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  1. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by flyingdutchdevil View Post
    The World Cup, unlike the NCAA Tournament or even the Euro Cup, is a fairly predictable tournament. Not in terms of the group stage or the semi-finalists, but rather who is going to win it all. There really hasn't been a surprise team who's won it all since...ummm...France in 1998? And even then, France was the host and France had incredible talent.

    But the tournament favorites are often the same: Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Italy, France, and Spain. You can add a few teams depending on the World Cup (like adding England this year) or remove a few teams (like Italy, who failed to qualify). But for the most part, the best teams stay the same. Hell, look at the top 11 teams for Vegas odds:

    Brazil +400
    France +600
    England +700
    Argentina +700
    Spain +800
    Germany +1000
    Portugal +1200
    Netherlands +1200
    Belgium +1400
    Denmark +2800
    Croatia +5000

    The delta between the 9th and 10th best team (Belgium and Denmark) is quite substantial; the delta between the 10th and 11th best teams (Denmark and Croatia) is huge.

    So what does this mean? Well, despite there being 32 teams competing for the World Cup, I'd be willing to stake my house that one of the following 6 teams will win the WC:

    -Brazil
    -Argentina
    -Germany
    -Spain
    -France
    -England

    Yeah...not very original. But this is the way of the World Cup. Since 1954, every World Cup has been won by Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Spain, France, England, and Italy. Italy cannot win this World Cup. The other 6 teams are legit, and this year is no exception. The other 3 teams that have decent odds - Portugal, the Netherlands, and Belgium - are all talented but more flawed than the "Big 6". But they are Dark Horses and despite zero World Cup titles between those 3 teams, Spain did break the trend in 2010 of only Brazil, Argentine, Germany, France, Italy, and England winning the WC in the last ~70 years. Could it happen again this year with a brand new World Cup winner? Possibly, but unlikely. Belgium is aging, the Netherlands don't have an attacking force, and Portugal needs to feature Ronaldo which makes the team so much worse.

    The World Cup is exciting, but sadly one of those 6 teams will win it.

    So, sometime in the next 40 days, I'll be giving a run down on each of those 9 teams (6 Favorites + 3 Dark Horses).
    All but 5 WC's have been held in Europe or South America, home continents to the world's best teams. And when it is Europe or SA the winner comes from the home continent 90% of the time, with only Brazil and Germany bucking the trend once each. So if there is going to be a winner outside of the big 6/7 it's most likely to happen in a non-Europe/SA WC. Possibly Qatar?

  2. #22
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    Jan 2009
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    Boston, MA
    Quote Originally Posted by Skydog View Post
    All but 5 WC's have been held in Europe or South America, home continents to the world's best teams. And when it is Europe or SA the winner comes from the home continent 90% of the time, with only Brazil and Germany bucking the trend once each. So if there is going to be a winner outside of the big 6/7 it's most likely to happen in a non-Europe/SA WC. Possibly Qatar?
    The last two WCs outside Europe and South America have been South Africa (2010) and Japan/South Korea (2002).

    The semi-finalists in those two WCs were:

    -Netherlands
    -Uruguay
    -Germany
    -Spain
    -Brazil
    -Germany
    -Turkey
    -South Korea

    So, one of eight outside of Europe/South America (Turkey is a UEFA team).

    Agreed a non 6/7 likelier to win outside Europe/South America. But still very, very, very rare.
    Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things. - Winston Churchill

    President of the "Nolan Smith Should Have His Jersey in The Rafters" Club

  3. #23
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Boston, MA

    Brazil

    The first team profiled is Brazil.

    The Skinny: Since winning it all in 2002, Brazil has just been 'good' compared to their usual 'great'. They have only made it to one semis since then (2014), and that ended with the infamous 7-1 defeat to Germany (in Brazil, no less). However, since the 2018 WC, Brazil has been great, only losing 1 game (to Argentina). Tite has the team firing on all cylinders. They have established players in Silva, Marquinhos, Casemiro, Fred, Neymar, and Militao who know the system, know each other, and know their respective roles. And they have a plethora of wingers who are young, talented, and hungry to prove themselves.

    Why They'll Win: Talent. It's that simple. No team features more talent at the goalkeeping, center back, defensive midfielders, winger, and forward positions. For wingers and forwards, here is a list they can choose from: Neymar, Richarlison, Gabriel Jesus, Raphinha, Paqueta, Vini Jr, Antony, Firmino, Rodrygo... it's truly an embarrassment of riches.

