All right, seriously this time, here are 5 of the 4 probable semifinalists. Fivethirtyeight has not looked in the future yet, so I'll have a go at this clairvoyance thing:
- Portugal aka Brazil lite: Would I like to see Portugal finally win a World Cup? Yes. Is this likely? Probably not as much as I wish it was. But, they can sort of make it. They'll probably beat a weakened Spain in their group, and advance with Morocco to the knockout stage. The bad news? They're probably going to the semifinals after beating Iceland in the quarterfinals.
Oh, those lovely Vikings. I'll be sad to see them leave
- Brazil aka Neymar Deluxe: I'd pick either Germany or France, but we all know they tend to fail miserably in Russia. We're not playing at home this time, so it's unlikely we'll have an emotional breakdown. We breezed through the qualifiers, so I guess there's a chance we can get our sixth star. We'll probably have to beat England to move forward to the semis, which brings me to my next team...
- England aka Engluuuuurnd: Come on, you can't just invent a sport and then suddenly suck at it so much you win once in the 60s only to wait for all the former colonies to have a go at it. As a matter of fact, why isn't Gareth Bale playing for the UK!? Having four weaker teams instead of a single behemoth isn't exactly a smart way until the Aussies get their act together and win a cup of their own.
Are you listening, England? I'll always remember you reaching the quarterfinals in the very first World Cup I watched. It was epic. Also, I once fell asleep in 2002 during one of your matches and thought you had trounced some other team in the knockout stage. You lost the game, but you haven't lost my heart. Yet. I wouldn't mind losing to you. You gave us drum'n'bass, we can give you a World Cup.
- Senegal aka The Coolest Winner Ever: Seriously, how awesome would this be? If not Senegal, then Belgium, because we all know Germany and France fail miserably in Russia, but we've yet to see if the countries between them will also be trounced in the motherland.
However, no African country has ever reached the semis, and even Asia's been there with Turkey and South Korea. Turkey, for goodness' sake, and they only qualified once in the last thousand years! It's been long overdue. Come on, Senegal, we're counting on you.
- Uruguay aka The Other Argentina: They bark AND they bite. They reached the semis just 7 years ago, and they did better than Argentina in the qualifiers. They're pretty much just Argentine Brazilians anyway, so replace them with Argentina if you will and they're still in the top 4 if Brazil also makes it... But don't tell them that, or they'll chew you out.
“All I have learned, I learned from basslines.”