Who Will Win the 2018 World Cup?
The unthinkable happened on Tuesday night. The United States Men’s National Team was faced with a pretty straightforward task. All they needed to do was draw against lowly Trinidad and Tobago in order to advance to the 2018 World Cup, which is going down in Russia next summer.
Unfortunately, the team came out flat and put forth a dismal and absolutely pathetic performance in a shocking 2-1 defeat. The U.S. was leapfrogged by both Panama and Honduras in the CONCACAF Hex, and they wound up finishing fifth out of six teams. For the first time since 1986, the United States won’t be represented at the World Cup.
While the USMNT blew a golden opportunity, several other teams punched their tickets to the world’s biggest sporting event on Tuesday. Argentina, Uruguay and Colombia were among those to officially get into the tournament.
There are still a few more spots up for grabs, but which teams are we looking at as early betting favorites for the 2018 World Cup?
Odds via bet365.
Germany, of course, won the 2014 World Cup in dramatic fashion when Mario Gotze (remember him?) scored from an impossible angle in extra time against Argentina.
The German side will be missing several familiar faces from the 2014 squad – Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm, Per Mertesacker – but this is still arguably the most talented team in the world top-to-bottom.
Germany will be hungry, especially after coming up short at the 2016 Euros. They certainly showed it during the qualifying stage, as they won all 10 of the games in which they played. They also scored a qualifying record 43 goals along the way. This team managed to win the Confederations Cup over the summer despite running out a roster full of 20-year-olds that likely won’t feature much in the ‘18 World Cup side.
Winning back-to-back World Cups would be quite a feat, especially because it’s only happened twice before. Brazil won back-to-back World Cups in 1958 and 1962, while Italy did the same in 1934 and 1938.
The fact that players like Gotze, Emre Can and Antonio Rudiger may not even make the final squad is a testament to Germany’s insane depth and talent level. Unless some of their key players like Toni Kroos or Manuel Neuer suffer injuries, there’s no reason to believe the defending World Cup champs won’t be favored to repeat next summer.
France was surprisingly beaten by Portugal in the final of Euro 2016 on their home turf. Regardless, they were one of the more impressive teams for the span of the tournament last summer.
The 2014 squad finished first in Group E and advanced to the knockout stages, but they were beaten 1-0 by Germany in the quarter-finals.
There aren’t many weaknesses in this side, either. A top-four of Ousmane Dembele, Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann can’t be rivaled by many, if any, other sides on the planet. Captain Hugo Lloris will hold down the fort in goal, and the steady hands of Laurent Koscielny and Samuel Umtiti will make France’s defense tough to break down.
The French have been prone to unfortunate hiccups over the years, and they’ve sometimes been victimized by their star players failing to perform in the most meaningful moments. That said, one would imagine the players that were a part of the run through the Euros will have learned from the experience.
Still, we prefer a few other values lower on the list.
Brazil were heavy favorites entering the 2014 World Cup as the host nation. Unfortunately for the Brazilians, the team was unable to live up to the pressure and expectations that come with being the host country. Brazil slumped its way to a pathetic fourth-place finish that was lowlighted by a 7-1 thumping at the hands of the Germans in the semi-finals.
Players like David Luiz and Oscar, who featured heavily in 2014, haven’t been called into the Brazilian squad in quite some time under new manager Tite. Even without them, though, Brazil looks like a stacked team once again.
Just look at the firepower the Brazilians can put in front of goal. Neymar is obviously the headliner and the biggest name in the side, but he’ll be flanked by guys like Philippe Coutinho, Gabriel Jesus, Willian, Roberto Firmino and Douglas Costa. There may not be another team in the world that can match Brazil’s pace down the wings or creativity in attack.
Brazil breezed through CONMEBOL qualifying, which is no easy task. Now that they’ll be freed of the aforementioned pressures that come with hosting the tournament, we can expect Brazil to play with their traditional flair once again. Germany may be favored, but Brazil will be eager for revenge. They make for a great value to win this thing at 6/1 early on.
Spain won the 2010 World Cup, but they fell by the wayside during the last cycle. An older Spanish side failed to even make it out of Group B when the Netherlands and Chile advanced instead. They suffered an embarrassing 5-1 loss against the Dutch in the opener before falling 2-0 to Chile. A meaningless 3-0 win over Australia was not enough to get the Spaniards through to the knockout stages.
Familiar faces like Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba are still around, but La Roja is going to be riding a new generation of talent into the 2018 tournament. Look no further than Alvaro Morata up top, who has quickly become one of the world’s most prolific strikers. Diego Costa, who just left Chelsea to rejoin Atletico Madrid, may not even make the final squad.
Spain was in the midst of a transition during the ‘14 tournament, but now they appear poised to reap the benefits of a revitalized squad with a new head coach in Julen Lopetegui.
They may not be as well-stocked with talent top-to-bottom as Germany or Brazil, but they’ll be a force once again next summer.
Argentina barely squeaked into the tournament, thanks in large part to the suspension that cost Lionel Messi several games for berating a referee. Fortunately, he was back just in time to help his country get in on the shoulders of his hat trick on Tuesday night in a 3-1 win over Ecuador.
It’s hard to imagine a World Cup without Argentina, yet we almost had one. Fortunately, we will be afforded the chance to watch the world’s greatest player on the world’s biggest stage once again. He nearly led his country to his first international title in the last World Cup, but they came up just short in the final against Germany.
Unfortunately, this side doesn’t look as strong as the one that nearly won this thing three years ago. That said, any team with Messi on it has a chance at making some serious noise. While it hasn’t yet translated into titles for Argentina, you have to think they will at least win something of substance before their greatest-ever player calls it an international career.
This may be his best and last shot at doing so in an Argentina shirt, so you can be sure that Messi will make the most of the opportunity right in front of him.