Assessing the Four World Cup 2018 Favorites

Realistically, there are around eight teams with a serious chance of winning the World Cup in 2018. Some, like England and European champions Portugal, are veering into dark horse territory, whereas others, like Belgium, will feel they have a once in a generation shot at glory. 

However, there are four candidates who are very tightly packed at the top of the betting odds – Germany, Brazil, France and Spain. They are the bona fide favorites for the tournament and it is difficult to really settle on a front runner. Below is a guide to the ‘Big 4’ as we pass the 100-day mark to kick off in Russia:

Germany: Current Odds 9/2
It seems nearly unfair that the 2014 World Cup-winning squad is now being bolstered by another talented generation of young players. The likes of Manuel Neuer, Matts Hummels, Toni Kroos, Mesut Ozil and Thomas Muller form a formidable backbone for a team, which is supplemented by young players like Leroy Sané, Timo Werner, Joshua Kimmich and Julian Brandt. 
They have rightfully been made favorites for the tournament and should arguably be a little further away from Brazil in the odds, because everything seems to be going in their favor. There are free bets available for the World Cup, and the five-time champions might just be the most astute pick to use one on. 

Player to Watch: Leroy Sané
Prediction: Winners.

Brazil: Current Odds 5/1
Despite Brazil’s quick transformation under Title after the 2014 World Cup, the team is still heavily reliant on Neymar. The problem is that he is in a race to be fit for the Finals after metatarsal surgery. Even if, as seems likely, he makes it to Russia – how fit will he be? England learned a harsh lesson with David Beckham in 2002, after rushing their captain back with a similar injury. Tite would do well to come up with a Plan B in the meantime. 

Player to Watch: Neymar
Prediction: A disappointing tournament by their standards (quarter-finals).

France: Current Odds 6/1
Like Germany, France have a ridiculous amount of young talent coming through their ranks. You could probably build an exciting World Cup squad from the players France do not take to Russia. However, unlike Germany they do not have an experienced core, certainly one that has a cohesive style of play. Didier Deschamps has some big decisions to make in the next few months – can he prioritize the team over the individual talents at his disposal?

Player to Watch: Paul Pogba (time to step up). 
Prediction: These players will win a World Cup, just not in 2018 (semi-finals). 

Spain: Current Odds 7/1
Spain could be the value bet of the tournament, because they are much, much better than is generally perceived. They are a different side from the vintage tiki-taka team of 2010, happier to concede possession and territory. They are ruthlessly efficient and concede very few at the back, letting in just three goals in qualifying. Players like Sergio Ramos, David Silva, Gerard Pique and the timeless Andres Iniesta will bring vast experience to the Finals, with the likes of Isco, Koke, Saul and Marco Asensio giving an extra dimension. They look very solid. 

Player to Watch: Isco 
Prediction: A much improved performance than in 2014 (runners-up). 

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