World Cup 2018 Betting Guide

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This World Cup 2018 Betting Guide covers all 32 countries taking part. Including everything you need to know about each team, from star players to which young players to look out for, as well as our group position predictions, best golden boot candidates for each team, and each teams chances of winning the whole tournament.


Table of Contents:




As hosts Russia of course did not have to qualify for the World Cup but once it starts there will be a lot of pressure on them to perform and make their mark on their own World Cup, a tournament that they are hosting for the first time.

It's notable that the Russians under coach Stanislav Cherchesov have played Argentina, Brazil, Spain and France in their last four international matches in preparation for this summer. However they lost 3 of those games and earned a draw against Spain. Their last match ended in a 3-1 loss against France and it's clear from those games that Russia are nowhere near to their projected target of reaching the semi-finals.

Russia are currently ranked 66th in the world by FIFA which not only means they are the lowest ranked side at the World Cup but it is also their lowest rank in their history.

Manger Cherchesov has recognised his team have weaknesses in defence and his back four will look very different their Euro 2016 lineup. Up front the side do boast quality in the likes of the 6ft Aleksandr Kokorin and Fyodor Smolov.

The Russians will open the World Cup up by playing Saudi Arabia and they will be the favourites to win this game. Saudi Arabia are clearly seen as the weakest team in the group so all three points will be a must. After that, Russia have tough matches against an Egyptian side boasting Mohamed Salah (if he can recover from injury in time) and Uruguay who have been installed as group favourites. If Russia do not win their first match, qualification could be in jeopardy which would be a disaster for the host nation.

Qualifying Route: Hosts

Star Player: Igor Akinfeev

One to watch: Aleksandr Golovin

Manager: Stanislav Cherchesov

Group Prediction: 2nd

Golden Boot: Fyodor Smolov at 51.00

Odds to win: 41.00 - Russia look exciting but will ultimately come up short against better teams. They should be content with getting through to the knockout stage.



Uruguay played some wonderful football not seen for a generation in finishing as runners-up to Brazil in the South America qualifying group. The team are built more on an attack minded approach rather than a physical one, which has hampered many a past World Cup.

Suarez celebrates for Uruguay

Image by Jimmy Baikovicius (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Whilst Uruguay do look exciting with the likes of Barcelona's Luis Suarez and PSG's Edinson Cavani up front, it is important to note that the side have just 2 wins in the past year from 8 games and they lost their last international match 2-1 against Austria.

The South American's are in the process of drafting in fresh faces and thus the average age of the squad could be as low as 25. The team have a quality midfield including the highly touted Federico Valverde but doubts remain when they face the bigger nations, note that they lost 4-1 to Brazil last year and haven't faced strong opposition since last September when they drew 0-0 against Argentina at home in the qualification process for this tournament.

Memories of past Uruguay sides have been witnessing great players being stifled by their managers and turning too physical against the better teams. If Uruguay can escape this stereotype it's possible that they can have a positive impact on this World Cup.

Qualifying Route: 2nd in South America qualifying group

Star Player: Luis Suarez

One to Watch: Federico Valverde

Manager: Oscar Tabarez

Group Prediction: 1st

Golden Boot: Edinson Cavani at 26.00

Odds to win: 34.00 - Apart from Saudi Arabia, Uruguay are in a tricky group and whilst they can score goals they can still implode. However, they should stand a good chance of topping the group stage.


Saudi Arabia

No one is giving Saudi Arabia a chance at this year's World Cup and the nation are joint rank outsiders to win the competition let alone qualify from their group. A whole nation will be against them when they open up the World Cup by playing hosts Russia in the daunting 81,000 capacity Luzhniki Stadium.

Manager Juan Antonio Pizzi is the nation's third coach in two years, Pizzi will be most recognised for winning the Copa America with Chile in 2016. It is clear that stability does not sit well with the Saudi Arabian FA who have been too quick in the past to sack managers.

Recent results have been mixed including predictable losses to both Belguim and Portugal where they shipped 7 goals in those games however they have plenty of wins under their belt. This includes beating Greece earlier this month 2-0 and a win over Algeria by the same score line.

Another problem facing the Saudi's is the amount of players that have been selected that play in within the country. Only two players, Salem Al-Dawsari (Villarreal) and Fahd Al-Muwallad (Levante) play abroad, both in Spain's La Liga. Al-Muwallad is being touted as a breakthrough player that can score goals and create for a side desperately needing some exciting football. All eyes in the Middle East will be on a team that at least hope to achieve to some points to put on the board.

Qualifying Route: 2nd in Asian Group B

Star Player: Mohammad Al-Sahlawi

One to Watch: Fahad Al-Muwallad

Manager: Juan Antonio Pizzi

Group Prediction: 4th

Golden Boot: Mohammad Al-Sahlawi at 501.00

Odds to win: 1001.00 - Saudi Arabia have had some positive results in recent weeks but they are up against it right from the first whistle having to face the hosts and after quality such as Uruguay and Egypt so their World Cup will end at the group stages.



This will be Egypt's first World Cup since Italia 90' which feels odd given how dominant they have been in Africa in the past 28 years winning 3 Africa Cup of Nations since the turn of the century.

Egypt have a few more friendlies lined up before the start of the World Cup but they have lost their last two games against Portugal and Greece respectively, the loss to Portugal was very narrow at 2-1 and since Hector Cuper the famed manager took charge he has been able to shore up the defence. This means that watching Egypt play is akin to watching Greece at Euro 2004 however the style of play did not do any harm for the Greeks in that competition.

