In this World Cup 2018 betting guide, Ben Levene (@benlevene96) takes an in-depth look at all 32 countries taking part in this year's tournament in Russia including odds and 23-man squads.

World Cup 2018 Team-By-Team Betting Guide

With the 2018 World Cup getting ever closer, here is all you need to know about all 32 teams participating.

Group A

Group A contains tournament hosts Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay.

World Cup 2018 Betting Guide Group A


Tournament hosts Russia will look to use the hostile atmosphere’s to their advantage as they aim to progress through Group A. They are second favourites to top the group at 15/8 and are as short as 2/5 to qualify.

Hosting such a major tournament may not bring the benefits you’d first imagine. As a result of their automatic qualification, Russia have played little competitive football. That cannot be underestimated.

One competition they did compete in was the 2017 Confederations Cup. Russia hosted that too, but failed to make any advantage tell as they were eliminated in the group, losing 2 of 3 games.

In fact, Russia have been eliminated in the group stages in each of the last 3 World Cup tournaments and the last 2 European Championship’s, so last summer's failure was nothing new.

It can be difficult to read into friendlies because of the nature and tempo in which the matches are played. They’ve failed to keep a clean sheet in 10 of 12 friendlies since the start of 2017, losing 3-0 in the March international break.

In 2017, Russia were competitive against some decent sides, losing just 1-0 to Argentina and drawing 3-3 with both Spain and Belgium. Those results are less impressive than they may first seem when we look slightly deeper however. The following game, Argentina were beaten 4-2 at home to Nigeria. Similarly, in the lead up to Euro 2016, Spain lost to Georgia and drew with Romania, while Belgium conceded 2 goals against a fairly poor Norway side in the lead up to the same tournament. We can see here that it’s probably not wise to be looking at bare form in friendlies.

Almost immediately after Euro 2016, manager Leonid Slutsky was replaced by Stanislav Cherchesov who inherited an ageing squad. In the 3 group games at Euro 2016, the average age of Russia’s starting XI’s were 30, 28 and 28. The experienced centre-back pairing of Vasily Berezusky and Sergei Ignashevich soon retired, with over 200 caps between them and yet at the 2017 Confederations Cup, the average age of the Russia starting XI was 29 in all 3 games.

Historically, Russia have been quite negative and direct in their approach and that’ll likely still be the case should 6”5 striker Artem Dyzuba start. Dyzuba struggled for minutes at Zenit this season and did not make the squad in the recent March international break.

At Euro 2016, both Russian goals were headers and just 20% of their passes were bracketed as ‘short’ according to official UEFA data, which was the joint lowest in the tournament.

Cherchesov was dealt a massive blow earlier this year when forward Aleksandr Kokorin ruptured his cruciate ligaments. Kokorin, who’s been linked to the Premier League in the past, has 10 goals in 22 appearances in the Russian Premier League this season and 9 in 13 in the Europa League.

2 players to look out for are Fyodor Smolov and Mario Fernandes. Smolov has 3 goals in 6 friendlies and boasts a decent record of 11 goals in 28 caps. Furthermore, he netted 14 goals in 22 games in the Russian Premier League and is now 6/4 to be Russia’s top scorer. Highly-rated right-back Fernandes may also impress.

Alan Dzagoev will be in the frame too but has failed to kick-on since ending Euro 2012 as the tournament's joint top scorer. He failed to start a game at the 2014 World Cup and missed both the 2016 Euro’s and 2017 Confederations Cup through injury.

Russia’s 23-man final squad: Igor Akinfeev, Vladimir Gabulov, Andrey Lunev, Vladimir Granat, Fedor Kudryashov, Ilya Kutepov, Andrey Semenov, Sergei Ignashevich, Mario Fernandes, Igor Smolnikov, Yuri Gazinskiy, Alexsandr Golovin, Alan Dzagoev, Aleksandr Erokhin, Yuri Zhirkov, Daler Kuzyaev, Roman Zobnin, Alexsandr Samedov, Anton Miranchuk, Denis Cheryshev, Artem Dzyuba, Aleksey Miranchuk, Fedor Smolov.

To Finish Bottom: 13/1

To Qualify: 2/5

To Win The Group: 15/8

To Lift The Trophy: 40/1

Our Verdict: 3rd


Group A favourites Uruguay came through a tricky South American qualification process finishing 2nd.

It’s worth noting that Uruguay only won 2 of their 9 away games, although did hold Brazil to a 2-2 draw in Rio, where they were the only visitors to take points.

Manager Oscar Tabarez has been in charge for over 10-years, following a brief spell as boss between 1988 and 1990. Consistency and trust has been at the heart of his time in charge which is reflected in his team selection over a long period and could stand them in good stead this summer.

Tabarez has built a strong core. Goalkeeper Fernardo Muslera boasts 92 caps and will be protected by Atletico Madrid defensive duo Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez. In midfield Tabarez could put his trust in 20-year-old Rodrigo Bentancur and 19-year-old Fede Valverde whom have been gaining experience in Serie A and La Liga respectively.

It is in attack where Uruguay’s strength lies however. In Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, they have the attacking quality to rival most in the tournament. Between them, the pair accounted for 15 of Uruguay’s 32 goals in CONMEBOL qualification, which equates to 47%. Cavani was the top scorer in South American qualification with 10 goals.

Under Tabarez, Uruguay have progressed from the Group phase in all 3 World Cup tournaments he has been in charge, which includes a run to the semi-final in 2010. They also won the 2011 edition of the Copa American, so have decent pedigree in tournament football.

Many will be expecting Uruguay in the last 16 and odds of 10/11 for them to win Group A will no doubt prove popular.

Uruguay's 23-man final squad: Fernando Muslera, Martin Silva, Martin Campana, Diego Godin, Sebastian Coates, Jose Maria Gimenez, Maximiliano Pereira, Gaston Silva, Martin Caceres, Guillermo Varela, Nahitan Nandez, Lucas Torreira, Matias Vecino, Rodrigo Bentancur, Carlos Sanchez, Cristian Rodriguez, Diego Laxalt, Giorgian de Arrascaeta, Jonathan Urretaviscaya, Maximiliano Gomez, Cristhian Stuani, Edinson Cavani, Luis Suarez.

To Finish Bottom: 22/2

To Qualify: 1/5

To Win The Group: 10/11

To Lift The Trophy: 33/1

Our Verdict: 1st


Egypt will no doubt approach this summer’s tournament in great spirit. It’s the first time they’ve qualified for a World Cup since 1990.

Egypt won 4 of their 6 games in qualification, losing just once. They also reached the final of the 2017 African Cup of Nations (AFCON). They are a defensively sound unit, indicated by the fact they conceded just 3 goals and kept 4 clean sheets at AFCON. They’ve conceded more than the single goal in just 1 of their last 16 competitive games.

Manager Hector Cuper has been in charge since 2015 and is well-versed in management, with over 25 years of experience which includes stints at Valencia and Inter Milan.

At the heart of their defence is West Brom duo Ahmed Hegazi and Ali Gabr who will provide solidity, while Ahmed Elmohamady and Mohamed Elneny will both be well-known to English football fans.

