Category Archives: World Cup profiles

World Cup profiles up and running!

If any of you reading this are interested in the 2018 World Cup, here’s a recap of what we have so far.

Group C’s profiles have just finished with the conclusion of the Denmark post. So far, profiles have been written for 12 of the 32 teams playing in Russia. Coming soon will be the Group D profiles: Argentina, Iceland, Croatia, and Nigeria. I hope some of you from those countries will keep an eye for them.

If anybody is interested in finding all of them, here is the link:

If you’re looking for a specific team, here is a link to all of the other profiles so far.

Group A 

Group B

Group C 

I’ll get through the final 20 teams as fast as I can! Keep an eye out for your team, or if you have a team to root for. Hope to share this “beautiful game” with all of you!


Image result for soccer ball
Photo courtesy of Amazon. 


2018 FIFA World Cup profile: DENMARK

Having survived a scary qualifying group with both Poland and Montenegro, which waited until the very last week to be settled, Denmark returns to the World Cup after missing out on Brazil 2014. In three of their previous four appearances, they’ve made the knockout stages, including a surprising group win in 1986 in their debut appearance, and winning the Euros in a shocking upset in 1992. Somewhat quietly, Denmark has been increasing their profile on the world stage, and if they can navigate the potential trap games in this group, I don’t see why they can’t continue to do it in Russia.

Image result for Flag of Denmark
Photo courtesy of 

Team profile
Nickname: Danish Dynamite
Total Appearances (including 2018): 5
Best Finish: Quarterfinals (1998)
Current manager: Åge Hareide (Norway)
Caps leader: Peter Schmeichel (129)
Leading scorer(s): Poul Nielsen (52); Jon Dahl Tomasson (52)

The Cup 
Group/Placement: C4
Date of qualification: November 14, 2017
FIFA ranking at tournament draw: 19

June 16 vs. Peru – Saransk
June 21 vs. Australia – Samara
June 26 vs. France – Moscow (Luzhniki)

Denmark’s best run was in France ’98, making it all the way to the quarterfinals before losing to Brazil in an amazing 3-2 match. Danish Dynamite is an appropriate name, given how explosive they can be in the World Cup. Coming into the draw, they were the highest ranked team in Pot 3, ranked 19th in the world. Hopefully, the Dynamite can avoid the landmines awaiting them in this group.

It’s likely that it will come down to Denmark or Peru for the second spot. Most are already conceding the group to France. If Denmark is going to get through to the knockout stages, then Christian Eriksen is said to be the man to get them there. Playing his club football at Tottenham Hotspur in England (Spurs for short), Eriksen is their midfield ace. Forward Nicklas Bendtner is there to complement him.

If you don’t follow the World Cup as closely as I do, then you may be surprised to know that Denmark has gotten through three times in their first four tries. They narrowly missed a fourth in South Africa 2010, losing to Japan on the final match day. Group C’s final team ends a tougher group than expected. But Denmark’s presence shows that sometimes you need to look a little deeper than what is seen.

Image result for christian eriksen denmark
Christian Eriksen should be the dynamic player for Denmark. Photo courtesy of The Irish Sun. 

Related image
The DBU logo and jersey crest. Photo courtesy of 

2018 FIFA World Cup profile: PERU

Welcome back to the party, Peru! Although the days of Teofilo Cubillas are long gone, making it back to the Cup after 36 years, the longest drought of any returning team, has to be a dream. But Peru doesn’t appear to be a team that is just happy to be here. It’s possible they have a very good rising crop of talent, and they’re more than eager to challenge for the knockout stages. They’d face an uphill road should they get there, but I can’t think of any World Cup in recent years with so much parity, so much eagerness, and so many potential story lines awaiting it. Peru’s is definitely one of them.

Image result for Flag of Peru
Photo courtesy of World Flag Database. 

Team profile 
Nickname: La Blanquirroja (The White and Red)
Total Appearances (including 2018): 5
Best Finish: Quarterfinals (1970)*
Current manager: Ricardo Gareca (Argentina)
Caps leader: Roberto Palacios (128)
Leading scorer(s): Paolo Guerrero (32)

* Peru also made the last eight in 1978, but that was a second round-robin format and they lost all three matches in that round.

