It might be a while away, but the World Cup will soon be here and that means a summer of red hot footballing action. Naturally, as we move closer to kick off in Russia, the talk of the terraces is which players will make it on their respective plans for the biggest competition in the world?
Well, without a crystal ball, we can’t say for sure. However, qualifiers and previous form have given us some indication of what might happen in 2018. With this in mind, we’ve run through some of the top teams likely to make a serious run for the Jules Remit trophy and picked out a few players that should sparkle on the big stage.
After booking their ticket to Russia with four qualification games to spare, Brazil look to be approaching their best form for a few years. OK, so the current crop of pros might not be “classic Brazil” in comparison to teams of yesteryear, but manger Tite has certainly got them playing well.
With sour memories of the 2016 Copa America Centenario all but faded, Brazil now sit atop of the CONMEBOL qualification table with 10 wins, three draws and just one loss. Perhaps the most notable stat from the Brazilian’s current campaign is their goals scored. 35 for and just 10 against shows the team is finally playing some free-flowing football, which leads us to believe Neymar will be pivotal in 2018.
Despite losing the captain’s armband, the 26-year-old (as he’ll be during the World Cup) should be in his prime. Even if he’s not still at Barcelona, his 19 goals in domestic and European competitions this season will see he joins another top club where he can continue to impress right up until he heads off to Russia.
The English are always well prepared in terms of quality of players. Yes, reality often thwarts “dreams of football coming home”, but England’s squad certainly has the potential to make a deep run in the competition. If you take a look at the latest odds at Sun Bets, this season’s antics have already created a number of frontrunners for a place in the 2018 World Cup squad.
Joe Hart looks to be a virtual lock to make the team at 1/12, while Tottenham’s dynamic duo, Harry Kane and Dele Alli, both marked at 1/10 by the odds makers. Of the names on the list, Kane and Alli could be the top prospects for England come 2018. Despite a disappointing Euro 2016, Harry Kane has five goals in 12 starts for England. With plenty of time between now and next summer, the 23-year-old should be able to up his cap count from 17 and gain valuable experience at the highest level.
Similarly, Alli will be a more mature player by the time the 2018 World Cup rolls around. Whether or not he’s still playing in the Premier League when the time comes, the midfield dynamo could be the star of the show if he continues the form that saw him make waves at White Hart Lane this season.
The 2014 winners have looked strong during qualification so far. Sure, the likes of San Marino and Azerbaijan haven’t offered the strongest resistance, but Joachim Löw’s side have still played well. In fact, in the last five qualifiers, the German’s have only conceded one goal and scored an impressive 20.
The combination of Marco Reus, Julian Draxler and Mesut Ozil has made Germany a side that’s more than capable of retaining the World Cup in 2018. Another one to watch when the tournament gets underway is Julian Weigl. The 21-year-old midfielder only has a handful of games at full international level, but he’s got all the markings of a top prospect.
One of the most impressive stats the young midfielder has is his pass success rating. During his Bundesliga career, Weigl has achieved an 89.5% pass success rating. That stat, combined with a 92% rating in the Champions League, has given the playmaker an overall score of 90.1%. This sort of passing accuracy will only help Germany’s already strong attacking line. If this proves true and Weigl’s star shines in Russia, it could be tough to stop the current champions.
So that’s about it. Although we haven’t covered every prospect, or even the home nation (the chances are that Russia will fall by the wayside early), we have highlighted some serious potential ahead of next summer’s showdown. With young players on the rise and established talent looking to take home a winner’s medal, we should be in for a cracking tournament in 2018.
Daniel Smyth is a freelance betting writer with almost a decade’s worth of experience in the industry. From poker and casino games to betting on sports such as MMA, boxing and football, Daniel has covered them all for some of the biggest sites in the game.