Xabi Alonso tipping Spain and Germany for World Cup results

Former Bayern Munich midfielder Xabi Alonso believes Germany will be the team to defeat at this summer’s FIFA World Cup, although latest Bayern string-puller Thiago Alcantara knows he will have to prevent several of his Bundesliga rivals if he is to arise triumphant with Spain this summer months.

Alonso lifted the World Cup in 2010, sandwiched in amongst European Championship triumphs in 2008 and 2012, and with 3 Bundesliga titles and two Champions Leagues to his identity, the 36-year-old certainly knows what it takes to be thriving.

Talking to forward of the World Cup, he admitted that Joachim Löw’s men – immediately after his possess region – are kinds to observe out for in Russia.

“I am not just stating it, but I would set [Spain] among the favourites because I never see any facet that’s far better than Spain proper now,” he explained. “I do not know what is heading to transpire in the games although. Germany is yet another of the large favourites. They are an extremely robust facet and they’re often there or thereabouts.”

Alonso observed initial hand the number of remarkable new potential customers rising via the Bundesliga in current yrs and he feels that although the likes of Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Lukas Podolski and For every Mertesacker may no extended be all around, Germany has succeeded in replacing them adequately, although also lowering the regular age of the squad.

Timo Werner, Julian Brandt, Leon Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich are all set to play essential roles in an energetic facet Alonso fancies for at the very least a remaining 4 berth.

“The way they have been playing, it would be a significant surprise if they never make the semis, because they’re the champions and because of the new era who’ve to appear into the team,” he explained, incorporating that “Brazil is also proper in there – I feel those people 3 are above the rest. Then you can find Argentina, France and it’s possible a surprise or two. Why not?”

Spain’s hopes will be pinned on the shoulders of Bayern midfielder Thiago, who claims he is prepared to fill an important job on the field for his region in Russia – a person he has honed in the Bundesliga, proper at the coronary heart of the motion.

“It can be a job I am ready for because I’ve performed in it with Bayern,” Thiago explained. “Of system it is really an important position for the organisation of the team and I hope to fill it properly. We are a facet who like to keep the ball, like to push, shift all around and we take pleasure in playing the way we play – we would like to get this World Cup begun tomorrow.”

Germany and Spain could meet up with at the earliest in the semi-finals.


Group F World Cup,Germany, Mexico, Sweden & South Korea

Reigning and four-time World Cup champions Germany face a tough obstacle from Mexico, Sweden and South Korea in Group F at Russia 2018, but Joachim Low’s facet will nonetheless be predicted to progress emphatically into the final 16.

Germany, who returned to the leading of world football four yrs in ago in Brazil, is arguably even more powerful now, with their depth aptly demonstrated in 2017 when they sent a next-string team to the Confederation Cup (a costume rehearsal for the World Cup) and nonetheless claimed the trophy relatively comfortably.

‘Der Mannschaft’ can nonetheless call on players in their primary this sort of as Toni Kroos, Mesut Ozil and Thomas Muller, but their facet is evolving into an even more thrilling line-up with the emergence of youngsters this sort of as Timo Werner and Joshua Kimmich. Their 100 per cent history in their UEFA qualifying team underlines the class and electric power of this German team.

Their fellow Europeans Sweden will extravagant their likelihood of joining the world champions in the knockout rounds. The ‘Blue-Yellow’ completed behind France (but in advance of the Netherlands) in their qualifying team and went on to defeat Italy in the playoffs – they have experienced loads of hard matches in the earlier eighteen months and will be fight hardened for the obstacle which awaits them in Russia. On the other hand, they can no for a longer time call on ‘X-factor’ player Zlatan Ibrahimovic, whose retirement from worldwide football leaves this team on the lookout for a chief and talisman.

Mexico is also a team to be reckoned with, having dominated the CONCACAF qualifiers. But ‘El Tri’ have under no circumstances truly lived up to their probable when it comes to the World Cup, and their ageing team may wrestle to match their Group F opponents for rate and electricity. They will seem to Javier Hernandez to carry on his outstanding scoring history at a worldwide stage and hope it would make up for their shortcomings.

South Korea did not take pleasure in the most prosperous qualification campaign, as they completed effectively off the rate of Iran in their AFC team, and can be regarded as the outsiders in this foursome. But they nonetheless boast some gifted players, in particular, forward Son Heung-min. The Tottenham Hotspur man is tough-doing the job, adaptable and has a keen eye for goal. If he can set the bar higher sufficient for his teammates, the ‘Taegeuk Warriors’ may just spring a surprise or two.

