4 World Cup 2018 Group Stage Shock Exits To Look Out For
A World Cup does not go by without some shock results and these don’t usually take long to start coming. There are always some fancied teams that drop out at the group stage and this year will be no different.
Four years ago, Spain, Italy, England and Portugal all fell at the first hurdle. In 2010, France, Italy, Switzerland and Denmark were the ones to go home early. It will happen again in Russia, and here are the most likely candidates for a group stage exit…
Group A – Russia
The host nation have not enjoyed an ideal preparation for their first World Cup on home soil and things could go quite badly wrong for them this summer.
At the time of writing they have not won in five matches, their last victory coming back in October 2017 at home to South Korea. They have not beaten a top level opponent since a friendly victory over Portugal in November 2015.
Their head coach, Stanislav Cherchesov, does not have much pedigree and has won just five of his 18 games in charge since taking over in August 2016. The Russian squad is also lacking quality in a number of areas, and will probably be very short of goals.
Fyodor Smolov and Artem Dzyuba will be the men tasked with finding the back of the net for the home nation but neither are proven on the biggest stage of them all. Both have impressed in the Russian Premier League and for their national team in the past, but this is a huge step up. Dzyuba boasts an impressive international scoring record of 11 goals in 22 appearances. However, these goals have come against Liechtenstein (5), Moldova (2), Costa Rica (2), Sweden and Serbia.
Their group matches them against Uruguay, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The South Americans are the clear bit of quality in there and it will likely come down to Russia vs Egypt for second place. The Africans have Mohamed Salah to call upon, and he might just break Russian hearts.
Group C – Denmark
There is very little between two teams in Group C, and it may well be very close between whether it is Denmark or Peru that make it into the knockout stages of the World Cup.
The other sides in the group are France and Australia with the former expected to coast into the last 16 and Australia unlikely to cause anyone much trouble. The battle for second place will be fierce between the Danish and the Peruvians.
Peru have a very good chance thanks to their sturdy defence. In their last six games they have conceded just two goals, they are well organised and can keep things very tight against the opposition that isn’t quite at the highest level.
Qualification saw them draw home and away with Argentina and beat Uruguay, so they can certainly mix it with the big boys. They are also in fine form and confidence is high as they have not lost in 12 games – winning eight and drawing four.
Denmark are solid enough, but can struggle for goals and could easily find themselves frustratingly beaten by the Peruvians, led by Jefferson Farfan, who has played in Russia for the last 18 months.
Group D – Argentina
They might be one of the favourites to win the World Cup and they might possess the favourite to be the top goal scorer, but Argentina could also crash out at the group stages.
They might have eventually come third in South American qualification, but it was a very poor campaign for a squad of their ability, winning just seven of 18 games. Beaten at home by Paraguay and Ecuador whilst losing away to Bolivia.
Since getting over the line in qualification they have been beaten in friendlies by Nigeria and Spain, conceding 10 goals in the process. It is their defence that will cost them in Russia, they might have a fearsome frontline featuring Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala, but their defence is relatively very poor and they have Sergio Romero in goal who has not played regularly at club level for years.
In Group D they are alongside Iceland, Croatia and Nigeria, all of whom are tricky contests that will pose problems. Unless their strikers can hit their stride early and blitz these sides, they could be held to frustrating draws or even shock defeats and fall at the first hurdle, much like they did in 2002 when they went into the tournament as second favourites.
Considering they scored just 19 goals in 18 qualification games, these big name forwards cannot necessarily be relied upon.
Group H - Colombia
Colombia won a lot of fans at the 2014 World Cup when they reached the quarter-finals, nearly ousted Brazil and their star man, James Rodriguez, walked away with the Golden Boot. However, it could be very different for them this time around.
They are in an exceptionally tricky group, despite their being none of the traditional super-powers involved. Poland, Senegal and Japan stand in the way of the Colombians and none of those contests will be straight forward at all.
Colombia may have reached the last eight in 2014, but their World Cup record is very poor otherwise, only once getting past the group stages before that success. Their qualification was not great either, especially against the stronger sides in South America. Of the eight games against the other four teams that qualified, Colombia’s only victory was at home to Peru.
Considering Poland are the highest ranked team in the group, and they are playing much closer to home, it is somewhat surprising that Colombia are the shortest price to progress. Japan are not in the greatest shape at the moment, but Senegal could well stop the men from South America in their tracks.