    Why They'll Lose: While they are stacked in the far back and far front, they lack full backs and creative midfielders. The creative midfield position can be performed by Neymar, but he's best as a false nine or someone right behind the target man. They can be exposed on the wings, and that means more work for their talented center backs who need to contain crosses. Could it be a problem? Possibly, as their wingers may need to come back and assist. But this is a position that shouldn't be too much of a 'weakness' in the whole scheme of things.

    The Impact Player Who You Know: Neymar. I've been really critical of Neymar in the past. But over the last year with PSG and Brazil, he's been great. He's not hunting goals but rather making the right move. He's playing within the limits of what he can and cannot do. He's a top 10 player in the world who has learned that faking fouls and injuries gets you nowhere. I wasn't scared of 2014 and 2018 Neymar; I am scared of 2022 Neymar.

    The Impact Who You May Not Know: Fred. Fred doesn't play anymore for Man Utd. He's just a bad fit and doesn't offer any offense. But on Brazil, he's indispensable. He and Casemiro allow the attacking midfielders and wingers to really focus on offense rather than playing 'Total Football'.

    FDD Watchability Meter: 9/10. They have it all: strikers, wingers, center-backs, goalkeepers...and they play fast and fun.

    FDD Likability Meter: 5/10. Neymar isn't Messi in terms of likability, but he's not awful Neymar either. With Antony, Vini Jr, Raphinha, Richarlison, this team has fun, young, likable players with flair (I mean, it is Brazil after all). Brazil isn't the annoying, arrogant Brazil of the past.

    NCAA Comp: UCLA. The most titles. Some of the best players ever to play the game. Lots of historic success, but have only been 'good' in the last couple of decades rather than 'great'.
    Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things. - Winston Churchill

    President of the "Nolan Smith Should Have His Jersey in The Rafters" Club

  4. #24
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Boston, MA

    France

    The Skinny: They won the 2018 World Cup. That team, while not perfect, was incredibly balanced. You had the established midfield with Griezmann, Pogba, and Kante. You had two up-and-coming full backs in Lucas Hernandez and Benjamin Pavard. And you had a shiny new toy in Kylian Mbappe, arguably a top 2 talent in the world right now (and I'd argue a far number 2 to Erling Haaland). But that was 2018. And this is 2022. A lot can change in 4 years. On the upside, Mbappe is so much better. Benzema has been allowed back to the French national team after blackmailing a fellow player (yes. You heard that right. Look it up). They also sport arguably the best defense in the world. Lucas Hernandez is a switchable left back/center back. You have Konate, Kimpembe, Varane, Upamecano, Kounde, Mendy, Pavard...dear lord that is a great list of players (who all feature on elite teams across England, Spain, and Germany). And they have Ousmane Dembele, probably the best true winger in the game right now. On the downside, Griezmann is a shell of himself. Pobga is out injured (and will miss the World Cup). Kante is frequently injured. Their midfield is all over the place, and not in a good way. The other thing to consider is arrogance and complacency. After France won both the World Cup and Euro in 1998 and 2000, respectively, they crashed and burned in 2002 (coming last in their group with 1 point) despite a more talented team (Henry was their starting forward). Will arrogance and complacency win out again? Will there be tons of infighting, as is common with the French? We shall see.

    Why They'll Win: Balance and talent. When it comes to full backs, center backs, wingers, and forwards, no team has more elite options. That defense is stacked. They can feature a frontline of Benzema, Mbappe, and Dembele. That's akin to having a frontcourt of Durant, Giannis, and Jokic. It's really not fair. Also, while their midfield isn't elite, it's not terrible either. With Kante, Tchouaméni, and Camavinga, you have a nice blend of talent and experience. Bottomline, while they have only been okay over the last 2 years, I wouldn't bet against this team.

    Why They'll Lose: France's recent form has been poor, and I'd argue a lot of that is because of their lack of facilitator. Griezmann and Pogba were in charge of this midfield two years ago, but Griezmann's form has been poor and Pogba isn't around. So, despite having an elite attack, it doesn't become elite if they can't get the ball. Teams that control the midfield win games. And France can't control the midfield right now.

    The Impact Player Who You Know: N'Golo Kanté. It's too easy to put Mbappe here, and honestly I don't think Mbappe is as critical to the team as Kante. Kante is one of the best defensive midfielders in the game. He can stop any midfield from gaining steam. At the Champions League final two years ago, Kante stopped Kevin De Bryune, the best midfielder in the world. And as a result, Chelsea won. He is a pitbull who fights, never stops running, and breaks up plays better than anyone alive. His stats are never that impressive, but he's indispensable.

