World Cup 2018 Predictions
Once again, the World Cup tournament has shown us why football is considered the beautiful game. Here are a few things we have learnt along the way and some predictions for the semi-finals and finals.
- Football is simply the most difficult sport to win. Baseball fans will argue that their sport is the most difficult to win but football requires far more physical stamina than baseball. Over the course of the long American baseball season, it is certainly hard to win as many as 60% of one’s games but in a single game or especially or in a tournament like the World Cup, football is the most difficult game to win.
- The underdog always has a chance to win. Advancement of the ball can be had only incrementally most of the time. Even when a mistake by one team leads to a fast run downfield, it takes amazing skill to convert the race down the pitch into a goal. This contrasts dramatically with ice hockey where a rush down the ice takes mere seconds and the result is known almost immediately.
- Corner kicks are the most important move on offense. The teams can get set for the kick. The team on offence need not have perfect form over tens of meters; it need only set up a fine pass and a finer header or kick toward the goal. Columbia showed this to be true as they scored the tying goal in extra time on their first corner kick of the match.
- The number of great or nearly great players continues to grow. This is a feature of two large factors: money and population growth. As to money: it isn’t just that players seek to reap the financial bonanza of a multi-million dollar contract. More and more young players are well enough fed and coached that they can develop the skills to excel at the sport.
As to population growth: we might expect that as populations grow there would be more good players but that is just one aspect of the influence of larger populations. Every country with a growing population has many young players pushing each other to excel. Growth contributes to greatness by making the definition of greatness more difficult to achieve.
The famous football countries can no longer assume that they will advance easily or at all.
- Team play is more important than individual skills. A team still needs individual great players to be sure. but in a tournament where players come together from a diverse range of professional teams, it is their ability to become a cohesive team quickly that often makes the difference in a sport where one simple breakthrough can make all the difference. In this regard, coaching is far more than drawing up set plays on a chalkboard. A great coach needs to be a motivator, a molder of teams not a molder of men, and a visionary who can see beyond the individuals and form a team.
- An aspect of team play is also team character. Brazil became far too emotional after the controversial referee’s decision to allow the tying goal. It is realistic to think that by not being able to immediately overcome the decision that went against them, Brazil lost its place in the tournament. Emotion is important, of course. But so is calm and cool reaction whether to a great moment or a devastating moment in the game.
- It is very dangerous indeed for a superior team to play for penalties.
It is never safe to make bold predictions in any sport. Football is the hardest sport to win and therefore the most confounding sport for the prognosticator.
So, here are a few predictions that we feel safe making.
Croatia will play a powerful game against England. They have fast skilled players who can give England’s defence problems. England will need to begin the game with speed of its own in order to not fall into the trap of waiting for an opportune moment. The Croatians could utterly dominate England if England decides to play for one big break.
England has not been seriously tested in its defence thus far. The goal that Columbia scored to tie the match was a kind of fluke even as it came on Columbia’s first corner kick. Croatia could force many such kicks and we have no idea how well England can stand up to such relentless pressure.
Belgium and France are two teams that play solid football but they lack the pizzazz of a Brazil or, now, of Croatia. Either of these Western European teams will appear to be the underdog if Croatia surpasses England.
We won’t venture a guess as to which teams will advance to the finals and which will ultimately prevail. If you are the sports betting sort, we advise you only to look at these last games with the most dispassionate eye rather than to allow sentiment to influence your betting decisions.