The world’s largest single sport event gets under way in less than one hour with host Russia taking on Saudi Arabia in what is the worst match up in the entire tournament between the two lowest ranked teams. Nonetheless, Red will be watching as much as possible. And despite the scandals, despite Russian, despite the USA failing to make the Finals, despite everything – Red is still excited. So hear goes:
Group A – Uruguay and Egypt. The weakest group by a long shot with Russia and Saudi Arabia bringing up the rear. Uruguay is the overwhelming favorite to win and Red sees no reason why they shouldn’t be 3-0-0 with the disagreeable Suarez and sulking Cavani up front. Mohammed Salah should be enough to carry Egypt into the Round of 16 with a 2-0-1 total.
Group B – Portugal and Spain. The winner of Friday’s Iberian rivalry will have the inside track to finishing on top here. Look for Ronaldo to have his hair and game in perfect form and Pepe to anchor a solid defense on the way to a first place 2-0-1 ranking going into the knock-out rounds. Spain sacked its coach 48 hours before the Finals begin and will be playing catch-up but will finish 2-1-0 and be the most dangerous second place team. Morocco and Iran can’t match these powerhouses.
Group C – France and Peru. Les Bleus are the class of this group led by centerback Varane who has the difficult task of keeping and shaky back line in order, France will move on at 2-1-0 possibly losing to Peru or Denmark. Peru is an up and coming squad with most of the players coming from the rough and tumble of Liga-MX. They play tough defense and will squeak in at 1-1-1 on a tiebreaker with Denmark. Australia will enjoy the show.
Group D – Argentina and Iceland. If Argentina doesn’t overwhelm this group then Los Albiceleste need a thorough housecleaning. All should go well unless Higuan blows it again. Messi, diMaria and others will carry the day but only at 2-0-1. Iceland – Cinderella story from out of the North Atlantic about to move to the Round of 16 – unless the Super Eagles get in the way. That could happen, but Red is going with the upset here and Iceland getting in at 1-0-2.
Group E – Brazil and Costa Rica. Brazil!!!!!!!! Neymar!!!!!! Enough said. Brazil 3-0-0. Costa Rica rides on the mighty shoulders of world’s best goalkeeper Navas. And mighty shoulders they are. Switzerland is the hot pick for second here. Red is not a believer. CR has just enough offense to move on at 1-1-1.
Group F – Germany and Mexico. The Germans look for back-to-back for the first time since Brazil did it a good while back. Red doesn’t discount their chances. There has been a lot of turnover, but that is usually a good sign of rising talent. Kroos in the midfield is the new leader and the Germans know how to follow. Deutschland 2-0-1. Mexico is Red other choice. This is a struggling Mexican squad that looked uninspired and unimaginative in their last friendly with Denmark. Maybe that is a kick in the pantalones. This is the last chance for this generation. Chicarito, Lozano and Corona must attack, attack, attack. And hopefully there will not be a rotating cast of characters in goal. If they beat Germany on Sunday all bets are off though. Mexico 2-1-0.
Group G – Belgium and England. Belgium is a real contender for the Semis. They cruise through this group 3-0-0. England by default at 1-1-1.
Group H – Colombia and Poland. Colombia finally lives up to its potential and James Rodriguez again competes for the Golden Boot. 2-1-0. Poland is a dangerous squad with another candidate for top scorer in Lewandowski who scored a European-high 16 goals in qualifying. Polski in at 2-0-1.