Football is a sport that captures billions of dreams. It inspires, frustrates and emotionally lifts everyone as players fight for the prize. And this summer, Russia hosts the pinnacle of football’s prize – the 2018 World Cup.
Here is a quick look at the top teams in the World Cup this year.
Didier Deschamps’ team arrive in Russia with a unit that looks like the best France side on paper in nearly a decade.
With attacking talent like Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann, midfield maestros like N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba and a goal protected by Hugo Lloris and Samuel Umtiti, Les Blues are among the early favourites to go all the way in the World Cup. Their biggest challenge will be to overcome their minds and keep their cool as they seek glory.
Led by Jorge Sampaoli, Argentina have barely scraped into the 2018 World Cup by the skin of their teeth. With injuries plaguing key players, and controversy ruining preparations – Argentina are outside favourties – something not often said about the South American giants. But, with players of the ilk of the sublime Leo Messi and Sergio Aguero to the tireless likes of Angel Di Maria and Lucas Biglia the Albiceleste are a force to be reckoned with.
If Sampaoli can make this Argentina team revolve around Leo Messi and click, there may be no stopping them taking their first title in over 30 years.
The defending champions – Germany arrive in Russia with a squad of players that would embarrass all others in the competition. Indeed, it is often joked that a second-string Germany XI could sweep the World Cup under Joachim Low.
Germany boast depth in all departments – Thomas Muller supplemented by Timo Werner, Toni Kroos could complement or compete with Ilkay Gundogan and Matthias Ginter could easily replace Mats Hummels in the heart of defence. However, all eyes will be on goal since indisputable Number 1 – Manuel Neuer is not fully fit. Will Low roll the dice, or will he reward Marc Andre Ter Stegen for his stellar season in the absence of Neuer.
Tite was a relative unknown when appointed by Brazil to be their national coach. Today, the squad has transformed back into a version of them from yore. As the Canarinha dance to the samba with the likes of Neymar, Gabriel Jesus, Paulinho and Thiago Silva in their ranks.
Crucial to their hopes is a tight defensive unit, keep clean sheets and Brazil could become the all-time record holder of World Cups – the South American currently tied with Italy for 5 World Cup titles.
Led by the indomitable Cristiano Ronaldo on the pitch, Portugal enter the competition as surprise holders of the 2016 European Championships.
As a whole, the squad seems weaker on paper but with a game changing presence in CR7 and a resilient attitude, anything is possible as they showed two years ago.
Their biggest hurdle will be to instil belief in their ability to become world champions.
La Furia Roja – the Spain national team’s colloquial name, come into the World Cup in Russia after losing their head coach Julien Lopetegui to Real Madrid one day before the tournament.
The Spanish contingent, led by stalwarts such as David De Gea, Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique, Andres Iniesta, Diego Costa and more are still a strong and efficient unit.
Their biggest challenge will be to conquer the shock of losing their head coach and calling on all their mental strength.
A team that often flies under the radar, Croatia is a force to be reckoned with at the 2018 World Cup.
With Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic pulling strings in a double-pivot midfield, Mario Mandzukic and Ivan Perisic lighting up the front-line and the solidity of Danijel Subasic and Sime Vrsaljko protecting goal – Croatia have every chance of pulling off a few shocks and making a deep run into the tournament.
Heading to the 2018 World Cup, England are stocked to the brim with precocious talent and helmed by a brilliant, ambitious coach.
With names like Harry Kane, Jordan Pickford, John Stones, Eric Dier, Jordan Henderson and Raheem Sterling to call upon – this young Three Lions squad can go all the way.
They will face the demons of the football-loving nation’s barren spell in the competition of over 40 years as their biggest challenge.