Posts tagged Spain
FIFA World Cup Round of 16 preview: Spain-Russia and Croatia-Denmark
Source: Paul White/AP Photo

Source: Paul White/AP Photo

Spain v. Russia

La Roja against the hosts of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Russia has played in several of the most entertainment matches in what's been the most exciting tournament in years. On the other side, Spain thrilled us with the 3-3 tie against Portugal in their opener, finishing atop their group to set the stage for Sunday.

Spain captain Sergio Ramos has spoken on the improvements his club has to make in the knockout stage, sentiments that were echoed by his teammates. Thiago Alcantara spoke on several issues the team got wrong and how they will need to correct their faults as the competition gets fierce and the stage becomes win-or-go-home.

Spain was able to maintain an average of over 70 percent of possession in their three group stage matches, yet only managed one victory. There is context behind that statistic, but Spain has shown that they can manage the ball and make a record-breaking number of passes but not create much fear or danger with the ball. Spain has lacked some penetration, creativity, and a playmaker on their XI, making La Roja not much of a threat with the ball.

Russia bulldozed its way through their first two matches, appearing like somewhat of a dark horse team before crashing down to Earth against Uruguay. Russia was completely outmatched. Their midfield just wasn't impressive, and they were hardly able to generate any fear in their South American opponents. The Russians only generated three shots in the entire game. They did play with 10 men for a majority of the game, but by this point were already down 2-0.

The host country will have the benefit of playing behind its fans, but will likely be looking for a counter against Spain considering their opponent’s style of play. Russia will have to capitalize on the mistakes Spain creates, like the miscommunication between Sergio Ramos and Andres Iniesta in their game against Morocco.


Spain 2 - 0 Russia

Source: Reuters

Source: Reuters

Croatia v. Denmark

Two national teams that have yet to suffer defeat in the 2018 tournament. Croatia has won all three of its games, including a masterful performance against Argentina, while Denmark managed to beat Peru in its opener, before tying against one against a potential favorite to win the tournament, France.

Before the tournament began, Croatia had one of the best midfields to play in this tournament, and those players have lived up to the billing. Luka Modric has been phenomenal for his national team just as he has been for Real Madrid. Ivan Rakitic has been great as well in this tournament, and for Croatia to go far, they both have to be better than their counterparts. Mario Mandzukic was a workhorse in the Argentina match, continuously pressuring the defense, looking for open spaces. Croatia have been able to create several chances in all three of their matches, and they have a chance to go far in the tournament.

Denmark has struggled with possession in all three of their matches so far in the tournament, a trend that will likely continue Sunday. However, in a one-game scenario it's all about scoring on the moments you are able to create. Croatia is not a far and away favorite in this game, but even with Denmark having the talents of Christian Eriksen and Thomas Delaney, Croatia will still command the better midfield.

Eriksen, who plays for Tottenham, has praised Modric, who had a positive spell with the club before joining Real Madrid. He is now an experienced player himself, with the ability to create moments of brilliance just like Modric and Rakitic. He scored an incredible goal against Australia and while he should not be relied on to score, his playmaking will be crucial for Denmark's success.


Croatia 2 - 1 Denmark

The Counter Press EP 16

The Counter Press boys recap what's been a wacky second round of games and preview all the scenarios which could happen in the final matchday. They also rant about Argentina and even jump into the GOAT debate.

Follow Josh: @highbiscuits
Follow Vijay: @VJVemu


The Counter Press World Cup preview
2018 FIFA World Cup Preview: Group B
Paul White/AP Photo

Paul White/AP Photo

Portugal and Spain will likely be in a two-horse race for first place in the group, and will also likely be the two teams to advance to the knockout phase. However, Portugal does not have the same well-balanced roster than their neighbors Spain have, and Spain suffered a humiliating collapse in the 2014 tournament after their golden-age players captured the title in 2010.

Let’s take a look at the for each team in Group B, and review their chances of advancing from the group stage and what they can do in the knockout phase.

