The time is upon us. Fetch your giant national flag out of that dusty box. The trenches are being dug to lay the foundation for the biggest and most-watched football tournament in the world.
Image Copyright – Steve Haag Sports
With the biggest teams and individual names in world football like Spain, England, France, and Germany, as well as Cristiano Ronaldo, Kylian Mbappe and Erling Haaland to name a few. These big names take centre stage under the bright lights and lays way for us to find our best bets.
Saturday 27 March
Coming in as underdogs in 2018, Croatia stole the hearts of many in the last FIFA World Cup to finish as runners up. Watching Luka Modric in tears as he walked up to receive his second-place medal was heart-breaking to say the least as we all sat with baited breath for the underdogs to lift the prestigious trophy. Croatia are clear favourites to win against Cyprus with no glory, or even “missed glory” to boast of. Back Croatia to win.
The most competitive fixture of our select few would have to be Norway vs Turkey. These teams have faced each other eight times with Turkey being triumphant in four and Norway with just one win in the year 2000 when they met in a friendly.
Sensational young talent Erling Haaland will look to carry over his club form this season to steer the Lions against tough opponents Turkey. Halaand has made seven appearances and scored six goals for the Norwegian first-team outfit, and you can count on him to bag some more. The goalscoring machine in Haaland will charge the way to Norwegian victory.
Netherlands are in Group G, which is possibly the toughest of the lot and they still rise as standout favourites. The Dutch FA (KNVB) have set a plan in motion which their government have approved to allow 5,000 fans to attend their fixture against Latvia. The world-renowned Orange Army will be in full voice at the Johan Cruyff Arena.
World-class defender Virgil Van Dijk is out indefinitely and will miss the upcoming three World Cup Qualifiers as well as the Euro 2021. But not to worry for the Dutch outfit as they have a host of stars set to lead them to what should be a breeze as Latvia have yet to score a goal against the Netherlands in three previous attempts. Back Netherlands to Win To Nil.
Czech Republic 46/10
This should turn out to be a one-sided affair as the Czech Republic sit a staggering 41 places behind number one ranked Belgium in the FIFA World Rankings.
Belgium vs England in the 2018 World Cup third and fourth playoff saw the dubbed ‘dark horses’ by many football fans and professionals take home bronze after defeating the already-derailed “it’s coming home army.”
With star attacking player Eden Hazard out due to injury, there is no lack of choice for head coach Roberto Martinez up front as Romelu Lukaku and Kevin de Bruyne are both finding the back of the net regularly this season. Belgium are tipped confidently.
When we hear Portugal, there is one name that comes to mind, Cristiano Ronaldo. There are a host of Portuguese stars to line up against Serbia, but I would be labelled a mad man if I did not mention the engine of their midfield, Bruno Fernandes, who will play a key role in Fernando Santos’ team. Serbia have never beaten Portugal in six attempts and you can expect them to fail again. Get behind Portugal to win.
Sunday 28 March
Our first FIFA World Cup European Qualifier for Sunday sees reigning, defending champions France take on Kazakhstan in their first-ever encounter.
Didier Deschamps will now look to be only the second team to ever successfully defend their title as champions. Kylian Mbappe’s last goal was a historic one as he became only the second-ever teenager to score in a World Cup Final behind legendary footballer Pele.
Kazakhstan have never qualified for the FIFA World Cup and I will put money on them not grabbing three or even one point against Les Blues towards their crusade. France to Win To Nil is the way to go.
The media have made a spectacle in the run-up to Gareth Southgate’s England squad selection as he has a host of talent to pick, choose, and refuse, whilst Albania sit quietly in the back and lay in wait for their fixture against The Three Lions.
Besides the established stars in the England squad, Southgate has put faith in a select few youngsters, namely the teenagers Phil Foden, Jude Bellingham and Bukayo Saka who are sure to be impressive in the upcoming fixtures.
Albania has been on a decent run of form, winning three and drawing two in their last five, with their star striker netting three times in four starts. But even a good run of form and an in-form attacking player will not be enough to take on England. Get on the Three Lions.
In Georgia’s last outing against Spain in 2016, they stole a one-goal win at Alfonso Perez Stadium in Getafe, but have not won a fixture in their last five matches.
The Spanish squad do not resemble the greatness they once did, but there remains one who has stood the test of time and has been recently named in Luis Enrique’s squad, and will captain the Red Fury, Sergio Ramos. Ramos’ Champions League goal tally recently overtook Ronaldo Nazario, David Villa, and Zinedine Zidane, scoring his 15th goal. Back La Roja to win.
After the longest-serving international football coach decided to step down after almost 15 years, we will watch Germany wide-eyed as they take on their first fixture without Joachim Low.
Germany has always had a stacked squad full of big names and the latest to really make a name for himself is Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan, who you can expect to be the star performer throughout Group J.
Romania’s last and only win against Germany came during a friendly in 2004 where the Romanians defeated Germany 5-1, but have lost two and drawn two of their other fixtures. Germany are tipped to win here.
Our final game and only game I can truly say I believe is an absolute banker, we have Bulgaria welcoming Italy. Italy have not lost a game since September 2018 to Portugal in the UEFA Nations League. The infamous Gli Azzuri have played a total of 22 games and have won 17, scoring a whopping 57 goals. I am behind Italy to win convincingly and I’ll go by a 3-0 scoreline, using the correct score market.
Belgium Win 13/20
Norway Win 21/20
Written by Joshua Gaillard