With the 2018 World Cup only a couple of months away, it’s now the time to assess the chances of the teams who made it through qualifying. This tournament is going to be missing a few big-name teams, most notably Italy and Holland, both of whom are experts at making an impact on the competition. So who are the real contenders? The bookies seem pretty split with most of their World Cup odds following the steps of the Bet365 in play offer, focusing on individual matches rather than the overall winner. By our estimation, there are five times to watch who have a real chance to lift the cup. Here’s the lowdown:
The World Champions may have come up short at Euro 2016, but ever since have been on lethal, scintillating form. A perfect record of 10/10 wins during qualification involved a record 43 goals scored, and while some of them were against poor old San Marino, the fact is that they have an enormous wealth of attacking talent to choose from. The Confederations cup winners were able to use those matches to field experimental teams and still triumph thanks to their individual skill, professionalism, and will to win. This is a team that doesn’t have many bad days, and will be there or thereabouts come the final.
There’s nothing more dangerous than a wounded beast, and since their humiliating exit during the 2014 World Cup Brazil have been busy pounding opposition to dust. They breezed through qualification and have impressed when playing European friendlies. Coach Tite has a far more laid-back attitude than his various predecessors, looking to gently motivate his squad of stars instead of discipline every mistake. The result has been a team that isn’t reliant on Neymar, with the likes of Gabriel Jesus, Casemiro, and Philippe Coutinho stepping up to take their share of attacking responsibility. Brazil is back to flair and fun, and are expected to do well this time around.
After a few years in the doldrums, it looks like Spain are finally back in the battle. Arguably the best tournament team of the 2000’s, they have a squad that is no longer reliant on experience and containing a couple of potential superstars in the making. Marco Asensio may still be a kid but has already shown why he could be ‘the Spanish Messi’, and alongside players such as Isco who seem to have found form at the perfect time, Spain are going to be very difficult to beat. Can they go the whole distance? That’s the big question, and Morata’s goals (or not) will be the crucial factor.
Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba, Ousmane Dembélé and Kylian Mbappé. That’s the core of this French team that is oozing in both class and potential. On current form, France must be feared. They overcame an awkward qualification group (besides that unexpected home draw against Luxembourg!) in style, and it’s difficult to spot a real weakness anywhere in the squad. They have two players for every position, all familiar with a long established tactical pattern. If they don’t lift the cup, the winner is going to have to beat them – which right now looks a formidable task.
It may have taken a strange combination of Roberto Martínez and Thierry Henry to coach this team into winning shape, but there’s a real chance this Belgium squad could finally live up to their ‘dark horses’ label. Blessed with a generation of outstanding players, they’ve grown up now and each of their first 11 now plays a key role for their club teams. With Dries Mertens on course to claim the Serie A Player of the Year award and Romelu Lukaku the kind of striker that gives defenders sleepless nights, chances are that if they hit form Belgium will go the distance.
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