of February when he suffered an injury in a win over Marseille earlier in the season. The 26-year-old injured his foot and was forced to undergo a surgery to sort out the issue, which led to an extended recovery period.
Neymar is promising to gain full fitness for the World Cup in Russia but lack of competitive action in the closing stages of the season could prove as an issue for one of most scrutinised stars.
As for the Bayern Munich star striker Robert Lewandowski, the case is a rather clear one. The Pole is coming off from another highly prolific season which saw him score a bagful of goals for the Bavarian behemoths.
The 29-year-old is also coming off from a highly successful World Cup qualifying campaign which saw him score 16 goals in Poland’s 10 matches during the group stage, but his chronic lack of goals at showpiece events is an omen you can’t ignore. Five matches at the European Championship 2016 in France saw Lewandowski get on the scoresheet only once in five matches. He achieved the same tally in three matches in 2012 which is more than enough to suggest that Poland will struggle to exploit their biggest asset in Russia.
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