The main-man however is no doubt Mo Salah. The Liverpool star top scored for Egypt at the AFCON finals and scored 5 of their 6 goals in qualification. The 25-year-old is also on penalties and has scored a noteworthy 33 goals in 57 games for his country, which is an impressive return for a nation who have failed to qualify for a World Cup in well over 20 years. Salah has scored 10 of Egypt’s last 17 competitive goals which equates to 59% and is 1/2 to be Egypt’s top scorer..

45-year-old Goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary will also draw attention and will become the oldest player in World Cup history should he feature.

Egypt's 23-man final squad: Essam El Hadary, Mohamed El-Shennawy, Sherif Ekramy; Ahmed Fathi, Abdallah Said, Saad Samir, Ayman Ashraf, Mohamed Abdel-Shafy, Ahmed Hegazi, Ali Gabr, Ahmed Elmohamady, Omar Gaber; Tarek Hamed, Mahmoud Shikabala, Sam Morsy, Mohamed Elneny, Mahmoud Kahraba, Ramadan Sobhi, Trezeguet, Amr Warda; Marwan Mohsen, Mohamed Salah, Mahmoud Elwensh.

To Finish Bottom: 5/1

To Qualify: 5/4

To Win The Group: 6/1

To Lift The Trophy: 150/1

Our Verdict: 2nd

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia will appear at a World Cup for the first time since 2006. They came through the tricky and complex Asian (AFC) qualification period impressively.

As the 11th ranked side of the 46 AFC nations, Saudi Arabia began their journey in the 2nd round. Juan Antonio Pizzi’s side came through a group of the UAE, Palestine, Malaysia and Timor-Leste with a strong record of W6-D2-L0. In the 3rd phase of qualification, Saudi Arabia were drawn with Japan, Australia, UAE, Iraq and Thailand and ultimately finished 2nd behind Japan after pipping Australia of automatic qualification on goal difference.

Across both stages of the process, Saudi Arabia’s cumulative home record was W8-D1-L0, compared to a less impressive W4-D2-L3 on their travels. Most significantly, away at the 3 highest ranked nations during qualification, Saudi Arabia lost all 3 games, albeit all by a single goal. Whether they can replicate their strong form away from home comforts remains to be seen.

Manager Pizzi spent time in charge of Chile, following a long-period in management domestically in South America. All of Saudi Arabia’s squad ply their trade domestically, barring Yahya Al-Shehiri, Salem Al-Dawsari and Faha Al-Muwallad who all play in La Liga.

In friendlies this season, Saudi Arabia lost 3-0 in Portugal, 1-0 in Bulgaria and most recently 4-0 away to Belgium. In contrast, they’ve played 5 friendlies at home during that period and lost just once – further evidence that they perform best on home soil.

Sides from the AFC and OFC regions have historically struggled at World Cup tournaments. 16 of 21 sides from these regions have been eliminated in the group phase over the last 4 tournaments. Saudi Arabia have finished 4th in the group stages at the last 3 World Cup competitions they’ve competed in.

Saudi Arabia’s 23-man final squad: Mohammed Al-Owais, Yasser Al-Musailem, Abdullah Al-Mayuf, Mansoor Al-Harbi, Yasser Al-Shahrani, Mohammed Al-Breik, Osama Hawsawi, Motaz Hawsawi, Omar Hawsawi, Ali Al-Bulaihi, Abdullah Al-Khaibari, Salman Al-Faraj, Abdulmalek Al-Khaibri, Abdullah Otayf, Houssain Al-Mogahwi, Mohamed Kanno, Taiseer Al-Jassim, Hattan Bahebri, Salem Al-Dawsari, Yehya Al-Shehri, Fahad Al-Muwallad, Mohammad Al-Sahlawi, Muhannad Assiri.

To Finish Bottom: 2/5

To Qualify: 7/1

To Win The Group: 4/1

To Lift The Trophy: 1000/1

Our Verdict: 4th

Group B

Group B contains Iran, Morocco, European Champions Portugal and Spain.

World Cup 2018 Betting Guide Group B


As with most participants drawn from the AFC and OFC regions, Iran have had quite the journey to qualify for Russia – the fact that they did so unbeaten is an impressive feat.

Iran came through the first phase with a record of W6-D2-L0, conceding just 3 goals in 6 games. They also managed to top their group in the second phase too, finishing above South Korea, with a record of W6-D4-L0 and conceded just 2 goals in 10 matches, both of which were in the final game against Syria.

Carlos Queiroz is in charge and is best known for being Sir Alex Ferguson’s right-hand man, although many may forget the 65-year-old had been in charge of Real Madrid, South Africa, UAE and Portugal (x2) before joining Iran.

Queiroz will have his team well set up which is evident in their solid form. Here in England, we’re familiar with winger Ashkan Dejagah, while Football League fans will be hit with nostalgia when former Charlton striker Reza Ghoochannejhad lines up.

Iran's 23-man final squad: Alireza Beiranvand, Rashid Mazaheri, Amir Abedzadeh; Ramin Rezaeian, Mohammad Reza Khanzadeh, Morteza Pouraliganji, Pejman Montazeri, Seyed Majid Hosseini, Milad Mohammadi, Roozbeh Cheshmi; Saeid Ezatolahi, Masoud Shojaei, Saman Ghoddos, Mehdi Torabi, Ashkan Dejagah, Omid Ebrahimi, Ehsan Hajsafi, Vahid Amiri; Alireza Jahanbakhsh, Karim Ansarifard, Mahdi Taremi, Sardar Azmoun, Reza Ghoochannejhad.

To Finish Bottom: 19/20

To Qualify: 11/2

To Win The Group: 33/1

To Lift The Trophy: 500/1

Our Verdict: 4th


Morocco qualified for this summer’s World Cup in robust style from what could have proved a tricky African qualification group having been drawn with Ivory Coast, Gabon and Mali. Instead they were unbeaten through their 6 games, without conceding a single goal.

At the African Cup of Nation’s last year, Morocco lost 1-0 to Egypt in the quarter-finals having won 2 of their 3 group games.

Boss Herve Renard brings solid tournament pedigree having won the African Cup of Nations with Zambia in 2012 followed by victory with Ivory Coast in 2015, becoming the first manager to do so with 2 different countries.

Striker Khalid Boutaib scored 4 of Morocco’s 11 goals in qualification, but Ayoub El Kaabi could be the one to look out for. The 24-year-old seems to relish joining up with the national team, scoring an impressive 10 goals in 8 caps.

Followers of European football will be well aware of Medhi Benatia, Nabil Dirar, Achraf Hakimi, Younes Belhanda, Hakim Ziyech and Amine Harit from Europe’s top competitions. Closer to home, English fans may be familiar with Romain Saiss of Wolves, Nordin Amrabat of Watford, Sofiane Boufal from Southampton and Karim El Ahmadi from a brief stint at Aston Villa.

Morocco have a decent pool of players, so it wouldn’t be much of a surprise to see them cause a problem or two.

