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Monday, April 30, 2018

Who are the favourites for the 2018 World Cup?

FIFA World Cup Russia 2018
Image credit: FIFA.

We profile the five leading candidates to lift the 2018 World Cup trophy in Russia next July.


1. Germany.
2. Brazil.
3. France.
4. Spain.
5. Argentina.

The 2018 World Cup in Russia is less than seven weeks away as the domestic football seasons are drawing to a close.
Germany head into the 21st edition of the most prestigious sports competition in the world as defending champions in their own continent following their success in Brazil four years ago.
Those looking to place a bet on the World Cup may not be surprised to see Germany among the favourites to go all the way in Russia.  Here's a look at the top five according to the bookmakers:

1. Germany 9/2
The defending champions are the joint-favourites after being the only nation to win 100% of their games in qualifying.  A number of their stars from four years ago no longer feature for Joachim Loew's side - Bastian Schweinsteiger, Miroslav Klose and Philipp Lahm are the most notable names, whilst Manuel Neuer faces a race to be fit in time for the start of the competition.

Germany still boast some of the top players in the world - Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen may debutise for Neuer in goal, Joshua Kimmich is one of the top right-backs in the world, alongside club teammates Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels in defence.  Sami Khedira still protects the back four with Toni Kroos running the show in centre midfield.  They have pace and width in Leroy Sane who is also a goalscoring threat.  Thomas Muller and Timo Werner are likely to be among the top scorers.

2. Brazil 9/2

Humiliated 7-1 by the Germans in the semi-finals of their home World Cup four years ago, Brazil will be looking to win the competition for the first time since 2002, when they beat Germany in the final.  They head to Eastern Europe in better shape than they were at the last tournament.
Head coach Tite has a top goalkeeper in Alisson, a defence all playing at the very top in Europe in Dani Alves, Marquinhos, Thiago Silva and Marcelo.  Fernandinho, Fred and Casemiro have both been excellent in protecting their respective defences at club level, though there isn't a great deal of creativity in midfield.  Paulinho has been a goalscorer for Barcelona, Philippe Coutinho is more of a goal threat than a playmaker, but Willian and Douglas Costa do provide service from down the wings.  Gabriel Jesus has been relying on service to score for Manchester City this season whilst Roberto Firmino has proven himself in the English Premier League.  Neymar is the star of the team.

3. France 11/2

Many people's picks, just like two years ago at Euro 2016, France are currently the third favourites with the bookmakers.  If the favourites all win their groups then Didier Deschamps' side would avoid Germany and Brazil on their half of the draw, though Spain are on the same side.
France are loaded with talent - Hugo Lloris in goal, Raphael Varane, Samuel Umtiti and Laurent Koscielny in defence.  N'Golo Kante is one of the best holding midfielders in the world, and will allow the likes of Paul Pogba, Blaise Matuidi or Corentin Tolisso to venture forward from the middle.  Deschamps is spoiled for choice in attack with the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, Anthony Martial, Thomas Lemar, Ousmane Dembele and Dimitri Payet.

4. Spain 6/1

Spain reminded the world what they're capable of in March with a 6-1 thrashing of Argentina.  The defending champions four years ago crashed out of the group stage with a dismal performance in South America but have the players more than capable of winning a second World Cup, if manager Julen Lopetegui can get it right.  They have Euro 2016 winners Portugal in their group and will want to top it in order to avoid Germany and Brazil being on their side of the draw provided they win their respective groups.
David de Gea is arguably the best goalkeeper in the world right now and has experienced centre-backs Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique protecting him.  Jordi Alba and Cesar Azpilicueta are the full-backs and Sergio Busquets is a top anchor man in midfield.  Take your pick of creators in midfield - from Andres Iniesta, David Silva, Isco, Koke, Thiago or Saul.  A little further forward Marco Asensio and  Pedro score goals.  But can Alvaro Morata or Diego Costa do the same up front?

5. Argentina 11/1

Jorge Sampaoli made hard work of qualifying but last tournament's runners-up made it in the end.  They boast a wealth of attacking options mixed with a weak defence and a coach that likes to play attacking football.  That explains why Argentina aren't among the top two favourites like they were four years ago.
The two-time World Cup winners boast an array of attacking talent in Lionel Messi, Mauro Icardi, Gonzalo Higuain, Paul Dybala, Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria.  However, Sergio Romero is the goalkeeper and defenders include Nicolas Otamendi, Marcos Rojo and Everton's Ramiro Funes Mori.

For a more in-depth look at the 2018 World Cup favourites and more, check out this graphic from Betfair below:

Betfair: www.betfair.com
Image credit: Betfair.

Steve Amoia is a freelance writer and translator based in Washington, D.C. He is the publisher of World Football Commentaries since 2006 and published The Soccer Translator from 2008 to 2015. 

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