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EGYPT V URUGUAY
In what is a relatively weak group, Uruguay will surely be too strong for Egypt. They boast a host of talent from the top leagues of world football. Arguably the best centre-back pairing in the world in Gimenez & Godin (Atletico Madrid), plus attack pairing of Cavani (PSG) & Suarez (Barcelona).
Selection: URUGUAY WIN
MOROCCO V IRAN
Both sides proved very difficult to break down in qualifying so I’m not expecitng a glut of goals. But Morocco should just have the edge in terms of class. Benatia (Juve) & Ziyech (Ajax) are quality players plying their trade in the top tier of European football, so maybe just a narrow win for the Africans but we’ll also cover the draw.
Selection: MOROCCO WIN / DRAW
PORTUGAL V SPAIN
No shortage of household names on show in this one. The Portuguese come into the tournament as reigning Euro Champions but they’re an ageing squad. Ronaldo (33), Fonte (34) & Pepe (35) are all in the twighlight of their careers. I fancy the Spanish to win this one comfortably.
Selection: SPAIN WIN
PERU V DENMARK
Denmark pose the biggest threat to France in this group. With a strong spine to the team which includes some Premier League players (Schmeichel / Eriksen) they should have enough to beat Peru. However, the South American side managed to qualify at the expense of Chile, so an upset can’t be ruled out.
Selection: PERU WIN / DENMARK WIN
CROATIA V NIGERIA
Like Belgium the golden generation for Croatia have not quite managed it on the biggest of stages. Modric, Rakitic & Mandzukic are all in their 30’s, this must be their last chance at glory. The Nigerians were undefeated in qualyfying but I think the Croats will possess too much.
Selection: CROATIA WIN
COSTA RICA V SERBIA
Serbia look to be really well balanced, a mixture of experience (Kolorov / Ivanovic) and young top talent (Matic / Savic). They should have too much for Costa Rica but we’re also covering the upset.
Selection: COSTA RICA WIN / SERBIA WIN
SWEDEN V SOUTH KOREA
Sweden picked up some decent scalps during qualification. They beat France and saw off the Netherlands. Then beating Italy in the play-off to get here. They’ve got quality in Lindelof & Forsberg. South Korea on the other hand could well be the worst team in the tournament.
Selection: SWEDEN WIN
COLUMBIA V JAPAN
Columbia could prove to be the dark horses of the tournament. They’re strong across the park – Falcao returns in good form, James Rodriguez has got over his Real Madrid disappointment and throw that in with the likes of Juan Quadrado, Yerry Mina & Davinson Sanchez they look a force to be reckoned with.
Selection: COLUMBIA WIN
POLAND V SENEGAL
You could be forgiven for thinking Poland are a one man team. Lewandowski netted 16 of their 28 goals in qualifying but they’ve also got some of Europes best talent in Zeilinski (Napoli) & Glik (Monaco). I think they’ll start with a comfortable win over Senegal but covering the draw in case they start slowly.
Selection: POLAND WIN / DRAW
RUSSIA V EGYPT
I’m not sure Mohamed Salah will recover his fitness in time for this one and this could be the end for Egypt. I fancy the Russian’s to qualify from the group and to do so they’ll need something from this game.
Selection: RUSSIA WIN / DRAW
PORTUGAL V MOROCCO
Assuming that the Portuguese have tasted defeat against Spain, they’ll likely need all 3 points here (especially if Morocco have edged out Iran in their opener). Whilst they are an ageing squad their experience should see them through the goup phase.
Selection: PORTUGAL WIN
DENMARK V AUSTRALIA
The Australian’s really struggled to qualify and the fact they’re still relying on 38 year old Tim Cahill for goals suggests they’ll continue to struggle here. The Dane’s will be looking for a full 3 points here to ensure qualification for the next phase behind France.
Selection: DENMARK WIN
ARGENTINA V CROATIA
The two heavyweights of Group D clash and it could easily be honours even. Both sides have the best players on offer in the group and it would be difficult to split them. I’ve covered Le Albiceleste just in case Messi has one of his wonder days!
Selection: ARGENTINA WIN / DRAW
NIGERIA V ICELAND
Iceland had an incredible run in Euro ’16, I don’t think they’ll have enough to get out of the group on the world stage but they should have enough to get a result against Nigeria. Whilst Nigeria have a host of recognised talent I just can’t see them performing at this level.
Selection: DRAW / ICELAND WIN
SERBIA V SWITZERLAND
The Swiss look really well organised under Vladimir Petkovic and he’s lost just 8 of the 38 games he’s been in charge. They tied Euro Champions Portugal for points in qualifying and made it out of the group stages in Euro ’16.
Selection: DRAW / SWITZERLAND