Divergence of opinion is something that makes football so great. Throw in one of the most unpredictable World Cup tournaments we have ever seen and it is easy to comprehend how difficult tipping winners throughout the event has been.

Footballtoday.news has a respected and professional array of contributors, all of whom were asked by the editor to provide their predictions on the way things would play out in Russia 2018.

To say that some of our informed estimations are way off the mark, would be an understatement. The comforting thing for the panel is that the same could be said of ‘experts’ the world over, as the Cup threw up upset after upset, shock after shock and the unpredictable on a daily basis.

Sally Freedman, Pablo Bateson, Mike Tuckerman, Charlie Laurendi, Bonita Mersiades and me were asked to contribute and much competitive number crunching and team analysis took place prior to our submissions.

Nine key questions were asked with varying levels of success achieved by the panel.

Q1 – How will Australia go in their group games?

No doubt some rose coloured glasses were worn during this decision, with five of the six finding a win and a draw for the Socceroos. Charlie Laurendi can hold his head highest after his prediction of a winless campaign for our boys. 

Q2 – How far will Australia go?

Both Charlie and Sally saw a straight sets exit for the Socceroos and as unpatriotic and party-pooperish as it was (okay, at least Sally is our card-carrying English fan) they were spot on. The other four saw a round of 16 spot for Australia, which despite a few promising moments, proved well beyond their reach. 

Q3 – Who will do best of the five Asian teams?

Japan were the clear and definitive answer. Sadly, for the panel, it was only Sally and Charlie once again who had read the tarot cards effectively, whilst the remainder of us fumbled around with Australia, South Korea and Iran tabled as Asia’s potential best.

Q4 – How will the VAR perform?

At this juncture I feel it is only fair to point out that football writers can be an angry and pessimistic lot. Sally alluded to the ‘shambles’ it would become, Pablo attempted to trigger a movement with his emotive #VARout and all six panellists slammed the technology, potentially off the back of diabolical memories of the A-League season just passed. 

My own prediction that VAR would ‘break the heart of a nation’ perhaps deserves some merit while Bonita was on the money with ‘better than it did in the A-League’.

Q5 – Who will win the Golden Boot?

No doubt the toughest of the challenges laid before us. Mo Salah (Sally) was hampered by injury, Robert Lewandowski (Mike) never really fired a shot and despite his theatrics, Neymar (Pablo) could only muster two goals. Cristiano Ronaldo (Bonita) looked an early winner yet Portugal’s exit shortened his run. 

With France going deep into the tournament, Antoine Griezmann (Charlie) still stands a chance if he can find a hat-trick in a World Cup Final. However, I’m claiming early victory with Harry Kane looking the likely winner.

Q6 – Who will be player of the tournament?

Now we obviously won’t know the ultimate winner of this until the final curtain is draw yet a few of us are already out of the running.

Kevin De Bruyne (Bonita) played well but won’t be winning the award. Neymar (Mike) lost more fans than he made during this World Cup and Eden Hazard (Sally) looked a chance yet being absent from the final, opens the door for Antoine Griezmann (Pablo and Stuart) as well as Paul Pogba to steal it on the final night. With a stunning performance in the Final, Harry Kane could have swept them all but with Croatia advancing, the door is now open for others. 

Q7 – Who will be the surprise packet team?

Now this question could be read in two ways yet I think surprise was intended in a positive manner. [Ed:  It was!] Therefore Poland (Mike) are well out of the race and to a lesser extent Switzerland (Bonita) despite showing early promise and making it to the round of 16. Colombia (Sally and Charlie) were probably more disappointing than surprising after arriving with high hopes, and Uruguay (Stuart) were in the ball-park yet fell a game or two short. Hats off to Pablo who hitched his wagon with England early on.

Q8 – Who will be the big name team to flop?

Dunces caps to Sally (England) and Stuart (Belgium) for predicting a disaster for two semi-finalists. Portugal (Charlie) was a close call yet Pablo and Bonita deserve all credit for naming Argentina as their potential flopper.

Q9 – Who will the finalists be and who will win?

Mike and I are out of this one early (Brazil v Germany) as is Pablo with (Germany v Spain). Sally was in the ball park with Belgium yet well off with Argentina, as was Charlie with France vs Germany and Bonita with Belgium vs Colombia.

Divergence of opinion and the unpredictability of results have created this rather chaotic and mostly inaccurate collection of predictions. I guess in some way, that is what all of us love most about the game: it’s unpredictability, potential for upsets and its beauty. 

However, we've given everyone another chance and this is what they say now when it's down to two. 

“I said France before the tournament and I'm sticking with them.”  Charlie 

France without a doubt - too many big guns.”  Roger Sleeman

France to prevail, although nothing would surprise me to upset such a prediction given the resilience, quality and self belief of Croatia.”  Pablo

Croatia. They've got there the hard way, and they won't let the opportunity slip.”  Mike

France. They have been so impressive in their last few games. I also think Croatia will be exhausted from their last three matches. But I hope Croatia win so I can say we [England] were knocked out by the World Champions.”  Sally

France. They've played within themselves every time and they've still got much more in the tank.”  Bonita

France. By 3-0 with Croatia really tiring after the long hard road they have had (but I say this with no confidence whatsoever).”  Stuart

Categories: Opinion | World Cup

2018 world cup, #russia2018, predictions, tips

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