Road to Russia: The 2018 FIFA World Cup

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Señora Natalia Policano-Tomkiel shows her support for Argentina, despite the
struggles they faced in qualifying.
By Jason Choi and Larry Ding

The World Cup 2018 is just around the corner, and another edition of soccer’s biggest tournament will soon be taking place in Russia. Along with Russia, 31 other countries have qualified. Both disappointing and amazing qualifying campaign performances have been noticed by students and staff of Jericho High School.

Jericho student and staff opinions on the recent qualifying matches include comments on some disappointing performances. Spanish teacher Señora Natalia Policano-Tomkiel said, “I heard that Lionel Messi carried Argentina on his shoulders. I hope Argentina can get their act together and perform well.” Sophomore Cesar R. said, “Argentina was doing actually pretty bad this year. They tied against Venezuela and Peru, they lost against Brazil 3-0, and they lost against Bolivia. It was disappointing.”

Despite having poor performances, Argentina managed to qualify for next year’s World Cup.

With some final late drama in the last round of qualifiers in November, the final nine participants for the World Cup have been decided. The three final African teams to qualify from their groups were Senegal, Tunisia, and Morocco, who are back at the World Cup after lengthy absences. In Europe, Sweden beat highly favored Italy 1-0, Denmark crushed the Republic of Ireland 5-1, Croatia beat Greece 4-1, and Switzerland squeezed past Northern Ireland with as score of 1-0, the one goal being a controversial penalty kick. There were also two fiercely contested intercontinental playoffs. Australia eventually beat Honduras 3-1 on aggregate to secure their place. The other match-up between New Zealand and Peru finished with New Zealand losing 2-0 to Peru.

Many traditional powerhouses are missing out on the 2018 World Cup. The Netherlands, who placed second in the 2010 World Cup and third in the 2014 World Cup, will not be at next year’s tournament. They achieved third place in their group, missing both the automatic qualifying spot and playoff spot. Chile won the last two South American soccer tournaments (Copa America). Despite this achievement, they failed to get an automatic or playoff spot after they dropped to sixth in the South American standings. This happened on the final match day with a 3-0 loss to first place Brazil. The four-time World Cup winner Italy isn’t going after a loss to Sweden in the European playoffs and certainly needs to rebuild their squad for next time.

Despite being recent Gold Cup winners, the United States is not heading to the World Cup. An unlucky final match day with both Panama and Honduras winning their matches was followed by the US suffering a shocking defeat to Trinidad and Tobago. The US men’s national soccer team dropped to fifth and were eliminated altogether.

Policano-Tomkiel added, “I feel bad for the U.S. not qualifying, but I guess they weren’t really into it. Teams that work hard and really feel for it deserve their place in the World Cup.”

Junior Rahul D. said, “I’m very disappointed that the US did not make the World Cup. We need a new manager, and center backs need to improve. America must change their recruiting policy.”

Sophomore Matthew L. also expressed his disappointment.

“I support the United States. I’m really upset and shocked we didn’t make it. There were just too many good teams and too many good contenders,” he said.

There were also mixed opinions on what country would be the eventual winner.

Matthew L. said, “I think Belgium is a good contender because they have players like Eden Hazard, and I think that Argentina is also pretty strong, mostly just because they have Lionel Messi and they have a lot of strong players too.”

Rahul D. said, “I’m very impressed with Germany as their talented youth constantly produces at a high level. Spain has a great chance of winning, as they have another apparent golden generation.”

Not long after the qualifying phase, the eight groups of four for the 32 contenders have been made. Group A contains the host Russia along with Saudi Arabia, Uruguay, and Egypt. Group B contains Portugal, Spain, Iran, and Morocco. Group C contains Australia, France, Denmark, and Peru. Group D is comprised of Argentina, Nigeria, Croatia, and Iceland. Group E contains Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, and Serbia. Group F is made up of South Korea, Germany, Mexico, and Sweden. Group G contains England, Belgium, Panama, and Tunisia. Group H contains Columbia, Poland, Senegal, and Japan. The group stage looks set to be fierce as there are many tough groups and only two teams can qualify for the next round from each group.

Fans must wait until mid-July to know what country will become the new champions.

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