One problem of Egypt's tactics may see star striker Mohamed Salah isolated and no one will want to witness that. Salah has had the season of his career at Liverpool and finished as PFA player of the year and top goal scorer in the Premier League. If he can be supplied together with Egypt's infamous defending Egypt could go further than many expect. However, it will take lots of discipline combined with a few risks, and that's where Egypt may come unstuck, here is a team that don't do risky football and will most probably play very cautious and try to hit on the counter.

Qualifying Route: Winners of African Group E

Star Player: Mohamed Salah

One to Watch: Ramadan Sobhi

Manager: Hector Cuper

Group Prediction: 3rd

Golden Boot: Mohamed Salah at 41.00

Odds to win: 201.00 - Egypt have the calm and authority to claim a group runners up spot if they play their best, but their World Cup will most probably end at the group stage.




The European champions will be looking to go one further this summer and become world champions. Whilst the defence needs some shaking up the midfield has been boosted by the likes of Bernardo Silva who has emerged as a real talent with his clubs Monaco and Manchester City over the past three seasons.

Portugal's forward Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates after scoring the second goal for Portugal during the FIFA 2014 World Cup playoff football match Sweden vs Portugal at the Friends Arena in Solna near Stockholm on November 19, 2013

Image by Ajith Kumar (CC BY 2.0)

However at 33 this will most probably be Cristiano Ronaldo's last World Cup, although it could be argued that this Portugal side are better than two years ago. 

Portugal's form coming into this World Cup has been solid although most of their opponents have been either teams ranked below them or minnows. They did lose 3-0 in a friendly to the Netherlands in March.

However Portugal have significantly improved as a complete unit since winning their first ever silverware in the European Championship. Evidenced by the fact that they won their World Cup qualifying group after having a chequered history of having to compete in play offs to enter the major competitions in the past.

There will be a few players in this side playing their last World Cup, one such is the rock and perhaps controversial figure of Pepe in defence. If he can keep his calm there is every chance he can help his team once more.

The stability and continuation is with the Portuguese who will come to Russia with the same manager that led them to Euro 2016 glory in Fernando Santos and his tactic will be to keep attention off of his side and onto the favourites so that they can grow into this competition.

Qualifying Route: Winners of European Group B

Star Player: Cristiano Ronaldo

One to watch: Andre Silva

Manager: Fernando Santos

Group Prediction: 2nd

Golden Boot: Cristiano Ronaldo at 15.00

Odds to win: 26.00 - The big match in their group will be facing great rivals Spain. But Portugal will get through their group and have the quality to reach at least the quarter finals.



Arguably Spain are the best nation in the world of the last 10 years winning 2 European Championships and a World Cup, but football for many only has a recent past. It is in this moment where we look back at the last two tournaments to see that Spain simply looked spent, their tika taka game found out and this culminated in the team who once looked unbeatable going out in the group stages of the last World Cup in Brazil.

Then came in a new manager in Julen Lopetegui after the fiasco of Brazil and the 51 year old has been able to rekindle the original hunger and spirit of a nation that burst onto the scene to sweep every other country aside at the 2008 European Championships.

Lopetegui oversaw qualification in style where the Spanish secured an incredible 28 points from 30 and conceded just 3 goals over those 10 games. Spain certainly have their mojo back and this was reaffirmed in March when they destroyed Argentina 6-1 in a friendly match.

David Silva and Leonardo Bonucci at Euro 2012 final Spain-Italy

Image by (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Up front Spain look a little light after Alvaro Morata did not make the final cut, but they do have experience in Diego Costa. As usual the team will be shining in a midfield packed with more quality than a Waitrose organic salad counter, so think David Silva, Sergio Busquets to name a few and Andres Iniesta who emotionally left Barcelona this season. This will be his last major tournament with the national side.

Spain will battle it out against Portugal, Morocco and Iran and they will be expected to get at least 7 points from those games. For a neutral their game with Portugal will be exciting as it is the group opener so will mean that much more.

Qualifying Route: Winners of European Group G

Star Player: David Silva

One to Watch: Isco

Manager: Julen Lopetegui

Group Prediction 1st

Golden Boot: Diego Costa at 26.00

Odds to win: 7.00 - Spain could go all the way and it wouldn't be a huge surprise if they did. They certainly have the quality and the desire to return to another World Cup final.



Morocco are back at the World Cup finals after a gap of 20 years. The side are more known for being strong in defence and midfield but lack real quality up front. Up to May they have won their last 5 games in a row and haven't lost an international game for two and a half years. Whilst this record does look impressive on paper, the African side have not had to face tougher tests in that time.

The Atlas Lions have arguably a stronger side than the one that went on to qualify for the last 16 in France 98, with players from the likes of Juventus (Mehdi Benatia) and Real Madrid (Achraf Hakimi) in the squad.

Morocco dominated their qualifying group where apart from winning it they didn't even concede a goal. Though their World Cup qualifying campaign started off slow and so manager Herve Renard flew to the Netherlands where star player Hakim Ziyech plays. Renard convinced the player to return to the national side after a falling out, and since then he scored and created goals to give Morocco a clear path for qualification. Under Renard Morocco have looked like a new team and the team are clearly going through a revival and come into this tournament full of confidence. Their only problem is that they have to share a group with heavyweights Spain and Portugal.

Qualifying Route: Winners European Group 3

Star Player: Hakim Ziyech

One to Watch: Ayoub El Kaabi

Manager: Herve Renard

Group Prediction: 3rd

Golden Boot: Hakim Ziyech at 251.00

Odds to win: 501.00 - Morocco are heading in the right direction under manager Renard. The problem is that they are in a very tough group and it would take a miracle to qualify from it and knock out either one of Spain or Portugal.



