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Andy Gray on the World Cup 2018
By Cadence Media
Our exclusive interview with the legendary presenter and Cadence Ambassador Andy Gray on this year's World Cup
Cadence Media: With the world cup starting next week who would you see as your early favourites to win it?
Andy Gray: I can think of 6, maybe 8 nations that will arrive in Russia with a genuine belief that they can win it and probably another 4 after that with a fantasy belief. Right now, before a ball has been kicked its really difficult to predict. You’ve got to look at who the form teams are and which teams have the best players. The 2 South American teams, Brazil and Argentina, in terms of front lines there isn’t a better group of forwards in any team. When you think of Messi, Aguero, Higuain, lining up for Argentina and then Neymar, Firmino and Coutinho lining up fir Brazil.
Brazil have got a lot of making up to do after such a disaster 4 years ago when Germany thumped them 7-1 in the semi-final. That’s something they want to remove from the memories of all the Brazilian fans, and their own.
CM: And do you think that hurt will still be motivating?
AG: One hundred percent. Any of the players - and there are a lot of them - who survived that world cup and are coming back now will want to just delete those bad memories from their minds and the only way they can do that is to go and do better than they did. They got to the semi finals at home and that means that they are going to have to get to the final and possibly even win it. And in my opinion, they are good enough to do so.
Going back to Argentina, picking a front 3/4 for them is really difficult. You’ve got Aguero, Messi, Dybala which are three of the top strikers in the world and you’ve also got Higuain. So its just really difficult. It’s a bit like Leroy Sane. I am absolutely astounded that he never made the German Squad. I couldn’t believe it, I thought it was a misprint when I read it in my newspaper. Germany must have a pretty good squad if he’s not in it.
CM: Well you can’t look away from the ruthlessness efficiency of a German side in a world cup?
AG: I often say that they are always competition ready. They are as good as anyone even if their form is iffy coming into a tournament. They have got vast experience but they don’t really have a front man to speak of. They are going to have to make the team up without a genuine number 9. Still, they are a hugely talented group of players and will be the favourites of the European sides to lift the trophy. There are also others. Teams that I fancy are also France who have a tremendous chance to win if they don’t fall out with each other. That always happens to the French or certainly in the last few tournaments. If they can keep the harmony in the group then they have got a chance. Spain are they same. I think they have got experience but what they haven’t got again is front men. They have only really got Diego Costa with any experience, with any knowledge of how to play at a major tournament. So they might come up short a little. You also have to respect Belgium, and the quality of the football they have got. We know Belgium better than any other country (except England) because most of the players have played in the Premier League. They have matchwinners when you look at the likes of De Bruyne and Hazard. With them in your team you’re going to be pretty good. My top 6 teams are Brazil, Argentina, Germany, France, Belgium and Spain.
CM: England not in your top 6?
AG: No. I would put England in the couple just behind the 6. I think that if they play well they will have an outside chance to win it. They are young, they are unproven, and although they are unbeaten in 12 games, they haven’t really beaten a top side and that’s the big question mark that comes to mind over this young English side. I think they are good and ambitious and they have potential but whether they can realise that potential is remained to be seen. Portugal will be the same. What will Ronaldo want to do? This will be his last world cup so he is desperate to go out on a high. Can they do it? They won the European championships 2 years ago.
CM: Is there a team that you are particularly looking forward to seeing play? I mean perhaps not one of the big ones but someone whose style you like or whose players you enjoy?
AG: If I’m being totally honest one of them is Serbia. They have got some terrific footballers, but they are in a really tough group. They are in a group with Brazil and Switzerland. I think they can knock out Switzerland and progress so I’m excited to see them play and see how they cope with the pressure of the world cup. The other team is Croatia. Another team who are like Serbia, a new nation but they also have some fabulous footballers. They are in a good group with Argentina, Iceland and Nigeria and I believe they will get out of the group.
CM: Who do you see as maybe being a surprise player - is there anyone who has caught your eye? Maybe a young player who might make a name for themselves this world cup?
AG: There will obviously be one but I don’t know a vast majority of the young footballers that are playing in the tournament. But if I look at England we saw Marcus Rashford last night and I don’t think he was down to play in the first game of the World Cup but last night’s performance might have changed the managers mind. Trent Alexander-Arnold is another one to look out for. Right wing back, right full back, and he’s only a teenager. He could have a big world cup.
CM: How do you see Russia as a host - are you looking forward to seeing the stadiums and what they have done over the last few years?
AG: I am definitely excited because I’ve been living in Qatar and building stadiums for the world cup in 4 years’ time, I see them grow on a daily basis. So I am looking forward to seeing the quality of what the Russians have put together. There’s always a lot of anti-talk prior to a big tournament about trouble, fighting and what will go on with regards to racism. But invariably, 9 times out of 10 the tournament will normally go off fairly well. Its not in the Russian interest and certainly not in Vladimir Putin’s interest for Russia to get embarrassed by this tournament.
CM: How is Qatar shaping up for 2022? How are the stadiums looking?
AG: Very good. I’ve been close to about 3 or 4 of them and they are obviously taking shape very quickly. I think Qatar will be very pleased as a country as to what they have achieved so far.
CM: Really appreciate your time Andy. Just the last few questions - 1-word answers as best as you can. Who do you see winning the Golden Boot?
AG: Sergio Aguero
CM: Who do you see getting the Golden Gloves?
AG: Ederson, Brazil.
CM: And then finally, who is going to win? Pick 1 from your 6.
AG: I am going to go for Argentina as my world cup winners.
CM: That’s awesome! Thanks so much Andy, cheers buddy!