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Anticipating the World Cup, and Group Stage Predictions

I AM HYPED!!!!

Like, really 🙂 The Men’s World Cup, taking place in Russia this year, is nearly a month away. And as the spring season of local soccer is wrapping up (and European soccer is drawing to a close), my passionate focus on the beautiful game can turn to the international competition at its highest level. And while the USMNT crashed and burned in CONCACAF qualifiers, I still have high hopes for some amazing team play and golazos. And so in anticipation for this tournament, I’m going to do a little breakdown of each group and make a prediction on who is gonna advance to the knockout stages. For those who are not familiar with traditional soccer tournament scoring for group stages, a win is worth 3 points, a tie is 1 pt for each team, and loss is 0 pts. A tie in points at the end of group stages is decided by goal differential.

 

GROUP A:  Egypt, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Uruguay

Arguably Russia, as the tournament hosts, got an “easy” group. However, I don’t actually think Russia is that good, and so having less skilled teams in their group doesn’t actually mean they have a guaranteed ticket to the knockout rounds. Uruguay has definite talent up top (ie- the vampire Luis Suarez and the speedy Edinson Cavani) and finished second behind a red hot Brazil in CONMEBOL qualifying. Egypt, riding the prolific finishing of Mo Salah (of Liverpool FC and the likely EPL Golden Boot winner for this season), is going to test many a defense. Saudi Arabia, unfortunately, is probably going to leak goals and be this group’s punch bag.

Prediction: Uruguay (7 pts), Egypt (7 pts), Russia (3 pts), Saudi Arabia (0 pts)

 

GROUP B: Iran, Morocco, Portugal, Spain

Clearly a group dominated by European powerhouses, the only real question is who comes out on top. Ronaldo might be looking at his last real chance at international greatness, having already won 2016 Euros with Portugal, but when I look at the Spanish squad, I see one of the most dangerous midfield and forward lineups in the tournament. I really don’t have much to say about Iran and Morocco, though I could see either European side getting complacent and letting a goal in, which could decide whether Spain sweeps the group or Portugal actually makes it out.

Prediction: Spain (9 pts), Portugal (6 pts), Iran (1 pt), Morocco (1 pt)

 

GROUP C: Australia, Denmark, France, Peru

This is one of a couple groups that have a clear favorite (in my mind) to come out in first, but the battle for second place could be bloodbath. France, I feel, has the talent to easily notch a few goals per game and clear the group with three wins. Australia barely qualified and has struggled internationally since the last world cup. Peru is a similar story, but they showed grit and has the endurance to win points in close matches. Denmark is a young European squad, with talent like Christian Eriksen in midfield and Kasper Schmeichel in goal, might even give France a good fight if they stay on top of their game.

Prediction: France (7 pts), Denmark (5 pts), Peru (2 pts), Australia (1 pt)

 

GROUP D: Argentina, Croatia, Iceland, Nigeria

This group is one I definitely will be watching, as it could be one of the most competitive. Not only does it feature arguably the greatest player the world has ever seen (Lionel Messi, if anyone had doubts who I was talking about), but it features two European teams who had strong showings in the 2016 European Championship. And who doesn’t love Iceland? Like, how can you not root for a team who comes from a country of ~300,000 yet goes toe to toe with European giants like England, France, and Portugal. Croatia has a star-studded midfield and can threaten any goalie into making some spectacular saves, or otherwise drop points. And let’s not forget about Nigeria. Consistently a strong team coming out of Africa, I expect a physical and fast style that could potentially steamroll the more technical styles of Argentina and the European squads.

Predictions: Argentina (7 pts), Croatia (4 pts), Iceland (3 pts), Nigeria (1 pts)

 

GROUP E: Brazil, Costa Rica, Serbia, Switzerland

This is definitely Brazil’s group to lose, considering the talent they are bringing. As some might remember, Brazil completely embarrassed themselves the last time around as the hosts losing to Germany in the semi-finals by several goals. That squad was arguably an old guard of Brazilian football, this squad is much younger and way flashier. With Neymar leading the charge on offense, I expect them to make a deep run into the tournament. But the teams they face aren’t going down quietly. Costa Rica featured solid play in CONCACAF qualifying and has enough talent to pick up pts against any of their opponents. Serbia fills a rather weird place in this group and in my mind could play spoiler for who advances in 2nd place. Switzerland has some big name players, but many of said players are coming off poor seasons with their domestic clubs, which could affect their ability to play in the World Cup.

