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After the qualifiers: If the 2018 World Cup started today

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Here’s a peek at where we stand with 20 months to go before the World Cup in Russia, as well as a fun and borderline crazy predictive exercise done solely in the name of entertainment.

What if the World Cup started today? Who would be qualify?

The only side guaranteed a spot right now is Russia, who will be drawn in Group A. Then the following seven qualifiers with the highest FIFA ranking would also earn Pot 1 status.

[ MORE: All World Cup qualifying news ]

You know what? Let’s get nuts and play out the entire tournament to see who wins World Cup 2018.


We’ll use actual qualification, as flawed and early as it is in some confederations, to be predict our combatants

Asia (4 of 10 qualifiers played)
IN: Iran, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, Australia
PLAYOFF: Japan vs. South Korea

Projection: This is a tough one, as Japan and South Korea have a storied history. South Korea has won 40 of the 77 all-time meetings, but hasn’t claimed a win since May 2010 (five meetings, with two draws). So we’ll use Japan for the fifth bid, and a playoff bid against the fourth place team in CONCACAF.

Africa (1 of 6 qualifiers played)
IN: DR Congo, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Egypt

CONCACAF (No Hex games played, based on last round)
IN: Mexico, Costa Rica, United States
PLAYOFF: Trinidad and Tobago

South America (10 of 18 qualifiers played)
IN: Brazil, Uruguay, Ecuador, Colombia
PLAYOFF: Argentina

Oceania (0 third round qualifiers played, based on last round)
PLAYOFF: New Zealand

Europe (3 of 10 qualifiers played)
IN: France, Switzerland, Germany, Serbia, Montenegro, England, Spain, Belgium, Croatia
UEFA PLAYOFFS: Italy, Iceland, Greece, Sweden, Poland, Ireland, Azerbaijan, Portugal

PROJECTION: We’re using a random draw (honestly, we used
Greece vs. Sweden — Greece wins
Italy vs. Ireland — Italy wins
Azerbaijan vs. Iceland — Iceland wins
Portugal vs. Poland — Portugal wins

Intercontinental playoffs:

Japan vs. Trinidad and Tobago — Japan wins
Argentina vs. New Zealand — Argentina wins

FIELD (FIFA Rankings)

  1. Russia (host, 38)
  2. Argentina (1)
  3. Belgium (2)
  4. Germany (3)
  5. Colombia (T-4)
  6. Brazil (T-4)
  7. Portugal (7)
  8. France (8)
  9. Uruguay (9)
  10. Spain (11)
  11. England (12)
  12. Italy (13)
  13. Croatia (14)
  14. Mexico (15)
  15. Switzerland (16)
  16. Costa Rica (18)
  17. Ecuador (19)
  18. USA (22)
  19. Iceland (27)
  20. Ivory Coast (34)
  21. Iran (37)
  22. Senegal (39)
  23. Australia (45)
  24. Greece (48)
  25. Uzbekistan (49)
  26. Serbia (50)
  27. DR Congo (51)
  28. Saudi Arabia (52)
  29. Egypt (53)
  30. Japan (56)
  31. Nigeria (64)
  32. Montenegro (105)


Like last cycle, the nine European qualifiers mean one will have to join Pot 2. Our random selection was… England. Wow.

Pot 1 (seeds): Russia, Argentina, Belgium, Germany, Colombia, Brazil, Portugal, France
Pot 2 (CAF & SA): England, DR Congo, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Egypt, Uruguay, Ecuador
Pot 3 (AFC & CONCACAF): Japan, Iran, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, Australia, USA, Mexico, Cosa Rica
Pot 4 (Europe): Italy, Greece, Iceland, Switzerland, Serbia, Montenegro, England, Spain, Croatia


Group A: Russia, Italy, Ivory Coast, Australia
Group B: Brazil, Greece, Ecuador, Uzbekistan
Group C: Colombia, Spain, Serbia, Saudi Arabia
Group D: Argentina, Croatia, Senegal, Japan
Group E: France, Switzerland, DR Congo, Mexico
Group F: Belgium, Montenegro, Uruguay, Iran
Group G: Germany, England, USA, Egypt
Group H: Portugal, Iceland, Nigeria, Costa Rica

Holy smoke! That is a next level group of death for the USMNT!

Should we go on? Okay. We’ll try to throw in some upsets and not just go with the chalk. We’re also going to do this once, favor the Yanks, and not look back.

Great news! The U.S. escapes thanks to Harry Redknapp demanding to use 81-times capped Croatian midfielder Niko Kranjcar for England despite FIFA telling him he would forfeit the tournament. Egypt gets a case of the measles a la the Panthers in “The Mighty Ducks”, since we’re playing out a cinematic string here for our home country. USA advances!

Round of 16
Spain def. Japan
Italy def. Greece
Brazil def. Russia
Argentina def. Colombia
France def. Uruguay
Germany def. Nigeria
Mexico def. Belgium
USA def. Portugal*

Italy def. Spain
Brazil def. Argentina
Germany def. France
USA def. Mexico*

Brazil def. Italy
Germany def. USA

Germany def. Brazil

*Allow us this daydream. Thanks.

