2018 will be a mega sports year!

by Azhar Mohamed, @volt_azhar;

Just about a week left for the clock to tick away from 2017 and enter 2018, the calendar has some sports extravaganza lined up. Apart from the Cricket battle between two giants India and South Africa, all eyes will be on the biggest sport event in the world, the 21st FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia which kicks off from 14th June. While the teams have been selected, here’s a quick glance at the groups, teams and their key players.

Group A comprises of Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uruguay. Hosts Russia, the lowest ranked in the world cup & the hosts will begin the tournament against Saudi Arabia before taking on Uruguay & Egypt. Uruguay are the favorites & Cavani (Paris Saint-Germain) & Luis Saurez (Barcelona) are the key players going forward. Egypt is making a comeback & with Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) in terrific form, Egypt looks to make it to the next round. Russia the hosts will like their chances to advance & so would Saudi Arabia fancy itself to make a dent. All the Group A contestants are winners for now as it could be anyone’s game.

Group B comprises of Portugal, Spain, Iran, Morocco. Portugal & Spain start off against each other something both teams wouldn’t have wanted. European champions Portugal are taking a solid experienced squad to Russia & it could well be Cristiano Ronaldo’s last chance at winning a world cup. Spain haven’t performed well in the last few tournaments and with DDG in amazing form with the glove and a solid defense by Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique, the spaniards look to make it to the next round. Iran and Morocco are the least favorites to make through having Portugal & Spain in its group. The Iranians though went unbeaten in 18 qualifying games & their coach has said that they shall “not go to Russia as tourists.” While Morocco is back after many years & this time, the team features several young performers and that is something to look forward to.

Group C consists of France, Peru, Denmark, Australia. France will fancy themselves and also have a bunch of young talent in the likes of Paul Pogba , Tomas Lemar , Kylian Mbappe , Les Bleus should make it to the next round. Peru sit 10th in rankings and look dangerous , Denmark is growing and one player to watch out for will be playmaker Christian Eriksen who has been in fine touch. Australia could be dangerous in attack and these 3 teams are said to be fighting for the 2nd place.

Group D has Argentina, Croatia, Iceland, Nigeria. Argentina had almost lost way before a hattrick by Lionel Messi saw them through and here again he will be seen as the most vital man going forward. Nigeria were the first African Nation to qualify and it’s attack could be a threat with the likes of Alex Iwobi (Arsenal), Kelechi Iheanacho & Victor Moses (Chelsea).

Iceland will always be remembered for the Euro 2016 where they knocked out England to reach the quarter-finals. They are the smallest nation to ever qualify and it could be more than an underdog that it is shown as Luka Modric, Mario Mandzukic, Ivan Rakitic and Ivan Perisic with these names Croatia looks like a tough team to beat. This could be a thrilling group to watch.

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