Friday June 8, 2018
Four years seem to have sped by, but here we are again – ready to contest the FIFA World Cup. The past three years have seen the qualification stages completed, and now we shall see which of the 32 qualifying teams will progress through to the final, to be in with a chance of winning the trophy.
The group stages are held over three consecutive weeks. Each week sees 16 matches take place, as the teams are paired up to contest a match. The pairings are determined according to groups, with four teams per group. Of the four teams in each group, only two can progress to the knockout stage. This consists of the round of 16, the quarterfinals, the semi-finals, and the final.
England failed to make it out of the group stage in 2014, when they lost two of their matches and drew the other one. This left them with too few points to go through, especially since Costa Rica, another member of the same group, managed to beat Italy. That was the first time in over half a century that England hadn’t progressed from the round robin stage.
So, will things be different this time? England are ranked in 12th place and have been placed in Group G. The other teams in the group are Panama, Belgium, and Tunisia. Only Belgium is ranked above them, in third position. England will face Tunisia first, on 18th June at 7pm. Panama is next up at 1pm on the 24th of the month, and Belgium will be last, on the 28th June at 7pm. Only then will we know for certain whether England will go through to the round of 16, with a shot at progressing to the quarterfinals and beyond.
The odds on which team will win are changing all the time. However, Brazil is – at the time of writing – favourite to win at 4/1. Spain are next at 6/1, with Argentina completing the top three favoured teams at 9/1. England is in fourth place on 16/1 – nice odds if you think this could be their lucky year. Mind you, if you fancy a long shot, South Korea currently has odds of 750/1. Imagine if they did win and you’d placed a bet on them…