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The Scene:

With summer now in full swing, sports fans across the world watched Thursday’s start to the 21st FIFA World Cup. The Cup, the world’s most watched sporting event, takes place every four years. Russia will act as the tournament’s 21st host nation this year. Despite America’s conspicuous absence from the competition, we can now start to break down college students’ predictions and analyses as we begin a month-long celebration of the world’s game.

The Takes:

UCSB Daily Nexus: Ryan Hykes boldly predicts a tournament dominated by South American talent, where “Brazil breaks through for another World Cup championship, while Argentina and Colombia do serious damage.”

•    “All 5 South American teams [will] win their groups.”

•    “After Egypt’s Mohamed Salah’s record-breaking performance this year at Liverpool, the Pharaohs’ one-man show should be enough against Russia’s porous defense to advance Egypt past the host nation, who may become the second host team to not reach the knockout stage after South Africa in 2010.”

•    “Of perhaps all the major contenders, France may be the team most likely to surprise us all and flame-out in the group stage like they did in 2010.”

JMU Breeze: Noah Ziegler expects Columbia, a “dangerous team” that “can compete with the big boys,” to be the Cup’s best dark horse candidate.

•    “The team’s weakness is its defense, but if Colombia can band together it should stay steady. Colombia plays as a team, and in the World Cup, that could be a much-needed edge.”

•    “If fans want a true Cinderella story, Senegal is the team they should rally behind. Senegal has only appeared in one World Cup before this year, but its squad has quite a few weapons that could help them dance far into the tournament.”

University of Iowa Daily Iowan: Jordan Zuniga believes this year is about Messi and Ronaldo, the world’s two biggest stars, for whom a Cup “will not only cement the winner’s name in soccer history, it will also put to bed the debate of which one of these two is the greatest of the generation.”

•    “With both stars over 30, this could be the final year where either of the two can have a major impact on their team, which means the urgency to win it all this year will be huge.

•     “Seeing Russia be successful wouldn’t be a huge shock — host countries are historically good in the tournament.”

•     “This World Cup, Neymar and his team seem determined to avenge their embarrassing loss in the last World Cup. And Neymar should solidify his place as the next great player.”

NYU Washington Square News: Editor-at-Large Bela Kirpalani predicts that “Brazil’s 16-year wait for more World Cup glory will end this year.”

•    “With attacking wonders like Coutinho, Gabriel Jesus and Neymar, Brazil will surely make any team they face quake in their boots.”

•    “If anyone can win two back-to-back World Cups, it’s this German team. However, I think if anyone can beat this team in a World Cup Final, it’s this Brazilian squad.”

The Bottom Line:

The 2018 World Cup certainly has no dearth of dramatic storylines: Brazil, a frequent favorite, seeks to avenge its embarrassing 2014 loss; Aging stars Messi and Ronaldo aim to fight off a charge by younger talent; first-time qualifiers like Iceland attempt to cement themselves as serious contenders. These narratives will all unfold in the world’s most public forum over the next month. Regardless of eventual outcome, the Cup is sure to be filled with drama, joy, and heartbreak that you will not want to miss

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