2018 World Cup primer: Who’s advancing, and better yet, who’s winning?

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(Lars Baron - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

OK, I know what you’re thinking.

Sure, the US men’s national team won’t participate in FIFA’s quadrennial celebration of sport for the first time in over a generation and a half; you can step away from the ledge right now. There are no Revolution players in any of the squad listings (that’s not exactly a bad thing here, unless you really want to debate club v. country with me).

But that doesn’t mean you should avoid the World Cup, which starts at 11 a.m. today (Russia vs. Saudia Arabia, FOX) and runs until the Final on Sunday, July 15, in Russia. I can assure you that Boston — which has supporters groups for Arsenal (the Boston Gooners), Manchester United, and Liverpool (hell, Liverpool is owned by Red Sox owner John W. Henry), all of whom have players in national squads — will be watching.

And yes, so should you.


In order to entice you further, here’s a light breakdown of the groups, with BSJ quickie analysis and insight:


Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uruguay

Uruguay should be the favorites to win the group, but don’t count out the Pharaohs. Mohammed Salah, England’s Golden Boot winner from this recently-concluded season, found himself the victim of a horrendous Sergio Ramos take-down during the Champions League Final on May 26. On Twitter Tuesday, I saw that he is still "mending," even though he had said that he should be good to go. We'll see. I don’t expect Saudi Arabia or Russia to do much. Russia hasn’t been out of a World Cup group stage since 1986, and with most of its players playing domestically (it feels like it’s the Zenit-St. Petersberg All-Star team), I’m predicting the same thing for both teams that kick off the tournament in Moscow—and please, don’t judge the tournament on its opening match. I’m also predicting that Luis Suarez keeps his fangs to himself… at least in the group stages.

Match to watch: Egypt v. Uruguay, Friday, June 15

Sweens' advancing teams: Egypt, Uruguay


Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Iran