The Cup 
Group/Placement: C3
Date of qualification: November 15, 2017
FIFA ranking at tournament draw: 10

June 16 vs. Denmark – Saransk
June 21 vs. France – Yekaterinburg
June 26 vs. Australia – Sochi

I read somewhere that the team placed in C3 in the pot was at a distinct disadvantage, as they’d have to do the most traveling of any team in the group stages, at least in terms of distance. I’ll double-check that, but that’s what I heard. If that’s the case, then Peru may not be able to overcome the effects of the jet lag. But I’m sure regardless of what happens, they’ll be a fan favorites. Casual fans love the underdogs, after all.

The last time Peru made the World Cup was in 1982. That was the same year my dad came to the United States. It was the year of E.T., and the death of Princess Grace. Needless to say, they’ve been itching to get back ever since. They had a favorable draw in the playoffs against New Zealand, managing to get in on the final day and knock Chile out of the competition (and the latter were Confederations Cup runners-up and two-time defending Copa America champions). Although Jefferson Farfan is a great player (23 goals in 79 caps), he’s on the wrong side of 30, so instead this post is going to focus on their potential upstart playmaker, midfielder Renato Tapia of the Dutch club Feyenoord (based in Rotterdam). He’s only scored twice for his country in 28 caps, but from what I hear, he’s a potential star in the making.

Peru is playing with house money at this point. Quietly, they’ve climbed the rankings to be a top ten team in the world, at least according to the FIFA World Rankings, which admittedly can be arbitrarily put together. It’s possible that Peru may end up with egg on their face, if only because of the surprising deceptiveness of the group (as I mentioned in the France post). At the same time, I could definitely see them making it out of the group. That first game against Denmark is the crucial one. If it’s not quite must-win, it certainly feels like it. Denmark’s also a top 20 team at the time of the draw. All I can tell you is, I’m looking forward to seeing those iconic jerseys at the Cup for the first time in my life. Hopefully, they can extend their stay as long as possible.

Image result for Renato tapia peru
Midfielder Renato Tapia may be a key to carry Peru as far as they can go. Photo courtesy of Getty Images. 

Related image
Peru’s jersey crest. Photo courtesy of Twitter.

2018 FIFA World Cup profile: AUSTRALIA

Much like the United States, many in Australia also call the sport soccer instead of football. But that’s another story. While it’s not necessarily as bad of a draw as it was four years ago, I think that Australia still has an uphill battle to get back. They had to survive two separate playoffs, one against Syria in Asia, and once against Honduras for the spot in the Cup. And given that they’re the odd team out of the top twenty in this group, can Australia come back stronger than four years ago, where they lost all three matches?

Flag of Australia
Photo courtesy of 

Team profile 
Nickname: The Socceroos
Total appearances (including 2018): 5
Best Finish: Round of 16 (2006)
Current Manager: Vacant*
Caps leader: Mark Schwarzer (109)
Leading scorer(s): Tim Cahill (50)

* Ange Postecoglou was their most recent manager in the World Cup qualifiers in 2017.

The Cup
Group/Placement: C2
Date of Qualification: November 15, 2017
FIFA ranking at tournament draw: 43

June 16 vs. France – Kazan
June 21 vs. Denmark – Samara
June 26 vs. Peru – Sochi

Australia’s manager Ange Postecoglou resigned following the qualifiers, and his replacement hasn’t been named yet. Former U.S. and Germany manager Jürgen Klinsmann is one of the candidates under consideration for the position. Along with fellow group member Peru, the Socceroos were one of the last two teams to qualify. And as I mentioned with France, the group is better than appears on first glance.

Australia comes in as the lowest ranked team in the group, and they have a tough match first with France. I could see them maybe earning a point about Denmark or Peru, but is it too late chronologically if that happens?