Iran did fantastically well in the qualifiers and became the first Asian team to make it to the World Cup finals. Carlos Queiroz who is well known to both Manchester United and Real Madrid has been seen as a hero to the national side, in part because he hasn't been afraid to axe underperforming players and adapt different systems to different playing styles. So far so good and Queiroz has been a relevation with the national side.

Iran will play Morocco in their first group game, which is an advantage for both nations ahead of having to play two daunting games against Spain and Portugal. This fixture will be incredibly important, win and there is a small chance of progression.

Last October Queiroz's team drew 1-1 with World Cup hosts Russia and have had some encouraging results although they have not been hugely tested in the past year. Watch out for striker Sardar Azmoun who was on fire during the qualifiers.

Qualifying Route: Winners of Asian Group A

Star Player: Sardar Azmoun

One to Watch: Saeid Ezatolahi

Manager: Carlos Queiroz

Group Prediction: 4th

Golden Boot: Sardar Azmoun at 251.00

Odds to win: 501.00 - Iran are probably favourites to finish bottom of their group but they have made superb progress and could shock Morocco. Realistically Iran's best finish in a group featuring Spain and Portugal will be 3rd position and their World Cup is set to end at the group stage.




France come into this World Cup with their best team since they last reached the World Cup final in 2006. Les Bleus proved how strong they were at Euro 2016 by reaching that final and like Spain when we thought that their best years were behind them a new crop of players have emerged.

The French team will be led by forward Antoine Griezmann, who has had a superb season at Atletico Madrid, winning the Europa League and finishing 2nd in LaLiga. Although with this team, wherever you look there is class in every department. Ousmane Dembele who cost Barcelona over £100m will back up Griezmann and in midfield there is depth in N'Golo Kante, Paul Pogba and Corentin Tolisso. 

Kylian Mbappe celebrating his second goal for France on 27 March 2018.

Image by (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Certainly a player to keep an eye on will be 19 year old Kylian Mbappe. Signed by PSG from Monaco on loan, with a rumoured €145 million fee plus €35 million in add-ons required for a subsequent full transfer. He's fast, powerful, and has an eye for a goal, and has drawn comparisons with Thierry Henry.

France may just play the most exciting brand of football in Russia which will be a game of constant attack and they have the players to play that game. They will as ever be a joy on the eye and it will be interesting if Deschamps adopts a normal diamond shape in midfield which has worked so well for the team in the past.

France's form has been solid although they did lose to Colombia 3-2 at home back in March after being 2-0 up. They followed that up by beating hosts Russia 3-1.

Qualifying Route: Winners of European Group A

Star Player: Antoine Griezmann

One to Watch: Kylian Mbappe

Manager: Didier Deschamps

Group Prediction: 1st

Golden Boot: Antoine Griezmann at 13.00

Odds to win: 7.50 - France have the quality to go on and win the World Cup. They have an easy group and if they win it they should have a safe path to the quarter finals. France will see anything other than winning the World Cup as a failure with the fantastic players they have at their disposal. They are certainly amongst the top contenders for the tournament.



When we think of Denmark we think of their glorious 1986 side led by Michael Laudrup and then their surprise victory at Euro 1992. The Danes have always had one good playmaker that can change a game and have played with a pace about their game, the same will be expected as they return for another major tournament.

Denmark could only finish 2nd in their group and had to qualify via the play-offs to get to their first World Cup finals since 2010. The side are led by Christian Eriksen and rely on the Tottenham playmaker so much that if he wasn't in the side one could believe that they would not be here. Eriksen scored 11 goals in the qualifiers from 12 games, including some memorable goals.

The Danish have not lost an international in one and a half years and this year they have played two games so far. A win over Panama and a draw against Chile. Manager Age Hareide has been a surprise to the nation given that many did not want the Norwegian to coach, but now all of his critics love him after a superb set of results.

Celta Vigo's Pione Sisto has been let into the team and has responded well and if the forward is given some time at the World Cup he could really surprise.

Qualifying Route: Play-offs - beat Republic of Ireland

Star Player: Christian Eriksen

One to Watch: Thomas Delaney 

Manager: Age Hareide

Group Prediction: 2nd

Golden Boot: Christian Eriksen at 81.00

Odds to win: 101.00- Denmark have made positive steps and they could qualify for the knockout stages. But take out France and Group C has no other stand out team, it will be close but Denmark should be able to get past the group phase, however an exit from the competition should soon follow.



This will be Peru's first World Cup since 1982 and it will be a delight to see them in Russia. For qualification it could have gone either way but the team made it to the play-offs where they were able to overcome New Zealand in the two legs.

Manager Ricardo Gareca who hails from Argentina has had positive feedback from his players who say that the 59-year-old lets them be, gives them time and space and is very calm, and the results have followed. Peru have recently beaten both Croatia and Iceland scoring 5 goals in those games and conceding just once.

The big news is that Paolo Guerrero is currently banned from football after failing a drugs test and the media especially want his replacement to be legendary Claudio Pizarro who had such a fantastic career at Bayern Munich, but the player is 39.

Qualifying Route: Play off win v New Zealand

Star Player: Christian Cueva

One to watch: Edison Flores

Manager: Ricardo Gareca

Group Prediction: 3rd

Golden Boot: Jefferson Farfan at 151.00

Odds to win: 201.00 - This Peru side are very good and whilst they shoudn't trouble group favourites France, if they come into this tournament with confidence they should overcome the likes of Australia, but getting the better of Denmark wont be so easy.