Morocco’s 23-man final squad: Munir El Mohammadi, Yassine Bounou, Ahmed Reda Tagnaouti, Medhi Benatia, Romain Ghannam Saiss, Manuel Da Costa, Badr Banoun, Nabil Dirar, Hamza Mendyl, Achraf Hakimi, Karim El Ahmadi, Moubarak Boussoufa, Youness Belhanda, Hakim Ziyech, Sofyan Amrabat, Amine Harit, Youssef Ait Bennasser, Faycal Fajr, Mehdi Carcela-Gonzales, Nordin Amrabat, Khalid Boutaib, Aziz Bouhaddouz, Ayoub El Kaabi.

To Finish Bottom: 7/4

To Qualify: 4/1

To Win The Group: 16/1

To Lift The Trophy: 500/1

Our Verdict: 3rd


Following their Euro 2016 triumph, Portugal qualified for Russia boasting a record of W9-D0-L1. 7 of those 9 wins were accompanied by a clean sheet, which indicates their style remains similar two years on. Their sole defeat came in the opening game away to Switzerland, which now seems like it was the result of a hangover from their European Championship success.

Fernando Santos’ side competed in the Confederations Cup last summer, where they lost on penalties to Chile in the semi-finals. Portugal kept 4 clean sheets in 5 games over the course of the tournament, again evidence of their organised style.

Santos has used the past two years as an opportunity to integrate younger players, however as we’re accustomed too, the onus will be on captain, most-capped player and all-time top scorer, Cristiano Ronaldo, to produce at key moments.

Interestingly, Portugal have been eliminated in the group stages at each of the last 2 World Cup tournaments.

Portugal's 23-man final squad: Anthony Lopes, Beto, Rui Patricio, Bruno Alves, Cedric Soares, Jose Fonte, Mario Rui, Pepe, Raphael Guerreiro, Ricardo Pereira, Ruben Dias, Adrien Silva, Bruno Fernandes, Joao Mario, Joao Moutinho, Manuel Fernandes, William Carvalho, Andre Silva, Bernardo Silva, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gelson Martins, Goncalo Guedes, Ricardo Quaresma.

To Finish Bottom: 29/2

To Qualify: 2/9

To Win The Group: 2/1

To Lift The Trophy: 25/1

Our Verdict: 2nd


After a brief couple of major tournaments away from the silverware, Julen Lopetegui’s Spain side will arrive in Russia with high hopes.

The 2010 World Cup winners qualified from Group G with an eye-catching record of W9-D1-L0, with their only dropped points coming away to Italy.

Remarkably, Spain have not lost a competitive football match since June 2016 at the European Championship’s. They’ve scored in every match since, a run of 18 matches and have found the net at least twice in 15 of those.

It’s not just going forward where they’ve performed with efficiency either. Spain’s 3 goals conceded in qualification was the joint fewest amongst the 48 sides in European qualification.

Spain cannot be underestimated. Their squad is blessed with serial winners. Over recent months, Lopetegui has hinted that he knows 10 of his starting eleven. If they line up as expected, then 6 of these players would have previously won a major international tournament (Andreas Iniesta, Sergio Ramos, David Silva, Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba). The likes of Dani Carvajal and Isco aren’t void of success either.

Indeed, Real Madrid star Isco could prove to be the country’s star man this summer. While he doesn’t boast the experience of his teammates, he has been pivotal to their success under Lopetegui.

The midfielder has scored 7 goals in his last 7 games for Spain. His record in an international shirt is 10 goals in 27 caps which becomes even more impressive when you consider that 9 of those goals have come in his last 11 appearances.

Isco was Real Madrid’s best player in the first part of the season and given he’s likely to operate high-up the pitch, he might just prove a popular selection in the Player of the Tournament and Top Goalscorer market.

With Spain fancied to go far, there’s no reason why he can’t notch a few goals along the way. The 26-year-old was Spain’s joint top scorer in qualification.

Whilst it may not be a ground-breaking stat, Spain won the group in each of their tournament wins between 2008 and 2012, so if they do get off to a flyer, they may be hard to stop.

Spain's 23-man final squad: David de Gea, Pepe Reina, Kepa Arrizabalaga; Dani Carvajal, Alvaro Odriozola, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Nacho, Cesar Azpilicueta, Jordi Alba, Nacho Monreal; Sergio Busquets, Saul Niquez, Koke, Thiago Alcantara, Andres Iniesta, David Silva; Isco, Marcio Asensio, Lucas Vazquez, Iago Aspas, Rodrigo, Diego Costa.

To Finish Bottom: 45/1

To Qualify: 1/6

To Win The Group: 1/2

To Lift The Trophy: 6/1

Our Verdict: 1st

Group C

Group C contains Australia, Denmark, France and Peru.

World Cup 2018 Betting Guide Group C


Australia qualified through a play-off against Honduras after finishing 3rd in the final phase of AFC qualification behind Japan and Saudi Arabia. 68% of their points in this phase came at home, a trend that stuck in the play-off when they drew 0-0 away before winning the return leg 3-1 at home.

In the opening phase of qualification, Australia boasted a record of W7-D0-L1.

Bert van Marwijk's side competed at the Confederations Cup last summer and performed fairly well. Despite not progressing out of the group stages, they drew 1-1 with both Cameroon and Chile and lost 3-2 to Germany.

Interestingly, they have not won outside of Australia since September 2016, a run of 11-matches.

The trio of Mile Jedinak (13), Tim Cahill (11) and Tom Rogic (6) accounted for 62.5% of their goals throughout the entire qualification process. 7 of Jedinak’s 13 goals came from the spot.

Just two weeks after securing qualification, Andre Postecoglu resigned as manager and was replaced by Bert van Marwijk. It was later announced that van Marwijk will oversee the World Cup campaign, with Graham Arnold taking charge immediately after.

Australia’s 23-man final squad: Brad Jones, Mat Ryan, Danny Vukovic; Aziz Behich, Milos Degenek, Matthew Jurman, James Meredith, Josh Risdon, Trent Sainsbury; Jackson Irvine, Mile Jedinak, Robbie Kruse, Massimo Luongo, Mark Milligan, Aaron Mooy, Tom Rogic; Daniel Arzani, Tim Cahill, Tomi Juric, Mathew Leckie, Jamie Maclaren, Andrew Nabbout, Dimitri Petratos.

To Finish Bottom: 11/10

To Qualify: 7/2

To Win The Group: 20/1

To Lift The Trophy: 300/1

Our Verdict: 4th


Age Hareide’s Denmark side beat the Republic of Ireland in the play-offs after finishing 2nd in their group behind Poland.

Denmark ended the qualification process with a record of W7-D3-L2 scoring 20 goals and conceding just 7 across 10 games. Their 2 defeats came in their opening 3 games.

Notably, they picked up as many points away from home as they did at home (10), a stat which bodes well for the World Cup.

The influence of talisman Christian Eriksen can't be underestimated either. The 26-year-old scored 10 of Denmark’s last 21 competitive goals and will no doubt play a major role in any success.

Denmark have competed in 4 of the last 8 World Cup tournaments and have progressed past the group stages in 3 of those 4. With an impressively deep squad, it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to see them cause a surprise or two this summer.