    The Impact Who You May Not Know: Ousmane Dembélé. It feels weird putting a player who has played for Barcelona for the last 5 years, but he's been injured for around 4 of those years. When healthy, there isn't a player with the speed, agility, and precision that Dembele has. His cuts on the right wing (and sometimes left wing) are devastating. Honestly, he reminds me of a French Arjen Robben.

    FDD Watchability Meter: 8/10. Ding a point for lack of fluidity given midfield struggles and ding a point for lack of cohesiveness given all the new talent. But that attack is going to be fun to watch!

    FDD Likability Meter: 2/10. I lived in France for 4 years. My wife is French. I secretly hate the French national team, although I cannot tell my wife this. Benzema is a scumbag, Pogba is just weird, and Mbappe is becoming a prima donna before our eyes (he's already attacking the French federation for lack of player involvement in sponsorship selection).

    NCAA Comp: Kansas. Uber talented + history of winning + lots of drama. Nuf said.
    Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things. - Winston Churchill

    President of the "Nolan Smith Should Have His Jersey in The Rafters" Club

  5. #25
    I'm loving these write ups, FDD!

  6. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by Mtn.Devil.91.92.01.10.15 View Post
    I'm loving these write ups, FDD!
    Double agree. Excellent and fun analysis.

  7. #27
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    Undisclosed
    Mods, is there a way to pin FDD’s write-ups or similar team write-ups (only) in the run up to and holding of the World Cup in a separate thread? These are a great resource, but scrolling through a lengthy thread is tough on a phone. Would love to be able to pull these up when I turn on a random match and want the quick skinny.

    Thanks in advance for the consideration!

  8. #28
    Join Date
    Feb 2018
    Location
    Durham, NC
    Quote Originally Posted by OldPhiKap View Post
    Mods, is there a way to pin FDD’s write-ups or similar team write-ups (only) in the run up to and holding of the World Cup in a separate thread? These are a great resource, but scrolling through a lengthy thread is tough on a phone. Would love to be able to pull these up when I turn on a random match and want the quick skinny.

    Thanks in advance for the consideration!
    I will second this request. So far, these might be the best summaries of the national teams that I've read.

  9. #29
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Hot'Lanta... home of the Falcons!
    Agree with all that these writeups are gold. When he has done more, I will set up a separate thread that only includes the write-ups and we can pin it to the top of the page during the World Cup.

    Amazing work, FDD!
    I don't know what you are doing right now, but if you aren't listening to the DBR Podcast, you're doing it wrong.

  10. #30
    Quote Originally Posted by OldPhiKap View Post
    Mods, is there a way to pin FDD’s write-ups or similar team write-ups (only) in the run up to and holding of the World Cup in a separate thread? These are a great resource, but scrolling through a lengthy thread is tough on a phone. Would love to be able to pull these up when I turn on a random match and want the quick skinny.

    Thanks in advance for the consideration!
    You must spread comments …. excellent suggestion!

  11. #31
    Join Date
    Sep 2007
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    Undisclosed
    Quote Originally Posted by JasonEvans View Post
    Agree with all that these writeups are gold. When he has done more, I will set up a separate thread that only includes the write-ups and we can pin it to the top of the page during the World Cup.

    Amazing work, FDD!
    Thanks, must spread Sporkz!

  12. #32
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Boston, MA

    England

    Preface: I enjoy writing these, but I would be lying if I wasn't looking forward to England (and the Netherlands, of course). England is a team steeped in painful history and the schadenfreude runs deep.