Group F fixtures (all times CAT)

17 June 2018, 17h00 – Germany v Mexico – Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow
eighteen June 2018, 14h00 – Sweden v South Korea – Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, Nizhny Novgorod
23 June 2018, 17h00 – South Korea v Mexico – Rostov Arena, Rostov-on-Don
23 June 2018, 20h00 – Germany v Sweden – Fisht Olympic Stadium, Sochi
27 June 2018, 16h00 – South Korea v Germany – Kazan Arena, Kazan
27 June 2018, 16h00 – Mexico v Sweden – Central Stadium, Yekaterinburg

Group F head-to-heads (as for each FIFA stats database, in reference to ‘home’ team)

Germany v Mexico – P11 W5 D5 L1 GF24 GA10
Sweden v South Korea – P4 W2 D2 L0 GF17 GA3
South Korea v Mexico – P12 W4 D2 L6 GF15 GA24
Germany v Sweden – P36 W15 D9 L12 GF70 GA6
South Korea v Germany – P3 W1 D0 L2 GF5 GA5
Mexico v Sweden – P9 W2 D3 L4 GF5 GA8


MLS stars to watch at the World Cup

As you might have heard, the U.S. men’s national team will not be taking part in this month’s World Cup, getting by some means unsuccessful to receive the single point expected of it against final-place Trinidad & Tobago this past autumn.

And even though that will undoubtedly diminish interest from informal American sports fans, close followers of Major League Soccer should really not fret: There is a good deal of intriguing storylines to monitor in the coming weeks.

Down below are five MLS players to watch when the 2018 World Cup kicks off in Russia on June 14.

Carlos Vela| Mexico | LAFC

Vela has been on a tear considering the fact that arriving in MLS before this 12 months, tallying seven goals and five assists in 12 league matches and assisting lead the expansion club toward the prime of the Western Meeting.

Vela’s expertise has under no circumstances been of concern. Getting received the Golden Boot as Mexico received the title at the 2005 Under-17 World Cup, Vela signed with Arsenal when he was even now in his mid-teens. And if he hasn’t pretty lived up to the early buzz, the 29-year-old has carved out a pleasant career for himself, representing El Tri in La Liga for the better element of this 10 years.

No, the issue has usually been his emphasis and his total kind. Vela can be inconsistent, able of extensive valleys as properly as brief peaks. Based on how he’s actively playing ideal now with LAFC, though, never be stunned if he sets Group F alight.

Roman Torres | Defender | Panama | Seattle Sounders

Torres is a residing folks hero for his club and national groups. Getting netted the penalty that received Seattle’s first MLS Cup in 2016, Torres scored the goal this past Oct that clinched Panama’s first World Cup appearance.

These feats would’ve been spectacular more than enough for a ahead, enable alone a large, lumbering middle back again. To this day, he swears to his Sounders coaches and teammates that he played as a striker in his youth prior to a teenage growth spurt, but they have under no circumstances been ready to explain to regardless of whether he’s major.

Laurent Ciman | Defender | Belgium | LAFC

LAFC’s captain might not have the title recognition of teammates Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku. Scrolling down the listing of club groups represented on Belgium’s roster, his stands out like a sore thumb: Barcelona, Manchester City, Paris Saint-Germain … Los Angeles? In truth, Ciman is unlikely to see a lot of motion, given the stars in advance of him on the in-depth chart.

But coach Roberto Martinez trusts him, and he supplies trusted defensive depth, and injuries occur. Even if Ciman struggles to get on the field, he is by far the MLS player likeliest to actually hoist the trophy on July fifteen in Moscow.

Omar Gaber | Defender/Midfielder | Egypt | LAFC

If you happen to be seeking for a sleeper to toss your rooting interest behind, Egypt is a great wager — assuming superstar Mohamed Salah recovers from the shoulder injuries he endured in final weekend’s Champions League remaining in time to play. Its team of Uruguay, Russia and Saudi Arabia is manageable, and Salah is a legitimate game-changer.

Gaber, who performs for former Egypt coach Bob Bradley at LAFC, has earned 22 caps, featured intensely in qualifying and was named to the preliminary squad.

Rodney Wallace | Midfielder | Costa Rica | New York Town FC

Wallace is unlikely to have the most important impact on MLS players at this World Cup, but he might be the most uplifting tale.

Four decades back, he was pressured to watch from his sofa in Portland as Costa Rica turned the underdog darling of the event via its surprising run to the quarterfinals. Wallace experienced wounded his knee actively playing for the Timbers, and even though he was content for his national teammates, he was dismayed to have missed out on his country’s deepest-at any time World Cup run.

