World Cup 2018 Team Previews

The World Cup is set and defending champion Germany has the best odds followed by Brazil, who has the most World Cup trophies. The tournament in Russia will be kicked off on June 14th when hosts Russia face Saudi Arabia. While many of the usual suspects will be taking part in the World Cup there were some shocking results in qualifying mainly with Italy and the United States not making the cut.

Here are the team previews of every team in the 2018 World Cup – All FIFA rankings are as of February 26th.

Group A

 
Uruguay
Russia
Egypt
Saudi Arabia
  • Russia – FIFA Ranking 61– Russia are the hosts of the World Cup and after a disappointing showing at the 2016 European Championships they found success when Stanislav Cherchesov took over as the manager. While they have solid players such as Igor Akinfeev, but most play in the Russian league and not the better European Leagues. The Russians best finish in a World Cup was 4th place back in 1966 and in one of the easier groups they have the second-best odds to advance after Uruguay.
  • Uruguay – FIFA Ranking 22 – Uruguay have the best betting odds to win Group A and they won the first World Cup as the hosts in 1930 and again in 1950. The team advanced to the round of 16 in 2004 and placed 4th in 2010. They have a great attack with Luis Suárez and Edinson Cavani. The squad finished second in the tough South American qualifying process and while the attack is there that area struggled in a couple of recent friendlies and if the attack is not there Uruguay could be upset and not make it out of the group.
  • Egypt – FIFA Ranking 43 – Egypt has the third best odds to win Group A. The Pharaohs are all about defense, as since Hector Cúper took over as manager the squad has allowed more than one goal only once in 30 matches. They have a solid backline defense and a good midfield and they are hoping that Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah can give them some offensive spark. The Pharaohs are making their first World Cup appearance since 1990 and their best ever finish in the tournament was 13th back in 1934 and they have only played in the tournament twice.
  • Saudi Arabia – FIFA Ranking 64 – Saudi Arabia are the lowest ranked qualifier in the World Cup and their last World Cup was in 2006. Juan Antonio Pizzi took over as manager after qualifying and while the team does have some good players such as Nawaf Al Abed and Fahad Al-Muwallad they really lack world-class talent. Saudi Arabia not only has the lowest odds to win Group A they also have the lowest overall odds to win the World Cup.

Group B

 
Portugal
Spain
Morocco
Iran
  • Spain – FIFA Ranking 6 – Spain looks to bounce back after disappointments at the last World Cup and the 2016 European Championships. They have the best odds to win the group with Portugal being their toughest match. The Spanish still have a great midfield and some great players such as David Silva, Sergio Ramos, and David De Gea and Isco is one of the new young guns and will be counted on to help the attack. Spain has a lot of veterans and they may have the best midfield in the tournament, but they have a lot to prove after failing to impress in the last two major international tournaments.
  • Portugal – FIFA Ranking 3 – While Portugal is the higher ranked FIFA team they have the second-best odds to win Group B after Spain. The team won the 2016 European Championships and while Cristiano Ronaldo is, obviously, the star of the team they have a lot of talent with the likes of Bernardo Silva and André Silva. Ronaldo and his attacking skills are stellar, but the strength of the team is actually their defense, which was solid in World Cup qualifying. Portugal failed to make it out of the group stage in the 2014 World Cup and it would be a major disappointment if they did not do so this summer in one of the easier groups.
  • Morocco – FIFA Ranking 42 – Morocco is led by their solid defense and they were the only team that qualified for Russia from Africa that did not give up a goal. However, their defense will be tested, big time, in this group facing Portugal and Spain. Hakim Ziyech of Ajax and Sofiane Boufal from Southampton are a couple of the key players for the squad and Real Madrid’s Achraf Hakimi has played well since joining the starting 11. Morocco has not played in the World Cup since 1998 and their best finish was the round of 16 back in 1986.
  • Iran – FIFA Ranking 33- Iran was the first country from Asia to qualify for the World Cup and they did with 12 clean sheets in a row. They have a good defense and they look to score from the counter-attack and facing Portugal and Spain they should have some of those chances. Sardar Azmoun and Saman Ghoddos are a couple of the key players, but the question is can the squad score without the counter-attack? Iran has the lowest odds to win Group B and is tied for the 2nd lowest odds overall to win the tournament.

