Groups F, G, and H provide our weekend viewing from Russia. Huge potential fantasy returns are a possibility over these next two days, so don’t despair if you owned disappointing players in round two so far (e.g. Cavani, Messi, or Sigurdsson). We have six games to cover so let’s get straight into it, and keep an eye out for some bold predictions at the end!
The Red Devils could not be held at bay for 90 minutes. A Dries Mertens golazo plus a Romelu Lukaku double saw the talented Belgians off to a good start in Russia. Roberto Martinez would have taken notice of what his next opponents offered against England, and has already made mention that Tunisia “need to come out and win the game.” With players like Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard capable of exploiting any spaces left open, Martinez will be confident. With England on the horizon, Belgium will hope to avoid yellow cards in this game for players like Jan Vertonghen and De Bruyne.
Tunisia were very unfortunate against England, losing goalkeeper Mouez Hassen to injury early and watching Harry Kane celebrate the winner late on. An area that needs immediate improvement would be shots on target. They had one against England, so hopefully you did not invest in Tunisian attackers. African teams have just two wins to this point in Russia; the Eagles of Carthage need to make it a third today or risk a dead rubber against Panama next week.
It does not look like we will have a repeat of 2002 from South Korea, who must rue their loss to Sweden. Following up against a high-flying Mexico team is a tough task. Heung-min Son will be expected to provide a spark. Regular readers will be aware of his quality after twelve Premier league goals this past season.
A rooftop Manhattan bar provided the atmosphere for my viewing of Mexico and Germany, and you know what folks… I think Landon Donovan may be on to something. The Mexico team was cheered all game long and seemed to be adopted by most Americans, and if Juan Carlos Osorio can keep them playing in this way, I think it just might continue. The late Rafael Marquez substitution aside, I think he got it right by not being afraid of the world champs.
Germany vs Sweden
Germany were poor in many aspects during the Mexico match, especially in midfield. Class players like Toni Kroos, Mesut Ozil and Sami Khedira looked very average. Will Joachim Low stick with these experienced world cup winners or make some changes? One change looks to be forced at the back where Mats Hummels’ neck injury probably means that Antonio Rudiger is likely to deputize. It’s difficult to depend on many German players in our fantasy team this week; it may be possible we see new starters like Mario Gomez and Marco Reus this time out.
Sweden are in position to make headlines worldwide by knocking out the defending champions. Emil Forsberg who plays in Germany is a player capable of opening up the defense in the same way Mexico did. Zlatan Who? The Swedes are very solid at the back, so they can reasonably hope to keep Germany scoreless and nick a winner.
England vs Panama
Group G should be decided next week, but on Sunday England has a job to do. That job is not only to win against Panama, but to score sufficient goals to tilt the goal difference column before meeting Belgium. Marcus Rashford would be a cheeky pick for this game for fantasy managers, with many thinking his cameo against Tunisia makes him certain to start this time around. Harry Kane got the goals last time out, but Rashford is capable of getting a few of his own.
Panama will be given nary a chance by many before this game, but their experienced coach Hernan Dario Gomez can encourage them to simply reproduce the first half against Belgium for ninety minutes. Blas Perez is capable of scoring at the other end, and with a 1-0 win, everyone back in Panama will launch into hysteria.
Japan vs Senegal
Many view the Japanese win in their opening fixture against Colombia as providential, the South Americans’ gift of an early red card. This is the World Cup, and teams have to earn victories no matter how many men the opposition has. Japan have familiar faces such as Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda in the team. Also keep an eye on the Getafe man Gaku Shibasaki in this one, as he is capable of opening Senegal up.
Senegal finally brought a win to Africa in the first round, playing brilliant attacking football that was breathtaking to watch in its swiftness. Everton’s Gana must have fans of that team wondering where this type of performance was all season. Senegal is the team I picked before the tournament to surprise, and a win over Japan will put the Lions of Teranga in position to make good on my prediction.
Poland vs Colombia
Even before the tournament, Group H was expected to be wide open, but most of us, if put under pressure, would have chosen these two to advance. Poland boast a world class striker in Robert Lewandowski, so he needs to rediscover his scoring form quickly or his side will be going home. Napoli midfielder Piotr Zielinski is the future of the Polish team, and the future is Sunday because it’s unlikely they will get a better group than this in 2022.
A red card and the James (HAH-mess) Rodriguez injury — Colombia need to put these behind them. They can still advance from the group. Radamel Falcao is healthy, Cuadrado is healthy, the team has quality. Whether Rodriguez is 100% or not, they will be given no excuses if they do not advance.
OK, so I promised some bold predictions didn’t I? Belgium, Mexico, and Germany are all expected to win on Saturday, but I’m going to say that one of them loses. Who loses remains to be seen, but I’ll call one upset. Sunday I’m going to say that the run of no game finishing 0-0 ends. There you go, run to your betting shops, and let’s enjoy the games!
So what subs and captain twists have you made for today? Whom do you have playing? For whom are you rooting? On what fantasy limb have you crawled out so far that you might fall? And lest anyone forget, how are you doing in the Dream Team format? Please let us know in the comments / chat below!