Group A preview
Group C preview
Group D preview
Group E preview
Group F preview
Group G preview
Group H preview


Iran will be in their second consecutive World Cup after going through a period of missing the tournament and qualifying for it in the previous four World Cups. Iran has only lost two matches since June 4, 2018, but will have difficulty facing Spain in the second match of the group phase. Sardar Azmoun will be the player to focus on for Iran. Although only 23, he has established himself as a capable scorer for the national team; he has netted 23 times in 32 appearances for Iran. Iran will likely need a tie against Portugal along with a win against Morocco to advance to the knockout phase.


Morocco will be playing in their fifth World Cup ever, and they are captained by Juventus defender Medhi Benatia. Like Iran, Morocco has a key player who will be a cornerstone for the national team’s future, Real Madrid defender Achraf Hakimi. Expectations for the national team will be to advance to the knockout phase, but they will have to face off against Iran in their opener. Lose against Iran and their possibilities of advancing likely reach zero, but win big against Iran, and you give yourself a chance against the two heavy favorites to advance.


The 2016 European Champions will look to win their first ever World Cup as this is likely the last chance we will see Cristiano at the peak of his powers in the tournament. The spotlight will be on Ronaldo, as it should, he is Portugal’s most capped player, their leading goal scorer, was the captain of the championship squad of the 2016 Euro, and has won four of the last five UEFA Champions League with Real Madrid, just to list a few of his accomplishments.

The roster is missing several key players from the 2-16 Euro Final, including Nani, Renato Sanches, and Eder. This Portugal squad will be reliant on several young players who are proving themselves for their respective clubs, including Andre Silva and Bernardo Silva (no relation). For this team to challenge Spain and finish top of the group, the attacking players will have to find a way to take advantage of the increased attention Ronaldo will draw, and the defense led by Pepe will have to hold similar to the Euro 2016 only conceded one goal in the knockout phase and held France scoreless in the final.


The Spain national team has the third best odds to win the tournament, according to Bovada. The squad maintains several players from their golden-age generation, including captain Sergio Ramos, his centre-back partner and club rival Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, and 2010 World Cup legend, Andres Iniesta. Manchester City midfielder, David Silva, was also an important part of the roster, but was not as integral as the other four in 2010.

When comparing Spain to several teams in the tournament, you can argue it has an embarrassment of riches. Spain left out Cesc Fabregas, Marc Bartra, Pedro, and Alvaro Morata from the 2018 World Cup roster, players who would be perhaps captains of several teams in the tournament. However, La Roja has been underwhelming in its last two major tournaments, the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the Euro 2016. Since the the Euro 2016, Spain has not suffered defeat, and is also coming off a massive 6-1 victory over Argentina, albeit without Messi.

The starting defense for Spain is almost set, but Carvajal’s hamstring injury will be something to monitor considering they face Portugal in their first match. Marco Asensio and Thiago Alcantara will likely both feature in the tournament as substitutes for an aging Iniesta and other midfielders in the starting eleven. The squad will be favored to finish atop the group, but should learn from its previous mistakes and be prepared for the challenges the other teams offer.

Prediction: Spain, Portugal, Iran, Morocco

What we learned from the international break
Getty Images

Getty Images

Another game of Osorio experiments, another night of debate. Mexico manager Juan Carlos Osorio has garnered a reputation for continuing to experiment with his formations and rotations.

Credit should be given to Osorio for giving time to Mexico’s youth players, and allowing said players to demonstrate why they should have a place on the World Cup roster. However, Omar Govea and Jorge Hernandez disappointed the Mexican fans with their display against Croatia. Much of the same can be said about Rodolfo Pizarro, but he was less to blame as Pizarro was unable to achieve much possession of the ball with the lack of passes he received from the midfield. Hugo Ayala, a more experienced and older player, also had a night to forget.