Nobody can accuse Australia of doing things the easy way to get to the World Cup finals. The Oceania nation had to play 22 games to get to Russia, which became a new record as they saw Saudi Arabia top their group and automatically qualify. The team led by Ange Postecoglou rarely lost games in their qualifying matches but drew so many that they were losing vital points and this meant that they had to go into the play-offs where they had to play another 4 games.

Things have changed swiftly for Australia since qualification with Postecoglou surprising everyone with his resignation blaming the toll of games so in has stepped Dutch coach Bert van Marwijk. The 65 year old was in charge of the Netherlands at the 2010 World Cup and got them to the final. We should expect an Australian side who will be more physical than previous teams and a team who try to frustrate their opponents and keep the ball.

Australia's latest matches are not encouraging; losing 4-1 to Norway and drawing 0-0 against Colombia, both of these matches took place in March. It seems that Tim Cahill even at 38 will be picked by the side, and critics believe that the team should move on and focus more on youth players even though he will be able to bring a wealth of experience.

Qualifying Route: Play-off wins over Syria and Honduras

Star Player: Mile Jedinak

One to watch: Aaron Mooy

Manager: Bert van Marwijk

Group Prediction: 4th

Golden Boot: Tim Cahill at 201.00

Odds to win: 301.00 - There isn't a huge amount of quality in this Australian side and they are winless under their new manager who only arrived last November. They seem destined to go out in the group stages.




At one point it seemed that the World Cup would be taking place without the two time winners Argentina as they genuinely struggled in their South American qualifying group. Their qualification status was only confirmed on the last game as they finished in 3rd place.

Lionel Messi playing for Argentina

Image by Nazionale Calcio (CC BY 2.0)

All eyes will be on Lionel Messi of course as one of the greatest players ever to kick a ball will attempt to win his first World Cup after leading his team to the final in 2014 only to lose to Germany.

On paper Argentina have a very strong side but they haven't always been able to turn that into positive results, highlighted most recently by their crushing 6-1 loss at the hands of Spain. But it would be foolish to write them off for a trophy that they haven't won in 32 years.

Argentina's front line is mouth watering in Messi, Sergio Aguero, and Paulo Dybala. Gonzalo Higuain will travel too but he has been heavily criticised by media and fans alike of choking on the big stage.

Qualifying Route: 3rd place in South American Qualification

Star Man: Lionel Messi

One to watch: Paulo Dybala

Manager: Jorge Sampaoli

Group Prediction: 1st

Golden Boot: Lionel Messi at 10.00

Odds to win: 10.00 - Argentina have the team to win the World Cup but there is a genuine worry about the back four and when they come up against quality they could struggle. They will need Messi at his absolute best to win, but he's always performed better for Barcelona than Argentina, therefore they could lose at the semi-final stage.



After their terrific run at Euro 2016 Iceland continue to impress and qualification to a World Cup means that they become the smallest nation in size to ever play at a World Cup.

Qualification did not get off to a good start and it took time for full time manager Heimir Hallgrimsson to get the best out of his players. This was a strange period for the team as Lars Lagerback quit as coach after the European Championships, but Hallgrimsson soon after got the best out of his side winning 7 of their 10 games and winning the group.

Recent results have been mixed in friendlies with a 3-0 loss to Mexico followed up by a 3-1 loss to Peru. Their only win so far this year was beating Indonesia 4-1.

The major injury is to forward Kolbienn Sigthorsson with knee trouble, which has hampered goals up front. But the team have a lot of heart and will be led by never say die captain Aron Einar Gunnarsson who will hope his side can once again punch above their weight and shock some teams along the way.

Qualification Route: Winners of European Group I

Star Man: Gylfi Sigurdsson

One to watch: Arnór Ingvi Traustason

Manager: Heimir Hallgrimsson

Group Prediction: 3rd

Golden Boot: Gylfi Sigurdsson at 151.00

Odds to win: 201.00 - Iceland have a good mindset but they are in a tough group. The key is their first match, which happens to be against Argentina, lose that and they will already be on the back foot. Group Stage exit likely.



Croatia did it the difficult way and ended up qualifying for Russia with a play off win against Greece. This World Cup is seen as the last chance for the so-called golden generation as a new era ushers in. This generation goes back to 1998 when Croatia surprised everyone by reaching the semi-finals.

Sadly though a lot has changed and whilst Croatia when actually playing football are no pushovers there have been arguments within the squad, with the manager and politics away from the pitch. This has led to some disillusioned fans, and the prospects for the team in Russia do not look good.

Luka Modric Croatia vs Portugal 10th June 2013

Image by Fanny Schertzer (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Luka Modric will lead the team, he will be the main player to watch, though we must remember he is 32. In fact the average age of this team is 29. Manager Zlatko Dalic has only been in full charge of the nation since last November but he has previously spent five years with the under 21 side and so knows the players very well.

Results in March have seen a 2-0 loss against Peru but they followed that up with a 1-0 win over Mexico.

Qualification Route: Play-off win against Greece

Star Man: Luka Modric

One to watch: Mateo Kovačić

Manager: Zlatko Dalic

Group Prediction: 2nd

Golden Boot: Mario Mandzukic at 67.00

Odds to win: 34.00- There has been a lot of in fighting but let's remind ourselves that when they have the likes of Modric, Rakitic, Mandzukic and Perisic in their side they still have a very good team indeed. If they click Croatia can get to the last 16 and perhaps even further.



The Super Eagles won their group and have quite an array of quality and experience in their squad with the likes of Alex Iwobi, Vicor Moses and Mikel John Obi.

They have been accused under manager Gernot Rohr for not being entertaining enough and relying on a set up much favoured for defensive football. But there can't be many arguments as Rohr saw his side dominate a very tough looking African qualifying group.

