2018 World Cup Prediction – Outright Winner
Spain at 6/1
Almost exactly a decade ago the perennial underachievers Spain finally bucked the trend and began an era of utter domination under Vicente del Bosque. They won Euro 2008 with a 1-0 win over Germany in Vienna, and followed that with an identical scoreline against Netherlands in the 2010 World Cup Final. Not content with that, the likes of Iker Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Xavi, Andreas Iniesta, and David Silva led them to an unprecedented defence of their European Championship title in Kiev six years ago.
That era of dominance came to an end two years ago in France, as a tired looking Spain were pipped to the top of their group before losing 2-0 against Italy in the last 16. Legendary manager Del Bosque subsequently retired, although his replacement Julen Lopetegui carries many of the same footballing philosophies as his good friend and predecessor.
The new boss got things off to a good start with a friendly win against the talented Belgium, and despite being drawn in a World Cup qualifying group alongside Italy they showed that they are still very much world superpowers. They won nine of their ten qualifying matches, only dropping two points away to Italy. The Spaniards scored 36 goals en-route to their top spot finish in Group G, also keeping a joint best defensive record with just three goals conceded in total. They were by no means the only nation to impress during qualifying, but a number of factors on top of that point towards Spain being the likely victors in Russia.
Update: The Spanish Football Federation sacked Julen Lopetegui on Wednesday 13th June, just 24 hours before the World Cup kicks-off, shortly after it was announced that he would become the new manager of Real Madrid. Real Madrid (and Bolton!) legend, Fernando Hierro will take over in Russia. Many think that this shock move could spell disaster for Spain but it’s so often seen in the football world that teams come together in times of adversity. After all, this Spanish side isn’t a young, new, unknown team. Sure, they have some exciting younger players but many of their key members have been playing together for years now. We’re sticking with our pick of La Roja to lift the trophy in Moscow on July 15th and perhaps write one of the greatest stories in World Cup history.
Can Germany Retain the World Cup?
Germany were the only team to serve up a 100% record in qualifying for this tournament, but no team since the Brazilians of 1962 have retained the most prestigious prize in world football. Add to that the fact that the Germans are heading to the tournament without an experienced and recognised striker and with star goalkeeper Manuel Neuer having spent most of the season on the sidelines.
What About the Favourites?
Brazil are the favourites of course, but there are a number of reasons why we think they’re being over hyped. Poster boy Neymar has spent time out with a foot injury this season which is definitely a blow, but more telling is the fact that nine of the last ten previous winners have been from Europa when the tournament has been hosted on European soil. The favourites often tend to be overvalued too, with just two of the previous nine World Cups being won by the ante-post favourites. Those two victories? Brazil in 1994 and Spain in 2010. Brazil are the bookies choice far too often too, heading into the tournament as favourites in six of the last nine World Cups and only winning twice.
Why Not France or Argentina?
France and Argentina are the other two obvious contenders for the throne, but there are plenty of reasons why these two don’t look overly good value for money. France may have won seven of their ten qualifiers, but they don’t seem to be the complete unit quite yet. They dropped points carelessly against Belarus and Luxembourg and were duly beaten away to Sweden. Meanwhile, Argentina won less than half of their qualifiers and were very close to failing to qualify. Once they did eventually qualify they were beaten 4-2 against Nigeria and battered 6-1 by Spain in friendlies. Neither France nor Argentina seem a cohesive outfit at the moment.
All the signs point towards Spain reclaiming the trophy they relinquished four years ago when they were shockingly knocked out in the group stages. With nine of the previous ten European World Cups being lifted by European nations it’s obvious that both Brazil and Argentina are lacking in value. Meanwhile, Germany’s lack of experienced striker and the rarity with which the World Cup is retained makes them outsiders, and France’s lack of consistency is a real worry.
Spain, on the other hand, have world class talents in all areas of the pitch, with the likes of David De Gea, Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, Andres Iniesta, Isco, David Silva, and Diego Costa all expected on the plane to Russia. Another point worth mentioning is the fact that, should Spain win their group, they get to play three of their four knockout ties in Moscow, which is a real advantage in a country as big as Russia.