FIFA World Cup 2018: Four years after Mario Goetze’s stoppage-time goal which crowned Germany world champions at the Maracana Stadium, Rio de Janerio, the FIFA’s 21st quadrennial juggernaut has travelled from the samba land to the land of the Soviets. Players like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi who have enough of Ballon d’Or’s to get themselves the tag of ‘World’s best players’ would eye for holy grail which has eluded them for long.
Also, in absence of Italy who are missing the World Cup finals for the first time since 1958, teams like France, England, Argentina and Portugal would fancy their chances of being crowned as champions on July 15 at Luzniki Stadium in front of 80,000 fans.
Newly formed Brazil-led by Neymar would also want to forget the Mineirão’s 7-1 massacre which was caused by Germany and would like to be champions. While the defending champions, Joachim Low’s Germany would like to repeat what Brazil did in 1962 and retain the title. However, going by the history which lays a foundation to alot of things, none of the aforementioned heavyweights are touted to be the champions.
Interestingly, the all-glorious history of FIFA World Cup suggests that it will the men in red and black (Belgium) who will win their first ever title.
Ever since the tournament was expanded to 32 teams in 1998, all of the eventual champions have been seeded. The last time a non-seeded team won was in 1986- Argentina. This strikes off 24 teams, leaving us with Brazil, Poland, Argentina, Germany, Belgium, Russia, France, and Portugal.
Jinx of being hosts:
The first 11 editions of the tournament, from 1930 to 1978, produced five home winners. However, after France in 1998 no host country has managed to win the title. Although South Korea had a dream run in 2002 as a joint host along with Japan, it was never easy for them to win the title. Also, South Africa were never the favourites in the tournament. Nonetheless, we cannot forget that Germany (2006) and Brazil (2014), were among the favourites but the home conditions could not lead them to the podium.
Russia who benefited from a 44-year old tradition of the host nation being seeded is the only reason they are in top eight. However, the recent history says hosts have gone on to eventually exit the tournament. It means Russia is out of contention.
Keeping tight at the back:
Since 1998, none of the five champions have conceded more than four goals throughout the tournament. Looking at the remaining seven, Poland had the weakest defence during qualifying. They conceded 1.4 goals per game, while Germany and Portugal conceded 0.4 per game. Argentian conceded 0.88, while the Selecaos conceded 0.61. Both Belgium and Les Blues conceded 0.6 goals per game. This kicks Poland out of the equation.
Be a European:
In the whole history of FIFA World Cup, the trophy has traded hands between Europe and South America. However, until recently the trophy has not travelled outside Europe. The dominance of European teams in the last three world cup editions has been impressive. Every time the world cup is hosted in Europe, it has produced home winners, with an exception being in 1958 when Brazil won the tournament in Sweden. With Brazil and Argentina out we are now left by four teams.
Best goalkeeper is compulsory:
If strikers win you matches, goalkeepers can win you a World Cup. Although it is players like Ronaldo, David Villa and Klose who took the limelight with their goalscoring prowess, it were the man in the goal who made the difference. Of the remaining teams, Hugo Lloris (France), Manuel Neuer (Germany) and Thibaut Courtois (Belgium) are more reliable than Rui Patricio (Portugal). Clearly it a goodbye for Portugal.
Experience is the second name for World cup winning squads and the trend began in 1998. Back then, France had an average of 22.77 caps per player. Germany boasted 42.21 each. In between, there was a gradual rise – Brazil averaged 28.04 in 2002, Italy 32.91 in 2006 and Spain 38.30 in 2010.
Now, in the present scenario, France is the least experienced with 24.56 caps per player whereas Germany has 43.26 and Belgium has 45.13.
Defending champion is a big NO!
The finalists are Belgium and Germany. Apart from Brazil in 1958 and 62, no team has managed to retain the title. Moreover, ever since 1962, the 13 defending champions only managed to go past quarter-finals on two occasions – Argentina (1990) and Brazil (1998).
Germany who are a mixture of young legs and experienced players have been a dominant side in the 21st century World Cup football. In the past four editions, Germany played three semi-finals (2002, 2006, 2010) and one final (winner in 2014). However, when it comes to retaining the title, history is against them. It means Belgium will win the World Cup, according to the aforementioned facts.