1. Egypt Wins Group A, Advances to Quarterfinal
Participating in their first World Cup since 1990, the Pharaohs appear poised to make noise in Russia. Mohamed Salah, fresh off netting a Premier League record 32 goals, will be the difference in a relatively weak group featuring Uruguay, Russia, and Saudi Arabia. The defensive minded Pharaohs will stymie Uruguay to win Group A, while a Salah brace will carry Egypt past Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portgual and into the quarterfinals before eventually falling to a European giant.
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2. Argentina Loses in Round of 16, Messi Retires from International Comp.
Argentina, runners-up in 2014, will suffer a heartbreaking defeat to end Lionel Messi’s last chance at World Cup glory. Despite featuring one of the most talented lineups in the world, Argentina struggled in CONMEBOL qualifying. Although they will advance through the challenging Group D, La Albiceleste will run out of gas and flame out due to their inconsistent midfield play. The real stunner will follow their premature exit, as Messi announces his retirement from international play after yet another disappointment with the national team.
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3. Neymar Wins the Golden Boot
The Brazilians have been on fire ever since Tite took over coaching duties following Dunga’s removal, and their run of good form will continue in Russia. Motivated by the 7-1 thrashing at the hands of Germany in 2014, Neymar and company will flourish in Russia by utilizing a more balanced attack. Neymar will see the pitch for the first time in nearly four months following foot surgery, but the rested superstar won’t miss a beat, leading all scorers with 7 goals. Led by a world-class player in Neymar and a supporting cast every country would love to feature, Brazil will be a very difficult team to eliminate.
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4. Spain, Germany, Belgium, France
Russia 2018 will come down to three traditional powers and one nation on the rise. One semifinal will feature the two previous World Champions Spain and Germany, while the other will feature France and Belgium. Spain will reach the semis by taking down Uruguay in the Round of 16, and eliminating a Peru squad still flying high from taking down Messi, in the Quarterfinals. La Roja will face its toughest test in the Semifinals against Joachim Low’s powerful German outfit. After finishing qualifying a perfect 10-0-0, Die Mannschaft arrives in Russia with hopes of a repeat. Germany will waltz past Switzerland and England before coming out victorious in the clash of titans against Spain.
France escapes against a dangerous Croatia team featuring stars Luka Modric, Mario Mandzukic, and Ivan Rakitic in the Round of 16, and ends Mo Salah’s incredible year in the Quarterfinals. In the Semifinals they will face Belgium, who has just overcome a brilliant performance by Neymar to eliminate Brazil. On paper France may be the most talented team in the tournament, arguably sporting enough depth to field two first-team caliber squads. However, The Red Devils ‘golden generation’ will deliver and Belgium will be on to the finals to face the reigning champion, Germany.
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5. Germany Repeats as World Cup Champions
In what will be an all-time classic game, Germany will defeat Belgium 3-2 in 120 minutes. Belgium will take an early lead in the 23rd minute on a Kevin De Bruyne set-piece cracker past a fully extended Marc-Andre Ter Stegen. Sami Khedira will score the equalizer with a punishing header at the 39’ mark. After a quiet first 30 minutes of the second half, the trusty foot of Thomas Muller will put Germany ahead at 78’. Mere moments away from the final whistle and another World Cup victory, Die Mannschaft will concede a potentially demoralizing equalizer off the foot of Dries Mertens. The Belgian joy will be short-lived as Germany’s unsung hero, Toni Kroos, slams home a loose ball from the top of the box in the 112th minute, extending Germany’s place as World Champion for another four years.
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