64 matches, 32 countries, one winner. The World Cup is once again upon us, with the very best footballers on the planet competing for the ultimate prize. To mark the occasion the EchoSport reporters are pitting their wits against some of south Essex’s best and brightest young football experts to see who really knows more.
THE youngsters at Wyburns Primary School are excited to watch Belgium on the world stage this summer and Daniel A, Lucas, Michael, Faizaam, Max, Kyle, Miles, Ben, Justin and Daniel W couldn’t see beyond the up-and-coming Europeans.
Ben: It has to be Belgium.
Max: Russia are probably favourites to get second but I don’t think they will win the group.
Justin: South Korea and Algeria will still be tough to beat.
EchoSport reporter Luke: This is quite a difficult group to predict. A lot of the Belgian players play in the Premier League but they don’t have experience of a big tournament. Will that be a problem?
Miles: It could be a problem but they have enough talented players to win the group. They have a lot of pace too through (Eden) Hazard and Kevin (De Bruyne) which is really important at the big tournaments.
Eden Hazard - Belgiam's danger man
Ben: I don’t think it will matter because they have players playing in the top competitions already - in the Champions League and the Europa League - so they can handle the pressure.
Faizaam: Belgium have big stars and good goalscorers. Romelu Lukaku will need to play well with (Christian) Benteke injured but they are very strong at the back too. Defensively they may be as good as going forward which is a big plus for them.
The group have prepared a document with information on all the squad members’ to help them make their predictions (although their source is questionable as one Russian midfielder is listed as being 94-years-old).
EchoSport Luke: South Korea had a very strong World Cup in 2002, reaching the semi-finals. Do you not think they have any chance of getting out of the group?
Daniel W: I don’t think so. That was a long time ago and it was in their country (they co-hosted with Japan).
Kyle: Belgium have players playing in the the top leagues these days and will be too good for the likes of South Korea. Their players won’t be able to compete as well.
Lucas and Michael agree: Playing the World Cup in your own country gives you a big boost and I don’t think they will be able to match that in Brazil against some of the best passing sides in the world.
EchoSport Luke: Is Russia against Belgium the deciding match in the group then?
Daniel A: Probably, but I wouldn’t rule out South Korea. Even Algeria (the other side in the group) drew with England in the last World Cup four years ago.
So what about England? 48 years since Bobby Moore lifted the trophy do the youngsters think the Three Lions and Steven Gerrard will be repeating the feat in Rio this year?
Group choruses: Nooooo!
EchoSport Luke: Why not? Hodgson has brought in some good young talent hasn’t he. Don’t you think they could help England’s chances? Or is a mixture of young and experienced players needed?
Will Roy have made the right choices this summer?
Ben: I am not sure they will even qualify. Italy and Uruguay are really strong. Their strikers are much better than ours but we have a good mixture of youth and elder players.
Justin: I think it will come down to goal difference and England will miss out this way. I really don’t want them too but I think they will, I just can’t help it.
Michael: It will be the quarter-finals I think as the teams they could play in the first knock-out round aren’t very good.
To bring the World Cup to south Essex, EchoSport has invited eight primary schools to take on each other (and us!) in predicting the results of the matches. A correct score line prediction will see three points awarded and the correct result one point. The school with the most points at the end of the tournament will be crowned champions.
Today: Belgium v Algeria Echo: 2-0 Wyburns: 2-0
Today: Russia v South Korea Echo: 2-0 Wyburns: 1-0
22/6: Belgium v Russia Echo: 1-1 Wyburns: 2-1
22/6: South Korea v Algeria Echo: 2-1 Wyburns: 2-1
26/6: South Korea v Belgium Echo: 0-2 Wyburns: 1-3
26/6: Algeria v Russia Echo: 0-1 Wyburns: 1-2