Here is an ill-fated stab at the final standings from Groups E to H.
Brazil. Because they’re Brazil. The scars of 2014 and the offensive ego of Neymar might get in the way later on, but they should do this part easy
Switzerland; As unappealing as they seem, they are rated 6th in the world. Expect traditional jibes about efficiency, clockwork and buried Nazi gold. The Swiss Police have said they will ‘indulgently’ allow a maximum of 1 hours’ worth of car horn honking after a game to allow fans to express their ‘joy or disappointment’. That not what the World Cup is about.
Costa Rica: At the last World Cup they were chucked into a group with previous winners Italy, Uruguay and England. They finished top. Write them off at your peril
Serbia. Ranked bottom here, but they could just as easily win it.
Mexico: For the last 5, or is it 6?, World Cups Mexico makes the last 16 then gets eliminated. It’s a tradition.
South Korea: Busy times in the Korean Peninsula. The perennial best team in Asia won’t be easy to beat, but they’re not playing at home in 2018.
Sweden. No Zlat.
Belgium: Like Spain v Portugal their clash with England really is the World Cup’s version of State of Origin. A feature of Premier League games in recent years has been how the Belgians have hacked several layers of flesh off each other. Now the Golden Generation © has its best chance at a major tournament. If only they got along.
England: Speaking of Golden Generations, this is England’s first major tournament since the early 2000s without any members of their self-proclaimed GG; a period that saw one knockout win, which was over. This is not the worst England side. If ever there was a campaign to be decided via a penalty shootout….
Tunisia: Structured, organised etc. They will not be pushovers, but it’s hard to see them scoring a lot.
Panama: A man, a plan, a canal – Panama. They’re just happy to be there.
Like Group D, another wonderfully esoteric group
Colombia: The darlings of World Cup 2014; Jimmy Rods, robbed against the hosts etc. There is something about Colombia that warms the hearts of the neutrals. And they’re probably stronger this time around.
Senegal: Sadio Mané and co love a good World Cup; never having exited prior to the Quarter final stage. Perhaps this pick is out of hope, but the Cup will be all the better if they progress.
Poland: Robert Lewandowski etc. It’s hard to warm to them, but maybe the location of the tournament will act as a motivation.
Japan: Starting to develop a reputation as one of the biggest underachievers in the world game.