The World Cup 2018 may finally be here, but our work is far from completed. As 10 of the previous 11 World Cup tournaments to be held in Europe have been won by a European nation, we decided to take a look at the potential winners from this continent. We have already reviewed the chances of England, Belgium, Spain and Portugal, but what about everyone else?
FIFA Ranking: 70
Odds to win: 66/1
When you consider that Russia are the lowest ranked team in the tournament, then you will understand why their chances are not ranked all that high. The host nation goes into the competition without a win since October 2017, a run which has stretched to over seven games. Other than the usual pre-tournament optimism, hopes are not high from their supporters and a local Moscow said the team was ‘ageing and inexperienced’ and ‘doomed to fail.’
So, that’s the negative. The positive is that host nations usually do better than expected in tournaments and with Egypt, one of the sides expected to be competing with Russia for second place in the group, having major doubts over the fitness of Mo Salah, there is a good chance they will be able to reach the knockout stages. An opening day drubbing of Saudi Arabia certainly improved their optimism but unfortunately, if they do get as far as the knockout stages, it is unlikely that they will be able to get much further.
Fifa Ranking: 8
Odds to Win: 80/1
Poland may not be the first name you think of when you think of the candidates to win the World Cup, but with the nation ranked as the eighth best international team in the world by FIFA and still being available as high as 80/1, it is certainly something which should be taken seriously. In striker Robert Lewandowski they have one of the best frontmen in the tournament and with a group containing Senegal, Japan and Colombia, you would think they should have the ability to come through that with relative ease.
The squad contains a good combination of youth and experience, is solid defensively and has the goalscoring capabilities of their captain up top. However, they are a bit thin on the ground in terms of real quality and you have to wonder how much an injury to one of their better players would impact on them. A top three finish is definitely in the realms of possibility for this side and with the prices on offer, it is certainly an attractive looking bet.
Fifa Ranking: 20
Odds to Win: 33/1
We have already discussed the capabilities of Croatia’s golden generation, but the perennial underachievers are quickly running out of time as their star players are surely in their last World Cup. Their form in the build up to the tournament has also left a lot to be desired and they have won just twice in their last five years. They certainly have plenty of quality in midfield, but the fact that those same five matches has seen them score just three times shows where their weaknesses can be found, an issue they will have to find an answer to if they are to have a successful tournament.
In the group stages they will meet Argentina, Iceland and Nigeria and they will fancy their chances of qualifying. However, it is a difficult group and realistically, you can see two of any of the four going on to the knock out stages. At 33/1 to win the full tournament, it looks to be too short of a price for us and we think that it is best to stay away from them on the outright bet.
WATCH: Ray Parlour thinks Croatia are an outside bet for the World Cup this summer:
Fifa Ranking: 34
Odds to Win: 150/1
It would take a lot for Serbia to be considered a threat to the big boys who are expected to contest for the World Cup this summer. However, they have an experienced and well balanced squad which is solid at the back and has a clear threat up front.
The link up play between Dušan Tadić and Aleksandar Mitrović has been key for the Serbs in recent years and the partnership the pair have built up will have to continue to be on point if they are to be successful this summer. Although they have a difficult task against Brazil ahead of them in the group stages, matches against Costa Rica and Switzerland are much less daunting and should see them qualify for the latter stages.
Fifa Ranking: 22
Odds to Win: 250/1
Iceland are a nation on the up and have enjoyed a remarkable few years in the build up to this summer. A more detailed look at their turnaround in fortunes can be found here. They have a pretty established side and have the confidence to fear nobody.
However, their preparations for the tournament have not exactly been smooth as they have been without their injured star, Gylfi Sigurdsson. The Everton midfielder should be fit enough to feature in the tournament but you have to wonder just what sort of condition he will be in.
At 250/1, the bookies clearly do not feel that they have much of an opportunity to trouble the trophy makers and with a difficult group to get through, the odds seem about right. However, if they do manage to make the knock out stages, then the momentum may just carry them through to the latter stages.
If Europe is going to continue it’s success in the home tournaments then it is unlikely to come from the sides we have listed above. The bookies rarely get these things wrong, but the price being offered for Poland looks to be massively off the mark. They may not be setting the world alight at the moment but they do have quality throughout the team and could go far if they put it together. They are 11/4 to reach the quarter finals but we think the bet to back would be backing them to get as far as the semis at 9/1.
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