Some players would have been damaged by the put together bodily and psychological toll of that 12 months, but Wallace stayed at it, bouncing from Portland to Portugal to Brazil to New York Town, controlling to maintain himself on Costa Rica’s roster and earning himself a place on the aircraft to Russia.

“You’ve got acquired to cherish these moments,” Wallace informed in an interview, “simply because you under no circumstances know when a thing could occur.”

He appreciates that better than anyone, and will hence embrace these impending weeks much more than just about any other player in the event.


Neymar attends PSG schooling to move up recovery from metatarsal injury

Neymar attended Paris Saint-Germain‘s schooling session at the Camp des Loges on Saturday as he nears a return from a broken bone in his right foot.

The Brazil worldwide had been recuperating in his native Brazil considering that going through surgery on a fractured fifth metatarsal and returned to Paris on Friday to finish the last phase of his rehabilitation.

He was not existing as PSG have been held to a 2-2 draw absent at Amiens on Friday but was at schooling on Saturday to eventually reunite with his teammates and get back to do the job.

Neymar put in most of his time in the fitness centre, but he could not resist a handful of touches of the ball as he juggled barefoot on the grass.

Brazil national team medical doctor Rodrigo Lasmar told L’Equipe that “if Neymar is in a position to play for PSG in advance of the conclude of the season, then he will play.”

Neymar is aiming to be cleared to return by May 17, meaning he could characteristic in PSG’s last game of the season at Caen, and that may not be his last visual appearance for the club.

Neymar, clearly show your heart,” Lizarazu explained. “The PSG supporters need indicators of passion from you.”

Even so, not every person is that thrilled to see Neymar return. Christian, who performed for PSG from 1999-2001, told L’Equipe that he thinks the forward’s conduct has been disrespectful and considered he should really have been in attendance for the 7-1 win around Monaco last month that gave PSG the Ligue 1 title.

“Not becoming with the squad during the title-successful match was a strategic mistake,” Christian explained. “It was a lack of respect in direction of his teammates, the club and the fans.

“It is Neymar’s fault — PSG is not organized enough with him and the media give him as well significantly electrical power. I hope that he will reveal and apologise.”

In the meantime, Barcelona‘s Luis Suarez turned down the concept that his previous teammate remaining Camp Nou entirely for fiscal motives.

Talking with Radio Rincon, Suarez explained Neymar’s exit was challenging to consider but that it was a private selection.

Neymar‘s departure hurt us,” Suarez explained. “We have been teammates, buddies, but he took the selection with his soul and conscience. Even so, we realized that he would be skipped.

“I do not believe that he went for the cash, but as an alternative the aims that he would like to obtain in Paris.”

Regardless of Suarez’s beliefs, previous Barca and Lyon midfielder Edmilson told Cadena Ser that he thinks Neymar could leave PSG for Real Madrid this summer time.

“It would not shock me significantly if, following the World Cup, Neymar remaining for Madrid,” he explained. “I really don’t know how it would happen, but it would not shock me simply because he did not leave Barca in an incredibly fantastic way.”


Yobo: Nigeria have talented, fearless youngsters

Joseph Yobo has urged Nigeria to concentrate on their initially game alternatively than the aspiration of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ Last and backed them to hold their individual against Argentina. The Tremendous Eagles begin their Group D marketing campaign against Croatia in Kaliningrad, right before having on Iceland and then Lionel Messi and Co.

“It needs to be a single game at a time,” Nigeria‘s joint-most-capped player (a hundred and one appearances), who performed at Korea/Japan 2002, South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014 right before retiring, informed Information Agency of Nigeria. “You really do not go to the World Cup and be dreaming of taking part in in the Last when you are not completed with what you have right before you initially in the team phase.

“Win your initially game initially, and get ready for the next a single without imagining of the third game. It needs to be a single at a time. I really do not think it is great to lose the initial game and begin to worry.

“If the Tremendous Eagles can win the initial game, the self-esteem and high-quality will establish and Nigerians will see high-quality in them as the level of competition to progress.

Nigeria and Argentina will play their fifth World Cup come upon in St. Petersburg. Claudio Caniggia’s brace – he scored the initially immediately after a clever free-kick amongst Diego Maradona and Gabriel Batistuta, and extra a wonderful second – seized the South People in America a 2-1 win at the United States 1994. Yobo then performed in 1- losses in 2002 and 2010 and a Messi-inspired 3-2 defeat in 2014.

Having said that, without Victor Moses, John Obi Mikel, Wilfred Ndidi, Alex Iwobi, Kelechi Iheanacho overcame Nicolas Otamendi, Angel Di Maria, Paulo Dybala and Sergio Aguero 4-2 in a helpful very last November.

