It’s nearly here!

One week on Thursday and Russia will kick off the next World Cup.

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There’s been controversy, and mentions of evading a trip to Russia – but politics will never get in the way of football.

This is our love, and this is the greatest show on earth.

And here, though in five weeks time they will probably all turn out to be wrong, are my predictions:

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How far will England go?

Now that’s the question isn’t it! Out of all the questions, this is the one that matters to us most.

And, although it’s said by too many people every tournament, I think we’ll surprise people.

And it’s about time, isn’t it?

Southgate, whilst lacking managerial experience – (do we remember his stint at Middlesborough?) – has great experience as an England player at tournaments, which is something many previous managers lacked. He knows what it’s like to miss a penalty at a tournament (remember 96?) AND he’s worked with most of the England squad in the Under 21 squad.

He also had a calm presence that Capello didn’t bring and Hodgson failed at. He is the right manager at the right time, and we have top class players – we’re set.

The semi-finals, I think.

There, I said it.

Cue the comments.

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Who will be surprisingly disappointing?

Portugal.

They won the Euros, so the expectation will be there – but the expectation will be unfounded.

After all, their win of the Euros wasn’t a convincing win – they didn’t win a single game in normal time before the semi-finals. There was a bit of luck and a class player in there – but Ronaldo won’t be able to win a World Cup on his own.

They will lose their opening game to Spain, Ronaldo will throw a tantrum, and they will struggle under the pressure as expected winners in their following group games. They will scrape through at second place and go out at the round of 16.

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What will the big controversy be?

Refereeing. Not just because video assistants will be used, and the subjectivity will prompt numerous debates – but because, believe it or not, referees in other countries are far off the standard of English referees. Numerous referees at the tournament won’t even be full-time officials.

And there will be no English referees at the World Cup!

Just let that sink in for a moment…

Maybe it’s because our referees weren’t prepared to slip anything into Sepp Blatter’s pocket?

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Who will win?

This I think is too tough to call.

I don’t think it will be a new winner – though I think Belgium will come close.

Spain or Germany will bypass Brazil on their way, and one of the recent regulars will trump it.

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So there are my thoughts. What do you think?

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