CSM’s World Cup worldview: how will your nation fare?
There’s nothing quite like the World Cup. Each of us possess our own distinct set of tournament memories; mini vignettes that instantly transport us back to a moment in time. For some it will be the colour, the noise and who you were with. For others, the goals and the saves. Maybe you remember the injustices or the indignities. The supernovas and the one-hit wonders. Perhaps it’s the dark horses and fallen giants you recall. All of these threads woven together into the World Cup’s rich tapestry.
That, ultimately, is what makes it such a seductive affair, evoking that most basic human quality: emotion. At once, it’s the ultimate shared experience, transcending both borders and cultures. But it’s also a time for self-expression. A platform for a nation, its fans and its players to tell their story on the global stage.
In that spirit, we asked thirteen of our people – each representing a different nation competing this year – to give us their thoughts on what this tournament means to their country and how their team will fare in Qatar. Toggle left and right to hear what they had to say!
Emma Kodaka, Japan
The Samurai Blues face some difficult challenges ahead of this year’s World Cup – countless injuries and a tough group to play against – they face Germany as their first opponent, followed by Costa Rica and Spain.
However, I am hoping Japan can keep a positive mindset and focus on how much they have developed in the past few decades. The progression of football has increased drastically and many would argue it’s now the most popular sport in the country since the J League was formed in the early 90s. We are now seeing Japanese football stars being selected to play in top-tier Premier League teams which seemed unimaginable only 10 years ago.
Currently ranked 24th in the world, Japan is bringing a regenerated team of players to Qatar. Ganbare Nippon! (Go Japan!)
Raheem Sunmonu, England
High hopes for the Three Lions who reached the semi-finals of the 2018 World Cup and the final at Euro 2020. Will it be third time lucky for “waistcoat” and the boys?
My main man for the tournament is Raheem Sterling, and no, not just because we share the same name. In Qatar, he’ll join an illustrious list of England players to have competed at three world cups and he’ll be the most capped player in the squad. If his form for Chelsea is a worry, don’t fret… starboy Sterling always turns up on the big stage.
Southgate’s style of play is best defined as pragmatic. You know, the type that makes it painful to watch… that’s ruffled a few feathers given the breadth of attacking quality at England’s disposal. Fair to say, then, there were mixed feelings around the manager considering England’s poor run of form leading up to the tournament. But when that whistle blows, we’ll rally around him and the team. Let’s just hope for no penalty shootouts!
Catrien Scholten, Netherlands
The Orange Army is back! After missing the 2018 World Cup edition we have set high goals this year! The Netherlands won the European Championship in 1988 and reached the final of the World Cup in 1974, 1978 and 2010. No other country has been in a World Cup final so many times without ever winning the tournament…
Our head coach Louis Van Gaal is handed a third stint as manager. Thanks to the high-press, total football and the attacking style the Dutch are renowned for – Van Gaal’s team has registered a 15-game unbeaten streak. We have a strong squad this year – in better form than the majority of the other major nations.
Could we become World Champion, though? I don’t think so… but I always believe in my country and with the Orange Army standing beside them we can be proud. Luckily, we have already won another World Championship this year with Super Max Verstappen!
Joe Laing, Canada
For the first time in 36 years Canada will be at the Men’s FIFA World Cup. Yet Canada will be one of the few teams in Qatar not to have a new kit for the tournament. The slight, from Nike, led to players placing their hands over the swoosh when scoring in a recent friendly.
Back on the pitch, the Canadians have landed in a tough group with Belgium, Croatia and Morocco, so progression looks unlikely. However, Canada did top its qualifying group beating the US and Mexico (both of whom are ranked ahead of Morocco and only just behind the beaten finalists from Russia 2018, Croatia).
Led by the young guns of Bayern Munich’s Alphonso Davies and Lille’s Jonathan David there is some optimism in Canada. Bearing in mind the team failed to score a goal in Mexico 86, the ambition to become the most successful Canada team at a Men’s World Cup is surely well within reach…
Khalid Almulla, Saudi Arabia
Home crowd-ish?! We hope that this will provide the fuel we need to lead the greens to the knockout stages for a second time in our history. This is the 6th appearance for Saudi at the World Cup, which is the joint most World Cup appearances for an Arab country… as always, the main aim is to beat our best World Cup finish to date, which was the Round of 16 at USA 1994.
With this World Cup being held in a neighboring Gulf country, I would like to see that as an advantage that can help ups through a hard group. Our first game is against tournament favourites, Argentina, led by Leo Messi’s in his 5th world cup. It doesn’t get much tougher!
This World Cup feels different. So much has changed in the last couple of years, it is now time to show the world these developments and improvements. The greens have enjoyed global experiences with players training in La Liga and the Premier League in recent years. It is now time to shine on the biggest stage in sport. Best of luck to team KSA!
Oscar Villela, Mexico
It has been a rough couple of years for ‘El Tri’ under coach, Gerardo Martino. Doubts about their competitiveness have grown since the defeat against USA in the CONCACAF Nations League final in June last year. In theory, Mexico’s play makes for attractive football; they are a high-pressing team with aggressive forwards on the flanks. The main problem is their inability to play well for a whole game.
The notorious 5th game has eluded Mexico for decades now, making it to the Round of 16 in the past 6 World Cups, but ultimately progressing no further. With Argentina the clear favorite to win Group C, Mexico has its eyes on beating Robert Lewondowski’s Poland to advance and test their chances again in knockout stages. Though, as any German fan will point out, don’t rule out another big upset!