“I performed against Argentina in 3 World Cups,” mentioned Yobo. “Maybe this is the time for Nigeria to report her initially victory about the Albeceleste. If we really do not concede an early goal against Argentina, we need to be able to get at least a draw.

“Croatia, Iceland… everything can transpire. Croatia we know, but Iceland is the surprise package deal of Group D.

“I disagree with individuals worrying about the Tremendous Eagles’ defence. What is critical is working experience. Of course, we may not have seasoned senior players in that area but we have talented, fearless youthful players who can hold their individual against any team. I really really do not think the defence is as terrible as is staying portrayed.”


Hamann: I assume Argentina, Brazil or Spain will triumph

Didi Hamann would be “very surprised” if Germany becomes the first side in fifty-six many years to keep the FIFA World Cup™ and believes the Russia 2018 winners will be Argentina, Brazil or Spain.

“With the personnel, we have received, I assume in depth we may be superior to 4 many years ago, but I don’t assume the first eleven are superior,” the fifty nine-times-capped former defensive midfielder explained to Gulf News. “There are a number of positions I’m genuinely fearful about and I’d be very shocked if Germany were being equipped to defend the title.

“In Miroslav Klose, Philipp Lahm and For every Mertesacker, they lost 300 caps after the previous World Cup. There are some gifted youngsters coming by means of now, but they are nonetheless to confirm their class. We have noticed it in the Champions League – the cream rises to the top rated and the World Cup is a one of a kind match, occasionally folks get found out there.”

Germany was being the only European team to win all ten of their Russia 2018 qualifiers, scoring 43 goals and conceding just 4 in the system. Joachim Low’s rates also conquered previous year’s FIFA Confederations Cup.

However, in their previous 4 outings, they have drawn with England, France and Spain and lost 1- at home to Brazil. And, in spite of Germany fielding below-toughness groups against them, Hamann was still left impressed sufficient to tag La Roja and A Seleção as the groups to conquer in Russia – along with yet another surprise side.

“We performed Brazil a number of months ago and Spain were being likely the superior side against us,” stated the 44-year-old. “You shouldn’t study way too much into friendlies, but I assume Spain and Brazil.

“And then the way that Argentina capable, for the reason that they wanted to conquer Ecuador in the previous game of South American qualifiers to get in. They went 1- down after two minutes and Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick and received that game.

“Sometimes when you have a close shave and qualify like that, and with it also quite possibly currently being Messi’s previous World Cup, I would not rule Argentina out possibly.”

Germany faces Mexico, Sweden and Korea Republic in Group F at Russia 2018.

Hamann was a section of a Germany side that Croatia dumped out of France 1998. The former Bayern Munich and Liverpool midfielder also aided his state reach the Korea/Japan 2002 Ultimate, wherever they were being undone by Ronaldo.


Smolov: I am ready to just take on extra duty for Russia

Only two months continue being until the start of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ and the exhilaration is rising amid the home fans in advance of the Opening Match among the match hosts and Saudi Arabia at the Luzhniki Stadium. Russia desperately requirements a hero, anyone who can inspire the Sbornaya to new heights at the World Cup and carry the region some lengthy-awaited football joy. Fyodor Smolov – without having an issue the team’s most important hope at the match – is undoubtedly an applicant to fill that purpose.

However, it was only a handful of shorter many years in the past that the 28-year-old Krasnodar entrance man was just one of the most criticised figures in Russian football and the butt of many jokes. All that has adjusted, nonetheless, and the insulting memes and open up derision about his previously unimpressive scoring records are a point of the earlier. And listed here are the factors why:

Cause No1: Smolov is Russia’s most dependable striker
Smolov has created into an unstoppable power up front, topping the Russian Leading League scoring charts for the previous two seasons and effectively in the mix to win the award for the third time working this campaign. The multipurpose striker also scored 5 goals for the Russian national team in 2017, extra than any other player.

“It’s considerably less complicated to get to the top rated than to remain there,” Smolov stated in an interview with “Firstly, at a particular point, your drive drops because you believe that you have previously made it. Secondly, your opponents start to adapt to your game and deal with you in different ways. I see it with myself defenders in no way depart me alone now, which was not the circumstance prior to. It’s considerably more durable to keep your standards in this sort of instances, but I’m making an attempt.”

So, is he participating in the ideal football of his profession at the second? “Rarely,” smiled the centre-forward, who has bagged above 60 goals in a few seasons for Krasnodar. “I’m arranging to peak at the World Cup.”

