With the World Cup still over a year away, the fun has already kicked off in the form of the European qualifiers. 9 groups of 6 teams each compete in a round robin style tournament, with each team playing the other 5 teams in their group twice. Once all 10 matches have been played, the top finisher from each group will advance to the World Cup. As for the runners up, the best 8 of the lot will go to a playoff, and four of them will claim a spot in Russia. In this article, we are going to predict 5 of the 9 groups. Stay tuned for next week, when we do groups F through I.
6. San Marino
Now we are going to do a breakdown of a few groups that we think will be the most intriguing.
Group C Breakdown
Let’s start with the obvious – Germany should have no problem winning this group. Already with a 5 point cushion after the first 5 matches, they have not dropped a single point yet. What’s even more incredible is the fact that they have outscored opponents 20-1 during this run. This group really starts to get intriguing when you look at the race for second place. Northern Ireland currently sit on 10 points, while the Czech Republic sit on 8, with Azerbaijan having 7. I think Azerbaijan have exceeded expectations so far, yet I think they will fall back to their normal standards in the second half of fixtures. Considering they only slipped by San Marino 1-0, they have caught Norway and the Czech Republic despite being outplayed in both those matches. As for the Czech Republic, they have now 2 wins in a row, and can build some serious momentum if they win again against Norway. I think they may even be able to get a home draw against Germany, who may rest players given that they have the group virtually wrapped up. I see Northern Ireland slipping down because I see them losing two of their last three, and drawing the others. They have to host a Czech Republic team who is looking hot, followed by a game against Germany, and then they are going to have a match against Norway. The latter may be overlooked, however Norway are going to seriously be playing their heart out no matter what, and I think they will catch Northern Ireland off guard.
Group D Breakdown
Group D is probably one of the more competitive groups in qualification. Consisting of Republic of Ireland, Serbia, Wales, and Austria as the decent teams in the group. I think Republic of Ireland will win the group despite the fact Seamus Coleman will probably be out for the rest of their qualifying campaign and maybe even the World Cup itself (if Ireland reach of course). Ireland have a lot of exiting attackers like James McClean and Shane Long, Experienced heads like Jon Walters and John O’ Shea, Long shooters with great passing ability like Jeff Hendricks and Robbie Brady, and A Premier League caliber goalkeeper in Darren Randolph. Not only that but have a rotatable back-line where 4 of Irelands Center backs all have the same quality, John O’ Shea, Ciaran Clark, Richard Keogh, and Shane Duffy. This is something that Wales and Serbia don’t have as well as Ireland In my opinion. Not only that but Daryl Murphy, Ireland’s back up to Shane Long also had some quality. Wales mayb have some quality, as they showed as the went to the Semi-Finals of Euro 2016, but an injury to Bale, Allen, or Ramsey could derail heir qualifying campaign. But I they all stay fit I see them catching up to Serbia, especially if the beat them away. Serbia are very good, but they still have to play Austria and Ireland away. And it would be very hard to pick up points at the Aviva Stadium as we saw Wales struggle Friday night. Austria still have a chance as they are level on pints with Wales. But Austria have to play Wales in Ireland away which could be very challenging for the Austrians even though they have some decent players. And as for Moldova and Georgia, they are just teams trying to pull of upsets at this point and won’t be traveling to World Cup 2018.
Let us know what you think in the comments!
Author: Kieran, Nik