Group C

 
France
Australia
Peru
Denmark
  • France – FIFA Ranking 9 – France finished runners-up at the 2016 European Championships and they have the best odds to win Group C and also have good odds to win the World Cup. Antoine Griezmann won the Golden Boot at the 2016 Euros and leads a good attack, the midfield is sound, and the defense may be much better since Manchester United’s Benjamin Mendy is back after a knee injury. The team won their World Cup qualifying group despite the fact they lost a match and drew against Belarus and Luxembourg. The French have speed and talent and if their defense can play well they may go far in this tournament.
  • Australia – FIFA Ranking 36 – The Socceroos enter the tournament with a head coach in Bert van Marwijk, who was appointed in January and a team that had to battle it out in qualifying and beat Honduras in a playoff to advance to the main draw. Tim Cahill is still their main player, but he is 38 and the younger players of Aaron Mooy, Massimo Luongo and Tom Rogic and have to play well for the team to have a shot to get out of group play. Speaking of group play Australia has the lowest odds to win the group.
  • Peru – FIFA Ranking 11 – Peru is back in the World Cup for the first time in 36 years and they have a young team that plays the possession and short passes to win. They have a good goalie in Pedro Gallese and up front the star of the team is (Lokomotiv Moscow’s Jefferson Farfán. While Peru does not have the world-class talent that other squads they play great as a team and they are confident after qualifying for the World Cup and rising to 11th in the FIFA rankings. Getting out of group play will not be easy and they have the third best odds to win the group.
  • Denmark – FIFA Ranking 12 – Denmark is a dangerous team that has their country on their side and in qualifying saw their confidence soar. Tottenham’s Christian Eriksen scored 11 goals in 12 qualifying matches and is the leader up front and manager Age Hareide stated, “We will be a danger to all teams because of him.” The midfield is led by Thomas Delaney, who ranked second to Eriksen in scoring in qualifying. The Danish have the talent and the star in Eriksen to make a run and advance out of the group stage, which they have not done since 2002.

Group D

 
Argentina
Iceland
Croatia
Nigeria
  • Argentina FIFA Ranking 4- Argentina did not have the easiest time in qualifying for the World Cup, but Lionel Messi came to the rescue with a hat-trick in the last match to book their ticket. The runner-up in the last World Cup has Messi as well as a lot of veteran talent such as Sergio Agüero and Gonzalo Higuaín, but the defense is the issue for the team. They have won the World Cup twice, but have not hoisted the trophy since 1986. Argentina has the best betting odds to win Group D and they also have the f4th best overall odds to win the tournament.
  • Iceland – FIFA Ranking 18 – Iceland were the darlings of the 2016 European Championships reaching the quarterfinals and this is their first appearance in the World Cup. The team won their World Cup qualifying group, but lead striker Kolbeinn Sigthorsson may be out due to injury. Still they have Gylfi Sigurdsson from Everton and they play a great team game and are very solid in the midfield. They have to play good defense, as they don’t have a strong attack. Iceland is the smallest nation by far in the tournament and while they finished ahead of Croatia in their qualifying group, who are in Group D, they still have the lowest betting odds to win the group.
  • Croatia – FIFA Ranking 15 – Came in second in their World Cup qualifying group and while they are known as giant killers the team is getting up there in age. On top of that there are political issues in the organization of the team and manager Zlatko Dalic was only brought in days before the playoff match with Greece. Which the Croats won. Luka Modric leads the strong midfield and Everton’s Nikola Vlasic is a key player to watch. Betting on Croatia can be tough, but profitable with the volatile squad they have, as they look to get past the group stage, which they have not done since they shocked the world and finished third in 1998.
  • Nigeria – FIFA Ranking 52 – Nigeria comes into the World Cup with a lot of confidence and they even beat Argentina in a friendly game in Russia. Manager Gernot Rohr has done a great job since taking over and the squad has a lot of speed and youth and a great counter-attack. Nigeria is led by a couple of Premier League players in Chelsea’s Victor Moses and Arsenal’s Alex Iwobi. While not having the world-class talent of other teams Nigeria does not have any glaring weaknesses. The Super Eagles look to duplicate their last World Cup where they made the round of 16 and in terms of sports betting they have the third best odds to win Group D.