Recent results have seen two losses and no goals scored in the defeats to Poland and Serbia. The one advantage that Nigeria may have is that they will not have to play group favourites Argentina until the last round of group games which by that time Argentina may not need to be at 100%.

Leon Balogun has been highly impressive within the dressing room and plays as part of an inexperience defence. But Rohr regards him so highly that he has already made Balogun captain of the team. 

Qualification Route: Winners of African Group B

Star Man: Victor Moses

One to watch: Alex Iwobi

Manager: Gernot Rohr

Group Prediction: 4th

Golden Boot: Kelechi Iheanacho at 151.00

Odds to win: 201.00 - Nigeria are packed with some quality players and going forward they should be a joy to watch. The problem is that they might not get the opportunity to do that in Russia and their defence could well get exposed in a difficult group. It will be close for 4th and 3rd but it would be no surprise to see Nigeria finishing bottom of the group.




As ever the five times winners will start as favourites to win the World Cup. Their qualification process to get here was near perfect as they easily won their group. The way the side lost in 2014 remains a nightmare that they will want to extinguish and what better way than making their mark in Russia.

Everything has changed for Brazil with the arrival of Tite as manager who has taken no prisoners and installed an attacking mentality back into the team. Tite has actually taken time to run UEFA courses and study European football and results have followed for Brazil earning Tite respect from media and fans alike.

Neymar vs Croatia

Image by Agencia Brasil (CC BY 3.0 BR)

All eyes will be on Neymar, but will Neymar be in Russia? The chance is likely but he has missed a huge chunk of the Ligue 1 season after his metatarsal injury for PSG, so even if he does play he won't be 100% fit. Having said that Neymar is unique and if he clicks he could be the best player at the World Cup. The likes of Gabriel Jesus and Roberto Firmino will be backing up Neymar up front.

Recent results have been encouraging with wins over world champions Germany, a draw against England, and a 3-0 win over hosts Russia.

Qualifying Route: Winners of South American group

Star Man: Neymar

One to watch: Gabriel Jesus

Manager: Tite

Group Prediction: 1st

Golden Boot: Neymar at 11.00

Odds to win: 5.00- Brazil look better equipped with a better team and better coach than when they hosted it in 2014. They are installed as the favourites and could of course win it. At the very least they should reach the semi-finals. However fans and media in Brazil will only see this as a successful World Cup if they win it. It's been 16 years since their last win.



The Swiss had to qualify via the play-offs, which was no surprise given that they were in the same group as Portugal. The important thing is that the side are in Russia and they boast a good squad that includes Arsenal's Granit Xhaka, and creative midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri. The team have a good spirit and are usually very difficult to break down at World Cup tournaments as their priority is always the same, to make the last 16 at all costs.

Looking at the above players it is well noted that this team have reached their peak, and so a lot is expected from this team. Manager Vladimir Petkovic has highly praised his team and has a good repetoire with his players. Petkovic has the respect of the players and Swiss FA given that he has spent time in the country coaching various clubs.

Switzerland have won their last two friendly games coming against Greece and Panama scoring 7 goals in those games and conceding none. They will be playing Spain in early June ahead of going to Russia. Their World Cup kicks off in style against Brazil. 

Qualifying Route: Play-off win against Northern Ireland

Star Man: Xherdan Shaqiri

One to watch: Breel Embolo

Manager: Vladimir Petkovic

Group Prediction: 3rd

Golden Boot: Xherdan Shaqiri at 151.00

Odds to win: 101.00 - In past tournaments Switzerland have been too negative and done what they needed to do to qualify from the group stages. They are in a tricky group and if they rely on this method again they could well come unstuck and exit at the group stages.


Costa Rica

Costa Rica have leapt forward in terms of their international status and Russia will be their second consecutive World Cup appearance. In qualifying they were highly impressive under new manager Oscar Ramirez and play an exciting brand of football.

The team have had plenty of ups and downs and local media feel that the team's best chances have now passed them, a recent hard fought 1-0 friendly win over Scotland did nothing to reinstate hope. Soon after they lost 1-0 to Tunisia and the one doubt in this team is where are the goals going to come from?

Costa Rica will open their World Cup account up against Serbia where they will need to win if they are to make any progress, as they will face Brazil after that. It's 50/50 if the team will make it into the knockout rounds but in the last World Cup they did ever so well to make it to the quarter finals. It is something that the team will have to take with them and they will of course face a harsher climate.

Qualifying Route: 2nd in Concacaf group qualifying

Star Man: Keylor Navas

One to watch: Joel Campbell

Manager: Oscar Ramirez

Group Prediction: 4th

Golden Boot: Bryan Ruiz at 501.00

Odds to win: 501.00 - We will know much more from Costa Rica after their opening game against Serbia, but the team remains difficult to predict. There is certainly quality within the team but they have limitations and it is possible that they could end up finishing bottom of their group without actually being poor.



Serbia have some great players even if they are aging, and are going to give a big effort at the World Cup. They qualified in style losing just 1 game in a strong group that included both Wales and Republic of Ireland.

Winning hasn't been without its politics though as manager Slavoljub Muslin was sacked after a run in and style of tactics led the Serbian FA to replace him with Mladen Krstajic. Krstajic oversaw Serbia's latest match with a 2-0 win over Nigeria.

The good news for Serbia is that they won't have to play group favourites Brazil until the last round of matches, and their game plan will be to achieve six points in their first two games in what could be a very tight group. Serbia will be relying on Aleksander Mitrovic and Dusan Tadic who have shown great form with the national side even if they have at times struggled with their respective clubs.

