We’re just under a year away from the biggest sporting event in the world, so let’s take an early look at the favorites to claim the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
As expected, Germany ranks high on the list. The 2014 winners and recent Confederations Cup champs could be the first country since Brazil in 1962 to win back-to-back World Cups. But a young French side, an aging Brazilian squad, and an attack-heavy Argentina stand in their way of a fifth title.
Let’s break down the odds. Here are the numbers!
Odds to win the 2018 World Cup
After winning the Confederations Cup with their B-team, it shouldn’t be a surprise the Germans are the odds-on favorites to go all the way in Russia next year. With so many talented young players rising through the ranks, Germany’s 2018 squad could be even stronger than their 2014 World Cup winning side, if you can believe it.
The toughest task facing head coach Joachim Löw is deciding which world-class players to cut. He still has most of his World Cup winning squad as well as a bunch of rising stars. Whatever he decides, he’ll have one of the best teams on paper.
We’re about to enter the next golden age of French football. Just have a look at some of the young, world-class players Les Bleus have at their disposal: Samuel Umtiti (23), Ousmane Dembélé (20), Kylian Mbappé (18), and Kingsley Coman (21).
But all that young talent means France will be sending a slightly inexperienced side to Russia. If they can handle the pressure of the World Cup, then they’ll stand a great chance of winning their first title since ’98.
As always, Brazil are among the favorites for 2018, but by their lofty standards, the current squad is a little disappointing. The Brazilians haven’t seen any breakout stars since 2014, the year they bolstered their team in an attempt to win the cup at home, and now the squad is a bit on the older side.
Their key defenders — Thiago Silva (32), David Luiz (30), and Dani Alves (34) — are all nearing retirement, and there isn’t a new crop of players ready to replace them. That shouldn’t be a problem for 2018, but sooner or later it’ll be an issue they’ll need to address.
Argentina will bring one of the most terrifying attacking lineups to Russia, with young strikers like Mauro Icardi (24) and Paulo Dybala (23) alongside proven goalscorers like Sergio Agüero, Gonzalo Higuaín, and, of course, Lionel Messi.
However, the Argentinians lack depth in the midfield and on defense. They’re not the most well-rounded squad, but they’ll still be lethal in attack.
This is a dark period for Spanish football. The 2010 World Cup winners have had a few disappointing results recently, crashing out in the group stage in 2014 and exiting at the Round of 16 of the Euro.
With former stars like Xabi Alonso, David Villa, and Xavi all retired from international football, Spain will probably be fielding an even weaker side come 2018 compared to their already depleted 2014 lineup.
There are a few outsiders to keep an eye on. As always, Belgium are the dark horses with a deceptively strong lineup. They’re never quite able to go toe-to-toe with the favorites, though.
England have a handful of promising young players like Marcus Rashford, Dele Alli, and Harry Kane. But given their recent performances on the international stage, we can’t always trust the English to deliver when it counts.
Mexico performed surprisingly well at the Confederations Cup and the USMNT is the strongest we’ve seen in quite some time. 2018 could be the year CONCACAF makes its mark in the knockout rounds.