This June the big show arrives in Russia in the shape of the 2018 World Cup Finals. It is a time for all the football fans to sit back and enjoy the numerous amount of the games that are on view. A lot of people including myself will book holidays to coincide with the tournament so nothing can get in the way of our enjoyment, it will be the equivalent of having a month of Christmas days running one after the other. There is no doubt we will see new players emerge and it is a great opportunity to see teams that you would not normally sit down and watch. As we count down to the kick off I am licking my lips at the prospect of seeing how the tournament will pan out. Unfortunately for all the fans in both the North and South of Ireland our teams will not be there, that will not make it any less interesting for all the fans who live on this little island. The English supporters will follow their side with great pride and we can only hope that we do not see any crowd trouble. It has been widely reported over the past few months that Russian hooligans have planned a big welcome for the supporters following Gareth Southgate,s side, so let us all hope that story is all nonsense and the tournament is a complete success on and off the park.
When the tournament kicks off on the 14th of June we will have thirty two teams involved. When it comes down to the winning of the cup, you probably only have a pot of eight teams that can actually win the tournament, unless we get a really really big suprise. The sides who realistically have a chance of winning overall are Brazil, Germany, France, Argentina, Spain, England, Belgium and host nation Russia, who I only include because they are the host nation. The one team who always go a long way in these tournaments are World Champions Germany, no matter what happens they are always there or there abouts. It amazes me how they do it tournament after tournament, they always seem to get the timing of their form so right. Throughout all the World Cup Finals I have seen them appear in over the years, I have only seen them struggle once and that was in Argentina in 1978. They always come well prepared and totally focussed on the job ahead and you never hear their players claim they are tired at the end of a long season, I do not even think it is in their vocabulary to utter those words. So I am going for the Germans to retain their title. It will be some achievement if they manage to pull it off but they certainly will be worth having a bet on if you fancy a flutter. At the moment the bookmakers have them as favourites and they very rarely slip up.
Although I have placed Belgium in the pot as possible winners, they would be the outsider of that group to go to Russia and win it in my opinion. They have one of the most talented squads in the tournament and if they are to fulfill their potential this is tournament they must do it in. Any side who have players like Courtois, Hazard, Lukaku, Kompany, Benteke and De Bruyne have to be contenders. This squad of players in my opinion are as good as the Holland side that travelled to Germany in 1974 and went all the way to the Final, only to be be beaten by the hosts two one. This is Belgium,s third major tournament in a row and the time is now right for them to create history if they can produce the goods on the pitch as a team and not eleven individuals. The management team of Roberto Martinez and Thierry Henry will keep the squad well grounded and try and produce a good feeling around the camp. Having Henry in the camp is a huge plus to all involved because his experience of winning the World Cup in 1998 with France will be invaluable. They are in a group which includes England and the fact that the play the three lions in their last group match will be a bonus, as they could have already qualified for the next stage before a ball is even kicked in that game.
Over the past few weeks we have seen quite a few friendly international matches and there have been some strange results. The results have have not changed my opinion on who are going to do well in this years finals and as I mentioned earlier those games were only friendlies. So let everybody who loves the beautiful game enjoy the tournament and have a great summer, let the games begin.