Predictions: Brazil (9 pts), Costa Rica (4 pts), Switzerland (4 pts), Serbia (0 pts)

 

GROUP F: Germany, Korean Republic, Mexico, Sweden

Many would call this the “group of death” for this tournament, which I would agree with if you consider it a two man fight. And if one considers Germany to be a favorite going in to win it all (coming off the last World Cup as victors and fielding many of the same players) as well as a Mexico team that is possibly at its strongest in years (2017 Confederations Cup participants and looking to avenge their loss to Germany there), there will be fireworks. Sweden qualified out of Europe without Zlatan Ibrahimovic and dares to brave the competition without the man, the myth, the legend. Korea generally competes, but I don’t see them having much success against this group.

Prediction: Mexico (7 pts), Germany (7 pts), Sweden (3 pts), Korea (0 pts)

 

GROUP G: Belgium, England, Panama, Tunisia

Another interesting group (arguably the true “group of death”), which features a CONCACAF surprise contender in Panama, a serial under-performer in England, and a rising dark horse in Belgium. Tunisia, despite being 14 in the FIFA World ranking, is probably way out of its league in the group and will be lucky to pick up any pts here. I feel Panama will carry their momentum from CONCACAF and give the European teams a run for their money. Belgium, with talent all across the board, should make a strong showing, and could push out some solid teams in the knockout stages. England “should” be playing with a massive chip on their shoulder and features many rising stars, with some veterans to provide backbone, and may actually not choke and bow out in unseemly fashion this time around.

Predictions: Belgium (5 pts), England (5 pts), Panama (5 pts), Tunisia (0 pts)

 

GROUP H: Colombia, Japan, Poland, Senegal

The final group and one featuring another set of potentially interesting match-ups. Colombia features last World Cup’s Golden Boot winner James Rodriguez while Poland boasts Bundesliga’s prolific giant Robert Lewandowski. Japan has always been a team to watch but is often hit or miss in international competition. Senegal happens to be the second highest ranked African nation and could bring a brutal, physical style that’ll wear down their opponents. This group could be very close, or completely lopsided. I feel it’ll probably the later, being the finishing quality of Rodriguez and Lewandowski.

Predictions: Colombia (9 pts), Poland (6 pts), Japan (1 pt), Senegal (1 pt)

 

Biggest Losers: Chile, Italy, Netherlands, United States

*Sob* There are no words to mourn the lack of these teams in this world cup, but honestly they all under-performed in their respective qualifying and got beat out by much less talented squads. It might be irreverent for these teams to play a mini-tournament between themselves this summer, but it’s one that would still feature a lot of great talent and one I would definitely want to check out.

 

So there you have it, my predictions for the 2018 Men’s World Cup. Drop a comment if you disagree with any of my group rankings, or even just to argue if Lionel Messi isn’t actually the GOAT (which he is, his all-around game is just otherworldly). Once the group stages are over, I plan on making another set of predictions (with scores this time!) for the knockout stages, and predict the overall winner of the tournament. And boy, I can’t wait for some great soccer!

 

 

S.D.G.

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Cultivating the Creative Consciousness

With the school year winding down and opportunities to substitute becoming as scarce as water in the desert, I’m forced to consider what I’ll be doing with myself over the summer. Summer often presents new possibilities and a chance for more activity than colder months, but I’ve often grown complacent and content in doing the simple and mundane tasks. Rather than just do the usual, I’ve thought about what I could do to spice it up this summer. This got me thinking about the qualities I value in others and the first thing that stuck out is the creative nature of people.

You see, I’m draw to the creative expressions of other people. Artists, builders, designers, creators, inventors, writers, dancers, painters, photographers, engineers, etc. Y’all amaze me. You take something unnoticed or undervalued and breathe life into it. Perhaps I appreciate these things more because I do not have that level of talent myself. Personally, my creative talents lie in my mind’s ability to design and create using words and phrases. And I enjoy doing so! I have several story (as in novels) ideas lying around and I might, just might, work on finishing one of them this summer. But let me get back to the purpose of this post…

I want to encourage everyone, no matter what your vocation or hobby, to keep giving it your all. You are needed! You create things for others they often don’t realize they need! Even those of you who don’t create in a traditional sense, remember you are creating moments and experiences every second of every day. Life is about creating memories and every moment counts. So I encourage you all, dear readers, to be not discouraged if you feel undervalued or lacking creativity in your daily life because I assure you memories are anyone’s forte. Value each moment, treasure each interaction, and cherish those memories you create!

