Euro 2016 hooliganism and the 2018 World Cup

Before the 2012 European Championship co-hosted by Ukraine and Poland, it was widely speculated that the quadrennial extravaganza would be marred by violence, hooliganism and racism owing to the fact that such disturbances continuously mar Eastern European football.

No such fears were expressed as France prepared to host the 2016 European Championship. However, the tournament has been shockingly used as an excuse by supporters of various teams to express their grievances and, at times, with absolute no reason other than to create a ruckus.

From the initial investigations it has come to light that Russian supporters have been the worst perpetrators. Their unwarranted and indiscriminate charging towards the England supporters during their opening game led to some horrific consequences as many of the Three Lions fans were grievously injured.

The havoc created by the Russian supporters led to UEFA handing them a suspended ban, meaning that any further violence from the Russian fans inside the stadiums will lead to their immediate disqualification from the tournament. It was perhaps the threat of expulsion which saw Russia’s second group game against Slovakia being played without any major mishap, even though the Russians finished on the losing side.

Nevertheless, what has been the most disturbing part of this whole situation is some of the comments that have come out from people in responsible positions in Russian football and politics.

Igor Lebedev, a member of the Russian Football Union executive committee and an MP of the Liberal Democratic party in Russia saw nothing wrong in the behaviour of the Russian hooligans, and quite despicably, even went on to praise them for their act.

“I don’t see anything wrong with the fans fighting. Quite the opposite, well done lads, keep it up!”, Lebedev said.

“I don’t understand those politicians and officials who are criticising our fans. We should defend them, and then we can sort it out when they come home.

“What happened in Marseille and in other French towns is not the fault of fans, but about the inability of police to organise this kind of event properly.

“Our fans are far from the worst; it’s unclear why a lot of media are trying to say our fans’ actions were shameful. You should be objective. If there had been no provocation from English fans, it’s unlikely our fans would have got into fights in the stands”, he concluded.

Another Russian official went on to say that the French officials have become soft only handling LGBT pride parades and have no idea how to handle real men.

These happenings at the Euro 2016 will again bring the focus back on awarding the 2018 World Cup to Russia. There has been widespread belief that it was a mistake to award football’s prestigious event to a country that has questionable human rights record and is continuously maligned for the way they treat their minorities.

Hooliganism and even racism in Russian stadiums have been far too common than other countries and it will be interesting to see if the authorities take any special measures to see that racist chanting, which led to CSKA Moscow playing a recent European fixture against Manchester City behind closed doors, do not take place.

However, with the way things are going and the fact that hooliganism from the Russian supporters appears to have state patronage, the clamour to shift the 2018 World Cup elsewhere is only going to get louder.

Will FIFA strip the hosting rights for the 2018 World Cup from Russia? Only time will tell.

Who will win World Cup 2018?

WorldCup2018logo

Who will win the FIFA World Cup 2018?

There have only ever been 8 winners of the World Cup – Uruguay (twice), Italy (four times), England (once), Brazil (five times), Spain (once), France (once), Germany (four times) and Argentina (twice).

It is hard to imagine any other team being strong enough to win the tournament. Holland did well in World Cup 2010 and 2014 reaching the Final and the Semi-Final respectively but they have done poorly in Euro 2016 qualification. Chile although they won the Copa America, it took them 99 years to do so and it was being at home which helped them.

Similarly Asian Competitors such as Japan, Australia and South Korea do not look like they have the depth to win. African competitors with the exception of Algeria, did poorly in World Cup 2014.

USA and Mexico did not get that far and so we are left with the big boys. The previous winners.

Eliminating some of the previous winners

Of the previous winners, we cannot be too sure about Italy. They were knocked out of the Group phase in both World Cups 2010 and 2014. They do not look like they have the firepower and with the retirement of Pirlo, the creative engine to get them to the latter stages.

And they did have a great Euro 2016. However, their manager at that tournament, the superb Antonio Conte has left leaving behind his replacement who does not have the same connection with the excellent but also ageing Juventus contingent, especially their defence.

England were also knocked out of the Group Phase in World Cup 2014 and were destroyed by Germany in 2010. They have a younger team but with the exception of Wayne Rooney, few world class talents. And had a disastrous Euro 2016 tournament losing incredibly to Iceland in the Round of 16. This was despite their attractive Euro 2016 qualifier situation with 10 out of 10 victories. They have now had two bad tournaments, the worst in their history.

Uruguay are not really a force to be reckoned with as Colombia proved during the defeat of them at the World Cup 2014. They of course have Cavani and Suarez is finally back. But, they had a disappointing Copa America Centernario in the USA, not even reaching the quarter finals.  There are still some question marks but even reaching the Final of World Cup 2018 must be beyond them.

And Spain. Theoretically they have the best team in the world. World class players in just about every position and they don’t even need to play with a striker. The issue is that Vicente Del Bosque and whoever replaces him is struggling with the set up. After a good start in Euro 2016, it all came undone against Croatia and whilst they had a great performance, they were eliminated at the Round of 16 stage. Still some amazing players including some new strikers. But there are doubts. And two consecutive tournament disasters. Anything but a victory for them has to be seen as a disaster.