The team will be without one of its stars Jesus Corona, but will look to Hirving “Chucky” Lozano to cause problems, Raul Jimenez to provide goals, and Edson Alvarez to lead the midfield and keep Mexico in the game.
Samy Souid, France
The French National team impressed in the qualifying phase by finishing the campaign without a defeat, coming in six points ahead of Ukraine.
And with the likes of Paris Saint-Germain sensation Kylian Mbappe and Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema in the team, they have a real chance of defending their crown.
The Head Coach Didier Deschamps has been powerless against a wave of injuries and off-field scandals bedevilling the French Football Federation in recent months, but he has the players to build a competitive team. Even without Kante or Pogba, France possess perhaps the best squad in the world. They just need to respect their opponent and find the best combination.
Alex Rieben, USA
Looking to build upon our stellar performance in 2018, oh wait….
Missing out on the 2018 FIFA World Cup is only one of the many heartaches and frustrations U.S. Soccer fans have experienced over the years.
History aside, we are back and stronger than ever as the USMNT looks to make its triumphant return to the world’s biggest stage with our youngest team since 1990. After a qualification path that was not without its bumps, the question still remains if the youngsters have the composure to compete at the highest level. Only time will tell, but I, for one, believe.
And if our players fall short on the field, we can take solace in the fact that our coach Gregg Berhalter will surely have the best shoe game on the sidelines in addition to entertaining us with his variations of the bounce pass (if you know, you know).
Steffan Lloyd, Wales
It wasn’t long ago that Cymru were ranked below the Faroe Islands in the FIFA rankings. Critics dismissed us, saying we would never qualify for a major tournament. Thankfully we had Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey. Our form improved, and with that came confidence, and with confidence came belief. We’ve now qualified for three of the past four major tournaments including a semi-final appearance at Euro 2016 (you know, the one where Iceland beat England).
Since that run in 2016, Welsh football culture has changed. Players are desperate to play for the team. The anthem. The Red Wall. The bucket hats. The FAW have contributed too. They set out a vision for Welsh Football, harnessing Welsh culture with the use of the Welsh language and music. With the success of the team, we are now seeing unity and national pride in that Welsh language, whether you can speak it or not!
We’re a nation of 3.1 million in a golden era of football – ranked 19th in the world, and at our first World Cup since 1958. So excuse me if you see me in the office wearing a bucket hat.
Andreas Schrott, Germany
It will be definitely a special World Cup this year with the focus not just on the football. Normally everyone is very excited in Germany ahead of the World Cup and fans can’t wait for it to get started.
This time it’s quite different as some fans will boycott the World Cup, preferring not to watch it and supporting the team. Alongside that, the onset of winter means public viewings will not happen this time around, so the carnival atmosphere in the country will perhaps not be the same as at previous tournaments.
From a sporting perspective, though, expectations are high as always in Germany. We have a good team with a good mix of talented and experienced players. But, in my opinion, the quarter-final is the maximum. I’d say this World Cup is more a stopover on the way to EURO2024 in Germany.
Jack Wilson, Australia
Australia enters the World Cup with arguably the best name in World Football, The Socceroos. But gone are the glory days of Viduka, Kewell, Cahill and Schwarzer. Yet, we still boast talented players and the World Cup is the perfect showcase, contributing to the growth of the game in the country. Aaron Mooy and Mat Ryan are players with Premier League pedigree, but our main man will be Europa League winner Ajdin Hrustic at Eintracht Frankfurt. Hopefully we’ll also see our secret weapon in action, too. 18-year-old wonderkid Garang Kuol recently signed to Newcastle.
We’ve been drawn in a tough group against France, Denmark, and Tunisia. England fans will be hoping we do a job on France. If we win, we can stop them playing each other in the Quarter Finals. England vs Australia sounds better anyway!
Our advantage? We played in Qatar during the qualification phases, winning all five fixtures. We’re nothing if not optimistic about our chances. With the Women’s FIFA World Cup in Australia in 2023, it’s an important time for the sport. If the Socceroos fall short this year, the Matilda’s will make up for it!
Alexandre Almeida, Brazil
As a Brazilian fan, my expectations are always high at FIFA World Cups! Even higher after tough political times which almost highjacked the colours of our flag… politics aside, I expect the whole country to stop to watch each match again (I’ll miss those half-days off!) and, of course, see our creative football captivating the world. Despite amazing players being left out (Liverpool’s Firmino, Flamengo’s Gabigol), and the controversial inclusion of Dani Alves, I can’t wait to see Vini Jr, Richarlison, Gabriel Jesus and our Rexona ambassador Thiago Silva on the big screen.
In a quirk of fate, we nearly repeated our 2018 group stage, with Cameroon the only change for Costa Rica. Hopefully we can beat Serbia once again, and a win against Switzerland (after a 1-1 draw in 2018) would be welcome.
For me personally, this will be a different World Cup – having worked onsite in 2014 (Brazil) and 2018 (Russia), this will be the first time I’ll enjoy it as a pure fan in 10 years! And definitely the first time in a freezing winter! I don’t even know what to wear.
Iñigo Escrivá de Romaní Cano, Spain
Now that Spain is so politically divided, we needed a common cause. The whole country is finally united behind its hatred of Luis Enrique.
More than a national team, it looks like a nursery. Half of the team should be playing in the Under-21’s. If I had to talk about the 26 players, I would need to google 25 of them!
There is only one where I understand why he has been selected: Ferran Torres, the coach’s son-in-law. Given Enrique is spending a month away from home, why not take his daughter’s partner to keep an eye on him! With Morata as the starting striker we wouldn’t score a goal against a rainbow. We will probably be knocked out in the group stage.