The Qatar World Cup continues to be an ugly political event that has come to symbolize ugly nationalism, disrespect, inequality, abuse and greed.
But I think this is just a symptom of our world.
In footballing terms the group stages have been interesting. After Brazil sensationally lost to Cameroun (and frankly this is as surprising as Argentina losing to Saudi Arabia or France losing to Tunisia) it is the first tournament since 1994 during which no team has gone through with maximum points (the same happened in 1958 and 1962, so it is not a common occurrence). But more interesting is that this is the first World Cup where all continental federations (except Oceania) are represented with at least one team (CONCACAF 1, CONMEBOL 2, CAF 2, UEFA, 8, AFC 3).
The eight matches are as follows:
- Netherlands-USA: The Dutch got through with two victories and one difficult tie to Ecuador, and are surely not as strong as they should be. USA is the only representative from CONCACAF and looked well-organised to defeat Iran and tie England. It will surely be difficult for the Dutch, but I hope they prevail
- Argentina-Australia: Despite their opening loss to Saudia Arabia Argentina won the group and remain favourites. They are surely huge favourites against Australia. The Asian representatives went through on hard work but winning against two poor sides, Denmark and Tunisia. They were overrun by France and should be on their best to defeat Argentina (but certainly not impossible). I support Argentina wholeheartedly.
- France-Poland: The defending champions are looking strong, but lost to Tunisia in a match with many substitutes. They are surely favourites against the Poles, who look delighted just to have gone through. That said, no expectations could be Poland's strength as they still have quality players who could hurt France. But I expect France to prevail.
- England-Senegal: England will underestimate Senegal, that is a given, and I will surely support Senegal, where other players have stepped up in the absence of Sadio Mané. Koulibaly was spectacular against Ecuador and will face English players he knows well. It will be a close match I think, with England as weak favourites.
- Japan-Croatia: Japan winning the Group of Death is one of the surprises, and Croatia have surely seen that Japan defeated both Germany and Spain, although also that the Japanese do have weaknesses. If Croatia can take advantage of their quick passing then they could hope for a repeat of 2018. Japan I think are slight favourites though.
- Brazil-South Corea: The Corean victory against Portugal means that they prevented us from a repeat of the "Maracanazo" classic between Brazil and Uruguay. Don't mind that though. Corea and in particular their fans are the best side through. Brazil are enormous favourites, but the Coreans do and should not fear anybody, and could cause a sensation!
- Morocco-Spain: This is probably the clash I look most forward to. Neighbouring countries; the African upstart with a great team and confidence, against the European giants with some truly fantastic players. It has all the ingredients to be a fantastic match!
- Portugal-Switzerland: The Portuguese went through on first place with two wins and one loss, but appear not to have been tested yet. Switzerland will surely be a test. They showed their quality already in last year's Euro when eliminating France in an extraordinary match, and in this tournament have shown themselves solid in the back, but also strong in attack when it counted against Serbia. This match could go to either side!