Denmark’s 23-man final squad: Jonas Lossl, Frederik Ronnow, Kasper Schmeichel, Andreas Christensen, Henrik Dalsgaard, Simon Kjaer, Jonas Knudsen, Jens Stryger Larsen, Mathias Jorgensen, Jannik Vestergaard, Thomas Delaney, Christian Eriksen, Lukas Lerager, Michael Krohn-Dehli, William Kvist, Lasse Schone, Pione Sisto, Martin Braithwaite, Andreas Cornelius, Kasper Dolberg, Viktor Fischer, Nicolai Jorgensen, Yussuf Poulsen.

To Finish Bottom: 5/1

To Qualify: 4/6

To Win The Group: 9/2

To Lift The Trophy: 100/1

Our Verdict: 1st


France approach another major tournament with a real chance and Didier Deschamps will be hoping to go one better than their run to the final at Euro 2016.

They boast phenomenal squad depth and on paper they are contenders – but football isn’t played on paper.

They won Group A in qualification with a record of W7-D2-L1.

Interestingly, in 10 of the last 11 World Cup tournaments, France have either been eliminated in the group or reached the semi-finals, so they tend to do either really poor or really well.

Deschamps prefers playing with two strikers and historically Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezman have been the go to duo, so it will be intriguing to see if they revert that way in June.

Of the top-four contenders in the outright betting market, France look the most vulnerable. This is by no means an easy group.

France's 23-man final squad: Alphonse Areola, Hugo Lloris, Steve Mandanda, Lucas Hernandez, Presnel Kimpembe, Benjamin Mendy, Benjamin Pavard, Adil Rami, Djibril Sidibe, Samuel Umtiti, Raphael Varane, N'Golo Kante, Blaise Matuidi, Steven N'Zonzi, Paul Pogba, Corentin Tolisso, Ousmane Dembele, Nabil Fekir, Olivier Giroud, Antoine Griezmann, Thomas Lemar, Kylian Mbappe, Florian Thauvin.

To Finish Bottom: 50/1

To Qualify: 1/20

To Win The Group: 2/7

To Lift The Trophy: 13/2

Our Verdict: 2nd


Arguably one of the more interesting sides at this summer's tournament is Peru, who overcame New Zealand in a play-off to secure their place in Russia.

The South American outfit finished a respectable 5th during the CONMEBOL qualification process and at one point looked like finishing inside the top four.

They’ve shown they’re more than capable in recent times. At the 2016 Copa America, they beat Brazil, before losing to Colombia on penalties in the quarter-finals.

Only Brazil and Uruguay scored more than Peru in qualification. They will be a tricky outfit and have the ability to outperform their odds.

Manager Ricardo Gareca has been dealt a huge blow after the Court of Arbitration for Sport extended captain and all-time top scorer Paolo Guerrero's cocaine drug ban from 6 months to 14 months and so will not be available for selection.

Peru's 23-man final squad: Carlos Caceda, Jose Carvallo, Pedro Gallese, Luis Advincula, Pedro Aquino, Miguel Araujo, Andre Carrillo, Wilder Cartagena, Aldo Corzo, Christian Cueva, Jefferson Farfan, Edison Flores, Paolo Hurtado, Nilson Loyola, Andy Polo, Christian Ramos, Alberto Rodriguez, Raul Ruidiaz, Anderson Santamaria, Renato Tapia, Miguel Trauco, Yoshimar Yotun, Paolo Guerrero.

To Finish Bottom: 23/10

To Qualify: 2/1

To Win The Group: 10/1

To Lift The Trophy: 200/1

Our Verdict: 3rd

Group D

Group D contains Argentina, Croatia, Iceland and Nigeria.

World Cup 2018 Betting Guide Group D


A 3rd place finish in CONMEBOL qualification somewhat flatters this Argentina side. It went down to the final game, where Lionel Messi produced a match-winning hat-trick meaning his side finished with a record of W6-D5-L3.

Indeed, a reliance on Messi was a theme throughout the qualification process. The now 30-year-old scored 7 of Argentina's 19 goals (37%) – only Bolivia scored fewer goals than Argentina in qualification.

The Argentinian pool of attacking talent is undeniable, but it does not necessarily guarantee success. The squad is not overly balanced and they are lacking in defenders.

Manager Jorge Sampaoli has done well previously when in charge of Chile and Sevilla and is no doubt capable of masterminding further success. Argentina have reached at least the quarter-final stages in 6 of 8 World Cup finals but may find life tougher here.

Argentina's 23-man final squad: Nahuel Guzmán, Willy Caballero, Franco Armani; Gabriel Mercado, Nicolas Otamendi, Federico Fazio, Nicolas Tagliafico, Marcos Rojo, Marcos Acuna, Cristian Ansaldi, Eduardo Salvio; Javier Mascherano, Angel Di Maria, Ever Banega, Lucas Biglia, Manuel Lanzini, Gio Lo Celso, Maximiliano Meza; Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Paulo Dybala, Cristian Pavon.

To Finish Bottom: 33/1

To Qualify: 1/7

To Win The Group: 8/13

To Lift The Trophy: 9/1

Our Verdict: 4th


Croatia changed manager at the later end of the qualification process and appointed Zlatko Dalic to take the reigns. It ultimately paid dividends as Dalic oversaw his side beat Greece 4-1 on aggregate in the play-offs.

Croatia have interestingly been drawn with Iceland, whom they finished behind in qualification. 10 of their 12 games during the entire qualification process saw under 2.5 goals and they did not concede more than the single goal in any of those games.

Croatia will be hoping for better performances than have been evident over the last couple of years. With the players at their disposal, they have the minerals to go deep into the competition.

Ivan Rakitic, Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic make up a solid core, with the likes of Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic more than capable in the final third.

Croatia's 23-man final squad: Danijel Subasic, Lovre Kalinic, Dominik Livakovic; Vedran Corluka, Domagoj Vida, Ivan Strinic, Dejan Lovren, Sime Vrsaljko, Josip Pivaric, Tin Jedvaj, Duje Caleta-Car; Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, Mateo Kovacic, Milan Badelj, Marcelo Brozovic, Filip Bradaric; Mario Mandzukic, Ivan Perisic, Nikola Kalinic, Andrej Kramaric, Marko Pjaca, Ante Rebic.

To Finish Bottom: 7/1

To Qualify: 1/2

To Win The Group: 9/4

To Lift The Trophy: 33/1

Our Verdict: 1st


Following their Euro 2016 heroics, Iceland appointed Heimir Hallgrimsson to take over from Lars Lagerback, but that did little to stop them building on the impressive togetherness and team ethic.

They are a tight-knit group and boast good experience. The five line-ups with the highest average ages in Iceland’s history have all been fielded under Hallgrimsson’s time in charge.

They continued their solid form in qualification, winning a tricky group that included Croatia, Ukraine, Turkey, Finland and Kosovo and ended with a record of W7-D1-L2.

Heimir Hallgrimsson's side won 4 of their 5 group games ‘to nil', with 7 of the 10 group games seeing under 2.5 goals.

Expect them to be competitive in tight, low scoring matches.

