The 2018 World Cup is approaching quickly as 32 national teams will compete in Russia to be World Champions. The World Cup is an international men’s football tournament between countries that are members of the Fédération International de Football Association. The last tournament took place in Brazil 2014 and the title holders are Germany after they defeated Argentina 1-0. In fact, over 1 billion people watched the final game between these two countries. Much has changed in four years and we wanted to take a look the favorites for the 2018 World Cup and determine which teams holds the mental edge. While pundits, fans, and Artificial Intelligence software focus on the numbers, we put our faith in the letters. Let’s read on…
The winners of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa have seen considerable turnover since being crowned world champions. There is a new wave of talent that has emerged and they are set to compliment a strong leadership group led by captain Sergio Ramos, the closest to a bullfighter that you will ever see. Look for Ramos to lead these new players with the Spanish mentality as they reach the finals. In fact, with all due respect to the defending UEFA Champions from Portugal, Spain appears to be the best-suited national team from Europe.
Defensively, there is no weakness at all when it comes to available talent. Ramos and Girard Pique will lead from the centre of the pitch and they are surrounded by familiar talent found at their respective football clubs, Real Madrid and Barcelona F.C., respectively. These players are Jordi Alba, Sergio Busquets (returning from injury with no expected delay), and the legendary Andres Iniesta at Barca. Barcelona was crowned La Liga champions in 2017-2018, which proves their cohesiveness and trust in each other. Real Madrid won the EUFA Champions League for the third consecutive year. These men know how to win.
In the middle of the pitch and up front, there is an embarrassment of riches that involve players from Real Madrid such as Isco and Asenscio. But there are other players that have played on winning football clubs in 2017-2018 including Koke and Diego Costa, winners of the 2017-2018 Europa League, and David Silva, winner of the 2017-2018 Premier League, and Thiago Alcantara, winner for a fourth consecutive year of the Budesliga!
It is important to underline a tumultuous event that took place a week before the start of the World Cup. Manager Julen Lopetegui was sacked immediately after signing on to manage Real Madrid F.C. The issue is that Lopetegui expected all players to focus on the national team rather than their respective clubs and future transfers. This expectation for the players was viewed as hypocrisy since Lopetegui is clearly thinking about managing the 3 time Champions League holders and it led to his dismissal. Captain Sergio Ramos proclaimed his loyalty to Lopetegui, but he plays for Real Madrid. Club loyalties have clearly affected the cohesion of the Spanish National Team but this is not the first example given that many players belong to either Barcelona F.C. or Real Madrid F.C. These players, including Ramos, were in a great dispute over loyalty and they had been able to cast aside club loyalty for the national team in 2010. Prioritising the national team back then was done by players that are no longer with the team, Xabi Alonso, Iker Casillas, and Xavi Hernandez, and it remains to be seen if it can be done once again.
The Spanish national team has an insatiable appetite for winning. There was no doubt that they will reach the finals of the 2018 World Cup in Russia. However, a last minute change of manager could derail their destiny.