Many Serbians are very excited about youngster Sergej Milinkovic-Savic who has been in good form for Serie A side Lazio and a lot will be expected of him in Russia.

Qualifying Route: Winners of European Group D

Star Man: Nemanja Matic

One to watch: Sergej Milinkovic-Savic

Manager: Mladen Krstajic

Group Prediction: 2nd

Golden Boot: Aleksander Mitrovic at 151.00

Odds to win: 201.00- This Serbia side is exciting but they do have their limitations. However they also have a lot of confidence and the fact that Brazil is their final game is a massive advantage. It's a tough group all round but Serbia can reach the last 16 in Russia.




The World Cup champions look as strong as ever as they aim to win back to back World Cup titles. In the qualifiers Germany were par excellence as they won all 10 games and scored over 40 goals as they dominated every team they had to face. Indeed they now hold the best ever qualifying record for a European team.

Germany were unbeaten for almost 2 years since losing against France in the semi-finals of Euro 2016. Joachim Low is still in charge of the national side and the players and the set up are fantastic as they head to Russia.

Leon Goretzka has emerged as a young firm favourite to be picked in the squad after having a strong season with Schalke and he is tipped to be playing for one of Europe's elite clubs within the next couple of years. But everywhere you look in this German squad there are class players and even when Germany have competed at a World Cup with a weakened squad they always perform on the biggest stage. They will be tipped to win or at least get to the last four.

Manuel Neuer Germany national football team

Image by Benutzer Steindy (CC BY-SA 3.0), (CC BY-SA 2.5), (CC BY-SA 2.0), (CC BY-SA 1.0).

However it's their superstar goal keeper Manuel Neuer that could be a vital factor as to how well Germany perform. He has missed large chunks of the season, and although in the Germany squad, he's only just coming back to fitness, so will he still be as commanding as before?

Qualifying Route: Winners of European Group C

Star Man: Manuel Neuer

One to watch: Leon Goretzka

Manager: Joachim Low

Group Prediction: 1st

Golden Boot: Timo Werner at 17.00

Odds to win: 5.50 - It would be historic for Germany to win back to back titles and who can stop them? Germany will sail through the groups and have little problems reaching the quarters. There are a lot of nations that want this World Cup though and Germany could bow out in the last four, but they have every chance to win the trophy once again.


South Korea

When one thinks of South Korea one thinks of 2002 when they hosted the World Cup and created a wealth of memories in reaching the semi-finals, they also had a good team. This isn't the case in 2018 where Korea have looked overall quite poor. Of course they were still good enough to qualify but they won just 4 games in what was in truth a poor group and many believe that Korea are only in Russia because they were the best of a poor bunch of teams.

They have lost their last 2 friendly games, which came against Northern Ireland and Poland and they shipped five goals in those games. The Koreans will open up their World Cup against Sweden and won't play Germany until the final round of games which does present itself a small advantage if they can get points on the board.

All eyes will be on Tottenham striker Son Heung-Min who has finished another excellent season with Spurs in the Premier League, he will be expected to get the bulk of the goals and create space for others around him, he may have to drop back a little too.

Qualifying Route: 2nd in Asian Group A

Star Man: Son Heung-Min

One to watch: Hee Chan-Hwang

Manager: Shin Tae-yong

Group Prediction: 4th

Golden Boot: Son Heung-Min at 151.00

Odds to win: 751.00 - Korea have looked poor for a while now and will just be happy to participate in Russia. This is a tournament that could well pass the players by before they have even realised. Group Stage finish.



Mexico remain typically Mexico, looking good against sides they know they can beat but struggling against any top 10 team. They recently shipped 11 goals against Germany and Chile and questions will remain.

Manager Juan Carlos Osorio has had to tinker with his sides formation and it looks certain that he will base his team around the back, going for a five man defence and leaving one striker up front. This could be dangerous if they make the knock out stages but for Mexico their game plan will be about getting out of the group stages. It may not look pretty on the eye but this is a tactic Mexico look to be taking to Russia.

Mexico have reached the last 16 round six times in a row so the aim here will be to get to the quarter finals which given recent results against quality teams looks a stretch. But of course they can point to the fact that they have won recent games against the likes of Iceland, Bosnia and Croatia.

Javier Hernandez has really struggled with club team West Ham this season but he will be pivotal to Mexico's goalscoring opportunities.

Qualifying Route: Winners of Concacaf round 5

Star Man: Javier Hernandez

One to watch: Hirving Lozano

Manager: Juan Carlos Osorio

Group Prediction: 3rd

Golden Boot: Javier Hernandez at 101.00

Odds to win: 101.00- Mexico have to face Germany first and lose this as expected and they are already playing catch up. Then they will face a tough game against Sweden, so the group stages looks like the best bet for this crop of players.



The big question for Sweden was the Ibrahimovic one, would Zlatan be coming out of retirement to play at the World Cup? The answer is no, which has to be a good thing for a nation that must learn to move on without their talisman striker.

Whilst Sweden finished 2nd behind France in the qualifiers they earned everyone's respect by dumping out the mighty Italians in the play offs, and it was the first time that Italy had not been at a World Cup since 1958.

Sweden have had a good set of results and in their qualifying games they remained undefeated at home which included beating France. The Swedes tactics for this World Cup will be based around the back four and they have done well, including keeping 7 clean sheets in their qualifiers.

They won't have to face Germany until match 2 so it will be imperative for the team to get all three points when they open up their World Cup account against South Korea and they will be the favourites to do so.