    The Skinny: There are 3 things you need to know about the England and soccer. 1) The sport was created here, 2) The Premier League is by far the most prestigious and well-known league in the world, and 3) the Three Lions (as they are often called) are terrible at penalties. Why is this important? Well, the average Englishman (and Englishwoman) has a love/hate relationship with the team. Because of 1), the English feel this is their sport and the rest of the world should be grateful for what they gave. It's a little bit of divine right coupled with their Empire crumbling over the last ~200 years. And because of 2), the players are "superstars". English players get put on a pedestal, whether it's fair or not. It's the nature of having that much exposure. However, because of 3), the English haven't been great in international tournaments (despite winning in 1966. And yes, they want you to know about that. Even those born after 1966). And most of that lack of success comes from being terrible at penalties. And the English know this, so every time a tournament comes around, the English are knowledgeable, entitled, and pessimistic. It is a strange set of emotions that I have only found with true English fans. They will give you a 2 hour rundown of their team, letting you know which players are world class and how they compare to the Messis/Ronaldos/Mbappes of the world, only to conclude their team is going to lose early in the knockout rounds. And, to tell the truth, they are usual right, except for the talent portion. In the last ~30 years, the English have rarely fielded a team with incredible talent. The talent is overrated because the Premier League often features top teams with some English talent. But that doesn't make them top 20 talents. Except for this generation...
    Today, the English are talented. In the last two major tournaments (2018 WC and 2020 Euro), they made it to the semi-finals and the finals. They have arguably been the best European team in the last 5 years. And it's because, at every position, they have really good-to-great players or players who just outperform for the national team. In GK, they have Jordan Pickford (amazing for the Three Lions, okay for Everton) or Aaron Ramsdale (Arsenal). In central defense, they have Dier, Maguire (stop laughing; he's good for the Three Lions), Stones, Mings (probably the weakest part of the team). For full-backs, they have an embarrassment of riches (more to come). In midfield, they have Declan Rice, Kalvin Philips, Jordan Henderson, Jude Bellingham, Mason Mount. Up in attack, they have Kane, Sterling, Foden, Saka, Grealish. I mean, you either have the best players on mid-level Premier League teams (Mings, Rice) or critical pieces on top-tier Premier League teams. They absolutely have all the pieces to win, and that's why their odds of winning are so high.

    Why They'll Win: Midfielders. While they don't get the credit they deserve, the midfield is built around defense. Declan Rice is one of the few underrated players (although not by West Ham United, who want $100M+ for him. I was gonna say 100M Pounds, but the Pound and the dollar are basically the same). He disrupts the midfield while also providing some playmaking. Kalvin Phillips is a true box-to-box midfielder. Mount and Bellingham are offensive minded players who run back on defense. Henderson provides stability and necessary leadership. It's an underrated group of players that allows the defense to not be overwhelmed and allows the forwards/wings the freedom to take advantage of counter attacks.

    Why They'll Lose: I would say the center-backs, but I don't think that's right. I would say penalties, but that's a cop out. Instead, I'll say Gareth Southgate. In his tenure as coach, he's implemented a 3-5-2 (counter-attacking formation), 4-4-2 (the backbone formation of English soccer), 4-3-3 (the popular "Total Football" formation), and, now, 3-4-3 (the conservative, defensive-minded formation). And he changes this all the time because he needs to showcase his best players rather than showcasing a formation that's best for the team. And it's backfiring now. The constant formation tinkering has led to players not syncing with one another.

    The Impact Player Who You Know: The right-backs. If there is one position where the English are elite above everyone else, it's right-back. Here's a rundown of players at that position:
    -Starter: Kyle Walker (starter for Man City). One of fastest players in the world with excellent defensive chops and a great crossing game
    -2nd: Kieran Trippier (starter for Newcatle). Best free-kicker on the team
    -3rd: Reece James (starter for Chelsea). Do-it-all, tough-as-nails defender with an underrated offensive game
    -4th: Trent Arnold Alexander (starter for Liverpool). One of the best passers in the Premier League
    The fact that Trent Arnold Alexander may not even be on the team is absurd. And it's not because he isn't good; it's because this position is so loaded. And it's part of the reason Southgate goes 3-4-3 so he can feature Kyle Walker as a center back and Reece James as a midfielder.

    The Impact Player Who You May Not Know: Jude Bellingham. He is one of the only English players who plays outside the Premier League (Bundesliga). And if you don't know him today, you will soon. He's only 19-years old. While a true midfielder, he moves like a forward (meaning numerous accelerations into the box), making is so difficult to track/mark him. He's always in the right time, right place. His short passes and link-up play is elite. He has an outside-the-box shot. He is exciting, young, and will cost a Premier League team an insane amount of money come January or the summer. Watch out, cus he's a better version of Steven Gerrard.

    FDD Watchability Meter: 10/10. You know all the players, you know the history, you know the drama. Add 'you know the talent', and this is must-watch TV (or must-watch streaming).

    FDD Likability Meter: 6/10. Automatic 2 point discount for being English. Jordan Pickford is annoying. The fact that Grealish, Saka, Rashford (if on the team), and Sancho (ditto) always underperform is frustrating.

    NCAA Comp: Michigan. They won one title a while ago (1989). They always seem to have talent. And their fans want you to know they are really good. Yet, come tournament time, they tend to disappoint.
    Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things. - Winston Churchill

    President of the "Nolan Smith Should Have His Jersey in The Rafters" Club

  13. #33
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Seattle
    WRT England - Ben White should absolutely be included as a CB/RB. Has been exceptional for Arsenal this season and after getting settled last year.

