By Can Erozden
Brazil is close to claiming the 2018 FIFA World Cup but Argentina has a great attacking line, according to a top Turkish football pundit.
"Since Germany won the 1990 FIFA World Cup, there have been six other World Cup tournaments. Since 1990, European teams have won this cup five times. Brazil won it twice, in 1994 and 2002. So I think this time the champion of the World Cup will come from outside Europe,” Serkan Akcan, a columnist for Turkish sports daily Fanatik and TV commentator, told Anadolu Agency on Monday.
Akcan predicted that France won't make it to the finals due to weak coaching, along with Belgium, despite the performance of their star Kevin De Bruyne.
De Bruyne, 26, is seen as a key player for English Premier League winners Manchester City, scoring 12 goals and 21 assists in 52 club appearances this season.
De Bruyne has been playing for Belgium since August 2010, scoring 14 goals in 61 international matches.
"I think Brazil, who can defend their goal nearly perfectly, has a little more advantage than Argentina. Additionally, Brazil star Neymar returned from an injury. So I see Brazil as World Cup favorites,” Akcan said.
The last time the World Cup trophy went outside Europe was 2002, when it went to Brazil.
The South American giants last lifted the cup after toppling Germany 2-0.
Despite their 16-year World Cup drought, Brazil has won the title more than any other country, with five wins.
In the meantime, the latest World Cup champions are Germany, who beat Argentina 1-0 in 2014.
"If Argentina and Brazil complete their groups as leaders of each, they won't meet until the final,” said Akcan.
Akcan also praised Brazil’s team, led by Paris Saint-Germain superstar Neymar.
'Uruguay could reach the semis'
Akcan said Uruguay could suprise football watchers by reaching the semifinals in Russia.
"Uruguay's central defender tandem is playing at Atletico Madrid, and its central midfielders are playing for Juventus and Inter. The forwards are Cavani and Suarez. Uruguay is a very impressive team,” Akcan remarked.
Diego Godin and Jose Maria Gimenez are Atletico Madrid regulars. Uruguay's central midfielder Matias Vecino plays at Inter, and Rodrigo Bentancur, the other midfielder, is at Juventus.
Two strikers play for Uruguay’s offense: Paris Saint-Germain's Edinson Cavani and Barcelona star Luis Suarez. Both PSG and Barcelona won their domestic league titles in 2018, with these players contributing.
This season Cavani scored 28 league goals for Paris while Suarez produced 25 goals in Spanish La Liga.
'Italy's absence is a big deficit'
Akcan said Italy not playing in the World Cup will make things easier for its rivals in Russia.
"Italy couldn't reach the World Cup but Sweden qualified instead. If you compare Italy and Sweden, all the teams would prefer [to face] Sweden rather than Italy,” he said, adding that Sweden’s ranking doesn’t make them better than Italy.
Last November, Sweden eliminated Italy in the World Cup qualifiers' playoffs phase on 1-0 aggregate, ensuring their spot for Russia 2018.
"I see Italy’s absence as a big deficit. Italy enlivens every World Cup, generally they aren't picked favorites and can't win the title, as they did in 2006,” he stated.
Germany to miss Sane
Akcan slammed Germany coach Joachim Low for leaving out Manchester City star Leroy Sane from World Cup squad.
"Sane is a major loss for Germany. I can’t understand Germany coach Joachim Low. Low said he preferred Julian Brandt for Sane's position, I think Low is misleading the public because he basically preferred Marco Reus for Sane's spot. Brandt deserved to be in Russia but Reus didn't."
He added that Sane was one of the most important figures of this season's English Premier League winners Manchester City as he scored 10 goals and had 15 assists in 32 league appearances.
Meanwhile Borussia Dortmund star Reus played 11 league matches and scored seven goals during the 2017-2018 season. In 2017, Reus suffered from an anterior cruciate ligament tear, which kept him out until February.
Akcan also criticized France coach Didier Deschamps for failing to include Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Adrien Rabiot.
Akcan said that Rabiot was one of the PSG's chief pillars as he played an important role in his club in the 2017-2018 season.
Paris Saint-Germain succeeded in all domestic competitions this season as they won the country's top-tier Ligue 1 title as well as two other domestic trophies, the French League Cup and French Cup.
Rabiot appeared in 50 matches, where he scored five goals and seven assists.
Akcan added that the Russia 2018 might be the last tournament for both Low and Deschamps.
The 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia will be held from June 14 to July 15.
The world's top-tier football contest will kick off on Thursday, with host Russia taking on Saudi Arabia in a Group A match and 32 teams in eight groups fighting for the World Cup crown.