It’s June 2018 and the world’s favourite quadrennial football tournament is here; the FIFA World Cup. The globe is ready to descend on Russia as it hosts the tournament for the first time ever. With 12 stadiums in 11 cities set to stage the latest chapter in this long footballing story, the hopes and dreams of the 32 nations taking part are already being thought out. Expectation is high for a number of teams, and there are some nations who are feeling ecstatic just for qualifying for this festival of football.

Football Road Trips love a good trip abroad to watch the best football matches in the world, and we know some of you will be trekking to Russia to experience the tournament for yourself. The rest of us will be watching the games on the sofa or in the pub with a few mates. However you are going to enjoy the World Cup, take a look at our list of the 10 countries to watch out for this year in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

 

1. England

We could only ever start in one place, our beloved England. Gareth Southgate has named the third youngest ever England squad to play at a FIFA World Cup, which is allowing fresh faces to prove themselves at the highest level. Southgate’s new emphasis on bringing in young and exciting talent coupled with solid but attractive football, has got some quietly confident of the squad’s chances of success in Russia. With an unbeaten international season behind them and a positive atmosphere amongst the squad, England believe they can progress from a group containing Belgium, Panama and Tunisia. Beyond that? We shall see.

 

Key player – Harry Kane

England’s new captain is the embodiment of Southgate’s new England; young and driven. The 24-year-old striker scored 41 goals for Tottenham Hotspur last season and is eager to bring that scintillating form to Russia.

 

2. Belgium

We love a European football tour to Belgium, mostly in part to their surplus of talent at the moment. Their “golden generation” may ply their trade away from Antwerp, Bruges and Brussels but their talented squad is the envy of the world. With the likes of Thibaut Courtois, Kevin De Bruyne & Romelu Lukaku selected for the tournament, Belgium boast one of the most dangerous teams in the tournament. Many expect them to go far this time around, especially after the disappointment of losing to Wales at Euro 2016.

 

Key Player – Kevin De Bruyne    

The Manchester City playmaker was fizzing passes around defences in the Premier League all last season and he will no doubt orchestrate every Belgium attack in Russia. Look out for his deadly free-kicks as well.

 

3. Iceland 

Everybody loves an underdog, especially from a nation with a population the size of Coventry. Iceland were the conquerors of England as they shocked their way to the Euro 2016 quarter-finals. They’ve now qualified for their first World Cup and having been drawn in a group containing Argentina, Croatia and Nigeria. The team are confident that they can upset the odds again and reach another tournament knockout stage. Get ready to do the Viking clap again.

 

Key Player – Gylfi Sigurdsson

Iceland’s talismanic attacking midfielder is a man of many talents. Expect his free-kicks and long range efforts to trouble the goalkeepers in Russia.

 

4. Brazil 

Looking for a successful World Cup campaign to fight off any lingering nightmares of the 7-1 defeat to Germany four years ago, Brazil have been reborn under the management of Tite. The defence has worked on its organisation which has allowed the plethora of attacking talent to express themselves once again. Brazil are back and ready to show the world that they are the best team in the world for a sixth time.

 

Key Player – Neymar Jr

Neymar led his country to Olympic Gold in 2016 and was exceptional at the World Cup in 2014, until injury cruelly ruled him out of the semi-finals. At just 26, Neymar has 55 goals for his country and this deadly goalscoring is expected to continue this summer in Russia. He can play anywhere in attack so defences will find him very unpredictable.

 

 5. Argentina

Finalists four years ago in Brazil, Argentina are expected to mount another challenge for the trophy this year. Once more, Lionel Messi is along for the ride which could possibly be his last chance at World Cup glory. Despite leaving Serie A’s prolific goalscorer, Mauro Icardi out of the squad, Argentina still have a squad brimming with talent that will go far in this tournament.

 

Key Player – Lionel Messi

This is likely going to be Messi’s final chance to add a World Cup to his already bulging trophy cabinet. Messi is the finest player of his generation and he will be using all his tricks to make the 2018 World Cup his own.