Qualifying Route: Play-off win against Italy

Star Man: Emil Forsberg

One to watch: Victor Lindelöf

Manager Janne Andersson

Group Prediction: 2nd

Golden Boot: Marcus Berg at 151.00

Odds to win: 151.00- Sweden are very tactically aware and disciplined. Historically they are one of the best teams at the World Cup of nations that haven't won it. Sweden should get into the last 16, and with some luck possibly a quarterfinal.




England will be attempting to win their first World Cup since 1966 and manager Gareth Southgate is being praised in the press for picking youth over experience. That doesn't mean that England won't travel with experience but this side is emerging with a new era of England hopefuls. For example goalkeeper Jordan Pickford has been picked ahead of Joe Hart who won't travel to Russia.

England qualified for the finals in a typically professional manner remaining unbeaten but labouring to wins too, which saw the team find it difficult to break down sides who were adopting a 5-4-1 formation. But England did do the job required.

Recent results have been encouraging with a draw and win against Italy and the Netherlands but on the other hand here are two teams who failed to qualify for the finals. Southgate's team will face Nigeria and Costa Rica before the finals start. England have a winable group or at least a group where they will be tipped to qualify with the likes of having to play Tunisia and Panama. However the greatly improved Belgium could be a massive hurdle. The good news is that England don't need to play them until the final group game.

Harry Kane

Image by enviro warrior (CC BY-SA 2.0)

England have an array of young talent that will want to make their mark in the finals including Tottenham pair Harry Kane and Dele Alli, Chelsea's Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Marcus Rashford has had another solid season with Manchester United.

Qualifying Route: Winners of European Group F

Star Man: Harry Kane 

One to watch: Jesse Lingard

Manager: Gareth Southgate

Group Prediction: 2nd

Golden Boot: Harry Kane at 17.00

Odds to win: 19.00 - England have a good team if not the most creative, and a strong belief but at the back of the mind lingers that Iceland defeat at Euro 2016. Has anything been learned from it? If England can win their group they have a chance to go a very long way, even possibly a semi-final but they aren't good enough to win the World Cup yet.



Belgium had a flawless qualification campaign that saw them undefeated from their 10 games, they sailed through to the World Cup finals in style, and are certainly an exciting contender.

Their team is loaded with superb world class players in the likes of Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Kevin de Bruyne, Toby Alderweireld, Dries Mertens and Michy Batshuayi, in short they have a team to win the World Cup. This generation has been brewing for some years and most feel this is the team now at its most experienced and primed.

Roberto Martinez

Image by (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The one problem for manager Roberto Martniez has been his failure to adapt systems when teams try to squeeze the midfield and end up putting too much pressure on the Belgian's back four. But for now they look like the real deal. However the big news in the camp kicked off weeks ago when Martinez announced that Roma star Radja Nainggolan who has had a terrific season would not be going to the World Cup. This didn't go down well with the player, media and fans.

Belgium are in a group that they will and should qualify from with only England being able to take points off of them. They have the quality to go very far and have come so far that an exit even at the last 8 would be seen as having a disappointing tournament.

Qualifying Route: Winners of European Group H

Star Man: Eden Hazard

One to watch: Thomas Meunier

Manager: Roberto Martinez

Group Prediction: 1st

Golden Boot: Romelu Lukaku at 19.00

Odds to win: 12.00 - Belgium will qualify and their goal will be to reach the semi-finals and make a real statement. They could end up with some very difficult opposition and if they finish runners up here their World Cup could be over sooner than expected, in the last 16. Their attack has undoubted quality, however questions remain over their defence.



Panama of course will be one of the rank outsiders even to qualify from the group stages and this World Cup will be used by them to learn and take experience from.

They will come and compete though and their tactics will be to soak up pressure and keep the score low before hitting on the break and trying to change up play.

In qualifying they finished behind both Mexico and Costa Rica but a 3rd place was good enough to make it to Russia. This Panama team are all about the defender Roman Torres who has been a real inspiration in the nation making it to these finals.

Manager Hernan Dario Gomez returns to the World Cup for the 3rd time as coach, specialising in getting the lesser nations to finals. He did it previously with Colombia and in 2002 with Ecuador.

Panama have a tough set of fixtures to open up the group having to play both Belgium and England before Tunisia, means that they could be exiting fairly quickly.

Qualification Route: 3rd in Concacaf qualifying group

Star Man: Roman Torres

One to watch: Gabriel Gomez

Manager: Hernan Dario Gomez

Group Prediction: 4th

Golden Boot: Gabriel Torres at 501.00

Odds to win: 1001.00 - It's all about the fact that Panama are not that good on the eye, they won't attack first and don't have creative players to do so. They will defend deep and hope for the best, but having to face both Belgium and England will be too much for them. Exit at the group stage.



This will be Tunisia's first World Cup in 12 years and they will be hoping not to just make up the numbers, however with Belgium and England in their group it would be a miracle to see the nation qualify from the group stages.

Manage Nabil Maaloul likes his teams to attack and usually has no problems with his full backs being used as attacking wingers a la Brazil style and if anything if Tunisia are destined to go out of the World Cup early it could be with a bang rather than a whimper.

Respect needs to be given to Tunisia who qualified through a difficult run of games unbeaten and won their group as a result. Unfortunately for Tunisia their more creative player Youssef Msakni has been ruled out of the competition after suffering a serious knee injury, he was just the player that the team needed in Russia.

Up front Whabi Khazri has been scoring goals for Ligue 1 side Rennes this season and he will be expected to be a danger up front. The bad news for the national side is that their first two games are against the two best sides in the group, England followed by Belgium.

