The Trinidad Guardian / Just as I predicted, the West Indies won the first Test match against Sri Lanka at the Queen’s Park Oval, on easily the best pitch that has been produced in the region for a long time. The batsmen were able to play their shots and if the bowlers bent their backs, they would extract something from the surface.

Kudos to the ground curator. It was five days of absorbing Test match cricket and after the Windies got over their early match jitters, they dominated the match from after tea on the first day, right up to the luncheon period on the final day. We will summarise the series after the final Test match, as today pride and place must go to the biggest sporting event on the planet: the 2018 edition of the FIFA World Cup.

With 32 teams in eight groups contesting a trophy worth USD $38 million, winning the World Cup is any footballer’s dream. My only regret is that it comes around every four years; I really wish it was shorter, maybe every three years, but the wait is always well worth it.

Firstly, let’s examine the teams in group A: the hosts Russia, together with Uruguay, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Uruguay with Luis Suarez and Edison Cavani up front should win the group, while it appears to be a toss-up between Egypt and Russia for the second spot. The Egyptians may be too heavily dependent on Mo Salah and with the luxury of home support, Russia may take it.

In group B, Portugal and Spain stand out. Portugal come into the tournament as European champions and should be brimming with confidence, but I can’t see them getting the better of Spain as the Spaniards possess a good all round quality team.

In group C France will waltz away as winners and should go far in the tournament as they are extremely talented. Denmark, even though they had to qualify by playing in a play-off against Ireland, should pull through ahead of Peru and Australia.

Group D without a doubt is this tournament’s group of death. Any two of the four can go through as Argentina, Iceland, Croatia and Nigeria all have the ability to win against one another. However, any team with Lionel Messi in it, you just have to fancy and in Argentina, there are many match winners. The other three teams are evenly matched. Iceland will fight for every ball; so too will the Nigerians with their physical strength, however, although Croatia finished runners-up to Iceland in their European group qualification, I feel they may well turn the tables on their Icelandic counterparts and take this group’s coveted 2nd spot.

Group E sees the tournament favourites Brazil, who should have absolutely no problems in topping this group. I cannot see Costa Rica, who only lost on penalties at the quarter-final stage back in 2014, repeating their valiant progress. Therefore, I fully expect Serbia to come out of this group ahead of them and Switzerland.

Group F sees another tournament favourite in Germany-the defending champions-having a slightly tougher group than Brazil, but should also face no hurdles in winning this group. The other three teams in Mexico, Sweden and South Korea should make the runners-up position quite competitive but somehow I feel Mexico with their experience, should get the better of the Asian qualifiers-South Korea-and the tough Swedes.

Colin Murray

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