Now that the European Championships are over and everyone has recovered from the hangover,while the analysis of the whole tournament were made,the eyes of the football world are setting towards the FIFA World Cup in Russia in 2018,but most notably the qualifiers where 53 national teams of Europe will battle for 13 spots in the World Cup.While some predict the usual teams will qualify like Germany,Spain,Italy,France and England,but on the focus will be the debutants of this year’s Euros.The UEFA Euro 2016 in France featured five debutants:Wales,Northern Ireland,Albania,Slovakia and Iceland.While Albania was eliminated after two defeats besides that they made history when they won its final group match against Romania,Slovakia was eliminated in the 2nd round by Germany,the same can be said for Northern Ireland which was eliminated in the 2nd round by another debutant-Wales which made to the semifinal of the tournament while the most biggest story of the Euros in France-Iceland which shocked England in the 2nd round reached the quarterfinals where the hosts of the tournament defeated them.Without any special introductions here are the teams and my predictions:
Of all debutants in the Euros in France,Albania has the most toughest qualification group for the World Cup in Russia.In fact an actual miracle has to happen since it is placed with two former World Cup champions Spain and Italy in the qualifying group since both teams are favored to fight for the automatic spot,but one of those two will end up in the playoff round.In this case the chances of Albania making the World Cup in Russia are very slim besides other teams in the group are neighboring Macedonia,Israel and Liechtenstein.But the Euros showed how hard time will both Italy and Spain have when they will play against Albania.
Kristian’s prediction:Albania will not make its World Cup debut in Russia besides having a very solid squad,but it could play a spoiler between Spain and Italy and it could decide which one of the two countries will gain automatic qualification or which could go in the playoff round.
Slovakia made its debut in the World Cup six years ago in South Africa where they made the 2nd round in which they were defeated by the Netherlands,while they missed missed in Brazil two years ago.Besides they made a solid debut in the Euros in France which ended in the 2nd round where they were defeated by Germany,the national team has a huge problem-an ageing squad.11 players in the 23 men squad which was featured in France were 30 years old and older while fresh reinforcements are very few which would mean that Jan Kozak’s men will have problems in the qualification group with Slovenia and Scotland which are eyeing to clinch the playoff spot.Also there is a tricky trip to Lithuania which could do damage to their ambitions in qualifying for their second World Cup.
Kristian’s prediction:An automatic berth is out of question since England is favored to win the group,however Slovakia’s best shot is a playoff spot but for that it will fight with Slovenia and Scotland in the group and with an ageing squad which needs young reinforcement Slovakia might fall short of clinching the playoffs and missing the World Cup in Russia.
Wales wrote one of the fairytale stories of the Euros in France and generally of football in 2016 when they reached the semifinals of the Euros when they were defeated by Portugal.Now the Dragons are gearing up to make their second World Cup appearance and their first since 1958 when they made their debut at the World Cup in Sweden where they were eliminated in the quarterfinals by Brazil.The group which Wales faces is made of the Republic of Ireland,Austria,Serbia,Moldova and Georgia.Especially matches with Moldova and Georgia will be tricky since they will play the role of spoiler and could decide who will make both the automatic spot and the playoff spot while Serbia is looking to rebuild after a round of disastrous qualifications.In the group Chris Coleman’s men led by Gareth Bale will fight against Ireland and Austria in order to make their second World Cup appearance in more than 60 years.
Kristian’s prediction:Wales has a clear shot to make the World Cup after making a historical semifinal in the Euros in France and expect them to fight with Ireland and Austria for the automatic spot.However matches with Moldova and Georgia should be approached with caution since they will play the spoiler and they are ready to ruin everyones chances.But the Dragons led by Gareth Bale can make another historical moment and clinch the automatic spot which will send them to the World Cup in Russia.
Northern Ireland will try to qualify for the World Cup for the first time in more than 30 years since the World Cup in Mexico in 1986 when the last time they were featured.Michael O’Neill’s men have made a solid debut in the Euros in France where they were defeated in the 2nd round by Wales.However for the qualifiers have a very tough group with Germany,Czech Republic,Norway,Azerbaijan and San Marino,so it will be hard and even impossible for the Ulstermen to return to the World Cup since their last appearance in 1986 in Mexico but they can play the spoiler in the group and can ruin someones chances for the playoff spot.
Kristian’s prediction:Northern Ireland like Albania will not make the World Cup in Russia since they face the World Champions Germany which they faced in the group stage of the Euros in France where they were defeated by a single goal,a very good Czech side who will fight with Norway for the playoff spot,so in this case Northern Ireland will play the spoiler,but the Ulstermen can put a very tough fight against every side they meet and everyone who will face them will have a hard time.
The most biggest story of the Euros in France which made the impossible and wrote one of the most beautiful stories of 2016 in football is Iceland.Iceland made history in the Euros in their debut by making all the way into the quarterfinals where they were defeated by France,but they left a great impression as the one of the biggest Cinderella stories of football in 2016.Now Iceland wants to make another historical moment-qualifiying to the World Cup in Russia.The group which Iceland is in it is hard,they face Croatia which eliminated them in the playoffs for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil,Ukranian and Turkish sides who are in shambles after their disastrous perfomances in the Euros,the debutants which is Kosovo and Finland which is looking to play the spoiler.
Kristian’s prediction:Now with their new found confidence,the Vikings look the at automatic qualification spot which will spare them for the playoffs.But for that Iceland will have to fight with Croatia who is favored to win the group,much more realistic would be the playoff spot,but for Iceland now nothing is impossible and expect to engage them to fight for the automatic qualification spot and make their first ever trip to the World Cup.