World Cup 2018 Predictions – UEFA
UEFA is the final confederation to begin its qualifying campaign. Despite the timing, no confederation has more games remaining to be played. There are 9 groups of 6 teams each, including debutants Gibraltar and Kosovo. Each team will play 10 group stage matches. When you add all of that up, there are 270 matches to be played in just over a year’s time. That’s an awful lot of fun.
Before we get into our projections, we’re all about accountability. Here’s our article we posted a year ago with our predictions. Some predictions have changed and some have stayed the same. We’ll go into what has changed and why our final predictions are what they are. Here are our group predictions:
Our predictions look an awful lot like they did a year ago. France has extended their gap over the Netherlands with recent performance, and it would be hard to imagine Les Bleus as anything but favorites. They are one of the most talented teams in the world, and the others in the group just don’t have the same class. Sweden is now without their hero Zlatan, and the Netherlands are an aging team in desperate need of some youth. Belarus and Bulgaria are nice sides who could potentially threaten for 2nd place. But we give France a 73% chance to win this group. It’s theirs to lose.
The European champions will enter this group as favorites. Despite a thoroughly underwhelming performance en route to their title, they still must be considered the best in this group. There certainly isn’t as big of a gulf between them and the others in the group. Switzerland and Hungary put together strong performance at EURO 2016, and each should feel they have a shot to push for a spot in at least the playoffs. You may not remember, but Faroe Islands snuck into Pot 4 for the draw following their back-to-back embarrassments of Greece. As a result, you get 3 teams with very little opportunity to take down one of the big boys. We feel there is a pretty large gap in quality between the top 3 and bottom 3. Overall, we give Portugal a 63% chance to win the group.
We’ll probably catch some heat for this, but we don’t think Germany is a complete runaway here. We certainly think they win the group, but the Czech Republic and Northern Ireland are formidable opponents. Even Norway could put up a fight. Germany has fallen a bit in our rankings, and they must be disappointed with not reaching the finals at EURO. Perhaps they will have an axe to grind when they start their campaign in Oslo. Despite our projections being a bit conservative, this group is Die Mannschaft’s to lose. It would be a huge shock to see anyone else top the table. The Czech Republic and Northern Ireland should battle it out for 2nd.
Our first deviation from our initial predictions! Things have changed for the teams in this group over the past year, and we certainly reflect that here. We now like Ireland to top the group, with Wales just slightly behind. Yes, Wales had a stronger EURO, reaching the semi-finals, but our rankings take into consideration more than just the most recent tournament. Ireland was on an absolute heater. From September 2014 to the start of EURO, Ireland had 9 wins, 7 draws, and just 2 losses. Wales had lost 4 of 6 entering the tournament.
But fear not, we do not think anyone has over a 50% chance to win this group. Austria and Serbia are good teams. They will absolutely challenge for the top spot in this group. Truly, any of the 4 can top the group. Ireland came out of Pot 4, which is a tough draw for anyone. This is one of our 2 major groups to watch. Don’t expect anything to be decided early.
Last July, we stated “Poland is our new crush”. That still holds true, and even moreso now. They had 3 wins, 2 draws, and 0 defeats at EURO. They’ve been in our Top 5 for a full year. If they do not win this group going away, we will be absolutely, completely stunned. Romania looked completely overmatched at EURO, and no other team comes anywhere close to the talent flowing through the Polish side. Lewandowski is arguably the best striker in the world. Arek Milik’s recent move to Napoli and early goals show that he’s capable of being named among the best. This is a team in their prime with little serious competition in the group. We give them a 76% chance to win the group.
The battle for second place should be interesting, as we do think Denmark and Romania are pretty close in quality. They play each other on the final matchday in Copenhagen, and we think that determines who reaches the playoffs.
We had a bold prediction a year ago of Scotland topping the group. That’s no longer the case. We think that despite an early exit to Iceland, England has proven they are the team to beat in this group. We fully expect Slovakia, Slovenia, and Scotland to all be in the mix, but they have a lot of work to do. All 3 of those teams have interesting squads. Slovenia might sport the best goalkeeping tandem in Europe. Slovakia has one of the most exciting players in Marek Hamsik. And Scotland should never be counted out, as they’ve proven very tough throughout EURO qualifying. We give England a 65% chance to win the group, with Slovakia expected to finish 2nd.
Another group where we caused a bit of an uproar in our predictions last year. We had Albania ahead of Italy for 2nd place. That’s no longer the case as we’ve gotten closer to the start. We still like Spain to emerge, and we actually think there’s a pretty strong chance they do so. After a bit of a dropoff in 2014, Spain has been one of the strongest teams in the world. You know they can’t wait to get Italy again after getting knocked out at EURO in the round of 16. Albania could push a bit, but they also must be considered a longshot at this point. They haven’t taken the step forward they intimated during EURO qualifying. Israel, Macedonia, and Liechtenstein are in no position to push either of the top 2.
Gibraltar has been added to this group, but it doesn’t add much difficulty. This is a 2 team group with Belgium and Bosnia, and we don’t give any team a higher chance to reach the finals than Belgium. It is fair to wonder if you took the top talent from the other 5 teams in the group, combined them into 1 team, and had them face the Belgians, if they’d be able to challenge for the top spot in the group. The gap is that large. Belgium hosts Bosnia on matchday 2, and if they emerge victorious, you may as well punch their ticket to Russia right then and there.
This is what I’m talkin’ about. BY FAR, the most interesting and competitive group in qualifying, Group I is going to be up for grabs to a number of teams. This group had 4 teams at EURO. While Iceland progressed furthest, the other 3 looked capable but not intimidating. We have less than 2 points separating first from 4th in this group. We currently give Turkey the slightest of edges over Croatia, but their odds to win the group: 28.2%. Not only was this group tough after the draw, a certainly capable Kosovo side was added to the mix. While we don’t have a ton of data to go on, Kosovo beat the Faroe Islands, Equatorial Guinea, and Oman, and drew with Albania. They certainly seem like a group a bit more capable of competing.
The downside here is that we expect a lot of draws from this group. As a result, we think there’s about a 1 in 3 chance that the 2nd place team to miss the playoffs comes from this group. That’s a shame with all of the quality here.
World Cup 2018 Predictions – UEFA Final 13
As group winners we have:
D: Republic of Ireland
To make the playoffs, we like:
- Northern Ireland
Our top 4 ranked teams of those 8, who we also expect to reach the finals are:
3: Northern Ireland
Wales is our last team out.
Agree or disagree? Feel free to comment below. As always, thank you for reading, and be sure to follow us on Twitter @We_Global. Thanks for reading!