The 2018 World Cup in Russia this summer will be the 21st FIFA World Cup. It is the first time that football’s greatest competition will be held in Russia, a country with a population of almost 150 million people. The 2018 World Cup will have two debutants, Iceland and Panama. But who are the favourites to win the World Cup this summer?
The main contenders are the usual suspects, 5-time World Cup winners Brazil, current World Cup holders Germany, Spain who have won back-to-back major tournaments in 2010 and 2012, Euro 2016 hosts and finalists France, Argentina that are hoping to replicate Maradona’s Argentina with Messi leading the charge and there are ‘dark horses’ in the golden generation of Belgium, 1966 winners England, and surprising Euro 2016 winners Portugal.
But who has the best chance?
Brazil are the bookies’ favourites to spring back from their 2014 World Cup fail on home soil by winning their sixth tournament this summer. The Canarinho certainly have what it takes to win the World Cup, with players that could walk into any team in the world all over the pitch. Goalkeepers Ederson, who has helped Manchester City to the Premier League title in his first season, and Alisson of AS Roma who has been hailed as the Pelé of goalkeepers. The Brazil defence consists of arguably the most attacking full-back in the modern game, PSG right-back Dani Alves, Real Madrid’s left-back Marcelo, and Juventus’ attacking left-back Alex Sandro who has been regularly on the radar of top European clubs, can’t even get into the starting eleven, further, the centre-back partnership of Inter Milan’s Miranda and PSG’s Marquinhos is a perfect balance of experienced and young, and is arguably one of the most solid at this summer’s tournament. Brazil can boast with one of the toughest midfields in tough-tackling Real Madrid defensive midfielder Casemiro, Manchester City’s nonstop worker Fernandinho, and Barcelona’s Paulinho, however, the attack is the crown jewel of Brazil, with the two most expensive footballers on the planet Neymar and Coutinho, complimenting either of Premier League duo Gabriel Jesus and Roberto Firmino. With a squad like this, it is hard to argue with the bookies.
Germany are the current World Cup holders and the best ranked team in the world, having beaten Argentina in the 2014 final to clinch their fourth World Cup, only one behind record holders Brazil. The Germany squad has not changed much from the last World Cup, with only record World Cup goalscorer Miroslav Klose and captain Philipp Lahm the most notable absentees. The pair are however replaced by young duo Joshua Kimmich at right-back and pacey striker Timo Werner. Germany can still boast with one of the best goalkeepers Manuel Neuer, however Germany have great depth in that position, with Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-André ter Stegen taking over after Neuer’s injury. Die Mannschaft also have solid centre-back partnership in Bayern Munich pair Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels, a midfield of FIFA team of the year member Toni Kroos, Manchester City’s Ilkay Gundogan and Arsenal’s playmaker Mesut Ozil. Germany also don’t lack pace in attack, with the aforementioned Werner up top, with Draxler, and/or Brandt on either side of him. With some fresh blood added to the 2014 World Cup winning team, Germany are all set to become the first team since Brazil in 1962 to win back-to-back World Cup tournaments.
2010 World Cup winners Spain are eager to come back stronger after their abysmal showing at the 2014 World Cup where they failed to qualify from their group. With a new coach in Julen Lopetegui, La Furia Roja are as optimistic as ever. With goalkeeper David De Gea, hailed by many as the world’s best goalkeeper, a defence that includes the likes of Dani Carvajal, Marcos Alonso, Juanfran, Jordi Alba, Sergio Ramos, Pique and Cesar Azpilicueta, a midfield that does not lack any sort of creativity with Andres Iniesta, Atletico Madrid’s Koke, Real Madrid magician Isco, Bayern Munich midfielder Thiago and Manchester City’s David Silva. Spain’s attack perhaps isn’t the same as it was in previous tournaments where they had Fernando Torres and David Villa in their prime, nonetheless the likes of Diego Costa, veteran Aritz Aduriz or underrated Iago Aspas, Lopetegui will have different options upfront. Spain maybe don’t have the same attack as in previous World Cup tournaments, but the rest of the team makes up for it, and the 2010 winners could be eyeing the ultimate prize once again.
Euro 2016 hosts France are also amongst the favourites, having failed to win the European championships on home soil, Les Bleus will be eager to give their fans something to cheer about this summer. France’s squad has probably the best depth, with Deschamps able to call on multiple world-class players for each position. France and Tottenham captain Hugo Lloris is one of the best goalkeepers in the world, centre-backs Umtiti and Varane are the new generation of world-class centre-backs, the midfield of Pogba, Kante and Matuidi is amongst the best in the world, and the forward line of talisman Griezmann, wonderkid Mbappe, and both Giroud and Dembele are ready to tear up Russia 2018.
The closest Messi’s Argentina have got to the Argentina of Maradona of 1986 was the 2014 World Cup, where La Albiceleste reached the final. However, this Argentina seem to choke in big games, and the 2014 World Cup final was no different, with Argentina missing several chances. Argentina perhaps don’t have the squad depth of the other big guns at the 2018 World Cup, what they do have is five-time FIFA player of the year Lionel Messi. If the likes of Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero and Juventus’ Gonzalo Higuain can help Messi with scoring goals, Argentina will be making it very far this summer.
Teams that are set to surprise the world this summer are Belgium, England and Portugal. Belgium have arguably the best squad of their history, with world-class players such as Chelsea’s goalkeeper Courtois, defenders Vertonghen, Alderweireld and Kompany, midfield of Dembele, De Bruyne, Hazard, and a dangerous frontman in Lukaku, Belgium’s golden generation will certainly take some beating this summer.
England’s recent major tournament failures have brought the fans down to Earth lately. Few fans fancy the Three Lions to make it far this time, but a new manager in Gareth Southgate, who is willing to inject fresh young blood into the team, and a 30+ goals a season striker in Harry Kane, England could have something to roar about this summer yet.
Many people should remember that Portugal have won the 2016 European championships, after only finishing third in their group, behind Hungary and Iceland. While Portugal don’t have many world-class players in their team, the one that they have is current FIFA world player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo, and any team that includes this man should not be underestimated.
With the competition being as fierce as ever, who are you backing to claim football’s grand prize this summer?