Qualifaction Route: Winners of African Group A

Star Man: Whabi Khazri

One to watch: Naim Sliti

Manager: Nabil Maaloul

Group Prediction: 3rd

Golden Boot: Whabi Khazri at 501.00

Odds to win: 751.00- Tunisia can have some good moments in the group stages because they like to attack even against better equipped teams. But they have lost their best player to injury and have a very tough group so will exit at this stage.




This will be Poland's first World Cup since 2006 but they look like they have their best side in a generation and come here with a lot of confidence. Expectations will be on high alert because even though they haven't competed in a World Cup for a few years they performed very well at Euro 2016 reaching the quarter finals, which just underlined how far the team has come.

Robert Lewandowski

Image by Damian Kosciesza (CC BY 2.0)

Poland had a terrific qualifying campaign led largely but the hugely gifted Bayern Munich forward Robert Lewandowski who hit an amazing 16 goals in qualification. 

Their last international match was a friendly against South Korea, which they eventually won 3-2 and they have two games set up before the finals proper take place against Chile and Lithuania.

Manager Adam Nawalka is respected within the country having won the league a few years back with Wisla Krakow he has been in charge of the national side for the past five years and has the respect of all the players and a good working chemistry.

Qualifying Route: Winners of European Group E

Star Man: Robert Lewandowski

One to watch: Piotr Zielinski

Manager: Adam Nawalka

Group Prediction: 1st

Golden Boot: Robert Lewandowski at 34.00

Odds to win: 51.00 - Poland have a very good group to negotiate round and will be favourites to make the last 16. With some luck this side can reach the quarter finals.



Senegal who lit up the 2002 World Cup in Korea/Japan are back and they will be looking to at least qualify from their group. Senegal have a lot of quality players at their disposal with the likes of Sadio Mane, Diafra Sakho and Keita Balde all with fantastic experience in Europe's top leagues. 

Senegal are managed by Aliou Cisse who was the captain of the 2002 team so everything has come full circle for him and he has gathered a very good group of players who play a physical game but also a disciplined one and if focused they will be hard to beat.

They have played two friendlies this year drawing both against Uzbekistan and Bosnia-Herzegovina respectively. They have lined up matches against Luxembourg, Croatia and South Korea before the finals start. Their opening match will be difficult but equally interesting when they will take on group favourites Poland.

Qualifying Route: Winners of African Group D

Star Man: Sadio Mane

One to watch: Keita Baldé

Manager: Aliou Cisse

Group Prediction: 3rd

Golden Boot: Sadio Mane 81.00

Odds to win: 201.00- Senegal can win a game at the World Cup but the group is a tough one for them. They have some quality players and will push very close for 2nd place but could miss out.



Colombia had a very positive 2014 World Cup reaching the quarter finals and coming very close to knocking out Brazil. They had a tough qualification this time but mangaged to finish 4th which was good enough. They are coached by veteran Jose Pekerman who has previously managed Argentina, and has been with Colombia since for over 6 years now and at age 68 it's very possible that he will be coaching in his last World Cup.

The national side received a backlash of criticism from the press given that their qualification hopes for the most part rested on the team underachieving and the one worry is that even though they have made it to Russia that they could continue that form. It's clear to see that they have a good side who need to step up and be counted.

A lot will rest on James Rodriguez of course and he will look to repeat his antics of 2014, which got him a big summer move to Real Madrid. He now plays for Bayern Munich but needs to find more consistency within his game.

Colombia were involved in a classic game in France in March where they came back from 2-0 down to win 3-2 and Pekerman will want to see that fighting spirit in his team.

Up front they are rounded off by Radamel Falcao who continued to score goals for Monaco this season in Ligue 1 and will be expected to help the team qualify for the last 16.

Qualification Route: 4th in the South American qualification group

Star Man: James Rodriguez

One to watch: Davinson Sanchez

Manager: Jose Pekerman

Group Predicttion: 2nd

Golden Boot: Radamel Falcao at 51.00

Odds to win: 41.00 - Colombia are much better than they have let on and if they can show their quality in Russia there is no reason they cannot qualify for the last 16.



There has been a lot of controversy in Japan over Vahid Halilhodzic's tactics, which have overruled the entire way Japan play. That's one thing, but the other is even more significant and that was choosing not to play Japan's recognised best players because he felt they simply could not play in a team that has changed from possessive football to one that soaks up pressure and then hits on the counter. That means stars like Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda were out of the team. The Japanese FA wanted to appease fans fears that their star players would play at the World Cup. At the same time Halilhodzic's tactics did see Japan win their qualifying group. In the end there was too much pressure for the head guys at Japan HQ and even though Japan were at the World Cup Halilhodzic had to go and was fired just 8 weeks before kick off in Russia.

Akira Nishino was installed and so were the fans favourite players but it's clear that there has been much unrest within the squad.

Recent results have not been good, with a 1-1 draw against Mail followed by a defeat 2-1 against Ukraine. They will play Ghana, Switzerland and Paraguay before kicking off their tournament against Colombia and they won't have to play group favourites Poland until the last game.

One piece of good news about Nishino taking the lead role is that Leicester City's Shinji Okazaki is now back with the team.

Qualification Route: Winners of Asian Group B

Star Man: Shinji Kagawa

One to watch: Yosuke Ideguchi

Manager: Akira Nishino

Group Prediction: 4th

Golden Boot: Shinji Okazaki at 251.00

Odds to win: 301.00 - Japan have some good players but some are not young anymore and whilst the team can hold their own, this group will be too difficult for them and they look to miss out on a last 16 place and could even finish bottom of this group in what will be a very close tie up between 3rd and 4th place.

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