The defending champions deserve their spot at the top. Simply put their squad is too deep and too strong, comfortably winning the Confederations Cup last year with a team of kids. They are perhaps one of the most likely teams ever to retain their trophy.
Brazil will be back from their shocking 7-1 defeat in 2014 to the Germans, as they looks as sharp as ever. After steamrolling through the hardest qualification confederation across all the FIFA nations, it simply isn’t a World Cup without Brazil being one of the favourites.
Although it was a huge shock to see them collapse against Portugal at the 2016 Euros on their home soil, it’s safe to say they have learned from this. All their stars are more experienced and hungrier than ever, and a deep squad should see the necessary firepower required for a push to the World Cup.
The reboot of Spain’s squad following their crashing out of the group stages in 2014 has been effective, once again boasting some of the best talent in the world. Any team containing the best goalkeeper in the world, David De Gea, the best defender in the world, Sergio Ramos, and their usual star-studded midfield is always a chance.
Once a perennial dark horse, the time is now for Belgium to shine. All their star players are their peak, and if Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku can all hit form, Belgium will finally show the potential that we know they have.
Having stumbled through the qualifiers is a red flag for most teams, but most teams don’t have Lionel Messi. Sure, they have other attacking talents including Paolo Dybala and Sergio Aguero, but make no mistake, if Argentina have any hope of challenging again it will come down to Leo Messi carrying on his form from this season.
Almost the same case with Argentina, as Portugal are fortunate enough to have Messi’s equal, Cristiano Ronaldo. But, Ronaldo aside this Portuguese squad might be better rounded than the side that won the Euros. Andre Silva and Bernardo Silva can support Ronaldo up front, while a dependable midfield should see them make noise.
While England fans will even tell you they haven’t got a chance, they could surprise most viewers. Gareth Southgate’s no-nonsense approach has been commendable, and having players like Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and Dele Alli leading the line will only help England’s chances throughout the tournament.
Despite a relatively weaker squad, Uruguay always manages to pull something from up their sleeves. Having Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez will do them wonders, as will Diego Godin and Jose Giminez at the back, four of the best players at their respective positions.
Many a fan’s dark horse, Croatia always seem to play great football but can never get over the hump. It seems all their talent is in the midfield, but Mario Mandzukic leading the line should give them some firepower, and provide a target for stars like Luka Modric and Ivan Perisic to look for.
Everyone’s favourite team in 2014, Colombia could still carry on their great showing from Brazil. James Rodriguez is back to his best form, Falcao will be their man up top, and Davinson Sanchez has show himself to be one of the most promising young defenders in Europe.
Always entertaining, Mexico can either break out or fall out. Hirving Lozano could easily be the young talent of the entire tournament, but their recent scandal involving prostitutes could also come back to haunt them.
Nothing too outstanding in their squad, but physically strong stars like Nemanja Matic should help them grind out results over the course of the competition.
Perhaps the best team out of Africa, they are lucky to have a strong spine, in Sadio Mane, Idrissa Gana Gueye and Kalidou Koulibaly. If those three all perform well, Senegal could surprise a few.
As with Senegal, could have a case for the best team from Africa. Kelechi Iheanacho has loads of talent, and could benefit off of the experience of stars such as Victor Moses and John Obi Mikel. Also have an argument for the best home kit ever.
Always one of Asia’s best, Japan’s stars such as Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa always turn up at a tournament, so you can expect them to do the same in Russia.
- South Korea
Arguably better than Japan, South Korea play with a bit of chemistry and zest that is always exciting to see. Son Heung-min will be their star, but if he carries on his form for Tottenham than the Koreans could surprise a few.
Decent but nothing more, Xherdan Shaqiri will be the star man for this team, especially if he scores more bangers, as he always seems to do for his country.
The biggest surprise of the 2016 Euros, Iceland will be lucky to do it all again, but we’ve been wrong about them once already.
Their hopes rest on one man’s shoulders, Mo Salah. Unfortunately, one of his shoulders is still recovering, and even though he is going to Russia, it’s a big ask to recover from a dislocated shoulder in less than a month.
Perhaps the biggest one-man team going to Russia, if Robert Lewandowski cannot score for his country the way he does for Bayern Munich, Poland haven’t got any chance of progressing.
They qualified on the back of Christian Eriksen’s sheer brilliance, and they will only do well on the back of Christian Eriksen’s sheer brilliance.
The host nation doesn’t have any stars to name, but they do benefit from an easy group, which could see them make it relatively far.
- Costa Rica
Another surprise package from 2014, in a tournament full of them, Costa Rica just do not have enough in the tank to pull off another miracle run. Although, the World Cup is built for upsets.
Their squad simply lacks anyone of note, and a scrappy win over Italy in the qualifiers doesn’t translate to a good team for the World Cup. Could’ve perhaps benefitted from a certain talisman in Los Angeles.
A few players with the ability to turn a game off their own boot helps, but it won’t be enough for the Moroccans.
Australia is helped by having a number of their best players playing at a top level in Europe. Matt Ryan and Aaron Mooy are fantastic in the EPL, and even Jose Mourinho reckons the Aussies can cause a few upsets.
Managing to have Paolo Guerrero back in the side is boosting their chances considerably, but it’s a tall ask in a group where 2nd place is easily up for grabs.
- Saudi Arabia
No stars to speak of in a country more suited to heavy investments, rather than fielding any attacking talent.
Watching them in 2014 was like watching a whole bus depot as they put their whole team behind the ball again Argentina. Expect more of the same.
No stars to name, just making up the numbers.