World Cup 2018 Outright Predictions
The World Cup – It comes around once every four years and sends a large proportion of the country into a football frenzy, and it’s almost upon us again after what seems like an age since Brazil 2014. With just over a month to go until the big kickoff we’re here with all our thoroughly researched tips for the outright winners and potential dark horses of the tournament.
The 2018 World Cup kicks off on the 14th June at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow as host nation Russia take on Saudi Arabia, with the final taking place just over a month later on the 15th July at the same stadium, where we’re unlikely to see either Russia or Saudi Arabia playing. Every event that occurs between those two dates will be witnessed by millions, and the eventual winner on the 15th July will get their hands on the most prestigious prize in world football – The FIFA World Cup Trophy.
Which nation will take home the prize though? Brazil come into the tournament as favourites, despite their humiliation against Germany in their host nation tournament four years ago. Meanwhile, holders Germany are a close second in the bookmakers market after winning all ten of their qualifying matches. Spain are hoping to kick off the Julen Lopetegui era in style as well, whilst both France and Argentina’s individual talents make them strong contenders too.
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.
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.
Portugal E/WOutright Winner
While most of the talk revolves around the traditional big guns of world football, it would be foolish to overlook the reigning European Championship holders Portugal. Admittedly they weren’t the most attractive side in France two summers ago and only actually won one of their seven games in normal time on their road to the trophy, but their tactics were effective and there is little reason that they couldn’t be replicated here.
They come in as 8th favourites to lift the World Cup, somehow behind an England side who’s years of hurt have extended to over 50 years now. Yes, they have been drawn in a group with Spain, but should Lopetegui’s team fail to show up this leaves the door wide open for Fernando Santos’ men. They are led by the unstoppable Cristiano Ronaldo, who score 15 goals in qualifying and is having yet another sensation season at club level. In addition to him they have young striker Andre Silva, who has bagged 11 times in his 20 Portugal appearances, and a balanced blend of youth and experience. Joao Moutinho has over 100 caps to his name, but players such as Bernardo Silva, Gonzalo Guedes, and Andre Gomes are likely to inject a bit of youth.
If Spain do fail to show up to the races then Portugal’s path the the final could be fairly favourable. Should they win their group they would face the runners up of the weak Group A in the Last 16 before possibly taking on the winners of a tie between Croatia and Denmark in the quarters. Germany would probably follow, but as they showed in Paris two years ago they can beat any team on their day. All things considered Portugal are being severely underestimated yet again here, which seems a major mistake when they won Euro 2016 from their ante-post market position of 18/1.
Englandto be Knocked Out in the Quarter-Finals
England are without a doubt the most perennially over rated and over hyped team when the World Cup comes around, and it seems like Russia 2018 is no different. The Three Lions enter the race as 5th favourites to lift the trophy, ahead of Euro 2016 winners Portugal and almost half the price of a Uruguay side boasting Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez.
Gareth Southgate’s team, once again, strolled through qualifying with eight wins from ten. However, they haven’t made it past the quarter finals of a major international tournament since Euro 1996. In fact, they have been eliminated at the quarter final stage in four of their nine showings since that semi-final appearance in their host tournament. We think exactly the same could happen in Russia.
England have been drawn in a group alongside Panama, Tunisia, and most importantly the talented Belgium. Given their propensity for failing to deliver at major tournaments it’s not a huge leap of faith to say that Belgium are likely to finish top of that group, which leaves England to face the winners of Group H. This is likely to be either Poland or Colombia, both of whom are difficult sides but definitely beatable. After that comes a likely clash with Germany in the quarter finals, and just like the Round of 16 in South Africa in 2010 that is where the story is likely to end for The Three Lions.
See more of our World Cup betting tips and predictions here.