 

 6. Germany

The current world champions are always one to watch at a World Cup. Popular with our football away days, Germany still has talent seeping from every corner of the country. The likes of Thomas Muller, Toni Kroos and Timo Werner will shine this year in a strong squad – they’ve even left in form Leroy Sane at home which shocked many. The majority of the squad can still be seen across Cologne, Dortmund, Dusseldorf and Hamburg on our trips during the Bundesliga season. With a solid team unit, a very experienced coach and that frustrating ability of scoring accurate penalties, you wouldn’t bet against Germany retaining their crown in Russia.

 

Key Player – Thomas Muller

With ten goals during the last two World Cup’s, Thomas Muller is a proven goalscorer when it matters most for his country. A consistent creator as well as a scorer, Muller is still an ever-present threat in the German attack.

 

7. Portugal

The current European Champions stunned everybody as they beat hosts France at Euro 2016. Despite this success, many aren’t talking about Portugal as serious contenders for the World Cup. Their squad still contains some talent and any team that has Cristiano Ronaldo to call upon always has a chance to cause another upset.

 

Key Player – Cristiano Ronaldo

The current World Footballer of the Year is unstoppable on his day. He ended the club season in blistering form and his country will be looking to him for inspiration again in Russia.

 

8. Egypt

Mo Salah wasn’t born the last time Egypt qualified for a World Cup in 1990. His inspired form for Liverpool has translated to international football which has put Egypt back onto the international map. They will fancy their chances of getting out of a group containing Russia, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay, which in itself will be an achievement.

 

Key Player – Mo Salah

The hopes of a nation rest on the shoulders of Mo Salah, as long as his one shoulder recovers in time for the tournament. If he’s fit, his fast dribbles and accurate finishing could get Egypt to the knockout stage.

 

9. Spain

The 2010 World Champions dominated world football between 2008-2012. Their star may not be shining as high as it used to, after crashing out of the group stage in 2014, but Spain are still a team to watch. Their team may be a little old now but their tournament experience means they remain a threat to any opponent.

 

Key Player – David Silva

Another Manchester City playmaker to watch, David Silva continues to pull the strings for Spain and will need to be marshalled to keep Spain under control.

 

 10. France

Didier Deschamps has arguably compiled the strongest squad of players at the 2018 World Cup. France are spoilt for choice when it comes to talent with a possible 33 top-level players that would be welcomed into any World Cup squad. The 23 that are going are expected to do well, with the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba, Thomas Lemar, Ousmane Dembele expected to shine. This incredible squad sees Les Blues’ best chance of winning the tournament since they hosted it in 1998. The streets of Lens, Paris and Lyon await to celebrate world triumph.

 

Our Football Road Trips are the perfect solution for your stag dos, birthday parties and corporate events. We also offer trips to Holland, who still have good football but didn’t quite make it to the World Cup this year. Contact us today for more information on how you can create your DIY football trip.

This Sunday FRT is taking our annual trip to the German Supercup match- the German equivalent of England’s Charity Shield.

And this year it’s a biggie. As Bayern Munich take on arch-rivals Borussia Dortmund.

Despite having won the Bundesliga for the past four years and the DFB-Pokal three times in that period, Bayern haven’t managed to win the Supercup once in the last four years.

Wolfsburg won the Supercup last year, beating Bayern 5-4 on penalties after a 1-1 draw.

And in the two previous Supercup ties it was Dortmund themselves who beat Bayern, 2-0 in 2014 and 4-2 in 2013.

So, Bayern haven’t won the one-off cup match in four years despite having won the league at a canter for the last four years. Why is that?

It’s not because they can’t perform in knockout games as they’ve won the domestic cup three times in the last four years and they’ve regularly progressed into the latter stages of the Champions League.

Bayern have been criticised for not taking the match seriously in the last few seasons seeing as the Supercup is essentially a glorified friendly and because it is so close to the start of the season.