Group E

 
Brazil
Switzerland
Costa Rica
Serbia
  • Brazil – FIFA Ranking 2 – Brazil has the best odds to win Group E and they have the second-best odds to win the World Cup after Germany. They look to regroup after getting trounced at home losing to Germany 7-1 in 2014 on home soil. The finished atop the tough World Cup qualification process and with Neymar and Gabriel Jesus on the attack the Brazilians are always dangerous. Manager Tite turned things around for the squad after being the man in charge for only 20 matches. The World-class talent is there and betting on Brazil is never a bad bet in the World Cup, which they have won the most times.
  • Switzerland – FIFA Ranking 8 – The Swiss are marking their 4th straight appearance in the World Cup where they advanced out of the group stage twice. Granit Xhaka of Arsenal leads the squad in the midfield and the duo of Steven Zuber and Xherdan Shaqiri are creative on the flanks. The defense is a solid one, but the lack of a real world-class striker up front has been an issue for years and because of that the squad relies on the midfield for scoring opportunities and a lot of pressure is put on the defense.
  • Costa Rica – FIFA Ranking 25 –Costa Rica were the darlings of the 2014 World Cup reaching the quarterfinals and duplicating that will be a tough task. The striker-midfielder duo of Celso Borges and Bryan Ruiz and will be key in this tournament and the star of the team is Keylor Navas from real Madrid. The Ticos have pace and the attack, but they are vulnerable in the midfield and the defense when they push forward too much. Costa Rica has the lowest odds to win Group E, but they also were major underdogs in the last World Cup winning their group and advancing to the last eight.
  • Serbia – FIFA Ranking 34 – Serbia won the World Cup qualifying group, but manager Slavoljub Muslin still lost his job. Mladen Krstajic took over and leads a veteran laden squad led by Manchester United’s Nemanja Matic and Lazio’s Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. The Serbs have some great world-class talent, but they are not deep, and have some issues on the defensive side of the pitch. They did not qualify for the last World Cup and did so in the previous two not advancing out of the group stage.

Group F

 
Germany
Mexico
Sweden
South Korea
  • Germany – FIFA Ranking 1 – Germany is the defending World Cup champion and in terms of sports betting they have the best odds to win Group F as well as the best odds for winning the World Cup. The team is stacked, once again, with the likes of Mesut Özil Toni Kroos, and Thomas Müller, who won the Silver Boot in the last World Cup with five goals. The Germans have no real weaknesses and they play a great team game. In World Cup qualifying matches they had 10 wins in 10 matches.
  • Mexico – FIFA Ranking 17 – Mexico won the Concacaf qualifying and they are the definition of consistency. They have advanced out of the group stage in the last six World Cups, but have not won a round of 16 match in that span. Javier Hernández still leads the squad and while the talent is there the squad is an aging one. They were beaten badly 4-1 by Germany in the Confederations Cup and that along with a 7-1 loss to the hands of Chile manager Juan Carlos Osorio has tinkered with the lineup and the formation. Still, Mexico has the second-best betting odds to win Group F.
  • Sweden – FIFA Ranking 19 – Gone are Zlatan Ibrahimovic and manager Erik Hamrenand in with a new young group of disciplined players that play a great team game. The team was impressive in qualifying including shocking Italy in the playoff to advance to the main draw. Emil Forsberg is the star of the team and what they lack in world-0class talent they make up for in hard work. The attack for the Swedes is not a great one and there is talks of brining Ibrahimovic out of retirement for this summer. Manager Janne Andersson has done a superb job to get his squad into the World Cup, where they have the third-best betting odds to win Group F.
  • South Korea – FIFA Ranking 58 – South Korea did not have an easy time in World Cup qualifying having issues on the attack and on defense. Shin Tae-yong took over and while the squad qualified the issues have remained. The two big guns are Son Heung-min from Tottenhamand Ki Sung-yueng from Swansea City. They will have to play well for a squad that lacks big-name players and has to play good defense since their attack is a less than impressive one. South Korea not only has the lowest odds to win the group, but has the second-worst overall odds to win the World Cup.