Cause No2: Invaluable working experience at the FIFA Confederations Cup Russia 2017

Russia fans fondly try to remember the opening match of final year’s Confederations Cup, as the Sbornaya confidently dealt with New Zealand. Smolov managed to get on the scoresheet in that 2- win and was voted Man of the Match. Sad to say, from that second on issues stalled for the hosts, and subsequent losses against Portugal (1-) and Mexico (2-1) meant they went out of the Match of Champions at the group stage.

“Evidently we lacked working experience,” the striker ongoing. “We were in no way outplayed our opponents just punished our faults. The small particulars charge us. For instance, in the next half against Portugal, I could’ve scored a header. I was genuinely just one or two centimetres absent from earning a correct link. I know I could’ve acquired in position earlier, but even still… I believe this working experience will work in our favour at the World Cup. Lapses in focus or sluggish determination-earning are only not appropriate in tournaments at this stage.”

Cause No3: Particular drive
Smolov has lengthily dreamed of screening himself in just one of Europe’s top-rated leagues. The striker has steadily been heading in this direction for a handful of seasons now and it seems only an issue of time prior to he gets his wish.

“In 2016 I obtained a remarkable offer from China,” he discovered, “but I realised that if I signed, my prospects of participating in a top-rated European league would vanish. How could I set dollars prior to my aspiration?

“European clubs in the Champions League are sceptical about Russian players, but I believe that if the Sbornaya conduct effectively at the World Cup, it could possibly adjust attitudes to our footballers. All the men could have a real chance to move to some of the continent’s ideal championships. I believe all people in the team wants this.”

Cause No4: He is ready to just take on duty
March was a hard month for the Russians. As effectively as going down to painful 3- and 3-1 defeats to Brazil and France respectively, they endured a really serious damage setback when Aleksandr Kokorin tore a cruciate ligament and was ruled out of Russia 2018, robbing them of just one of their important players in an assault.

“I was really upset when ‘Sasha’ acquired his damage,” stated Smolov, who captained the aspect in the pleasant against Les Blues. “We’ve acknowledged each individual other for a lengthy time and performed in the exact team when we were young ones. It’s generally been straightforward participating in with him and we were on the lookout forward to reigniting the partnership at the World Cup. It’s a shame what happened.

“But I’m ready to just take on extra duty myself all through online games. I’m just one of individuals players who actively get concerned in play and cares about the result. I want our functionality to be as very good as attainable at Russia 2018, primarily as it’s on home soil, which implies we will have the aid of the entire region, and our group is not the toughest. Of program, Uruguay is just one of the ideal nationwide groups in the globe, but the game against them is the last just one in the group and we can attain our goals in the initial two fixtures. I’m optimistic.”

Cause No5: A player who in no way offers up

All through his profession, Smolov has experienced to cope with his fair share of hardships: prolonged dry spells in front of goal, relentless criticism from the media, and exclusion from the squad for Brazil 2014 to title a handful of.

“I experienced a intricate partnership with Fabio Capello,” the striker stated of the previous Russia head coach. “On the just one hand, I made my debut for the national team beneath him, but on the other, it was uncomfortable and seriously harm when he suddenly didn’t phone me up for the World Cup in Brazil, despite the reality I’d in no way be out of the team for the year and a half prior to. Nonetheless, I’ll generally try to remember some of the guidance he gave me: ‘Don’t at any time pity by yourself. Work tricky no matter irrespective of whether you are in soreness or not.’ When issues get hard, I just try to remember his face and I’m capable to split as a result of the barrier. Capello’s text has seriously aided me in life and I consider in no way give up.”

Did you know?
Smolov scored both equally Russia’s final goal in 2017 when he equalised in the 3-3 draw against Spain, and they’re initial in 2018, when he found the net against France.

Would you rather…?
Enjoy New Zealand in the opening match of the Confederations Cup 2017 or Saudi Arabia in the Opening Match of Russia 2018?
“The Saudi Arabia game is considerably extra critical and the stress of duty is totally diverse. Then there is the reality that the Saudis are a considerably more durable prospect than New Zealand.”

Get the Golden Boot at the World Cup, and go down in history like Oleg Salenko, but not make it out of the group, or get to the knockout rounds even though not at your ideal?
“Of program, I’d want to get out of the group. It’s considerably far better when the entire team are on variety and not just one specific.”

Edinson Cavani, Mohamed Salah or Luis Suarez?
“Suarez is the ideal. I have been an admirer of his for a lengthy time. Apart from his goals and helps, he works so tricky and does so considerably for the team, pressing defenders, troubling his marker and creating an area.”

