Here we find an interesting mix of heavyweights and dark horses. Brazil is currently number one in the FIFA World Rankings, a designation that has failed to prove anything since the rankings began. Since the ranking system was established in 1992, not a single number one ranked team has won the World Cup. Either the system is broken, or there’s some bad luck attached to that spot. One look at Brazil’s roster proves why they are the favorites to win the whole tournament; as they are loaded with talent, experience and the kind of flair that only Brazilians possess. Simply put, this squad is incredible. Whether they’re lining up against Neymar, Gabriel Jesus, Thiago Silva or any other members of this historic team, the rest of Group G will need to be on top of their game when they face the Selecao.
Beyond the Brazilians, viewers should keep a close eye on Serbia. They topped a qualifying group that included Portugal, going undefeated through all eight games. Fulham ace Aleksandar Mitrovic is one of the most dangerous strikers in the world, while midfield maestro Sergej Milinkovic-Savic shows shades of Kevin De Bruyne-esque skillset just behind him. Across the pitch, Serbia is filled with surprises and are ready and capable. Likewise, Switzerland recorded five wins, three draws and no losses in their qualifying run, beating out Italy for the automatic spot.
The resurgence of midfielder Granit Xhaka and defender Manuel Akanji will make the Swiss an even more dangerous outfit, with striker Breel Embolo providing that finishing touch and attacking boost. Finally, Cameroon (aka The Indomitable Lions) come into this tournament with low expectations. In fact, they have some of the lowest odds to win the tournament. However, the emergence of Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting for Bayern Munich and Andre Frank Zambo-Anguissa for Napoli will definitely boost the squad as they seek to exceed expectations and prove the doubters wrong.
Finally, we have our other candidate for the “Group of Death.” Portugal and Ghana will be familiar foes, having been in the same group in the 2014 World Cup. In what will likely be Cristiano Ronaldo’s final World Cup appearance, this Portuguese squad is stronger than it has been for years. A solid defense is flanked by some of the world’s best fullbacks, including Joao Cancelo and Nuno Mendes. Ruben Neves will be pulling the strings in the midfield, setting up Ronaldo, Bernardo Silva, and the rest of the attacking talents at their disposal. Ghana has a rich soccer history, producing stars like Michael Essien and Abedi Pele. In the past, they have proven their skill at the highest level, making it as far as the quarterfinals in the 2010 tournament.
Their World Cup run ended at the hands of Luis Suarez and Uruguay that year, literally. With the game winding down, Suarez blocked a Ghanaian shot with his hands to keep his team from losing in regular time, receiving a red card and giving the opponents a penalty kick instead. Miraculously, Uruguay keeper Fernando Muslera managed to save the PK and lead the team to an extra time victory. The Sky Blue’s elimination of Ghana is still one of soccer’s most controversial moments. One way or another, there are going to be fireworks when these two meet again.
For Uruguay, this year’s tournament represents the coming of a new era. Stalwarts Edison Cavani and Luis Suarez are falling prey to Father Time, while Darwin Nunez and Federico Valverde seem ready to lead the team from here. This will be an intriguing World Cup from the two-time champions; will they find it within themselves to make another run or will personalities clash and see them implode once more? Lastly, South Korea looked set to take on this tournament without talisman Heung-Min Son, a blow that would have significantly damaged their chances of advancing. However, the Spurs star has managed to recover from injury just in time, giving his squad the heartbeat they need if they want to pick up any meaningful points, much like they did in the 2018 World Cup. The odds-makers say that Portugal and Uruguay will run away with this one, but it would be foolish to rule anyone out in this truly talented group.