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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RAVENS 33, TEXANS 16

5 observations from the Ravens win over the Texans

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Let's be honest; the Texans were not going to beat the Ravens. Baltimore has better players, a better quarterback and a better coaching staff. (And oh, a better kicker). All of that was on display in the Ravens' 33-16 win.

The Ravens move to 2-0, while the Texans dropped to 0-2 after facing the AFC's two best teams.

The Texans will still likely contend for a playoff spot, but nothing the last two weeks indicates they are anywhere near contending in the AFC. A look at five things from the Ravens win:

1) Oh, Brien...It did not take long for Bill O'Brien's goofy coaching to rear its ugly head. Down 3-0 at their own 34 as the first quarter was running out, O'Brien chose to go for it on fourth and one. The play was predictably blown up, the Ravens quickly scored to make it 10-0, and the Texans were instantly in a hole against a superior opponent. You can't give points away against the Ravens. They might have scored anyway with a punt, but there was no stopping them with a short field.

2) Some positives on defense. Despite the score, The Texans looked much better on that side of the ball against an explosive offense. J.J. Watt had two sacks, the team had four total, and they kept Lamar Jackson from destroying them. Seven of the points were scored by the Ravens defense, and O'Brien's gaffe led to seven more. The Ravens wore them down in the fourth quarter, but they played well enough until then to keep the team in the game had the offense been better. They did not force any turnovers, however, and that was one of the differences in the game. They were also blown off the ball on a fourth and one in the fourth quarter that led to the Ravens' 30th points and could not stop the run at all in the fourth quarter. But that's what the Ravens do with a lead, and the Texans offense gave them no breaks by being unable to stay on the field.

3) The difference between real contenders...The Ravens were just so much more skilled on both sides of the ball. Defensively, they focused on taking away the run. David Johnson averaged 3.1 yards per carry. Will Fuller had as many catches as you did. The Ravens forced two turnovers on just really good football plays. The Texans don't make plays like that. They might against lesser teams, but if your goal is to compete with the best, it's just not good enough.

4) Deshaun Watson needs to be better. His numbers looked so so on the surface (25 of 36, 275 yards, 1 TD, 1 interception). He was sacked four times and added 17 rushing yards on five carries. He did not make plays late when they needed one here or there to maybe get back in the game. With his big contract, it's time for Watson to stop being close to elite and take the next step. His interception was more of being fooled by Marcus Peters than throwing a bad ball, but the Texans were just 3 of 9 on third downs. Throw in the ill-advised fourth down play, and they were just 3 of 10 extending drives. Give the Ravens a lot of credit, but again, to compete with the best, you have to be better than that.

5) Now what? The Texans travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers, who have not been impressive in their two wins. Still, it's hard to see Houston as anything but serious underdogs. They are last in the AFC South, and have a lot of work to do. The defense showed some promise at times, but will have to continue to improve. The offense has a long way to go. They match up better with the Steelers than they do the Ravens and Chiefs, but that does not mean they can win. If you were hoping they would give you some indication they can be more than just also-rans, they failed to do that on any level against either the Chiefs or Ravens.

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