Australia’s main man is their all-time leading scorer, Tim Cahill. He’s likely to appear in the World Cup, but it’s probably going to be his last one since he’ll be 39 in December. Australia rode a surprising run to the round of 16 in 2006, but those days seem so long ago for them. Australia could go several ways: they could have a repeat of 2006, or it could be a repeat of 2014, where they lost all three games. Of course their supporters should root for them, but I also worry that their expectations are just a little too high for this tournament.

Image result for tim cahill australia
Tim Cahill is Australia’s all-time scorer and their best hope of a result in Russia. Photo courtesy of Sydney Morning Herald. 

Related image
Australia’s jersey crest. Photo courtesy of 

2018 FIFA World Cup profile: FRANCE

“Allons enfants de la Patrie,
Le jour de gloire est arrivé!”

The 1998 champions have high expectations coming into Russia twenty years later. And they’re not the only ones – many of the “experts,” as much as I dislike the use of the term, are expecting much of the same thing. The talent is certainly there for at least a quarterfinal run, and many have France as the next team to beat after Germany. But there’s a maddening dynamic to them – when they’re written off, they do well. When expectations are high, they fall apart, often in dramatic circumstances. Can Les Bleus avoid that here?

Image result for Flag of France
Photo courtesy of World Flag Database. 

Team profile 
Nickname: Les Bleus (The Blues)
Total appearances (including 2018): 15
Best Finish: Champions (1998)
Current manager: Didier Deschamps
Caps leader: Lilian Thuram (142)
Leading scorer(s): Thierry Henry (51)

The Cup 
Group/Placement: C1
Date of Qualification: October 10, 2017
FIFA ranking at tournament draw: 7

June 16 vs. Australia – Kazan
June 21 vs. Peru – Yekaterinburg
June 26 vs. Denmark – Moscow (Luzhniki)

Consistency is a key word for the French team. In the last five World Cups, they’ve had the following patterns: champions-group-second-group-quarterfinals. And before that championship run in 1998, they had missed the previous two tournaments after making the semifinals in 1982 and 1986. Their style may be known as “champagne football,” but it has also had a really frustrating tendency to be flat when expectations are high.

Group C is what I call “surprisingly deceptive.” You have three teams in the top twenty of the world, France being one of them. Coming off of a hosting gig at Euro 2016, and a runner-up appearance at that same tournament, this French team is loaded with talent, from manager Didier Deschamps to goalkeeper Hugo Lloris to playmakers such as Dimitri Payet and Antoine Griezmann, to veterans Olivier Giroud and Paul Pogba, to lesser-known talents such as Moussa Sissoko and Blaise Matuidi. And they have several young talents waiting in the wings such as Ousmane Dembélé. But one of their biggest up-and-coming threats is only nineteen years old and has already been described as dynamic – PSG forward Kylian Mbappé. Born in the nineteenth arondissement of Paris, he looks to be a dominant presence, and a dynamic talent. Many have already started comparing him to Thierry Henry.

In many ways, winning Group A of UEFA qualifiers was magnificent enough. They had to deal with major bullets in Sweden, Netherlands, and a Bulgaria team potentially on the rise. Even little Luxembourg held Les Bleus to a scoreless draw during qualifying. France has a lot of talent, but like a few other teams, such as Belgium and perhaps Argentina, do they have the ability to play as a cohesive unit? Is there such a thing as too much talent?

France is likely to win this group, and I don’t think it’s likely that they’ll fail to advance. But it’s not impossible, and with the other talent in a more difficult group than people give it credit for, the last thing France wants and needs is to be caught asleep at the wheel.

Image result for kylian mbappe france
Kylian Mbappé is said to be France’s next rising star, and many think he’ll have a big World Cup. Photo courtesy of UEFA. 

Related image
The FFF crest for France. Photo courtesy of 

2018 FIFA World Cup profile: IRAN

Much like their Group B counterpart Morocco, we can’t really be sure what to make of Iran at first glance. At first glance, there aren’t that many superstars, and personal politics in Iran don’t do the team any favors. That aside, they were quite good defensively during the qualification campaign, winning their group handily, and qualifying for consecutive Cups for the first time in their history. But is there enough of an upset factor to get past the other teams in this group?

