A large contingent of Barcelona players will be at the prestigious tournament.
The World Cup is under a week away with the teams entering their final preparations while the fans reach pitch fever. This is a nervous time for players, though, because this is the worst possible time to pick up an injury. Argentina’s Manuel Lanzini is the most recent example of this after he suffered a ruptured knee ligament.
Barcelona are in the unique position of having a player in each group. Therefore, there are plenty of matches which are linked to the Catalans in some way as well as a number of individuals to root for.
Here’s a breakdown of which players are in the different groups:
Luis Suarez will be a key player for Uruguay in what should be an easy group. They are the clear favourites to top the group, with Egypt the team that’s likely to come second. Hosts Russia are also in the group while Saudi Arabia are the final member of the group.
Spain are the main nation in this group as well as one of the top teams in the tournament. Jordi Alba, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Andres Iniesta will all be heavily involved. This is a special tournament for Pique and Iniesta, in particular, because it will be their last international tournament and World Cup respectively.
This is a tough group because it also contains Euro 2016 winners Portugal. They have a number of talented stars such as Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes and Andre Silva as well as Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo. An exciting Morocco side have the potential to be one of the dark horses for the tournament, while Iran are well organised as well as being tough to break down. However, Spain should come top of this group, with the main battle being for second place.
This group contains the most important Barca player: Lionel Messi. He will be desperate to come away with World Cup glory after Argentina came up short in the last World Cup Final against Germany. This was followed by consecutive losses to Chile in Copa America finals. Messi even retired after becoming despondent following the last loss. However, he changed his mind and dragged La Albiceleste to the tournament with some amazing individual efforts. The hat-trick against Ecuador was the pick of the bunch.
Ivan Rakitic will also be playing in this group as part of the Croatian national team. They should be considered as a potential dark horse because they have one of the strongest midfields in the tournament as well as a good supporting cast in other positions. Rakitic, Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic are just some of the midfield options.
Argentina should come top of this group, with Croatia second. However, it’s likely to be tight because Iceland and Nigeria are no pushovers.
Brazil have two Barcelona players in their World Cup squad. Philippe Coutinho and Paulinho should both be starters for the tournament. Selecaocame top of South American qualifying in dominant fashion because they only lost one game, which was the opener against Chile. They scored 41 goals and conceded 11, with a 10 point gap on Uruguay in second. Tite became manager six games in, but the difference was noticeable with 10 wins from the 12 games under him.
The only game they have lost under him was a friendly against Argentina this time last year. He’s had a major influence through his ability to blend creativity and stability in a 4-3-3 system. They have flair which is a traditional part of Brazilian sides, but are also hard to break down. Paulinho is a key part of that through his ability to break up opposition play while also offering a late attacking threat.
Coutinho usually starts in a fluid front three alongside Neymar and Gabriel Jesus. They are a dynamic and innovative side that possesses individual quality in abundance, while also having a structure which ensures they are balanced.
Brazil will probably qualify with ease and will be confident of going all the way to make up for the embarrassment last time around. Serbia and Switzerland are likely to be fighting for second spot in this group. However, Costa Rica shouldn’t be underestimated because they finished top of the ‘Group of death’ in 2014.
This group has an interesting mix of teams with Germany being the favourites. Marc-Andre ter Stegen has been included in the squad, but is unlikely to start due to Joachim Low’s belief in Manuel Neuer. The 32-year-old has only just come back from injury, but he is first-choice. There is little more Ter Stegen could have done after an excellent individual season.
Die Mannschaft are one of the top teams in the tournament as they aim to defend their title. They have improved since the last World Cup even though key players such as Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger retired. Leroy Sane’s shock exclusion serves a remainder of their strength in depth as well as the maverick nature of Low.
Mexico could pose them major issues if they are able to hinder build-up through their intense high pressing style. However, Sweden and South Korea are unlikely to have enough to seriously challenge them. Germany should finish top of the group and really show their strength in the high pressure knockout rounds.
Thomas Vermaelen is the Barcelona representative in this group, although he’s unlikely to start. He is part of a talented Belgian side that has Jan Vertonghen, Toby Alderweireld and Vincent Kompany ahead of him in the pecking order. Belgium are one of the hardest sides to predict in terms of how well they will do. Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne are two fantastic attacking players, but the issue is whether Roberto Martinez can bring the best out of them without leaving the team exposed.
England, Panama and Tunisia make up the rest of the group. Therefore, it should be a relatively straightforward route into the Round of Sixteen. The last game against England is likely to serve as a battle for first place. That will be an entertaining game because both sides have ambitious set-ups. If Belgium can click together in their system then they could go really far, but they could also easily be flops.
This is the most open group out of them all because each side has a realistic chance of finishing top. Colombia are deserved favourites, but they can’t afford to underestimate any opponent. Yerry Mina could be partnering Tottenham’s Davinson Sanchez at the heart of La Tricolor‘s defence.
His spell with Barcelona hasn’t been the best so far due to difficulties adjusting to the style. The loss to Levante was the best example of this. However, he has a lot of potential and is a lot more comfortable in the national team set-up. Colombia are an exciting side with a heavy creative reliance on James Rodriguez. Radamel Falcao will be aiming to make an impact in his first World Cup after cruelly missing out on 2014 due to injury.
- Credit: everythingbarca.com