Bundesliga preview: Paderborn v. Borussia Dortmund

Paderborn v. Borussia Dortmund preview
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Last-place Paderborn is running out of time to make a run out of the drop zone, and a visit from Borussia Dortmund wouldn’t normally inspire too much.

But Sunday’s match between the two sides sees Dortmund taking the pitch for the first time since seeing its title hopes dashed in a fierce Klassiker, and Paderborn’s picked up points in all three matches since play resumed from the coronavirus pause.

Not only that, the sides drew 3-3 in November at Dortmund’s Westfalenstadion, BVB firing back from a 3-0 halftime deficit thanks to goals from Jadon Sancho, Marco Reus, and Axel Witsel.

[ Bundesliga: Live scores | Week 29 preview, predictions  ] 

Paderborn has been playing well for a last-place side, ornery and collecting more cards than most teams in the Bundesliga.

As for Dortmund, the black and yellow side performed well enough to get a result from Bayern but lost on a Joshua Kimmich wondergoal and will likely still be lamenting what could’ve been if VAR reviewed an apparent Jerome Boateng handball in the box.

Still, there’s too much talent here, even at a desperate host. In a non-coronavirus world, the home crowd changes our opinion a little on the score line. We’re feeling a blowout, Dortmund 4-0.

Below is how to watch Borussia Dortmund v. Paderborn on TV in the USA this Saturday, while above you can follow the action live, as the three points are so valuable to both clubs but for very different reasons.

Bundesliga schedule

  • TV Channels: FS1
  • Stream LiveVia Fox Soccer
  • When: Saturday, May 30 – 12:30 p.m. ET: Bayern Munich v Fortuna Dusseldorf
  • Americans Abroad: Giovanni Reyna (Dortmund)

Remaining Premier League fixtures ahead of June 17 return

Premier League schedule
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The 2019-20 Premier League season will restart on June 17, the league confirmed Thursday, as ‘Project Restart’ readies for empty stadiums around England.

So who’s left on the schedule? The slate of 92 matches features some doozies including the Merseyside Derby (Matchday 30), the North London Derby (Matchday 35), and — of course — Liverpool’s visit to Manchester City (Matchday 32)

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Check out all the stats for the season so far, as well as the state of play for all 20 clubs’ seasons in the races for the Champions League, Europa League, and safety from relegation.

Of course, you’ll be able to watch the Premier League via all summer long.

Additionally, the matches will be staged in non-traditional windows. Here are the kickoff times for midweek and weekend matches.

Matchday 28 — June 17

Aston Villa v. Sheffield United
Manchester City v. Arsenal

Matchday 30

Aston Villa v. Chelsea
Bournemouth v. Crystal Palace
Brighton and Hove Albion v. Arsenal
Everton v. Liverpool
Manchester City v. Burnley
Newcastle United v. Sheffield United
Norwich City v. Southampton
Tottenham v. Manchester United
Watford v. Leicester City
West Ham v. Wolves

(Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

Matchday 31

Burnley v. Watford
Liverpool v. Crystal Palace
Tottenham v. West Ham
Wolves v. Bournemouth

Matchday 31 to be rescheduled due to FA Cup quarters
Chelsea v. Manchester City
Leicester City v. Brighton and Hove Albion
Manchester United v. Sheffield United
Newcastle United v. Aston Villa
Norwich City v. Everton
Southampton v. Arsenal

Matchday 32

Arsenal v. Norwich City
Aston Villa v. Wolves
Bournemouth v. Newcastle United
Brighton and Hove Albion v. Manchester United
Crystal Palace v. Burnley
Everton v. Leicester City
Manchester City v. Liverpool
Sheffield United v. Tottenham
Watford v. Southampton
West Ham v. Chelsea

Matchday 33

Burnley v. Sheffield United
Chelsea v. Watford
Leicester City v. Crystal Palace
Liverpool v. Aston Villa
Manchester United v. Bournemouth
Newcastle United v. West Ham
Norwich City v. Brighton and Hove Albion
Southampton v. Manchester City
Tottenham v. Everton
Wolves v. Arsenal

(Paul Harding/PA via AP)

Matchday 34

Arsenal v. Leicester City
Aston Villa v. Manchester United
Brighton and Hove Albion v. Liverpool
Bournemouth v. Tottenham
Crystal Palace v. Chelsea
Everton v. Southampton
Manchester City v. Newcastle United
Sheffield United v. Wolves
Watford v. Norwich City
West Ham v. Burnley

Matchday 35

Aston Villa v. Crystal Palace
Bournemouth v. Leicester City
Brighton and Hove Albion v. Manchester City
Liverpool v. Burnley
Manchester United v. Southampton
Norwich City v. West Ham
Sheffield United v. Chelsea
Tottenham v. Arsenal
Watford v. Newcastle United
Wolves v. Everton