Whereas Dortmund have won the Supercup a record five times and seem to take the competition more seriously than their rivals- maybe because it’s an easy chance for silverware where Bayern normally clean up domestically.

Ahead of this tie Bayern’s Thomas Mueller has come out and said his side do take the Supercup seriously even if it’s not as ‘significant’ as the Bundesliga or the DFB-Pokal.

Bayern are expected to be at close to full strength for the game with Xabi Alonso, Franck Ribery and Douglas Costa all working to be fit for the game. Though Arjen Robben and Jerome Baoteng will miss out through injury.

Seeing as its Bayern vs Dortmund, and Bayern haven’t won the Supercup in four years- it’s already a bit of a grudge match so there’ll be a few tackles flying in.

Some of those will be going in on Mats Hummels who will be making his debut for Bayern following a summer move from Dortmund. Another man who may be on the side of some heavy tackles will be Mario Goetze who made the switch from Bayern back to Dortmund (where he began his career) this summer.

Dortmund are also set to field a strong side with new signings Andre Schuerrle and Ousmane Dembele joining Goetze in the likely line up.

Given that and that both sides have had strong pre-seasons it’s going to be one hell of a match. But we at FRT are predicting that Bayern will end their drought in the Supercup with a 3-1 win.

Matt Bullin

Photo by Markus Unger via Flickr

After witnessing England’s humiliating Euros campaign first hand, we here at Football Road Trips couldn’t wait to get home. And following a spineless resignation from Woy, eyes all over the football world looked to see who would be the next man to take the England job.

With the FA standing by its ludicrous stance that England must have an English manager, they restricted themselves to a pretty feeble list, rather than tapping into the foreign talent that were mentioned for the job (the likes of Jurgen Klinsmann, Arsene Wenger and Rafael Benitez).

So a few of the viable English managers put forward were: Steve Bruce, Eddie Howe, Gareth Southgate and Sam Allardyce.

Now that list isn’t exactly overflowing with managerial prestige is it?

Steve Bruce- undoubtedly a fantastic player in his day but his managerial record doesn’t sparkle like the likes of say Benitez, who has managed Liverpool, Real Madrid and Inter Milan. Whereas Steve Bruce- affectionately nicknamed Mr. Potato Head by rival fans has managed Wigan, Sunderland and Hull.

Southgate was the early favourite for the job having done a half-decent job with the Under 21s, but he’s hardly an England legend and his three years at Middlesbrough weren’t exactly world class (he got them relegated from the Premier League).

Eddie Howe was the youngest of the men mentioned for the job. He’s obviously a decent manager, having guided Bournemouth up the divisions and Gary Lineker did describe him as the ‘English special one’ in a tweet earlier this year- but the general consensus is that Howe is too young and inexperienced for the job.

And that brings us to Sam Allardyce. Big Sam. Not one of the most fashionable managers in football, but he’s certainly someone who can do a ‘job’, having been a bit of a relegation dogfight specialist for a number of years- most recently with Sunderland.

He’s been often criticised for his long ball tactics and he even called Pep Guardiola’s tiki-tika football, “a load of b******s.” So, the FA seems to be changing its philosophy slightly: as they are going from wanted free flowing attacking football to appointing someone who will probably start Andy Carroll up top.

At Big Sam’s first press conference he said taking the England job will be his ‘greatest challenge’ and his first challenge will be winning over the fans and pundits who will no doubt be sceptical about his appointment given his reputation.

He’s also famously been able to instil passion and fight in his teams, something the most recent crop of England players have sadly lacked. So with that in mind are we set to see a very different looking England than the one that turned out at the Euros?

The answer is probably yes- players such as Mark Noble are almost certain to get a game and I don’t see why not. At the Euros Jack Wilshere and Jordan Henderson didn’t do much to nail down starting spots in the line-up.

From his previous clubs we’ve seen that he pays close attention to set-plays and defensive organisation. A trait that England could have done with against Iceland, to stop the long throw threat.