Early reports indicate Nestor Araujo and Carlos Salcedo will be available for El Tri come June but nothing is guaranteed when it comes to player health. Diego Reyes also suffered an injury, and Mexico was missing the Dos Santos brothers, Jurgen Damm, Hector Herrera, and Jesus Corona in the second match. Injuries aside, the Mexican media and El Tri fans will continue to question Osorio’s tactics and how competitive this side can be against the strongest teams in the World Cup.



Brazil looks to be back as a contender in International football. The Selecao hosted the 2014 tournament, and was considered by many to be a favorite to win on its home turf. Brazil was then humiliated in a 7-1 beating by the eventual champion, Germany, in the semi-final. Germany exposed many of Brazil’s flaws, and demonstrated why the side was arguably a step below the current champion.

Brazil now looks set to be in serious contention for the crown as they sport an experienced squad, and beat a German team, who was lacking several key players, but was looking as good as they have in recent memory. Lacking Neymar, which has Brazil fans in serious worry, the team appeared to have several different ways to be a threat, either with Willian and Gabriel Jesus in the attack, Coutinho and Paulinho in the midfield, or players like Marcelo moving along the wings. Germany should be strongly considered to repeat. The Germans have the deepest team in the tournament, but Brazil displayed not only to its opponent but to the other national teams why they should be frightened of the Selecao again.



Spain is another team looking to rebound from a disappointing 2014 display. After winning the 2010 FIFA World Cup and having one of the best runs in international football history, Spain suffered an embarrassing 2014 campaign. The Spain side was eliminated in the group stage, and spelled an end to the Del Bosque era. The team maintains several players from the previous two tournaments, including captain Sergio Ramos and Andres Iniesta who were both in action tonight.

The Spanish team has quietly had an undefeated streak, not having had a loss on their column since they were eliminated by Italy in the 2016 Euro tournament. Spain is not the team they were in 2010, when Xavi, Xabi Alonso, Sergio Busquets, and Andres Iniesta were playing at one of the highest levels we have ever witnessed, but this Spain team should start to receive consideration as a dark horse contender for the tournament.

Spain has an experienced defense, some of the best passers in the midfield, and Diego Costa can have several opportunities to score as the 9 for this team. Isco will be important for the club as he will need to have moments of stardom when Spain’s offense can be stagnant. As for Argentina, they were lacking in several starters, but the team is lacking in much creativity outside of its star, Lionel Messi. Spain was able to generate double the amount of shots on target as the Albiceleste. Messi led Argentina to the final in 2014, and it seems he will have to carry much of the same burden again as the side clearly lacks to be threat for the trophy without its star.

Belgium and France are the other two squads who had notable games in the international break. Belgium only played one game, and it was against Saudi Arabia but the Belgians lived up to their billing. The Belgium team has several players who strike fear in an opposing manager as they will struggle to contain Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Dries Mertens, and Kevin De Bruyne.

The is arguably Belgium’s most talented squad, although they did finish in fourth place in the 1986 tournament, but if this would be their best chance since to reach the semi-finals once more. France had an intriguing two matches, as it lost to Colombia 3-2, in a match were they demonstrated their class as they were leading by two, and then beat the 2018 host, Russia, 3-1.

The French squad will feature players who will have important parts to play in this summer’s tournament as well as the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Kylian Mbappe scored twice for France this international break, and Paul Pogba also showed his class with a brilliant goal from a free-kick. France has several players who can have a moment of brilliance during a game as Griezmann, Pogba, and Mbappe did in the past two matches and that alone can take you far in a tournament that features a one-game knockout round.

For the 2018 FIFA World Cup we have several of the usual suspects as favorites for the tournament, and a few teams looking to play to the best of their ability for one month to compete with the favorites. With 78 days ‘til the tournament kicks off, team health will be of utmost importance as well as chemistry the international sides show as the tournament looms closer.