(Photo by Visionhaus)

Matchday 36

Arsenal v. Liverpool
Burnley v. Wolves
Chelsea v. Norwich City
Crystal Palace v. Manchester United
Everton v. Aston Villa
Leicester City v. Sheffield United
Manchester City v. Bournemouth
Newcastle United v. Tottenham
Southampton v. Brighton and Hove Albion
West Ham v. Watford

Matchday 37

Aston Villa v. Arsenal
Bournemouth v. Southampton
Brighton and Hove Albion v. Newcastle United
Liverpool v. Chelsea
Manchester United v. West Ham
Norwich City v. Burnley
Sheffield United v. Everton
Tottenham v. Leicester City
Watford v. Manchester City
Wolves v. Crystal Palace

Matchday 38

Arsenal v. Watford
Burnley v. Brighton and Hove Albion
Chelsea v. Wolves
Crystal Palace v. Tottenham
Everton v. Bournemouth
Leicester City v. Manchester United
Manchester City v. Norwich City
Newcastle United v. Liverpool
Southampton v. Sheffield United
West Ham v. Aston Villa

(Photo by Martin Rickett/PA Images via Getty Images)

LIVE, Bundesliga: Week 29 begins with Freiburg-Bayer

Freiburg v. Bayer Leverkusen live
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Week 29 in Germany begins with two clubs holding onto hope of berths in the Champions League and Europa League, respectively, when Bayer Leverkusen visit Freiburg at the Black Forest Stadium.

Last time out, the scrappy hosts tossed away a 2-goal lead in drawing Eintracht, while Bayer saw its red-hot form cooled off with an exclamation point in a 4-1 loss to Wolfsburg. Freiburg’s now four points out of sixth and Bayer’s outside the top four on goal difference. That said, Kai Havertz’s Bayer has weapons for days and the creativity to get through the compact, physical Freiburg formation.

[ Bundesliga: Live scores | Week 29 preview, predictions  ] 

Matchweek 29 in the Bundesliga will again see games played in empty stadiums, which is the plan for the rest of the season and beyond. If you’re new to Germany’s top-flight, here’s a guide to help you pick a club to support.

How to Watch the Bundesliga

You can check out the full schedulestandings and find out how to watch the action, while we will have you covered right here on ProSoccerTalk with analysis, reaction and more.

[ MORE: Takeaways from Week 28 of the Bundesliga ]

Transfer news: Tecatito to Chelsea update; Pellistri to Man City

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In the latest transfer news there have been new updates surrounding Jesus ‘Tecatito’ Corona heading to Chelsea, while Man City have been linked with Uruguayan youngster Facundo Pellistri.

[ VIDEO: Premier League highlights ]

Starting at Chelsea, there were reports about Mexico winger Tecatito heading from FC Porto to the Blues and it appears they are some legs there.

Tecatito’s agent Matias Bunge confirmed to Medio Tiempo that they have held talks with Chelsea.

“At some point we talked to them,” Bunge said. “I cannot say if he’s option A, B or C, now they are rather rumours. We’ll have to wait a bit for this to continue moving forward and for the leagues to begin again, and from there see what the next movements will be because the market is a little bit stopped. He has two years left on his contract. He did awaken a lot of interest for his participation in this particular tournament (Primera Liga), which has been outstanding and at a high level. But now with the current situation of the virus everything has slowed down a bit, now the signings are in quarantine.”

Tecatito, 27, has had a really good season for Porto, scoring twice and adding 17 assists from the wing as he’s played in a more defensive role in recent months.

That flexibility will be key for Frank Lampard’s Chelsea as they like to switch between a 3-4-3 and 4-3-3 and Tecatito can play in both attacking and defensive roles easily. He’s also a much cheaper option than Jadon Sancho, who Chelsea have been linked with.

It is believed Inter Milan and Sevilla are both interested in Tecatito too and with Willian and Pedro set to leave Chelsea, they will be a little short of options out wide despite having Christian Pulisic, Callum Hudson-Odoi and the impending arrival of Hakim Ziyech.

Moving to Manchester, Man City have been linked with a move for Uruguayan teenager Facundo Pellistri.

Pellistri, 18, is also interesting Newcastle United but City are reportedly keen on the young winger, according to the Daily Mail. Per the report, Real Madrid, Atletico Madrid, Napoli and Boca Juniors are also following the teenager known as ‘Facu’ closely and he is coached by former Man Untied, Atletico and Uruguay forward Diego Forlan.

The Penarol winger is being tracked closely by City who have a full time scout in Uruguay and also a sister club Montevideo City Torque and reports state they’ve already spoken to his agent.

A talented winger, Pellistri is valued at $12.5 million and would likely be loaned out and developed before making a push for Man City’s first team in the years to come. Man City snapped up Gabriel Jesus as a teenager and that has worked out pretty well and South America is an area where both Real Madrid and Barcelona have plucked plenty of young gems from over the last few decades.