Countdown to Russia 2018 – a couple of favourites, a couple of outsiders


“Portugal’s star player, Cristiano Ronaldo” (CC by 2.0) by Ajith Kumar

While for some countries the target of qualification for the 2018 World Cup next year has been met already, a few other nations are still facing two intense play-off games to determine the final participants. During this international break qualified nations like England, Brazil and hosts Russia will be starting their run-up to the World Cup with a couple of friendlies, while big names like Italy, Australia and Ivory Coast are still in contention. So for those worrying about the effects of FPL withdrawal, don’t, because there is plenty of edge-of-your-seat football coming up before the next Premier League matchday. In this article we’ll shine a light on some of the favourites as well as some of the outsiders for the World Cup title, from among the countries that have already secured their spot in Russia, along with their World Cup 2018 betting odds.

Favourite: Germany (5/1 odds)

A famous former player and current pundit once said “Football is a simple game. Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win”. Of course, Mr. Lineker was exaggerating slightly, but he nevertheless has a point. Few nations have a richer World Cup history than the Germans do, who will, as a matter of fact, be defending their 2014 title in Russia. They’ve won the trophy four times already and they are definitely a top favourite to win it for a fifth time next year.

After a slightly disappointing Euro Cup run in 2016, in which the Germans were kicked out by France in the semis, coach Joachim Löw got his selection right back on track, resulting in a perfect qualifying phase (10 wins out of 10, with a record 43 goals scored) and a Confederations Cup title in 2017. Few coaches can pick from such a large and vastly talented pool of players like Löw can, with players like goalkeeper Neuer, Bayern icon Müller and City star Leroy Sané, just to name a few. There’s no doubt about it, Germany is aiming for the gold in Russia.

Favourite: Brazil (6/1 odds)

Has there been a World Cup in recent memory for which Brazil wasn’t among the favourites to win it? Probably not, and next year won’t be any different. The Selecão won the South American qualification group with authority, winning 12 games out of 18, garnering an impressive 41 points in the process and leaving number two Uruguay behind by 10 points.

After a disappointing campaign on their own ground in 2014, where they finished in fourth place after losing the last two games (semi-final and third place play-off) by 7-1 and 3-0 to respectively Germany and Holland, the Brazilians will be aiming to re-establish themselves as a global footballing superpower. With the likes of Coutinho, Dani Alves and Paulinho amongst a plethora of other talented players in their squad Brazil is capable of out playing any team on any given day. And of course there is Neymar, the world’s most expensive player who plies his trade in Paris since last summer and who will be fired up to show the world that he really is football’s best.

Outsider: England (20/1 odds)

Yes, we’re playing with fire here, because everyone knows that the more superlative the mood surrounding The Three Lions, the closer another international disappointment is as well, but one could have less cause to get enthusiastic. The Premier League is the most-watched league in the world, the England U-17’s just clinched their own World Cup and the Gareth Southgate’s squad contains more talent than most coaches could dream of. With the likes of Dele Alli, Harry Kane and John Stones not only England’s chances for glory in Russia look promising, but so does the future as a whole.

The English might not (yet) be at the same level as top favourites like Germany, Brazil or Spain, but a World Cup stands on its own. With a strong spirit in the team, a decent preparation and a winning start of the tournament there is no telling where the limits of this England squad could go.

Outsider: Portugal (20/1 odds)

Spain, Argentina, France – any of these countries could’ve easily been in this list, but for the article choices had to be made and it just seemed illogical to leave out European champions Portugal. The Portuguese under coach Fernando Santos has not seldom been criticized for their defensive and unspectacular style of playing, but the fact is that it brought them the Euro Cup in 2016, for the first time in their history, and they’re not going to change styles for the coming World Cup.

A Seleçcão combine a strong tactical discipline with a group of talented players in each zone (think of supertalent Renato Sanches, goalie Ederson and veteran Pepe, for example) and, of course, the undeniable talents of four time Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo. The upcoming World Cup might just be CR7’s last trick on the international stage with his country, so he’ll be motivated to the bone to add that title to his already overflowing list of trophies and conquests.