Image result for Flag of Iran
Photo courtesy of 

Team profile 
Nickname: Team Melli (The National Team)
Total appearances (including 2018): 5
Best finish: Group stage (1978, 1998, 2006, 2014)
Current manager: Carlos Queiroz (Portugal)
Caps leader: Javad Nekounam (151)
Leading scorer(s): Ali Daei (109)

The Cup 
Group/Placement: B4
Date of Qualification: June 12, 2017
FIFA ranking at tournament draw: 34

June 15 vs. Morocco – Saint Petersburg
June 20 vs. Spain – Kazan
June 25 vs. Portugal – Saransk

Coming into this World Cup, Iran has won only one match, which was in 1998 in a politically charged match against the United States. While they’ve never gone without a point in any of their campaign (getting a draw in one of their other three appearances), they’ve never made it out of the first round. Their defense was spectacular in AFC qualification, finishing ahead of South Korea for second, and only a late equalizer in their final match allowed Syria into the playoff. Chronologically, they were the second team to qualify, finishing the deal on June 12.

With Portugal and Spain ahead of them, Iran faces a large uphill battle. They are ranked higher than Morocco coming into the tournament, so I hope both of them can earn a point, but will it necessarily be enough? An interesting side note: their manager, Carlos Queiroz, was born in Portugal, and they play each other on June 25 in Saransk.

Iran only had one goal in Brazil four years ago, and it came from one of their star strikers, Reza Ghoochannejhad of Dutch club Heerenveen. He’ll be 31 when the tournament rolls around, but he should hopefully be Iran’s dynamic playmaker. To be honest, I don’t really know what else to write here – their defense is improved, but because of their previous history in the Cup, little is expected of them. But maybe this 2018 team will prove the naysayers wrong.

Image result for Reza Ghoochannejhad iran
Reza Ghoochannejhad should make Iran’s offense go. Photo courtesy of 

Image result for Iran Football logo
Iran’s crest. Photo courtesy of 

2018 FIFA World Cup profile: MOROCCO

After 20 years away from the spotlight, Morocco gets their chance to shine again. The first ever team from Africa to advance to the knockout stages (Mexico 1986, and they won the group to boot), Morocco looks to recapture some of that magic in Russia.

Image result for flag of morocco
Photo courtesy of 

Team profile 
Nickname: Atlas Lions
Total appearances (including 2018): 5
Best finish: Round of 16 (1986)
Current manager: Hervé Renard (France)
Caps leader: Noureddine Naybet (115)
Leading scorer(s): Ahmed Faras (42)

The Cup 
Group/Placement: B3
Date of qualification: November 11, 2017
FIFA ranking at tournament draw: 48

June 15 vs. Iran – Saint Petersburg
June 20 vs. Portugal – Moscow (Luzhniki)
June 25 vs. Spain – Kaliningrad

Morocco doesn’t have any major names as players, although manager Hervé Renard has been very successful on the continent, becoming the first manager to win the African Cup of Nations, the equivalent of the UEFA Euros, with two different countries (Zambia in 2012, and Côte d’Ivoire in 2015). Their defense was actually pretty fantastic during the third and final qualifying round, not allowing a single goal during those matches. But they also didn’t have the offensive firepower, and three of those matches ended in scoreless draws. It took a two-nil victory against Côte d’Ivoire on the final day to clinch the spot (a draw would have been enough as well). Although they are close to Portugal and Spain geographically, they lack a lot of the big names of the two group front-runners.

Because of this, I don’t really know who else to focus on as their star player. Largely by process of elimination, and because he was their leading scorer during the third round, including a hat trick against Gabon on October 7 of last year, I’ll focus on Khalid Boutaïb, who plays his domestic football in Turkey. Boutaïb is a potentially explosive player up top, but he is thirty years old, and because this sport causes a lot of players to peak early, his health will be a primary concern. Additionally, his international debut was in 2016, at the older age of 29, so while he does have six goals in thirteen games, it’s a fair question to ask: is his sample size big enough to help Morocco get much-needed results early?

Image result for khalid boutaib
Khalid Boutaïb is one of Morocco’s star strikers. Photo courtesy of FIFA. 

