WORLD CUP COUNTDOWN

Jerry Bo: Beginner's guide to the 2018 World Cup in Russia

Messi has had a lot of club success; can he lift Argentina? Dennis Doyle/Getty Images

After four years of anxiously waiting for the most anticipated Sports event in the world, Russia takes center stage as the Host of the 21st edition of the World Cup.

32

The Number of countries that will compete for the most coveted prize in the soccer universe. One automatically qualified for serving as the host (Russia), the other 31 squads had to play through qualification to reach Russia. We will see 20 countries that were at the last tournament in Brazil 2014. We also welcome two first timers with Iceland and Panama making their first appearances.

64

The number of matches that are spread out over about a month's time consisting of a group stage, followed by knockout-stages. The top 2 teams from every group advance to the Round of 16.

12

The different number of venues that will entertain matches during this competition. Of the 12, Sochi, Luzhniki, and Yekaterinburg were fully renovated, while the other nine stadiums had to be built. It's reported that approximately $11.8 billion has been spent on hosting this World Cup.

11

Most of the cities involved in the tournament are just outside of European Russia or Western Russia. European Russia hosts 77% of the Country's population but only covers 25% of the entire territory. On this side, you can find Russia's two largest cities, Moscow and Saint Petersburg. The opening Match of Russia vs. Saudi Arabia will be played on June 14th at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. The Glamorous stadium seats 81,000 and will also be the setting for the Final match on July 15.

The Odds



Favorites

Brazil  +450

The co-favorites, Los Samba Boys, look to hold the FIFA World Cup Trophy for the sixth time. After a disappointing loss on home soil in the 2014 World Cup, the Brazilians look to bounce back, and their dreams start with the dynamic Neymar. The National No. 10, has been injured for the last couple of months but it's reported he will be ready by the start of the tournament. He has been shown practicing with the team already and him being the captain for Brazil's opening match looks very likely. Brazil torched the South American qualifiers, only losing one game leading up to Russia 2018. Look for the CONMEBOL giants be in the final four of this tournament.

Germany  +450

The Defending World Champions come into this competition with a surplus of talent and depth at every position.  Die Mannschaft was able to lift the confederations trophy with virtually a team of reserves, so we know what they bring to the table at full strength. Only two countries have ever been able to claim back to back World Cup Titles; Italy in the initial days of the tournament in 1934/38, and Brazil in 1958/62. Germany will once again be the team to beat, and the return of Manuel Neuer would be huge as he was named to the preliminary 27 man squad but is still injured.

Spain  +600

La Furia Roja come into this tournament as hot as any team and will be looking to repeat the magic of 2010. New Manager Julen Lopetegui has Spain playing more attacking football, and the results were 36 goals in the qualifiers while only conceding 3. Since taking over the national team, Lopetegui is undefeated with 13 wins, 5 draws, and an astounding +47 goal differential. Spain lacks a dangerous striker and will be relying on Diego Costa to work his wizardry. If they can find someone to give the attack pace, La Furia Roja could make a deep run in what will be Andres Iniesta's last run with the team.

France +700

A fan favorite,  Les Bleus arrive to Russia with as high hopes as any team in the field. Manager Didier Deschamps has the duty of taking his country to prominence once again, as they did in 1998 when he was a player on the national team. He would be only the third player of all time to win the World Cup as a player and a Manager. France has plenty of attacking options with the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba, and Kylian Mbappé to name a few. The problem for this team will be keeping opposing teams from scoring, a recurring problem France has had under Deschamps.

Argentina +900

Rounding out the favorites, we have another fan favorite with the Albicelestes sitting at 9-1 to win their third title. The South Amercian Giants are led by no other than the world's best player, Lionel Messi. Argentina hasn't won the World Cup since 1986, and that was behind the alchemy of Diego Armando Maradona. Many locals believe Messi will always sit in Maradona's shadow until Messi can win the FIFA World Cup. The National No. 10 is 30 years old now, and this might be his last tournament with Argentina. Look for veterans like Gonzalo Higuaín, Sergio Agüero, and Angel Di Maria to help carry this team into the late stages of the tournament.

This is part one of a few articles I will be putting together for the World Cup, stay tuned for more…

For any questions or comments reach me @JerryBoKnowz on Twitter.

 

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Should Watson be in the MVP conversation? Composite image by Jack Brame.

The 2020 NFL season has a lot going on. Even if we take the coronavirus out of it, there's still a lot to digest. There are so many great performances being put up, one can make an argument for several players to win league MVP. The quarterback position typically gets more credit than others. If I restrict the argument to quarterbacks only, we're looking at Russell Wilson, Patrick Mahomes, and Aaron Rodgers. Dalvin Cook, Alvin Kamara, and Derrick Henry are the leading contenders at running back. On defense, there really isn't a standout defender. The defense gets no love, but there are several guys in the running for NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

Deshaun Watson has been putting up numbers that have matched or rivaled some of the top MVP candidates over his last seven games. That stretch has coincided with the firing of head coach/general manager Bill O'Brien. Coincidence? I think not. Taking the reigns off a wild horse can often lead to said horse running free and flourishing! So question: Should Watson be getting league MVP considerations? I think so.

For starters, he's been one of the best players in the league over the course of the last seven games. 18 passing touchdowns and only two interceptions. The only quarterback with a better touchdown to interception ratio over that same span is Mahomes (19 and 2, as opposed to Watson's 18 & 2). Factoring in total season stats, of course Mahomes is doing much better. He's on a better team with a much better coach and general manager. The same could be said for Wilson and Rodgers. Put Watson on any of those teams and their records wouldn't be any worse than what they are now.

The Texans are 4-3 since firing O'Brien. While that isn't a great record, consider the fact they started the season 0-4 and looked like a total disaster. Watson looked like he was caged and couldn't wait to be freed. The team's record could be even better if the defense had a pulse. The proper supporting cast has a lot to do with a player's MVP candidate's chances. Now that one of his favorite weapons, Will Fuller, and the team's best corner, Bradley Roby, are both suspended for the rest of the season by the league for violating the substance abuse/PED policy, things will get much tougher for Watson.

If he continues to put up these cartoon like numbers, I don't see why he wouldn't be in the MVP conversation. He's currently fopurth in passing yards, sixth in completion percentage, tied for fifth in passing touchdowns, eighth in QBR, and third in quarterback rating. Watson is emerging as the star he was projected to be coming into the 2017 draft. I'm not saying Watson deserves to be the league MVP, but he deserves to be in the conversation. His MVP candidacy should be treated like the family gathering hierarchy: once you reach a certain age and/or status, you're no longer resigned to the kiddie table. Now you get to sit with all the adults, engage in their conversations, and gain access to things you couldn't previously. Watson won't win the MVP award, but I strongly believe he could finish top five. Especially if he keeps making lemonade with the lemons he's been given.

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