 

 

S.D.G.

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A Short Summer-y (and a Brief Bio)

So admittedly I have been something of a ghost this summer, or at least when it pertains to writing here. This is partially due to a lack of inspiration as well as a lack of access to a computer when inspiration did hit. So to make up for my blogging absence, I intend to not only give everyone an update on my summer adventures but also a sneak peek into a post I will be making for an online class’ discussion board.

So let’s see, my summer started with soccer, as every summer should. I got my Grade 8 Referee License in the spring so I spent my weekends at the athletic complex in town making some spending money. I also coached a U10 Boys team for the local rec league and we were the regular season champions, however we lost 2-1 in the playoffs to the only team that held us to 1 goal in a regular season game. And then was the Women’s World Cup. Let’s just say I was in heaven for those few weeks, and got to watch the picture perfect ending with the USWNT taking home the trophy on an extremely convincing win.

Next, I had plenty of time to be with family, which usually means plenty of good food (and Mountain Dew!), lots of games, and good conversation. I got to see all of my “Arizona” cousins, which can be a rare treat, and saw another sibling married off. Being able to maintain a regular sleep schedule also helped my summer go smoothly, something I did not really have last summer.

Also, I was able to persevere through several obstacles to entering a Transition to Teaching program to get my Secondary Education License for Historical Perspectives (so I can teach middle/high school history). These online classes (which started at the end of last month) will take roughly 16 months to complete (with a break during next summer) and will compound on my already rapidly filling schedule.

So there is my summer(y). However I also promised a transcript from my biography post for my online class so here goes:

“Greetings fellow cohort-ians! I hail from Warsaw, Indiana (the Orthopedic Capital of the world) where I currently share a house with my cousin and a friend of his from college. However, while I may appear to live a bachelor’s life, I am not currently single, as I started dating someone earlier this year. As the second oldest of eight children, the importance of family has had a large impact on my life and I look forward to the day I can start one of my own. If I had to choose three words to describe me I would turn to what my friends have used in the past and those would be witty, athletic, and genuine.

Trying to cover everything about my interests, hobbies, and favorite things might prove hard to do but I will attempt to be thorough. My favorite color is navy blue; I cannot claim one specific movie as my favorite but I do love sci-fi, comedy, and action movies quite a bit; my favorite type of food and dessert are pasta and cheesecake, respectively; my favorite restaurant is Fazoli’s; my favorite genre of music is pop punk; my favorite book is probably Ender’s Game; my favorite Scripture passage is Romans 7:15-20; and my favorite place to travel is a family camp in Michigan called Little Eden, where my family goes every year for vacation. My interests include soccer (among other sports), probable fiction, basic computer code and programming, and writing. My hobbies also include playing games with family and friends, coaching, and participating in church outreach. If I had a free hour, I would probably watch an episode of a TV show or a replay of a soccer game. With a free day, I like to spend time with friends or find a new book to read. With a free week, I would do the above as well as try to take a trip to see a historical landmark or museum. I do not currently own any pets but I am a sucker for cats and larger dogs.

My faith has been a fundamental part of my identity, as I am from a strong Christian family with a long Mennonite tradition. However I did not start my personal walk with Christ until after I had it out with God over the death of one of my siblings when I was in my late elementary years. This tragedy forced me to confront my views on religion, faith, and personal belief. Thankfully, God is infinitely patient and welcomed me back with open arms. The decade and a half since then I have grown in ways I could not have imagined back then. I currently attend a church that has a strong focus on community outreach and congregation relationships, two things I have a great desire to be a part of.

I hope this wall of text was not overwhelming for anyone but once I get going it can be hard for me to switch off. I look forward to reading everyone else’s bios as well as replying to your comments and questions. Cheers!”

There it is folks, hope this makes up for my failure to maintain any sort of regular schedule for blog posts. It is my hope to at least post something every other week during the next few months, if nothing else to just reflect on my thoughts of the soccer season (as I am also coaching the Jr High team again at my high school alma mater), my online classes, and (hopefully) my romantic endeavors.

S.D.G.

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