Iceland’s 23-man final squad: Hannes Thor Halldorsson, Runar Alex Runarsson, Frederik Schram; Kari Arnason, Ari Freyr Skulason, Birkir Mar Saevarsson, Sverrir Ingi Ingason, Hordur Magnusson, Holmar Orn Eyjolfsson, Ragnar Sigurdsson; Johann Berg Gudmundsson, Birkir Bjarnason, Arnor Ingvi Traustason, Emil Hallfredsson, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Olafur Ingi Skulason, Rurik Gislason, Samuel Fridjonsson, Aron Gunnarsson; Alfred Finnbogason, Bjorn Bergmann Sigurdarson, Jon Dadi Bodvarsson, Albert Gudmundsson.

To Finish Bottom: 13/10

To Qualify: 11/4

To Win The Group: 12/1

To Lift The Trophy: 200/1

Our Verdict: 2nd


Nigeria were the top scorers in African qualification, finishing ahead of Zambia, Cameroon and Algeria to win their respective group. They boasted a record of W4-D2-L0 during that period, although were awarded a 3-0 loss against Algeria after fielding an ineligible player.

Ola Aina, John Obi Mikel, Wilfred Ndidi, Victor Moses, Alex Iwobi and Kelechi Iheanacho are apart of a contingent we should all be familiar with here in the UK.

Gernot Rohr’s team tend to share goals amongst the team. The way they qualified through a potential tricky group to get here could stand them in good stead.

It’s difficult to make comparisons between sides from different regions, but if friendlies are your thing, they’ve won away at Argentina and Poland since November.

Nigeria’s 23-man final squad:William Ekong, Leon Balogun, Bryan Idowu, Chidozie, Awaziem, Abdullahi Shehu, Elderson Echiejile, Tyronne Ebuehi, Mikel John Obi, Ogenyi Onazi, John Ogu, Wilfred Ndidi, Oghenekaro Etebo, Joel Obi, Odion Ighalo, Ahmed Musa, Victor Moses, Alex Iwobi, Kelechi Iheanacho, Simeon Nwankwo.

To Finish Bottom: 8/5

To Qualify: 9/4

To Win The Group: 10/1

To Lift The Trophy: 200/1

Our Verdict: 3rd

Group E

Group E contains Brazil, Costa Rica, Serbia and Switzerland.

World Cup 2018 Betting Guide Group E


Amongst the market leaders, Brazil boast strong claims. With a wealth of talent plying their trade at the elite level, they have depth all over the park.

While the fitness of Neymar is a worry, the likes of Willian, Douglas Costa, Gabriel Jesus, Roberto Firmino and Phillipe Coutinho are more than adept at pulling their weight.

In midfield, they possess a fine balance. In slightly deeper roles, Casemiro and Fernandinho are more than capable of doing the ‘dirty work', while Paulinho offers a different dimension with his ability to get beyond the striker, which compliments their ball-players who want to come deep.

The full-back area is not an issue either, despite the injury to Dani Alves. Serial winner Marcelo is as good as you’ll get while Danilo is capable of filling in on the other side in the absence of Alves.

Manager Tite steadied the ship when he took over in 2016. Since then they’ve lost just once and have kept an impressive 7 clean sheets in their last 9.

Their only loss in qualification came in the opener against Chile back in late 2015. They boasted a W12-D5-L1 record, topping the Eliminatoria group. Brazil were the group's highest scorers, yielding a +30 goal difference.

Goals were spread across the team during Brazil's qualification phase, with Jesus, Neymar, Paulinho, Coutinho and Willian all netting at least 4 times.

Brazil's 23-man final squad: Alisson, Ederson, Cassio; Danilo, Fagner, Marcelo, Filipe Luis, Thiago Silva, Marquinhos, Miranda, Pedro Geromel; Casemiro, Fernandinho, Paulinho, Fred, Renato Augusto, Philippe Coutinho, Willian, Douglas Costa; Neymar, Taison, Gabriel Jesus, Roberto Firmino.

To Finish Bottom: 40/1

To Qualify: 1/16

To Win The Group: 2/7

To Lift The Trophy: 4/1

Our Verdict: 1st

Costa Rica

Famous for their run to the quarter-finals back in 2014, Costa Rica finished second to Mexico in CONCACAF qualification to secure a fifth World Cup appearance.

Costa Rica ended the qualification process with a record of W7-D5-L2. The Central American outfit scored 22 goals and conceded 10. Only twice did they concede more than 2 goals in a single game.

Recent form is possibly worry for Oscar Ramirez, however, whose side has won just 1 of their last 7 matches.

Costa Rica’s 14 goals in qualification came via 8 different scorers which represents the collective nature of their play. Any success will likely come as a result of a valiant, team effort across the park, rather than isolated moments of individual brilliance.

They have experience throughout, with former Fulham-man Bryan Ruiz having been capped 109 times.

Costa Rica's 23-man final squad: Keylor Navas, Patrick Pemberton, Leonel Moreira, Cristian Gamboa, Ian Smith, Ronald Matarrita, Bryan Oviedo, Oscar Duarte, Giancarlo Gonzalez, Francisco Calvo, Kendall Waston, Johnny Acosta, David Guzman, Yeltsin Tejeda, Celso Borges, Randall Azofeifa, Rodney Wallace, Bryan Ruiz, Daniel Colindres, Christian Bolanos, Johan Venegas, Joel Campbell, Marco Urena.

To Finish Bottom: 5/6

To Qualify: 17/2

To Win The Group: 18/1

To Lift The Trophy: 500/1

Our Verdict: 3rd


Serbia impressively won their qualification group, seeing off the likes of the Republic of Ireland, Wales and Austria. They lost just once in doing so and scored in every match.

4 of their 6 wins came ‘to nil'. They are a robust outfit and have the tools to make life tough for opposition.

With Aleksandr Mitrovic in inspired form following his loan move to Fulham, he could prove a handful. Mitrovic found the net 6 times during qualification, with Dusan Tadic doing so on 4 occasions. Nemanja Matic and Luka Milivojevic will sit at the base of midfield in a Serbia side who have a steel about them.

Head Coach Mladen Krstajic took over last October after spending time within the backroom staff. The former Serbian footballer, who was known for his composure and leadership qualities during his time playing, is yet to manage a competitive game.

Serbia’s 23-man final squad: Marko Dmitrovic, Predrag Rajkovic, Vladimir Stojkovic; Aleksandar Kolarov, Branislav Ivanovic, Nikola Milenkovic, Milan Rodic, Antonio Rukavina, Uros Spajic, Dusko Tosic, Milos Veljkovic; Marko Grujic, Filip Kostic, Adem Ljajic, Nemanja Matic, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Luka Milivojevic, Nemanja Radonjic, Dusan Tadic, Andrija Zivkovic; Luka Jovic, Aleksandar Mitrovic, Aleksandar Prijovic.

To Finish Bottom: 7/2

To Qualify: 6/5

To Win The Group: 8/1

To Lift The Trophy: 200/1

Our Verdict: 2nd


Group B of the UEFA qualification stage was arguably the most interesting of the lot.