In their last appearance, France ’98, Morocco was two minutes away from progressing to the knockout stages before a late Norway goal against Brazil knocked them out. Now, with Portugal and Spain in the same group, the window is much tighter than it was twenty years ago. A draw with Iran appears necessary to manage pride (for both sides, in fact). A slow start would probably doom the Atlas Lions, and Iran is ranked higher in the group than they are, so it wouldn’t be a huge upset if it happened. It’s good to see them back, but a tough group awaits them. And Khalid Boutaïb can’t carry the load by himself.

Image result for morocco football crest
Morocco’s crest. Photo courtesy of 

2018 FIFA World Cup profile: SPAIN

It’s hard what to make of Spain. Are they a favorites, a dark horse perhaps, or are we doomed for a repeat of 2014? The last option seems unlikely, given their revitalized talent and the rest of the group. At the same time, I don’t know if they’re really favored as where they were about ten years ago.

Image result for spain flag
Photo courtesy of

Team profile 
Nickname: La Furia Roja (The Red Fury)
Total appearances (including 2018): 15
Best Finish: Champions (2010)
Current manager: Julen Lopetegui
Caps leader: Iker Casillas (167)
Leading scorer(s): David Villa (59)

The Cup
Group/Placement: B2
Date of qualification: October 6, 2017
FIFA ranking at tournament draw: 8

June 15 vs. Portugal – Sochi
June 20 vs. Iran – Kazan
June 25 vs. Morocco – Kaliningrad

Spain have to come in as the favorites in this group. While the match with Portugal is said to be about even, most would have Spain slight favorites on talent – and that talent is younger, which, in this sport especially, matters. Iker Casillas is no longer in goal, but David de Gea is said to be a suitable replacement. They navigated a pretty tough group to get here as well – although Italy ended up falling apart, the reputation alone is enough. They also dealt well with a potentially rising Albania team. They won the group fairly handily, relegating Italy to the playoff, which they ended up losing to Sweden. Given who else in in their group, as well as facing them across in Group A, I think another quarterfinal run is not only possible, but likely.

One of the curious parts about this group is how close the geography is. Portugal and Spain border each other on the Iberian Peninsula, and Morocco is very close to both of them, just past the Strait of Gibraltar. I don’t know if familiarity is a benefit at the World Cup, but I’d imagine it wouldn’t hurt too much either.

Right now, it looks like Spain’s main playmaker is Francisco Román Alarcón Suárez, or as he’s known for short, Isco. Playing for Real Madrid, Isco is said to be one of their most dynamic players. The one down side is that he was injured for a friendly against Costa Rica, so it’s possible that I may end up regretting these words if he doesn’t play at all. Regardless of his health, La Furia Roja look to be in a position of power again. If they can’t quite win it all this time, I think a quarterfinal berth is within their grasp. I have to admit, I’m not really a Spain fan, but if I were, I think I’d take a quarterfinal berth in this Cup. It’s said to be pretty wide open in terms of talent, so we’ll have to see. Tiki-taka may not be the law of the land anymore, but it’s hard to bet against them advancing past the group stage at this point.

Image result for isco spain
When healthy, Isco should be somebody to watch out for on Spain. Photo courtesy of 

Image result for spain football association
Spain’s FA logo. Photo courtesy of 


2018 FIFA World Cup profile: PORTUGAL

The reigning European champions come in with high expectations, having survived a tough qualifying group, going back and forth with Switzerland before winning on goal differential on the final qualifying day. But questions remain: can Cristiano Ronaldo help the Portuguese rise above to win the championship? Does he have enough steady talent around him? Is Portugal better without him? Group B opens play on June 15, with border rivals Portugal and Spain facing off. It looks to be an amazing match.