Early contenders to win the World Cup

100 Days. The wait for the next FIFA World Cup is ending. While the United States failed to make the tournament for the first time since the Reagan administration, the sports’ popularity in the country continues to grow. Although the tournament offers one game elimination matches in the knockout phase, we know which teams are considered the favorites for the tournament. Let’s take a look at how each contender fares. (Alphabetical Order)

  Fernando Vergara/AP

 Fernando Vergara/AP


They were viewed as one of the two favorites heading into the tournament in 2014, according to Skybet, and are listed at fifth by the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook for the 2018 tournament at 8-1 odds. Headed by Lionel Messi, still at the peak of his powers, and surrounded by Sergio Aguero, who is rejuvenated under Pep Guardiola at Manchester City, the rising Mauro Icardi, veterans Angel Di Maria and Javier Mascherano, the country should have belief in their squad. However, they have only won two games in their qualifying matches since 2017, and recently suffered a loss to Nigeria. Coach Jorge Sampaoli will be on the hot seat, and Messi’s National Team legacy will also be on the line as he looks to capture his first major trophy with Argentina.

  Pedro Vilela/Getty

 Pedro Vilela/Getty


The Selecao are listed at second in the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook to win it all and deservedly so. They are looking to add to their already record-leading 5 World Cup titles. Led by Neymar, the team looks to rebound from a disastrous exit from the 2014 tournament as they were trashed 7-1 by the eventual champions, Germany. The midfield of Brazil has changed dramatically since the last tournament with the addition of La Liga stars Casemiro and Coutinho to the starting line-up and the maturation of players like Paulinho and Willian. Having easily qualified to the tournament, Brazil will wish for the health of their star players as the club seasons begin their last months of action.


Manager Didier Deschamps seeks to bring the World Cup trophy to France for the first time since 1998 when he captained the French National Team to victory. Les Bleus will boast one of the youngest rosters coming into the tournament as they are led by a combination of stars including Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann, Corentin Tolisso, Kylian Mbappe, Thomas Lemar, and Raphael Varane. Griezmann, the oldest of that group, is one of the best players in all of Europe, and if the team seeks to go far in the tournament, they will have to rely on his production heading the attack, along with Pogba leading the midfield, and Varane commanding the defense. This roster will be competitive in this 2018’s tournament and the 2022 tournament led by this young core.




Still the favorites and looking to become the first country to repeat since the 1930’s Italy teams. Germany is arguably the most successful country in World Cup history with eight finals reached, and they appear to be the team to beat in 2018 as well. The 2014 World Cup Champions are the deepest team in the tournament, and have not suffered a defeat since the 2016 Euro semi-final to France. The won the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup with a roster largely consisting of youth players. The 2018 Germany team will maintain many of its players from its previous World Cup campaign with Thomas Muller, Toni Kroos, Mesut Ozil, and Mat Hummels likely maintaining prominent positions in this year’s team. Muller will seek to continue his way up the ladder to becoming the tournament’s all-time top goal scorer, as he has scored 10 goals in only 13 appearances. The German squad  will likely include several young stand-out players such as, Joshua Kimmich, Leroy Sane, and Timo Werner. The previous World Cup roster had to casualties due to injury in Ilkay Gundogan, who is beginning to play some of his best football since the nagging injuries he suffered over the previous years, and Marco Reus, who is a dangerous player on the wing. Germany will face several challenges in the tournament, but this team is best equipped to handle the rigors of the tournament as the deepest team of 2018.


Following the retirement of Vicente Del Bosque, the tiki-taka style Spain played the past 10 years has officially ended. The team still maintains several players from that era including Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets in the midfield. Spain’s starting XI and the majority of the roster who will travel to Russia will be of Barcelona and Real Madrid. The 2010 Champions failed to qualify to the knockout phase of the 2014 tournament in disappointing fashion. They will seek to bounce back relying on the creativity of Isco and the veteran leadership of Sergio Ramos and David Silva. The tournament will be interesting for Spain as the country’s politics has divided several players on the roster who seek independence for Catalonia. Regardless, this is a roster consisting of players who are tremendous with the ball, and will likely be the farewell tournament for the remaining players from the 2010 Championship roster.