Along with Portugal, Switzerland dominated their opponents, producing 27 points from their 10 games, a tally only bettered by Germany, Spain and Belgium.

Switzerland were actually group leaders going into the final game against Portugal, which they lost 2-0. Unfortunately for Switzerland, Portugal’s superior goal difference secured them the automatic spot, forcing Switzerland into a play-off.

Fortunately for the Swiss, they went on to overcome Northern Ireland 1-0 on aggregate in a tense encounter. This will be Switzerland’s fourth consecutive appearance at the World Cup.

They are an awkward outfit, but quality in the final third could be a worry at the elite level. At Euro 2016, they scraped through their group scoring just 2 goals in 3 matches.

Manager Vladimir Petkovic has been in charge since Ottmar Hitzfeld's departure after the 2014 World Cup. Petkovic previously managed Lazio where he won the Coppa Italia.

Switzerland's 23-man final squad: Roman Buerki, Yvon Mvogo, Yann Sommer; Manuel Akanji, Johan Djourou, Nico Elvedi, Michael Lang, Stephan Lichtsteiner, Jacques-Francois Moubandje, Ricardo Rodriguez, Fabian Schaer; Valon Behrami, Blerim Dzemaili, Gelson Fernandes, Remo Freuler, Xherdan Shaqiri, Granit Xhaka, Steven Zuber, Denis Zakaria; Josip Drmic, Breel Embolo, Mario Gavranovic, Haris Seferovic.

To Finish Bottom: 4/1

To Qualify: 1/1

To Win The Group: 6/1

To Lift The Trophy: 100/1

Our Verdict: 3rd

Group F

Group F contains reigning champions Germany, Mexico, South Korea and Sweden.

World Cup 2018 Betting Guide Group F


Holders Germany were able to assert their authority in qualification, winning all 10 of their games. Their +39 goal difference was the best of all 54 European sides.

They won last summer’s Confederations Cup (beating Chile 1-0 in the final) with virtually a second-string squad and possess outrageous squad depth.

With Miroslav Klose and Mario Gomez no longer available, Germany’s front-man will come from Thomas Muller, Sandro Wagner or Tino Werner, whom scored 13 goals between them during qualification.

Manager Joachim Low has been boosted by the news that first-choice goalkeeper Manuel Neuer should be back to full fitness in time for when the competition starts in June after recovering from a footy injury that has sidelined him since September.

Low has been in charge since 2006 and has taken Germany to at least the semi-finals in all 5 major tournaments during that time. The 58-year-old, who recently signed a contract extension that will keep him in charge until 2022, has the experience and the know-how to take his team far and another solid showing is expected.

Germany's 23-man final squad: Manuel Neuer, Marc-Andre ter Stegen, Kevin Trapp; Jerome Boateng, Matthias Ginter, Jonas Hector, Mats Hummels, Joshua Kimmich, Marvin Plattenhardt, Antonio Rudiger, Niklas Sule; Julian Brandt, Julian Draxler, Mario Gomez, Leon Goretzka, Ilkay Gundogan, Sami Khedira, Toni Kroos, Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil, Marco Reus, Sebastian Rudy, Timo Werner.

To Finish Bottom: 50/1

To Qualify: 1/12

To Win The Group: 13

To Lift The Trophy: 9/2

Our Verdict: 1st


This Mexico side came through CONCACAF qualification losing just 1 of their 16 games and conceding just 8 times in the process.

The North American side have progressed through the group stages in each of the previous 6 occasions they have appeared at the World Cup, quite a remarkable record.

Manager Juan Carlos Osorio has been in charge since 2015 and has overseen Copa America and Confederations Cup campaigns. They scored in all 5 of their matches at last summer’s Confederations Cup.

Osorio’s team possess a well-balanced, experienced squad who know how to get the job done on the big stage.

Raul Jimenez, Javier Hernandez, Carlos Vela, Oribe Peralta and Hirving Lozano bring good variety in the final third. Captain Anders Guardado has accumulated an incredible 144 caps at the age of 31.

Mexico's 23-man final squad: Jesus Corona, Alfredo Talavera, Guillermo Ochoa; Hugo Ayala, Carlos Salcedo, Diego Reyes, Miguel Layun, Hector Moreno, Edson Alvarez; Rafael Marquez, Jonathan dos Santos, Marco Fabian, Giovani dos Santos, Hector Herrera, Andres Guardado; Raul Jimenez, Carlos Vela, Javier Hernandez, Jesus Corona, Oribe Peralta, Javier Aquino, Hirving Lozano.

To Finish Bottom: 9/2

To Qualify: 11/10

To Win The Group: 5/1

To Lift The Trophy: 100/1

Our Verdict: 2nd

South Korea

South Korea secured their place in Russia this summer after finishing 2nd behind Iran in AFC qualification. The 2002 semi-finalists weren’t overly convincing, having failed to win a single match away from home soil and finished with a record of W6-D3-L3. Nonetheless, they did enough to ensure a ninth consecutive World Cup appearance.

Head Coach Shin Tae-Yong took over in June 2017 from Uli Stielike after 3 years as assistant manager. The 49-year-old's first 2 competitive games both ended goalless. The role should not prove too overwhelming given he took caretaker charge in 2014 and has since managed the South Korean U20 and U23 sides.

Spurs man Son Heung-Min, who scored 12 goals in 2311 minutes of domestic football this season, will spearhead the South Korean front-line. Meanwhile, Swansea midfielder Ki Sung-yueng will captain the side and is set to reach 100 caps in the opener against Sweden.

South Korea's 23-man final squad: Kim Seunggyu, Kim Jinhyeon, Cho Hyeonwoo, Kim Younggwon, Jang Hyunsoo, Jeong Seunghyeon, Yun Yeongseon, Oh Bansuk, Kim Minwoo, Park Jooho, Hong Chul, Go Yohan, Lee Yong, Ki Sungyueng, Jeong Wooyoung, Ju Sejong, Koo Jacheol, Lee Jaesung, Lee Seungwoo, Moon Sunmin, Kim Shinwook, Son Heungmin, Hwang Heechan.

To Finish Bottom: 9/10

To Qualify: 5/2

To Win The Group: 16/1

To Lift The Trophy: 750/1

Our Verdict: 4th


Sweden must be respected after defying the odds to reach this summer’s tournament – their first World Cup appearance since 2006 in fact.

The Scandinavian nation beat Italy 1-0 over two-legs in the play-off, after finishing 2nd in Group A behind France and ahead of Holland. Maybe rather surprisingly, they were the group's highest scorers, with 26 goals in 10 games and so are more than capable of finding the back of the net.

It can be argued that Janne Andersson’s side might have benefited from all-time top scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s retirement, as there is more of a team feel to the squad. They have successfully rebuilt and after the Swedish FA confirmed the talisman will not be returning to international football, the side can look forward to the future with fresh hope.

Marcus Berg found the net 8 times during qualification, but it’s RB Leipzig’s man Emil Forsberg who could be key. The pair are 5/2 and 9/2 respectively to finish as the ‘Top Team Goalscorer'.