Flag of Portugal
Photo courtesy of 

Team profile
Nickname: A Seleção das Quinas (The Selection of the Shields)
Total appearances (including 2018): 7
Best finish: Third place (1966)
Current manager: Fernando Santos
Caps leader: Cristiano Ronaldo (179)
Leading goalscorer(s): Cristiano Ronaldo (79)

The Cup 
Group/Placement: B1
Date of qualification: October 10, 2017
FIFA ranking at tournament draw: 3

June 15 vs. Spain – Sochi
June 20 vs. Morocco – Moscow (Luzhniki)
June 25 vs. Iran – Saransk

If Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)isn’t the best player in the world, he’s certainly up there. His rivalry with Lionel Messi, both domestically and internationally, has to be one of the greatest stories in the game right now. He holds the goals and caps record for his country. But now he’ll be coming into this World Cup approaching the age of 33, and there are still questions over whether he can lead Portugal all the way. Given a pretty easy draw ahead of them – at least after the Spain game – they look to be set for the quarterfinals. At the same time, Morocco is on the rise, and Spain probably has better talent. Both teams’ talent will be on full display on June 15 in Sochi, the host of the 2014 Winter Olympics.

I’m pretty positive that Portugal should advance, but are they really contenders or not? Sure, they won the Euros in 2016, but that took a lot of luck to get out of the group (three draws in the group stage and several late rallies), and they won the match against France after CR-7 left with an injury. Is it possible that Portugal doesn’t need him? Having him is an added benefit, don’t get me wrong, but given his controversial reputation for diving and immaturity, there are those who wouldn’t be upset if Portugal didn’t go all the way.

Image result for cristiano ronaldo portugal 2017
Cristiano Ronaldo in action. Photo courtesy of TIME. 

Image result for portugal football crest
Portugal’s jersey crest. Photo courtesy of Pinterest. 

2018 FIFA World Cup profile: URUGUAY

Our final team in Group A is actually the most successful of all the teams, having won two of the first four editions of the tournament. Even if the subsequent years haven’t been as kind to them, they still come in as the highest-ranked team in the group, and are probably group favorites. But the teams in the next group may not do them any favors following the group stages.

Image result for uruguay flag
Photo courtesy of 

Team profile
Nickname: La Celeste (The Sky Blue)
Total Appearances (including 2018): 13
Best Finish: Champions (1930, 1950)
Current Manager: Óscar Tabárez
Caps leader: Maxi Pereira (124)
Leading scorer(s): Luis Suarez (49)

The Cup 
Group/Placement: A4
Date of Qualification: October 10, 2017
FIFA ranking at start of draw: 17

June 15 vs. Egypt – Yekaterinburg
June 20 vs. Saudi Arabia – Rostov-on-Don
June 25 vs. Russia – Samara

All the statisticians have this as the weakest group in the history of the World Cup, or at the very least since the expansion to 32 teams in 1998. This is Uruguay’s group to lose, with two dynamic scorers helping them: Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani. The latter finished with ten goals to lead all of CONMEBOL in scoring during this qualification campaign. A victory over Bolivia 4-2 allowed La Celeste to take second in the group. And with Óscar Tabárez having led them to a fourth place finish in 2010, and including this qualifying cycle, he has led Uruguay to four World Cups in his career – 1990, 2010, and 2014 being the previous ones. Even better, in all of his other three appearances, he made the round of sixteen twice and the semifinals once. He’s got to be one of the better managers out there. If he can get them to the round of sixteen for a fourth time in four tries, it would be almost unthinkable in this day and age. And he’s got the talent, and an easy enough group, to do it.

It would take a near-catastrophic meltdown for Uruguay to not get through. I don’t know enough about their back four to make a good argument, but with Diego Godin still in that lineup, and Suarez and Cavani up front, they may not need to have the best back four. The one downside is that assuming they make the knockout stages, it’s likely that either Portugal or Spain would be waiting for them, and Uruguay would come in as underdogs. But I think at this point, a broad group will take anything it can get. The smallest nation to win the World Cup is nothing to sneeze at – and they’ve done it twice. Keep an eye out for a potential upstart Uruguayan side.

Image result for edinson cavani 2017 uruguay
Edinson Cavani led CONMEBOL in scoring in the qualifying campaign. Photo courtesy of 

Image result for uruguay auf logo
The Uruguayan AUF crest. Photo courtesy of