I’m very excited about the World Cup because it’s not every day that you get to watch the best countries in the world play against each other. There’s a lot on display – the strategies, the tactics and a lot of new, young players – and I’m looking forward to seeing them fight it out. This might sound cliched, but Germany, Spain and Brazil are the strongest squads this year. France and Belgium, too, have very talented teams on paper. And England looks fresh and is playing without any pressure this time around. If I were to pick a winner, it would be from among these teams.
When it comes to the squads, there have been a lot of high-profile omissions this year, which is very strange because some of these players have had a great season for their clubs. Leroy Sane had a brilliant year with English Premier League champion Manchester City, scoring 10 goals and providing 15 assists during the campaign and picking up the PFA Young Player of the Year award. But Germany coach Joachim Loew left him out in favour of Julian Brandt. Mario Gotze, the 2014 World Cup final hero, too, was left out, but he’s had a poor couple of seasons with Borussia Dortmund owing to fitness issues. Then there’s Radja Nainggolan, the fan favourite left out of the Belgium squad. But, for these players to be left out says a lot about the depth of the squads and the abundance of talent that the coaches have at their disposal.
There’s going to be a lot of young players in Russia. Generally, teams go for a good mix of young players and experienced veterans. And while the average age of many teams this year is lower than in previous years, it does not indicate a lack of experience. A lot of the youngsters have played throughout the season with their clubs and in their leagues, and they’ll be going out on the field to prove a point.
If I were to pick a player to look out for in the 2018 World Cup, it would be Thomas Muller of Germany. The boys in the Indian national camp were discussing him just the other day. He’s seven goals away from setting a new record for goals scored in the World Cup, but he’s not the kind of player you’d expect to go chasing that. While the current and previous record-holder, Germany’s Miroslav Klose (16 goals) and Brazilian great Ronaldo (15), were prolific No.9s, Muller is a guy who plays behind the striker, drops deep and plays a part in the midfield as well.
Muller has age on his side – he’s just 28. So, I wouldn’t put it past him to break the record, especially since he plays in a team that has the potential to reach the final, all the while playing dominant, attacking football.
- India’s Ashwal Rai, Muthusamy urge home support during Volleyball Club World Championships 2023
- Vijay Hazare Trophy 2023 LIVE Score, Round 4: Baroda 40/3 in 167-run chase vs TN; Mumbai beats Pondicherry by 7 wickets; Saurashtra eyes big win vs Odisha
- Barca has shown ‘winning mentality’ in Champions League, says Xavi
- Pakistan players told to put country before franchise leagues under new team director Hafeez
- S.Korea suspend striker Hwang Ui-jo over sex video investigation