The 2018 World Cup is less than three months away and the big boys will use the current international break to put further touches on their plans for global domination.
A look down the price list shows that reigning champions Germany lead the betting at 17/4.
Die Mannschaft produced one of the greatest ever World Cup performances in beating Brazil 7-1 in the semi-finals four years ago and are well fancied for a fifth title.
Joachim Low has lost the likes of Philipp Lahm, Bastian Schweinsteiger and Miroslav Klose but his new faces have been integrated gradually.
Marco Reus’ fitness and the improvement of Marc-Andre ter Stegen are significant, the latter especially due to Manuel Neuer’s foot injury.
Germany’s experience means they are more than likely to be there or thereabouts in Russia and will be battle-hardened after being drawn in a decent looking Group F.
At 9/2 Brazil are many people’s tip for the outright, mainly due to the individual quality they possess in Neymar and Philippe Coutinho.
Boss Tite has learned from the ‘Mineirazo’, which has become the nickname of their defeat to Germany, often employing the steel of Casemiro in midfield. Gabriel Jesus’ lack of minutes at Manchester City will be a worry but at the other end, both Alisson and Ederson are class acts and an upgrade on previous goalkeepers.
The Selecao should cruise through Group E and if all goes to plan, may get a shot at revenge against Germany in the final.
France are also shaping up nicely at 21/4 and have a point to prove after losing in the final of Euro 2016.
From a pure talent point of view, Les Bleus lead the way and Antoine Griezmann will look to use the tournament to move to the next level. However, a lack of cohesion remains and Didier Deschamps will need to find a balance, while not upsetting too many of what is always a volatile squad.
Spain are also building nicely after some heartache and with the pressure off, will look to conquer the world for a second time at 27/4, while neutrals will be wondering whether this is the tournament Belgium finally put it together at 11/1.
Uruguay (27/1) and Croatia (32/1) also have plenty of quality but one sub-plot that is worth mentioning is the personal duel between Portugal’s (24/1) Cristiano Ronaldo and Argentina’s (31/4) Lionel Messi.
Now 2018 looks as if it could be the last stand for both of these players on the world stage and their sheer willpower alone is likely to carry their nations’ deep into the competition.
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