He’s probably more Mike Bassett than Jose Mourinho but all in all I think Big Sam will do a decent job for England when he pulls on the Three Lions blazer for the first time against Slovakia on 4 September.

And let’s be honest it can’t get much worse anyway.

Matt Bullin.

 

Photo by Ben Sutherland via Flickr.

Football Road Trips have been awarded a “Go Do” Award for Entrepreneurs worth £10,000 in cash at an awards ceremony hosted by Entrepreneurial Spark. We have been featured in an article on the Entrepreneurial Spark blog. Why not check it out?

“With under three weeks to go until the Entrepreneurial Spark #GoDoEntAwards, which will see over £250,000 awarded to entrepreneurs across the UK, celebrating the #GoDo journey, hear how winning the Entrepreneur of the Moment prize in January helped Football Road Trips to accelerate its growth….

Kai Rigby, founder of Football Road Trips, a business that creates luxury tailor-made road trips to some of Europe’s most exciting football cities, was awarded Entrepreneur of the Moment at the Entrepreneurial Spark Entrepreneuring Awards in January this year, scooping a £10,000 cash prize.

What is Football Road Trips?

The business was dreamt up by owner Kai Rigby while trudging through the amazon, watching a faltering England performance in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, with his friend James.

Football Road Trips takes customers on a journey to two different European countries in one weekend, giving them the chance to watch two international football matches; PlayStation and refreshments are provided along the way. In addition to its tailor-made trips intended for large groups, the business also offers a bi-monthly trip that anyone can join.

Winning the Entrepreneur of the Moment Award

Entrepreneurial Spark, in partnership with NatWest, KPMG and EMC reward some of the brightest and most promising startups across the UK during the bi-yearly Entrepreneuring Awards, offering huge volumes of cash prizes to help them on the road to achieving their dream.

Reflecting on his win and what it meant for his business, Kai said: “Winning the award firstly helped us to raise our profile and gave us an element of authority during the investment process. It also gave the business backing credibility, which is very important. Finally, winning brought about a strong sense of confidence for the business and all those involved”.

What did this mean for Football Road Trips?

Football Road Trips knew a solid online presence was going to be critical so used part of the money to outsource design and SEO of its website (which brought the website to first and second place on certain Google searches) bringing in around £60,000 in sales.

The award money also paid for a member of admin staff to come on board, allowing Kai to focus on leading the business, developing partnerships with hotels and driving further sales.

Kai’s Entrepreneurial Spark experience

Speaking about his Entrepreneurial Spark journey Kai commented: “There is a strong outlook of objectivity throughout the programme, which I think stands out the most for me. Everything has a positive angle, because with Entrepreneurial Spark’s Enablers and mentors there is no reason to dress things up.

“You are also able to really reflect on your business; you learn things you never knew you didn’t know. Your horizons are opened and yes, I would say the best thing about Entrepreneurial Spark is that you learn new things, and are always soaking up all the information you can.”

Entrepreneurial Spark co-founder and Chief Entrepreneuring Officer Lucy-Rose Walker said: “The Entrepreneuring Awards have grown alongside our network of Hatcheries, and the latest events were the biggest yet. It’s fantastic to see how much Football Road Trips has progressed since joining Entrepreneurial Spark. We have seen the growth from an initial concept to the success it is today, and I’m delighted that our expert team of Enablers and mentors have helped Kai and his team on their #GoDo journey of development and scale.”

What’s next for Football Road Trips?

Since winning the award Football Road Trips also has a full quota for the Euros, with other trips booked beyond it; just recently, they took almost 100 people to the Euros to follow England. The prize money has allowed the business to generate its first critical batch of sales allowing it to reinvest profits in growth.

Talking about the future of the business, Kai added: “We are focusing on investment, which we really need for things like flight packages. We are looking to expand our road trips to take to the sky, and make our trips more frequent. We are also looking at expanding internationally and exploring options in Asia, as well as setting up longer ten day tours.”