Sweden's 23-man final squad: Robin Olsen, Karl-Johan Johnsson, Kristoffer Nordfeldt, Mikael Lustig, Victor Lindelof, Andreas Granqvist, Martin Olsson, Ludwig Augustinsson, Filip Helander, Emil Krafth, Pontus Jansson, Sebastian Larsson, Albin Ekdal, Emil Forsberg, Gustav Svensson, Oscar Hiljemark, Viktor Claesson, Marcus Rohden, Jimmy Durmaz, Marcus Berg, John Guidetti, Ola Toivonen, Isaac Kiese Thelin.

To Finish Bottom: 16/5

To Qualify: 5/4

To Win The Group: 13/2

To Lift The Trophy: 150/1

Our Verdict: 3rd

Group G

Group G contains Belgium, England, Panama and Tunisia.

World Cup 2018 Betting Guide Group G


As has been the case in most recent major tournaments, this talented Belgium side are deemed a threat – at least in the betting market, that is. They have a chance here to overcome their serial-underachievers tag.

Manager Roberto Martinez took over from Marc Wilmots following the side's Euro 2016 exit to Wales and has changed style in order to get the most out of his pool of players. Martinez’s preference is a back-three.

Belgium were the joint highest scorers of the 54 sides in European qualification, with 43 goals in 10 games. They went unbeaten throughout that time.

Belgium have scored in 16 consecutive games, finding the net at least twice in 13 of those. Romelu Lukaku scored 11 goals in qualification, while Eden Hazard, Dries Mertens and Thomas Meunier all got on the scoresheet at least 5 times.

The omission of Roma midfielder Raja Nainggolan seems an extremely strange decision, despite being for ‘purely tactical' reasons, according to Roberto Martinez. It remains to be seem how big of a miss he will be.

A quarter-final appearance in 2014 was the first-time the Belgian’s had moved beyond the round of 16 since 1986.

Belgium's 23-man final squad: Koen Casteels, Thibaut Courtois, Simon Mignolet; Toby Alderweireld, Dedryck Boyata, Vincent Kompany, Thomas Meunier, Thomas Vermaelen, Jan Vertonghen; Nacer Chadli, Kevin De Bruyne, Mousa Dembele, Leander Dendoncker, Marouane Fellaini, Youri Tielemans, Axel Witsel; Michy Batshuayi, Yannick Carrasco, Eden Hazard, Thorgan Hazard, Adnan Januzaj, Romelu Lukaku, Dries Mertens.

To Finish Bottom: 33/1

To Qualify: 1/10

To Win The Group: 5/6

To Lift The Trophy: 11/1

Our Verdict: 2nd


England convincingly booked their place in Russia this summer after an unbeaten qualification campaign, conceding just 3 times in 10 games.

The two-year period has seen the next generation of players establish themselves, with the old guard in the form of Wayne Rooney, Gary Cahill and Joe Hart fading. England have not got beyond a World Cup quarter-final since 1990.

Circumstances saw Sam Allardyce’s reign become just a short-stint. Under Gareth Southgate, England’s best work has come in friendlies against higher-level opposition in the likes of Brazil, Germany, France, Spain, Holland and Italy.

Recent friendlies show the Three Lions may thrive when able to sit-deep, soak up pressure and hit opposition on the counter. The same games indicate Southgate is likely to opt for a back-three.

Harry Kane will lead the attack, despite slight concern over his fitness. The 24-year-old spent just three weeks on the sidelines after suffering ankle ligament damage back in March, despite initial claims that he would be out for six weeks.

Kane is 5/4 to be England's top goalscorer this summer and 4/5 to score ‘Over 2.5 Goals'.

England's 23-man final squad: Jack Butland, Nick Pope, Jordan Pickford; Fabian Delph, Danny Rose, Eric Dier, Kyle Walker, Kieran Trippier, Trent Alexander-Arnold, Harry Maguire, John Stones, Phil Jones, Gary Cahill; Jordan Henderson, Jesse Lingard, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Ashley Young, Dele Alli, Raheem Sterling; Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy, Marcus Rashford, Danny Welbeck.

To Finish Bottom: 25/1

To Qualify: 1/8

To Win The Group: 6/5

To Lift The Trophy: 18/1

Our Verdict: 1st


Panama’s solid showing in CONCACAF qualification has returned them their first ever World Cup appearance. Talismanic skipper Roman Torres headed home late-on against Costa Rice to secure their spot in Russia.

The Central American side ended qualification with a record of W5-D5-L4. They remained unbeaten in their 7 home games (W4-D3-L0) – a stark contrast to their way form (W1-D2-L4). Rather more worryingly however, they managed just 2 goals on the road.

It must be said, Hernan Dario Gomez’s side are well-drilled. They conceded just 15 times in 16 qualification matches, scoring on 16 occasions, indicating the nature in which they competitively battle and aim to keep things tight.

Six players within the current squad have been capped over 100 times. Understandably, Panama are the favourites to finish bottom of their group and are the longest-priced side to win the tournament. It’ll be interesting to see how they fare.

Panama’s 23-man final squad: Jose Calderon, Jaime Penedo, Alex Rodríguez; Azmahar Ariano, Felipe Baloy, Harold Cummings, Eric Davis, Fidel Escobar, Adolfo Machado, Michael Murillo, Luis Ovalle, Roman Torres; Edgar Barcenas, Armando Cooper, Anibal Godoy, Gabriel Gomez, Valentin Pimentel, Alberto Quintero, Jose Luis Rodriguez; Abdiel Arroyo, Ismael Diaz, Blas Perez, Luis Tejada, Gabriel Torres.

To Finish Bottom: 17/25

To Qualify: 9/1

To Win The Group: 40/1

To Lift The Trophy: 1000/1

Our Verdict: 3rd


Nabil Maaloul, who was reappointed as Tunisia Head Coach back in April 2017 after replacing Henryk Kasperczak midway through Central African Qualification, is just the second Tunisian-born coach to lead the team to the World Cup.

They were solid enough in qualification, coming through unbeaten from a group with DR Congo, Guinea and Libya. Nabil Maaloul's side ended their qualifying campaign with a record of W4-D2-L0.

Interestingly, experienced defender Aymen Abdennour was overlooked in the March international break due to lack of game time at Marseille. Yohan Benalouane will likely be the only English-based player in the final Tunisia squad, while dead-ball specialist Wahbi Khazri, formerly of Sunderland, will too be familiar.

The Carthage Eagles will be dreaming of a spot in the last 16, having failed to progress from the group stages of the World Cup on 4 previous occasions and having been drawn with underachievers England and Belgium, who knows what may happen.

Tunisia’s 23-man final squad: Farouk Ben Mustapha, Moez Hassen, Aymen Mathlouthi; Rami Bedoui, Yohan Benalouane, Syam Ben Youssef, Dylan Bronn, Oussama Haddadi, Ali Maaloul, Yassine Meriah, Hamdi Nagguez; Anice Badri, Mohamed Amine Ben Amor, Ghaylene Chaalali, Ahmed Khalil, Saifeddine Khaoui, Ferjani Sassi, Ellyes Skhiri, Naim Sliti Bassem Srarfi; Fakhreddine Ben Youssef, Saber Khalifa, Wahbi Khazri.