Looking at the line up of France for Euro 2016, they have a strong team and they may even win that tournament. However as we saw at World Cup 2014 once they come up against the very best, they don’t quite have enough. And Paul Pogba is no Zidane. A playmaker like Platini. They did reach the Final of Euro 2016. But if Germany had had a proper striker, surely France would have lost that game. They also had a very lucky penalty given to them. In the Final, it seemed as if the pressure was too much for them with the young players not able to take control of the game.

I would love to say Spain will win once more. But it may need a new Manager. Pep Guardiola for Spain? Then they are a certainty to win! But he has joined Manchester City and so that is unlikely.

Other Winners

After winning Euro 2016, Portugal must now be seen as serious contenders. With Ronaldo most likely still playing and also some great performances from Eder scorer of the winner in the Final. And also the World Class Pepe – winner of the Champions League with Ronaldo and a good team around him, it is possible. Portugal proved that they can hang with the big teams. With this victory also, they now have proved that they can win the big tournaments. This could propel them to victory at World Cup 2018.

Similarly, Chile have also proved this with the Copa America. Not once but twice in both 2015 and 2016, they won the trophy they had been waiting 99 years for. They can win the big trophies against World Class opposition. With some high quality players from Vidal, Sanchez and others, you cannot rule them out of making the last four in Russia, if not the Final itself.

Other teams with a shot include Colombia who had an excellent World Cup 2014 in particular with James Rodriguez. They were in fact unlucky to lose to Brazil in the quarterfinals. Colombia also reached the semi-finals of the Copa America Centenario before losing 2-0 to the eventual winners Chile. Not a bad performance by Colombia to get that far.

Other Teams at the World Cup

The USA also reached the semi-finals of the Copa America Centenario which was surely unexpected. They could, potentially with a new manager, go further than they did at World Cup 2014. Holland have had a great last two World Cup tournaments – including 3rd place at the World Cup 2014 and second place or the Final of World Cup 2010. However, they did not even qualify for Euro 2016, despite that tournament having 24 teams up from 16 in the previous tournament. Was that a one off or is there a lack of quality now that Robben and company are starting to leave the team.

Belgium were No.1 in the world for a long time in 2015. They were seen as one of the favorites to win Euro 2016. Unbelievably and despite being 1-0 up, they lost the Euro 2016 quarter final to Wales. And their World Cup in 2014 was disappointing, petering out to a tame loss to Argentina. So I am not sure just how likely they are to reach the Final of World Cup 2018, despite having such amazing talent throughout their team.

Russia could end up being one of the most disappointing host teams of any World Cup. Really disappointing Euro 2016 performance and they have not really sparkled at recent World Cups either. Their strategy of naturalization of foreign players is also causing some concern that there isn’t sufficient quality of home-grown players to make Russia genuine World Cup Title contenders.

Australia have been getting stronger in recent times since joining the Asian Football Association. But Asian teams at World Cup 2014 did really poorly with Japan and South Korea alongside Australia all coming bottom of their respective Brazil World Cup Groups. That is not a promising sign for the future. However on a more positive note, Australia did go on to win the Asian Cup in 2015 which they hosted. So maybe their new manager will have them ready to take Russia by storm. Maybe Asian teams might do better in 2018.

The Real Winners

So, we are left with the final potential winners. Argentina, Germany and Brazil.

Brazil are probably not there yet. Brazil did not even make it out of their Copa America Centenario Group. That is shocking and led to the Federation sacking Dunga their Coach. That is actually a great advantage for them. Whilst still having players such as Neymar, David Silva and Willian amongst others they do have the backbone of a good side. But they still need to exorcise the 7-1 defeat against Germany from World Cup 2014.

So that leads to the final two. Argentina.

This is now looking uncertain. After losing on a penalty shoot-out in the Final of the Copa America Centenario to Chile in 2016, Messi announced his retirement from international football. Surely he will reconsider this after Ronaldo won with Portugal in Euro 2016?

But nevertheless, Argentina have such quality from Mascherano, Aguero, Higuain, Lavezzi and more that surely they are one of the hot favorites?

and Germany.Whilst Germany did disappoint in Euro 2016, they still played well and once more reached the semi-final. And indeed if they can resolve their issue with finding a striker to replace Miroslav Klose, then they cannot be beaten. World class players from Neuer to Ozil to Thomas Mueller.

We predict the Final will be Germany v Argentina once more with the winners being Germany!

If you read the comments of Joachim Low, his focus is not on Euro 2016 but solely on World Cup 2018. He has what it takes and as long as he can avoid the issues which previous winners have had – neither World Champions Italy nor Spain in 2010 and 2014 left their Groups, he can do it again. With a production line of talent and players such as Marco Reus raring to go, he has the potential to be a two time World Champion.

The Odds Makers

The bookmaking companies place Germany as the favorites to win with Argentina in second place. Brazil and France are very closely behind, some of them having these three teams at around the same odds. Spain are in the next batch with Italy quite far behind at 14/1. Portugal are ranked outside favorites at 25/1 despite their Euro 2016 victory.

Predicted Winner of the FIFA World Cup 2018: Germany

Who do you think will win World Cup 2018? Post your comments below.

And if you click on the names of the countries in this article, you will be taken to an article which goes through the World Cup 2018 prospects of each of those teams in more detail.

In the meantime, please follow the Destination Soccer World Cup 2018 Coverage here.