We’re now less than a month away from the finals of the world’s biggest football competition, which means squad announcements are coming thick and fast as managers decide on the final 23 players who make the cut. We’re also at the point where bookmakers are pricing up the favourites for the World Cup, so here are some of those who stand the best chance of glory on the 15th July.
The favourites for this years’ tournament are up there for a good reason. Following an embarrassing exit at the 2014 tournament (which they hosted) against eventual winners Germany, the team has had something of a revamp, and should now have enough firepower to challenge. Talisman Neymar has continued to perform for PSG this season, and he’s backed up by players like Roberto Firmino, Gabriel Jesus, Douglas Costa, Phillippe Coutinho, Fernandinho and Paulinho, who are all in form and coming off the back of successful seasons. Arguably, the best Brazil squad in years, they will definitely need to be taken seriously by anyone who faces them.
Germany looked unstoppable last tournament, and will be looking to retain the World Cup when they head to Russia in June. The squad may have changed considerably since 2014, with experienced players and record holders like Miroslav Klose, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Philipp Lahm all now retired from international football, but the new breed are more than capable of devastating teams. Mario Gomez and Timo Werner have plenty of firepower between them, and an exceptionally strong midfield including the likes of Mesut Ozil, Ilkay Gundogan, Sebastian Rudy, Leroy Sane and Julian Draxler will provide all the ammunition needed. Oh, and don’t forget Toni Kroos and Thomas Muller, arguably two of the best and most experienced midfielders in the entire competition.
Spain’s squad is likely to have changed a lot when it is announced on the 21st of May, which is probably a good thing following an extremely poor tournament in 2014 that saw them win one game, and a last 16 exit at Euro 2016. The team is however packed with talent, and Russia may be the stage for a return to grace. Shoe-ins like David Silva, Diego Costa, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Isco and Sergio Busquets are all world-class footballers, and there’s also a wide choice of Spanish players who are all in form, including the likes of Koke, Iago Aspas, Rodri and Dani Parejo. Expect Spain to go far in the competition, just based on the individual talents likely to make the cut.
The French team’s squad depth is pretty impressive, and the fact that players like Alexandre Lacazette, Anthony Martial and Moussa Sissoko are all seen as back ups just goes to show how much talent Didier Deschamps has to chose from. Danger men Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe, Olivier Giroud and OusmanDembele will all have not problems finding the net, and players like Florian Thuavin, Paul Pogba and Raphael Varane are all coming into the competitive after markedly improved seasons. Although outsiders to win as it stands, France could easily manage a semi final or final appearance based on the tenacity and talent displayed at Euro 2016.
For serial underachievers Argentina, Russia 2018 provides an opportunity to right a few wrongs. With a squad including world class talents like Angel di Maria, Mauro Icardi, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala, the squad will be looking forward to making up for a torrid few years since they were pipped to the Jules Rimet by Germany in 2014, and they barely scraped through qualifying to reach the 2018 finals. The team also owe an international trophy to GOAT contender and retirement U-turner Lionel Messi, who will likely be too old for the 2022 competition in Qatar. Hopefully Argentina can put their demons behind them and beat teams that may have caused them problems over the last few years.
At every major competition, pundits and fans alike wonder when Belgium will become the next dominant superpower. And with a squad like theirs, it’s a valid question. Strong in every area of the field, huge names like Thibaut Courtois, Kevin de Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, Dries Mertens and Eden Hazard should all surely mean that Belgium should walk an international trophy sooner or later. But for reason, the Belgians just can’t seem to get it together on the international stage. This year could be yet another year where we see so many questions asked of this undoubtedly talented team, but based on previous form, we just still can’t see them going further than a last 16 or quarter final.
Gareth Southgate’s final 23 has definitely crated discussion, with a young squad picked and a few big names like Joe Hart and Jack Wilshere axed. Southgate’s team is definitely based on form and stats, with youngsters like Trent Alexander-Arnold, Harry Maguire and Ruben Loftus-Cheek given the call up after decent seasons. What the squad does lack however is the handful of world-class players they’ve relied on in recent years, and any sort of depth. Injuries to the likes of Alex-Oxlade Chamberlain have created a lack of creativity, and it looks like Southgate will favour defensive football to make up for flair at this years’ tournament. Definite outsiders, but should get out of the groups, unlike the 2014 tournament.
Who do you think stands the best chance? Do you disagree with any of the favourites on the list? Let us know how the competition will finish in the comments below, and don’t forget to put your money where your mouth is by placing a bet now, before the odds come down!