To Finish Bottom: 7/4

To Qualify: 4/1

To Win The Group: 14/1

To Lift The Trophy: 750/1

Our Verdict: 4th

Group H

Group G contains Colombia, Japan, Poland and Senegal.

World Cup 2018 Betting Guide Group H


Colombia earned their place at this summer’s tournament after finishing 4th in Eliminatoria qualification. Former Argentinian boss Jose Pekerman led Colombia to the quarter-finals in 2014, in what was Colombia’s first World Cup appearance in 16 years.

All time top-scorer Radamel Falcao’s timely resurgence over the last two seasons is a definite plus. Injuries meant he missed chunks of the qualification campaign, although he scored 3 goals in 6 games for his country in 2017 and has enjoyed consecutive fruitful campaigns for Monaco.

James Rodriguez has also shown glimpses of his best at Bayern. Many will remember the 26-year-old as one of the standout players at the 2014 World Cup. His 6 goals helped secure him the Golden Boot and he is 66/1 to repeat that feat this summer. If both Rodriguez and Falcao are producing, then Colombia can be a real threat in Russia.

Meanwhile, talented defensive duo, Davinson Sanchez and Yerry Mina, may lack in experience, although their potential is undoubted.

Colombia's 23-man final squad: David Ospina, Camilo Vargas, Jose Fernando Cuadrado; Cristian Zapata, Davinson Sanchez, Santiago Arias, Oscar Murillo, Frank Fabra, Johan Mojica, Yerry Mina; Wilmar Barrios, Carlos Sanchez, Jefferson Lerma, Jose Izquierdo, James Rodriguez, Abel Aguilar, Juan Fernando Quintero, Mateus Uribe, Juan Guillermo Cuadrado; Radamel Falcao Garcia, Miguel Borja, Carlos Bacca, Luis Fernando Muriel.

To Finish Bottom: 38/5

To Qualify: 4/11

To Win The Group: 11/8

To Lift The Trophy: 40/1

Our Verdict: 1st


Japan won their qualification group ahead of Saudi Arabia and Australia to book their place in Russia this summer and ended their campaign with a record of W8-D2-L2

Although they are currently a shadow of former Japanese sides, one can question the decision to sack manager Vahid Halilhodzic so close to a major tournament. Under intense media pressure, Halilhodzic lost his job in April 2018 following the 2017 East Asia Cup disappointment. Former technical director of Japanese football, Akira Nishino, will take charge.

Former AC Milan midfielder Keisuke Honda played very advanced at times during qualification, so it will be interesting to see if Nishino uses him in a similar way. Southampton's Maya Yoshida, Borussia Dortmund's Shinji Kagawa and Leicester City's Shinji Okazaki will be familiar to most fans in England.

Japan have won just 2 of their last 13 matches at World Cup finals and that record doesn't look like it will improve at this year's tournament.

Japan's 23-man final squad: Eiji Kawashima, Masaaki Higashiguchi, Kosuke Nakamura, Yuto Nagatomo, Tomoaki Makino, Maya Yoshida, Hiroki Sakai, Gotoku Sakai, Gen Shoji, Wataru Endo, Naomichi Ueda, Makoto Hasebe, Keisuke Honda, Takashi Inui, Shinji Kagawa, Hotaru Yamaguchi, Genki Haraguchi, Takashi Usami, Gaku Shibasaki, Ryota Oshima, Shinji Okazaki, Yuya Osako, Yoshinori Muto.

To Finish Bottom: 8/5

To Qualify: 2/1

To Win The Group: 15/2

To Lift The Trophy: 300/1

Our Verdict: 4th


Poland’s consistency paid dividends as they progressed through an awkward qualification group. Each of Denmark, Montenegro, Romania, Armenia and Kazakhstan are tricky opponents in their own right, so we cannot underestimate the level of performance shown to achieve 25 points from 10 games, which included 8 wins and a draw.

To put thing further into perspective, England only achieved a single point more, with Belgium yielding just three greater, in what were possibly ‘easier’ groups.

Captain and record goalscorer, Robert Lewandowski, will spearhead the charge while the likes of Arkadiusz Milik, Piotr Zielinski, Kamil Grosicki and Jakub Blaszcykowski have proved their worth in behind.

Poland conceded double the amount of goals than that of any other European qualification group winner, indicating that their strengths lie mainly in the forward third.

Adam Nawałka's side showed promise when reaching the quarter-finals at the 2016 Euro’s and the same structure remains in place two-years on. The 60-year-old has been in charge since 2013. This is a side capable of posing problems in their first World Cup appearance since 2006.

Poland's 23-man final squad: Bartosz Bialkowski, Lukasz Fabianski, Wojciech Szczesny; Jan Bednarek, Bartosz Bereszynski, Thiago Cionek, Kamil Glik, Artur Jedrzejczyk, Michal Pazdan, Lukasz Piszczek; Jakub Blaszczykowski, Jacek Goralski, Kamil Goricki, Grzegorz Krychowiak, Slawomir Peszko, Maciej Rybus, Piotr Zielinski, Rafal Kurzawa, Karol Linetty; Dawid Kownacki, Robert Lewandowski, Arkadiusz Milik, Lukasz Teodorczyk.

To Finish Bottom: 11/2

To Qualify: 4/7

To Win The Group: 7/4

To Lift The Trophy: 50/1

Our Verdict: 2nd


Senegal shone in CAF qualification, finishing with a record of W4-D2-L0 and conceding just 3 times.

Former Birmingham and Portsmouth man, Aliou Cisse, is at the helm, after working his way through the ranks as Assistant and then Manager of the Senegalese U23 side.

In Sadio Mane and Keite Balde, Senegal have explosiveness in the final third. The pair are 9/4 and 11/2 respectively to finish as their country's top goalscorer.

Creativeness in midfield could be an element in which Senegal are lacking however. The likes of Idrissa Gueye (Everton), skipper and Cheikhou Kouyate (West Ham), Henri Saviet, Cheik N’Doye (Birmingham City), Aldred N’Diaye (Wolves) and Badou Ndiaye (Stoke) all offer workman like approaches that may not be conducive to breaking down supremely organised backlines.

Napoli's Kalidou Koulibaly will offer calmness at the heart of defence and will no doubt earn plaudits should he perform.

Senegal's 23-man final squad: Abdoulaye Diallo, Khadim Ndiaye, Alfred Gomis, Lamine Gassama, Moussa Wague, Saliou Ciss, Youssouf Sabaly, Kalidou Kalidou, Salif Sane, Cheikhou Kouyate, Kara Mbodji, Idrisa Gana Gueye, Cheikh Ndoye, Alfred Ndiaye, Pape Alioune Ndiaye, Moussa Sow, Moussa Konate, Diafra Sakho, Sadio Mane, Ismaila Sarr, Mame Biram Diouf, Mbaye Niang, Diao Keita Balde.

To Finish Bottom: 11/5

To Qualify: 5/4

To Win The Group: 9/2

To Lift The Trophy: 200/1

Our Verdict: 3rd