Group G

 
Belgium
Panama
Tunisia
England
  • Belgium – FIFA Ranking 5- Belgium had great World Cup qualifying process netting 28 points in going unbeaten in 10 matches and they scored forty-three goals. However, in a couple of recent friendlies their defense struggled, especially in a 3-3 draw against Mexico. However, the squad is pretty loaded and they have one of the best midfields in the tournament. Vincent Kompany and Eden Hazard lead the squad that looks to improve on their quarterfinals finish in the last World Cup. They have the best betting odds to win Group D, which is one of the weaker groups, and their defensive issues may not hurt them facing the teams in the group of Panama, Tunisia, and England.
  • Panama – FIFA Ranking 53 – This is Panama’s first World Cup and they are with Saudi Arabia as the teams with the lowest odds to win the overall tournament. The squad is a disciplined one that will need to look for goals on the counter-attack. Midfielder Gabriel Gómez leads the team and Blas Pérez an Gabriel Torres are a solid striker duo. While Panama plays well as a team they really lack world class talent up and down and that will be a major issue in group play facing Belgium and England.
  • Tunisia – FIFA Ranking 23 – Tunisia are playing in their first World Cup since and in the four of them they have played they have never advanced out of the group stage. The team is an attacking one even from the defenders and Msakni is their best player. The team switches to more of a defensive format when playing attacking teams. Like Panama, Tunisia lacks many players who play the top clubs in Europe and for the squad to advance past the group stage they will have to play great as a team and really jump on counter-attack opportunities. At Sportsinteraction Tunisia has the 2nd worst odds to win the overall tournament.
  • England – FIFA Ranking 16 – England has the 2nd best odds to win Group G after Belgium and it would be a surprise if the group winner did not come with their match facing them. England has moved to a youth movement, but they still have some big guns such as Harry Kane, who will be counted on to lead the attack. All is now well with England, though, leading up to the World Cup, as the fans were not happy they lost to little Iceland in the 2016 European Championships and in a World Cup qualifying match in Malta the fans staged a walk-out. England has not advanced past the last 16 in the last two World Cups.

Group H

 
Poland
Senegal
Colombia
Japan
  • Poland – FIFA Ranking 7 – Poland is back in the World Cup after missing the last two tournaments and they have not advanced past the group stage since 1986. However, they had a solid qualifying winning eight of 10 matches and Robert Lewandowski broke the European qualifying record with 16 goals. Lewandowski and Wojciech Szczesny are two key players for the squad that has a good attack and midfield, but there are issues with the defense. Poland gave up 14 goals in qualifying, which was the most by any group winner. Still, in terms of sports betting the Poles have the 2nd best odds to win Group H after Columbia.
  • Senegal – FIFA Ranking 27 – Senegal is only making their 2nd World Cup appearance with their first coming back in 2002. The team is a good all-around one with no real glaring weaknesses and they may be a team that could surprise this summer. Keita Baldé and Sadio Mané lead a solid attack up front Mané has been injured this season for the Reds and he will have to be top-notch in Russia for his side to have any chance to advance out of the group stage. Manager Aliou Cissé was the captain of the 2002 World Cup squad and he fiddled with formations in the last WC qualifying matches and has to have his best one in Russia.
  • Columbia – FIFA Ranking 13 – Columbia looks to reprise their 2014 World Cup performance when they reached the quarterfinals. No surprise they had a tough time qualifying out of South America and their stars had a tough time playing together. Even with the likes of James Rodríguez, Radamel Falcao, and David Ospina the team seemed to play better when they had a more defensive mindset and used their speed on the counter-attack. The defense has some aging players and that is a concern coming into the tournament, but the talent is there up and down the pitch.
  • Japan – FIFA Ranking 55 – Japan won the Asian Group B qualifying in round three beating out Saudi Arabia, who are in the tournament as well. This is their 6th straight World Cup and they have advanced to the last 16 twice in that span. There has been some controversy with the team with manager Vahid Halilhodzic leaving off some of the better players for the country since they do not fit in with his style of play. The Japanese play a defensive game with good passing and look to strike on the counter. Southampton’s Maya Yoshida is a key player leading the defense and looking for the attack as well.

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