The last two World Cups contested in Brazil 2014 and South Africa 2010 were both very testing for many teams with hot and humid conditions along with altitude issues in South Africa.
Other than a few early kick offs in Southern Russia every match this tournament is likely to be played in perfect conditions, much like Germany 2006.
It’s worth noting in Germany 2006 the favourites dominated winning 73 percent of Group matches.
Comparatively in South Africa they won just 44 percent and in Brazil 58 percent.
I’m not suggesting to run out and back every favourite but where weather can smooth the variance between teams’ abilities it shouldn’t be any issue in Russia.
Perennial favourites Brazil enter the tournament looking for redemption after losing 1-7 at the semi-final stage as hosts 4 years ago.
Assuming they and Germany top their Groups they are drawn to either side of the draw and won’t meet till the final which is an interesting scenario.
Do the scars of 2014 make them vulnerable or is it added incentive?
I’m leaning to the latter and expect them to make the final with perhaps their toughest match to that point appearing to be a likely quarter-final against Belgium.
Germany have a great blend of youth and experience in their squad but it will be interesting to see how coach Joachim Low manages the squad.
They won 10 from 10 in qualifying and despite a couple of average recent friendly performances they will be purring come World Cup time.
Since 1998 they have won 11 drawn 3 and lost just 1 group match.
With a kind group here, I would expect them to go 3 from 3 and chart a path to a likely meeting with England in the quarter-final.
If they can take care of Portugal they will likely top the Group and have a very comfortable journey to the semi-finals in what looks to be the ‘easiest’ quarter (none are terribly easy).
I say this as I’m heavily against Argentina as I will explain soon.
France have a team packed with youthful exuberance and pace will be their number one asset.
Denmark and particularly Peru may prove difficult in the group stage but ultimately, I expect them to top the group.
From there it gets tough with a path of the likes of Argentina/Croatia in the 2nd phase Uruguay/Portugal/Spain in the quarter final and Brazil in the semi-final just to get to the big show. For that reason, I can’t see them as anything but grossly under the odds in the current futures markets.
Jumping straight to a prognosis, I expect Argentina to be the biggest under-achievers of the tournament.
They ‘should’ still manage their way out of the group but I’ll be opposing them throughout the tournament.
There is a strong possibility of a Peru 2nd round match and if they lose that, which I think they might, the country will be in deep mourning.
These two teams will finish 1st/2nd in the Group which sets them on a path to Brazil (Group winner) and Germany (Group runner-up) in the quarter-finals.
Portugal and Uruguay are potential 2nd round opponents and very similar in that they have ageing defences supporting talisman Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez respectively.
Portugal have the potential to catapult themselves into the easiest quarter with a result over Spain in the opening match and that is very much within their abilities, even more so now.
Peru ($151.00) return to their first world cup in 36 years and are capable of causing a stir.
They have performed well winning 4 of 5 friendlies to take them to 15 matches unbeaten and captain Paolo Guerrero has had his drug suspension reduced to allow him to go to the tournament.
They can trouble anyone and are worth following through the tournament.
Australia were poor towards the end of the Postecoglou era despite him having a very positive effect on the team early in his tenure.
On paper, it isn’t ideal that coach Bert Van Marwijk is in for just the World Cup but I think it is actually a very smart transition period before Graham Arnold takes over.
Fitting Mooy, Jedinak and Luongo into the middle 3 is a challenge and despite Luongo’s good performances in the March friendlies I expect him to start with Mooy and Jedinak, though if it was me I would be deploying Jedinak as a central defender, but that appears highly unlikely.
Josh Risdon, a fine player in his own right may struggle at this level and was exposed against Hungary still I tend to agree he is our best right back option at the moment.
Tom Rogic can drift in and out of matches but looks to have seen off Jackson Irvine as the attacking midfielder and he has plenty of creativity.
Our striking options are not great with Andrew Nabbout out of position looking to be the most likely option ahead of Tomi Juric.
Daniel Arzani appears made for the big stage and I expect him to get big minutes, and likely a potentially a big move post World Cup.
We match up ok against Denmark and Peru but as much as I think we will perform well I doubt we can make it out of the group stage.
Boring I know but I think we are in for a Brazil v Germany final as they standout above the competition.
As for a winner, well it’s nearly impossible to call but it is Germany that I will lean to ever so slightly.
As a strategy I would be opposing Argentina across the board.
I also suspect that the Asian teams will be out of their depth on most occasions and will likely oppose them throughout the tournament with the exception of Iran who are a very difficult team to break down and look the best of an average bunch.