Ian Abrahams in Russia: Ian’s World Cup Predictions
Who does Ian Abrahams think will be lifting the World Cup in July?
The broadcaster is teaming up with Marathonbet for the duration of his time in Russia to cast his expert eye over all the action on the pitch.
Here are Ian’s predictions ahead of the tournament.
Winners – Argentina
They aren’t heavily fancied this time around, but I can see shades of 1986 with this tournament where one man might just drag them through. Can Messi do a Maradona and almost win a tournament single-handedly?
I think he’ll be chomping at the bit to put the ‘best player in the world’ debate to bed once and for all. Don’t forget he’ll also have Ronaldo’s win with Portugal at Euro 2016 in the back of his mind. Argentina seem like a big price to me if Messi hits top form.
Player – Lionel Messi
I can’t really say otherwise now given I’m leaning towards Argentina! No doubt the usual suspects in Ronaldo, Neymar, Müller will have a say but I’m convinced this is Messi’s moment.
Golden Boot – Harry Kane
Again, I can see parallels with Harry Kane in this tournament and 1986 where Gary Lineker finished as top goalscorer with six goals.
Kane has a similar appetite for goals and let’s not forget you often only need five or six to win the Golden Boot.
If he can get off to a flyer and put two or three past Tunisia and Panama, he could quite easily be in the running even if England don’t go deep into the competition.
Surprise package – England
It’s hard to say as there are so many variables in tournament football but staying unbeaten is a decent habit to have for any team – and England have that going in to Russia.
England are on a 10-game unbeaten run which is a long streak by international standards, and I think this side might just be capable of making the semi-finals.
Croatia are also an impressive side and could be ones to watch.
Underachievers – Portugal
I’m unconvinced by Portugal, who were very lucky two years ago to go on and win Euro 2016. They hardly put in a decent performance and almost won it Greece-style, which goes to show what can happen if little things fall your way.
The way the fixtures have fallen in Group B makes things very interesting if Morocco start well with a win against Iran. I expect Spain to beat Portugal, which suddenly puts huge pressure on the Portuguese in their second game against Morocco. I could easily see a scenario where Morocco edge out Portugal to send them home after just two games.
Ian’s snap group verdicts
Group A – Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt Uruguay
Ian’s verdict: You can’t look beyond Uruguay to top the group. I’m not expecting Salah to be anywhere near fit enough to make a difference for Egypt, so I’m going for Russia to sneak through in second, which will be good for the sake of the tournament.
Group B – Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Iran
Ian’s verdict: This is where the first real shock lies. I think Spain will top the group, and the big surprise will be Morocco knocking out Portugal in the second round of games.
Group C – France, Australia, Peru, Denmark
Ian’s verdict: This group will be fairly routine for France and Denmark. Part of me would like to see Australia go through as they definitely add something to a World Cup, but I just can’t see it this time around.
Group D – Argentina, Iceland, Croatia, Nigeria
Ian’s verdict: I’m backing Argentina to win this group – and the tournament. Iceland is a wonderful story – their exploits and fanbase really made the last Euros – but Croatia have some great players and I think they will be too strong.
Group E – Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia
Ian’s verdict: Aside from Brazil, this group really is much of a muchness. I fancy Serbia to snatch second place as they have a few who could make the difference. Milivojević is a terrific player, and I’m backing Mitrović to be an interesting leftfield choice for Golden Boot.
Group F – Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea
Ian’s verdict: Germany are certainties to top this group. I thought Sweden were a little lucky in knocking out Italy to get to Russia – they defended well but have little else. South Korea’s chances are too reliant on just one or two players to perform. On that basis, I’ll go for Mexico to take second spot.
Group G – Belgium, Panama, Tunisia, England
Ian’s verdict: England and Belgium should ease through. I can see a draw in their head-to-head game which means the team that puts more past Panama and Tunisia will take the top spot.
Group H – Poland, Senegal, Colombia, Japan
Ian’s verdict: A fascinating group, in that you wouldn’t be surprised if any of the teams end up going through. I wouldn’t rule out Senegal and Japan’s chances entirely, but I think it will be Poland or Colombia facing England in the last 16.
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