Dybala remain a significant part of my plans – Sampaoli

Dybala remain a significant part of my plans – Sampaoli

Jorge Sampaoli

Jorge Sampaoli

Argentina Coach, Jorge Sampaoli has stated that Juventus forward, Paulo Dybala remain a very significant part of his plans for the World Cup and his decision to not play him recently is simply because he desires to see other players play.
The 24-year old was left out of the squad that played Italy and Spain in an international friendly in preparations for the summer World Cup in Russia.
Due to the enormity of stars that the former Sevilla manager has at his disposal, there have been concerns that Dybala might be dropped but Sampaoli has spoken today to calm the Argentine football fans nerves.
“It’s not correct to say that Paulo is out of our World Cup squad,” the Albiceleste boss said in his pre-match press conference against Spain.

“He’s not here because I wanted to see other players. He’s still very much in my thoughts and remains a significant part of my plans, he has the chance to be called.
“I think I’ve got 70 or 80 percent of the list, but it can also be changed by injuries or other situations which will give opportunities to others.
“There’s an advanced list, but it’s not set in stone.”


Germany to face Mexico, South Korea and Sweden at 2018 FIFA World Cup

Reigning champions Germany will meet Mexico, South Korea and Sweden in Group F as they look to defend their FIFA World Cup crown in Russia next year.

The official draw for the tournament was made in Moscow on Friday, with Joachim Löw’s side among the top-seeded teams based on the latest FIFA rankings.

17 June 2018, 17:00 CEST, Moscow: Germany vs. Mexico

Germany will face Mexico in their opening game in a re-match of their semi-final encounter at the 2017 Confederations Cup, which Germany won 4-1.

Eintracht Frankfurt midfielder Marco Fabian scored a long-range stunner for Mexico in that fixture, and he will be eager to regain fitness in time for next summer. Fellow Frankfurt player Carlos Salcedo and former Bayer Leverkusen striker Javier ‘Chicharito’ Hernandez are also set to feature for El Tri against Germany.

23 June 2018, 17:00 CEST, Sochi: Germany vs. Sweden

On paper at least, Mexico will be Germany’s toughest opponent in the group phase. However, they will not want to take their second game against Sweden lightly. Currently ranked 18th in the official FIFA rankings, the Scandinavians no longer count on talismanic striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic but they should not be underestimated after knocking out four-time champions Italy in the qualifying play-offs.

Indeed, RB Leipzig midfielder Emil Forsberg is a key member of their side and will be Sweden’s chief hope of unlocking Germany’s defence, while Hamburg defensive midfielder Albin Ekdal and Werder Bremen defender Ludwig Augustinsson will seek to keep out Timo Werner, Leon Goretzka and Co at the other end.

27 June 2018, 16:00 CEST, Kazan: South Korea vs. Germany

There will also be familiar faces for Bundesliga followers in Die Nationalmannschaft‘s final group outing against South Korea.

Augsburg duo Ja-Cheol Koo, Dong Won Ji and Borussia Dortmund‘s Joo-ho Park are all likely to be involved alongside former Leverkusen and Hamburg forward Heung-Min Son. At 59th in the latest FIFA ranking, the Koreans are the lowest-ranked side in the group.

Should Germany progress, as is likely, from their section, they would face either the winner or second-placed finisher in Group E, which includes Brazil, Switzerland, Serbia and Costa Rica.

Click here for the 2018 FIFA World Cup draw reaction!

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Russia 2018 World Cup draw, LIVE build-up!

The FIFA World Cup draw, which takes place in Moscow on Friday (15:00 GMT/16:00 CET), will decide the fate of nations. There are countless Bundesliga stars harbouring dreams of being on the plane to Russia next summer with their respective countries, dreams that will move one step closer once they find out who their opponents will be in the group stages. will be on hand, bringing you live build-up, the draw itself and all the post-draw fall-out – don’t go anywhere.

Quiz: How well do you know Bayern star James Rodriguez?

Click here for more Bundesliga news, views and features!

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Superfans to attend Final Draw

Witnessing the Final Draw of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ and being handed a ticket to a match in your home town by a genuine football legend – what could be a better gift for a life-long football fan?


Eleven lucky individuals enjoyed this once-in-a-lifetime experience, one from each Host City, who through their passionate and devoted love for football have earned themselves the title of ‘superfan’.


The youngest superfan is six-year-old Misha Smolin from Moscow. He has been a football supporter for as long as he can remember and simply cannot wait for the World Cup to get under way, so he can proudly wear one of the 300 football scarves in his family’s collection.


“What an amazing day!” Misha exclaimed to “I love football so much and I cannot wait for the World Cup in Russia. I’m delighted I can cheer Russia on at the stadium. I hope that our team and players from countries like Argentina, France and Brazil will make us all happy with beautiful football next summer!”


The superfans come from all ages, genders, professions and interests, but they are all united by the same dream: to host the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia and show their passion for this wonderful sport.