    Wholeheartedly agree that Southgate is a problem. They should not be playing such an ugly style with the midfield and attacking talent that they possess.

  14. #34
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    Quote Originally Posted by flyingdutchdevil View Post
    the Three Lions (as they are often called) are terrible at penalties.
    At least the English fans take that well.

  15. #35
    Quote Originally Posted by flyingdutchdevil View Post
    3) the Three Lions (as they are often called) are terrible at penalties. [...] (despite winning in 1966. And yes, they want you to know about that. Even those born after 1966). And most of that lack of success comes from being terrible at penalties.
    I assume being poor at penalties in the 70s, 80s, 90s, 2000s, etc. has no actual bearing at how good THIS team is at penalties, right? It's just a recurring theme throughout their history so it's fun to "Raz" them about it, but I assume there's also a lot of "noise"/randomness in penalty shootouts and they've simply been on the shortend. I liken it to when media ask Coach K about experience in a Final Four saying "Duke has been here 15 times, how does that help you?" - coach K always retorts - "that's meaningless. It's the first time for this team." I would think the same holds true for this English squad unless there is some actual fundamental lack of skill in penalty shots from this crew which I find unlikely, but could be wrong...

    Thanks for the writeups!

  16. #36
    Quote Originally Posted by flyingdutchdevil View Post
    FDD Likability Meter: 6/10. Automatic 2 point discount for being English.
    I’m OK with that. Now let me tell you about 1966…

    I love your write ups.

  17. #37
    Quote Originally Posted by Bluedog View Post
    I assume being poor at penalties in the 70s, 80s, 90s, 2000s, etc. has no actual bearing at how good THIS team is at penalties, right? It's just a recurring theme throughout their history so it's fun to "Raz" them about it, but I assume there's also a lot of "noise"/randomness in penalty shootouts and they've simply been on the shortend. I liken it to when media ask Coach K about experience in a Final Four saying "Duke has been here 15 times, how does that help you?" - coach K always retorts - "that's meaningless. It's the first time for this team." I would think the same holds true for this English squad unless there is some actual fundamental lack of skill in penalty shots from this crew which I find unlikely, but could be wrong...

    Thanks for the write ups!
    It’s in our heads. Plus many members of this squad lost the Euro Final in penalties last summer.

  18. #38
    Quote Originally Posted by Bluedog View Post
    I assume being poor at penalties in the 70s, 80s, 90s, 2000s, etc. has no actual bearing at how good THIS team is at penalties, right? It's just a recurring theme throughout their history so it's fun to "Raz" them about it, but I assume there's also a lot of "noise"/randomness in penalty shootouts and they've simply been on the shortend. I liken it to when media ask Coach K about experience in a Final Four saying "Duke has been here 15 times, how does that help you?" - coach K always retorts - "that's meaningless. It's the first time for this team." I would think the same holds true for this English squad unless there is some actual fundamental lack of skill in penalty shots from this crew which I find unlikely, but could be wrong...

    Thanks for the writeups!
    Quote Originally Posted by Kdogg View Post
    It’s in our heads. Plus many members of this squad lost the Euro Final in penalties last summer.
    The loss in the Euro Final was particularly brutal, because the team spent the entire tournament (and run-up to the tournament) talking about how aware they were of the issue with penalties and how methodically they were preparing so that if it came to penalties, they would come out on the right side.
    Carolina delenda est

  19. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by cato View Post
    The loss in the Euro Final was particularly brutal, because the team spent the entire tournament (and run-up to the tournament) talking about how aware they were of the issue with penalties and how methodically they were preparing so that if it came to penalties, they would come out on the right side.
    IIRC, the manager brought a player or two off the bench with a few minutes to go in the extra time, and then expected them to hit PKs despite not really being in the flow of the game. It did not go well.

    The fact that the last three (IIRC) all missed, and all happened to be black, also led to some ugliness. Still the same manager fwiw.

  20. #40
    Quote Originally Posted by OldPhiKap View Post
    IIRC, the manager brought a player or two off the bench with a few minutes to go in the extra time, and then expected them to hit PKs despite not really being in the flow of the game. It did not go well.

    The fact that the last three (IIRC) all missed, and all happened to be black, also led to some ugliness. Still the same manager fwiw.
    In practice, the players on the pitch were the best PK takers. Southgate, more than probably anyone, knows the situation and had England preparing for it from the beginning. In the end analytics and preparation didn’t matter. It is England. Now about 1966…

    Also, now it feels like a World Cup.

    UK bans 1,300 fans from England, Wales at World Cup
    Last edited by Kdogg; 10-10-2022 at 08:30 PM.

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