8 World Cup predictions from local soccer experts, including the Birmingham Legion

Legion Soccer
Legion Soccer
Photo of the American Outlaws section at the U.S. vs Haiti Women’s friendly 2015 at Legion Field

In just a few hours, the productivity of the entire world is about to decrease for an entire month. It is not because of war, famine or a breakdown in the global economic system.  Today, the 2018 FIFA World Cup Finals in Russia begins.

In preparation for this monumental global event, Bham Now asked local Birmingham area soccer experts to make their predictions and provide views about the competition.

But, before we begin, here is a short YouTube video by author and Indian Springs alum John Green on a 4 minute rundown on all 32 teams.

Also, if you are looking for a place to watch the games, Rojo, Good People Brewing and Brat Brot will be showing them on most days (visit their Soccer viewing FB page). If you are interested in holding a World Cup watch party contact Roald Hazelhoff at rhazelho@bsc.edu or 205-226-4934  who has the GeoDome on the BSC campus available. Contact him about terms and reservations.

Known as the Meyer Planetarium, the new GeoDome on the campus of Birmingham Southern College. For Architecture Works.

Now, to the predictions:

Morgan Copes – Birmingham Legion’s Director of Business Operations
Photo of Morgan Copes

Who will win: Belgium
Surprise team of the tournament: I don’t see too many surprises, but if I had to pick one, it would be Iceland.

Your thoughts about World Cup 2018:

England crash out against Germany on pens
Messi wins the golden boot
France do something terrible that allows Belgium to win in the semi final.
Lukaku from De Bruyne for the winner in the final.

Michael Valladares – Owner of Soccer Nation
Photo of Soccer Nation in Vestavia Hills by Pat Byington for Bham Now

Who will win: Brazil
Surprise team: Belgium

Your thoughts about World Cup 2018: At first, I had Germany winning it all, but after watching and analyzing the friendlies leading up to the World Cup, Brazil really outshines all others.

I still believe Germany will make it to the final, but they do not have the leadership they once had 4 years ago. They are missing the likes of Lahm, Schweinsteiger, and Klose, while Brazil is experiencing many players in their prime such as Neymar, Coutinho, Marcelo, and Firmino.

However, Belgium could surprise everyone. They have a stacked team and will most likely face Brazil in the Quarter-Finals. If they can pull off that victory, who’s to say they can’t take it all the way. All in all, this is a World Cup to watch!

Russell Richey – VP Adults, Alabama Soccer Association
Russell Richey

Who will win: I’m going with Argentina to win—yes, they have been snake-bitten a in recent major tournaments, but with Aguero and Messi, there will always be goals to be had and they are about due for some good fortune—at least they can’t lose in penalty kicks to Chile this time!

Surprise team: My surprise team would be Costa Rica—although to be fair, maybe not so much of a “surprise” anymore since they have proven they can hang at this level, and anytime you have a goalkeeper of Navas’ quality, it’s a good thing for staying alive in tournament play.

Your thoughts about World Cup 2018: Each World Cup takes on a “personality” as the tournament unfolds—there will be always be the archetypal themes/identities that define the teams, there will be surprises, improbable triumphs, indelible moments…I still remember big games and heros from WC 1982, WC 1986 and on through to Brazil 2014—can’t wait for the next chapter of this ongoing story!

Roald Hazelhoff – Director of Southern Environmental Center and local soccer fan

Who will win:Brazil
Surprise Team: Morocco

Your thoughts about World Cup 2018: The corruption within FIFA and Putin’s ruthless regime form a bleak backdrop for for this tournament. Let’s hope that despite this, enough examples of the beautiful game will emerge in the next few weeks to lift our hearts!

Chris Rogers – Homewood Soccer Club Recreational Soccer Director

Who will win: Germany will win repeat as world champions. Great mix of young talent as well as veteran leadership.

Surprise team: Spain will be the surprise of the tournament but not in a good way. Losing their manager the day before the competition starts will raise many questions that will hang over the squad. They’ll advance as runner’s up for the group but get bounced by Uruguay in round of 16.

Your thoughts about World Cup 2018: I think it’s going to be a very controversial tournament surrounded by politics ranging from Russia’s world stance on many issues, as well as the new implementation of the VAR system. I think a major blunder in regards to a call is going to occur and will overshadow some of the on field play.

I expect the usual favorites to coast through the group stages and no real Cinderella stories to take place. I also think that the cup will revert back to being a bit more defensive and the number of goals to drop to what it was in Germany 2006 (147) and South Africa 2010 (143). The last one being (171) was a blessing but I think defenses will rain supreme this cycle.

Additional predictions from local soccer experts:

Ballard Jones – President of the American Outlaws Birmingham Chapter (Official supporters of the U.S. National Teams)
American Outlaws at Good People Brewery

Who will win: Argentina. It is Lionel Messi’s time to win the World Cup. I t’s put up or shut up.
Surprise Team: England – because they are hilariously incompetent.

Joe Webb – Head Coach for Mountain Brook High School Varsity Boys Soccer Team

Who will win: Brazil over Argentina
Surprise Team: Predicts Germany will beat Portugal in the third place game

Katie Henricks- Coach at Homemwood Soccer Club

Who will win: Brazil
Surprise team: Egypt/Nigeria

Who do you think is going to win?  Who will surprise everyone?

Author: Pat Byington

Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.