The day before the draw they all met up with each other at the State Kremlin Palace and were introduced to the football stars who will be acting as draw assistants. During their meeting with Nikita Simonyan, Laurent Blanc, Gordon Banks, Fabio Cannavaro, Cafu, Carles Puyol and Diego Forlan, they were also handed symbolic tickets to the first Russia 2018 matches taking place in their cities.

  • Eleven fans, one from each Russia 2018 Host City, have been invited to the Final Draw
  • Football legends handed them World Cup tickets to a match in their city
  • The supporters were picked out by a selection process in each Host City

The selection process for the superfans took on various formats and was presided over in each Host City by local World Cup Ambassadors and representatives from clubs, football federations and fan associations. The main criteria were their love for football, loyal support of a local team and desire to see the 2018 FIFA World Cup go ahead in their home city.

2018 FIFA World Cup Host City Superfans

  • Volgograd – Olga Paramonova
  • Ekaterinburg – Maria Panina
  • Kazan – Sergei Serov
  • Kaliningrad – Vladimir Zuev
  • Moscow – Misha Smolin
  • Nizhny Novgorod – Andrei Goryunov
  • Rostov-on-Don – Sergei Kopin
  • Samara – Elizaveta Levanova
  • Saint Petersburg – Vladimir Vorobyov
  • Saransk – Viktor Pautov
  • Sochi – Igor Mamaladze

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Egypt best and worst case draw scenarios – 2018 FIFA World Cup

Essam El Hadary of Egypt celebrates after saving Bertrand Traore of Burkina Faso penalty in shootout, embraced by teammates during the 2017 African Cup of Nations Finals Afcon semifinal football match between Burkina Faso and Egypt at the Libreville Stadium in Gabon on 01 February 2017 ©Gavin Barker/BackpagePix

Graeme Jackson

Thursday Nov 30, 2017. 18:00

Ahead of tomorrow’s draw for the 2018 World Cup, AfricanFootball looks at both the best and worst case group stage scenarios for Egypt’s Pharaohs.

Which pot are Egypt in?

The North Africans are in Pot 3 due to their world ranking position (32) in October, which determined which section of the draw teams were assigned to.

Which teams can they be drawn against?

– One of the teams in Pot 1: Russia, Germany, Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, Belgium, Poland and France

– One of the teams in Pot 2: Spain, Peru, Switzerland, England, Colombia, Mexico, Uruguay and Croatia

– One of the following teams in Pot 4: Serbia, Australia, Japan, Panama, South Korea and Saudi Arabia

Which teams can they not be drawn against?

All of the other teams in Pot 3 – Tunisia, Senegal, Denmark, Iceland, Costa Rica, Sweden and Iran – as well as the two Africans teams in Pot 4: Nigeria and Morocco.

What’s their best-case scenario?

From Pot 1, Egypt will want to draw Russia. The 2018 hosts are easily the weakest team in that pool. Short of getting the home side, Belgium and Poland are probably a touch overrated and have traditionally struggled at big tournaments.

From Pot 2 they’ll want to draw Peru, who haven’t been to the World Cup since 1982, or one of England, Switzerland or Croatia – they’re all fine teams, but not as powerful and dangerous as the likes of Spain, Uruguay and Mexico.

From Pot 4 the Pharaohs will want Panama, who are making their tournament debut, or the lowest ranked team, Saudi Arabia. Though none of the others – Serbia, Australia, Japan and South Korea – are particularly intimidating either.

Summary: Egypt’s dream group stage draw would see them pooled with Russia, Peru and Panama/Saudi Arabia.

And their worst?

As a combination, this is about as bad as it could get for Egypt: South American heavyweights Brazil from Pot 1, 2010 champions Spain from Pot 2 and Serbia from Pot 4. You could swap out Brazil for Argentina and it would be just as tough, or go with Germany from Pot 1 and Colombia or Uruguay from Pot 2. There are plenty of combinations to get African fans nervous.

Summary: A group with Brazil, Spain and Serbia would represent the worst case for the Pharaohs.

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PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: Idrissa Gueye – We will make Senegalese people proud at 2018 World Cup – 2018 FIFA World Cup – Russia

Austin Ditlhobolo

Thursday Nov 30, 2017. 10:00

The Everton FC midfielder has reflected on Senegal’s successful 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign.

His club has struggled in the English Premier League (EPL) this season which has resulted in the departure of coach Ronald Koeman, who has since been replaced by Sam Allardyce.

Gueye, who remains one of the most important players for Everton, has at least enjoyed the escapism of helping Senegal qualify for the World Cup.

