The next edition of the world’s biggest footballing party is just a handful of days away now as Russia gears up to host the latest edition of FIFA’s showpiece event, one where 32 nations will duke it out in a bid for global supremacy.
In any major international tournament such as this, the focus will undoubtedly go towards the competition favorites. One such favorite is Germany, who is strongly backed to be the first team to defend the trophy since Brazil did so in 1962.
While Brazil themselves will be looking to conquer the world for the first time since 2006, as the likes of Neymar and Philippe Coutinho will look to exact some revenge on their countries behalf after their crushing 7-1 semi-final defeat at the hands of Germany four years ago.
Lionel Messi will no doubt be looking to finally land that first World Cup success for Argentina after being a loser finalist in 2014, while France has an abundance of talent in their squad looking to get over the disappointment of losing the European Championship Final on home soil just two years ago.
That quartet of nations will no doubt be the bookmaker’s favourites and there will be a whole host of online sports betting from fans all over the world as they put their money where their mouths are.
However, for every favourite there is always an underdog, and while the likes of Panama and Saudi Arabia are rank outsiders to win the tournament, there are still a whole host of participants who could go on to shock the footballing fraternity by going on to lift the Jules Rimet Trophy in Moscow on July 15th.
In the history of this competition, there has never really been a shock winner as such, only eight nations have successfully called themselves champions of the world, and they have come from a list of global footballing powerhouses.
Nations such as Brazil, Germany and Argentina have an illustrious history in this competition, while one should not forget when England ruled the footballing roost back in 1966 thanks to Sir Geoff Hurst’s hat-trick at Wembley.
However, if football fans have learned anything over the past couple of years, it is that nothing is impossible, you only have to look at the phenomenal achievement by Leicester in the Premier League back in 2016.
Nobody gave them a chance of ever winning the Premier League title, especially as they had just narrowly avoided relegation the season before. Claudio Ranieri and his group of players silenced all their naysayers by doing the one thing no one expected them to be able to achieve.
With this footballing fairy tale still fresh in the memories for many, it does beg the question as to just why it could not be done this summer. The likes of Egypt with all-conquering Mohamed Salah will certainly fancy their chances of going all the way.
The Pharaohs will be appearing in the first World Cup finals since 1990, and with the current form that Liverpool’s Salah is in right now, they could not have arguably picked a better time in which to be a part of this tournament once more.
Many are touting Salah as a potential Ballon D’or winner, and if he can lead Egypt all the way this summer, then he would undoubtedly be the first player to break the Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo duopoly that they’ve had since 2008.
However, they are not the only nation who could upset the global status quo, Colombia is another outfit that certainly cannot be overlooked. There is no doubting the talent they have available, but there are always questions over whether they can click when it really matters.
They were unfortunate to be knocked out at the quarter-final stage four years ago, and the likes of James Rodriguez, who is currently plying his trade with German giants Bayern Munich, will be keen to advance further this time around.
When we talk of underdogs, then England certainly cannot be excluded from this conversation. Gareth Southgate’s squad, which is full of youthful exuberance, may well fly under the radar in Russia.
Usually, any England team that goes into an international tournament must deal with the pressure that comes with perhaps unrealistic levels of expectation, something which has undoubtedly stifled them in the past.
However, with a young squad that has nothing to lose and absolutely everything to gain, could it be that England will cause an underdog style upset and win their first World Cup in 52 years? Stranger things have certainly happened.