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World Cup 2018 Preview

World Cup 2018 Russia Logo

The clock is ticking down rapidly towards the kick-off of the 2018 World Cup Finals in Russia, with the 32 competing teams having already been decided and the group draw having been made last December. So, what are England's chances of lifting the Jules Rimet trophy in Moscow on 15th July, and who are they likely to face along the way?

There have only been eight different winners in the previous twenty World Cups, with Brazil winning five and Germany (or West Germany) and Italy winning four each. While Italy has failed to qualify for this year’s tournament, Germany and Brazil look as strong as ever, with BetStars’ World Cup odds placing them at first and second favourites, respectively, at 19/5 and 5/1.

Before they face either of the favourites, however, England have to negotiate Group G. In theory, this should not present too much of a problem, despite the fact that their group includes Belgium, who are rated above England in the betting at 10-1. With 500-1 outsiders Panama and Tunisia completing the group, England should at least reach the Round of 16, and since they have only lost to Belgium once in twenty-one games, they have every chance of topping the group.

Belgium may seem impressive (they had 9 wins and a draw in their qualifying campaign, having scored 43 goals along the way), but you have to remember that no less than fifteen of those goals came against minnows Gibraltar in 6-0 and 9-0 thrashings. Despite scoring just 18 goals in qualifying, England’s eight wins and two draws is every bit as impressive, and as long as their defence can contain the free-scoring Romelu Lukaku and Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, there’s no reason they shouldn’t win their matchup on June 28th in Kaliningrad.

England’s other group games take place on June 18th against Tunisia in Volgograd and June 24th against Panama in Nizhny Novgorod, so they should have the confidence of two wins under their belt by the time they meet Belgium. Although, as Brazil 2014 showed, we can take nothing for granted in our quest to replicate the glory of 1966.

World Cup 1966

Photo by Daily Herald Archive

Unfortunately, the competition gets much harder once they have progressed from the group, and England will have to work hard to get much further. Assuming they top their group, Eurosport predicts that they will meet Senegal in the Round of 16, Brazil in the quarterfinal, France in the semifinal and Germany in the final, while Sky Sports predicts Colombia, Brazil, Spain and Germany, respectively.

Of course, you have to beat the best to be the best, but it has to be said that coming second in Group G might not be such a bad thing. If they are runners up, BBC Sport predicts them facing Poland, Germany and Spain, en route to a Moscow final against Brazil. And it has to be said that anything that puts off a meeting with Brazil until the final, rather than facing the South American maestros as early as the quarters, has to be a good thing.

World Cup 2014 Germany

Photo by Himanisdas CC BY-SA 2.0

It’s not that Brazil are invincible, which Germany proved by beating them in their own back yard in 2014. Their 7-1 thrashing of the tournament hosts, on their way to a famous World Cup win, has become part of tournament legend. However, it’s not that this helps much, since Germany could potentially be waiting for England in the finals if they do get past Brazil.

Of course, if everything could be as easily predicted as the pundits would have us believe, there would be no point in holding the tournament at all. And the beauty of the World Cup Finals always lies in the unexpected, the underdogs, and the out-of-the-blue, shocking results. So, maybe, just maybe, England are worth a punt after all. Stranger things have happened.

Please note that all odds are correct at time of publishing (there is a date and timestamp showing when the odds were published) and are subject to change. All kick-off times and updates are in Central European Time (CET).