The holding midfielder was 12 when Senegal first reached the tournament in South Korea and Japan in 2002.

In those days Gueye was playing barefoot on sandy roads with rocks for goalposts.

“I was in my village as a boy at that time and when Senegal score everyone is going out and celebrating,” Gueye told Daily Mail.

“I will never forget this moment – it was the first time Senegal was at the World Cup.

“Now it’s the second time we have qualified and hopefully we make the people of Senegal proud.”

Gueye, who is a key player for Senegal, played eight games during their 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign.

The 28-year-old helped Everton beat West Ham United 4-0 in an EPL match on Wednesday.

He played the entire match which was played at the iconic Goodison Park.

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Excitement high for debutants and returning heroes

  • Iceland, Panama set to make their World Cup bow
  • Egypt, Morocco & Peru returning after absences of at least two decades
  • Qualifying campaigns, star men and World Cup thoughts in focus

After a qualifying campaign that encompassed a record 871 matches and 208 teams, the 32 finalists will learn their FIFA World Cup™ group rivals on Friday.

While that Final Draw will feature plenty of familiar names, added excitement and freshness is guaranteed by the presence of two debutants and several sides returning after lengthy absences. With this in mind, took a closer look at the five teams either making their first World Cup appearance, or their first in a generation.

The Pharaohs are back at the World Cup for the first time since 1990. They qualified with a game to spare, but in dramatic circumstances all the same, with Mohamed Salah sealing their place with a 94th-minute penalty winner against Congo.

The star
Having netted a staggering 71 per cent of Egypt’s goals during Russia 2018 qualifying, and scored in every one of their third-round victories, the speedy, skilful Mohamed Salah is firmly established as Egypt’s key man.

The stat

Essam El Hadary will turn 45 in January and could become the oldest player to participate at a World Cup. The Egypt goalkeeper is one of only seven players to have appeared in six different preliminary competitions.

The quote

“We will not go to the World Cup just for the sake of being there – we want to qualify and play good football. We believe in ourselves and in what we can do.”
Hector Cuper, Egypt coach

The Nordic nation is comfortably the smallest ever represented at the World Cup, with its population of 335,000 dwarfed by the 1.3 million of the previous record-holder, Trinidad and Tobago. The debutants qualified in style too, topping a formidable section that included Croatia, Turkey and Ukraine.

The star
Iceland’s player of the year for the last five years running, Gylfi Sigurdsson – a midfielder who can create and score spectacular goals – was the team’s top marksman in Russia 2018 qualifying.

The stat
Iceland were one of three teams to qualify without using a single domestic-based player. The others were Sweden and group rivals Croatia.

The quote
“We’ll have to see what sort of group we get but I think we’ll have a good chance of making it through. We haven’t got anything to lose and we’ll go into the World Cup with the same mentality we had at the EURO. We’ll be looking forward to going to Russia and obviously seeing the hand clap at a World Cup!”

Gylfi Sigurdsson, Iceland midfielder

The Atlas Lions are back at the World Cup for the first time in two decades, having topped and emerged unbeaten from a group that included Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon and Mali.

The star
In captain Medhi Benatia, a powerful and composed centre-half, Morocco possess one of the best defenders in Africa.

The stat
The Moroccans have registered two victories and four draws at the World Cup, and all six of these have come against European opposition.

The quote
“We don’t fear anyone. I want my side to be drawn in the same group as France. It would be a great honour for me to face France in the World Cup.”
Herve Renard, Morocco coach

Los Canaleros clinched qualification in fairy tale fashion, edging out World Cup veterans USA thanks to a dramatic late winner from Roman Torres in a 2-1 victory over Costa Rica.

The star
He might be 36, but forward Blas Perez – a veteran of well over 100 international appearances – will bring vital experience to the Central Americans at Russia 2018.

The stat
With an average age of 29.4, Panama were the oldest team in qualifying. The second oldest, coincidentally, were fellow debutants Iceland (29.0).

The quote
“The World Cup seemed like a dream, like a fantasy, but I never lost hope.”
Hernan Dario Gomez, Panama coach

La Blanquirroja are back at the World Cup for the first time in 36 years, having seen off New Zealand in an intercontinental play-off – this after edging out the likes of Chile and Paraguay in South American qualifying.

The star
Another evergreen attacker, Jefferson Farfan proved his worth again during qualifying with vital goals – including the winner against New Zealand.

The stat
Peru scored 27 times in the South American qualifiers – their highest-ever tally.

The quote
“It’s a child’s dream. It’s a big emotion, beyond making history. This has been a wait of 35 years; we didn’t deserve to be away from the World Cup for so long.”
Christian Cueva, Peru midfielder

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