With the FIFA World Cup kicking off, there are sure to be some teams which are expected to go all the way win the competition. Here is our pick of five sides and how they stack against each other:
- History in the Tournament : Beginning with the defending champions, Germany have won the competition four times, which is joint second-highest with Italy. They have also finished 3rd place or higher than any other team in the history of the tournament.
- Form in the qualifiers : Germany had a near perfect qualification campaign, with the team winning all ten of their qualifiers, scoring 49 goals and conceding only 4 in the process.
- Form of key players : With Thomas Muller, Toni Kroos and Marco Reus all enjoying fine individual campaigns, the only worry for Germany will be the lack if game time of their goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer, who has been suffering from a recurring foot injury since last April 2017 and has not played a competitive match for Bayern Munich since September.
- Manager’s background : Joachim Low was the assistant to previous manager Jurgen Klinsmann for the 2006 World Cup, following which Klinsmann decided to retire and Low was placed in charge. Under him, Germany have reached the final of Euro 2008, made three semi-final appearances in World cup 2010, Euro 2012 and Euro 2016 each, while he led them all the way in the 2014 World cup in Brazil.
- History in the Tournament : Brazil have won the competition a record five times in 1958,1962,1970,1994 and 2002. The team will also look set to make things right after their painful 7-1 obliteration at the hands of Germany in the semi-final of the 2014 world cup, which was played on their home soil.
- Form in the qualifiers : Brazil comfortably topped the qualifiers group, ten points ahead of second-placed Uruguay after winning 12 of the 18 matches they played.
- Form of key players : Neymar and Philippe Coutinho come to the World Cup with slightly-mixed campaigns, with injuries and the mid season transfer affecting their seasons. However, they’ve looked in sublime form for the national side. Marcelo and Fernandinho were key to the successes of their respective clubs this season as Real Madrid won the Champions League and Man City clinched the league title.
- Manager’s background : Coach Tite turned around Brazil’s qualifying campaign after Brazil were struggling in 5th place when Dunga was sacked in June 2016. Under him, the team won ten out of their twelve matches, scoring 30 goals in that process.
- History in the Tournament : Spain have won the World Cup once, with their 2010 win sandwiched between two victorious Euro campaigns. Besides this, their record has been average at the tournament, as they have finished fourth place once and reached the quarter-final stage four times.
- Form in the qualifiers : Spain finished five points ahead of Italy in their qualifiers group after they won nine out of their ten matches.
- Form of key players : David de gea won the Premier League golden glove for keeping the highest number of clean sheets and the United shot-stopper is in the form of his life. Sergio Ramos captained Real Madrid to a third consecutive Champions League title, while Isco has been rejuvenated this season and the midfielder is in great form for his country too, summed up by his hattrick against Argentina.
- Manager’s background : Julen Lopetegui had previously led the Spanish under-19 and under-21 sides to European glory in 2012 and 2013 respectively. He will succeed Zinedine Zidane as the Real Madrid manager after the World Cup. However, on 13th June, it was announced that Lopetegui has been sacked and he will be replaced by sporting director Fernando Hierro for the tournament.
- History in the Tournament : Argentina have won the World Cup two times in 1978 and 1986, where Diego Maradona’s brilliance led them all the way. The team finished runners up three times in 1930, 1990 and most recently in 2014, where they faltered at the final hurdle against Germany.
- Form in the qualifiers : Argentina played the qualifiers under three different managers, which affected their form drastically. They needed a victory in their last qualifier against Ecuador, where a Lionel Messi hattrick dragged them through in a less than convincing display as they grabbed the final automatic qualification spot.
- Form of key players : Lionel Messi, who is undoubtedly their difference maker, has been in ethereal form this season, as he won the European golden shoe this season. Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain helped Juventus to another double while Sergio Aguero had an above average and better than expected season under Pep Guardiola, despite his differences with the Catalunian.
- Manager’s background : Jorge Sampaoli previously managed Chile at the 2014 World Cup, where they were knocked out in the round of 16 by Brazil. A year later he led them to Copa America glory as they beat Argentina in the final.
- History in the Tournament : France won their only World Cup title in 1998 when the tournament was held at their soil. A painful runners-up medal in 2006 and two third-place finishes in 1958 and 1986 are their best performances otherwise.
- Form in the qualifiers : France topped their qualifying group as they finished four points ahead of Sweden with the Les Blues racking up seven victories, two draws and one loss en route to booking their tickets for Russia.
- Form of key players : Captain Hugo Lloris kept 14 clean sheets in a disappointing season for Spurs, similar to his national teammate Paul Pogba who was dropped midway through the season for his below-par displays for Man Utd. Midfielder N’Golo Kante also endured a difficult campaign as Chelsea missed out on Champions League football with a fifth-place finish. Antoine Griezmann had another fine campaign for Atletico Madrid as he racked up 29 goals for them.
- Manager’s background : Didier Deschamps has been the France coach since 2012. He led the team to the quarter-finals in the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the final at Euro 2016. At club level, he won six trophies with Marseille which included a league title while he also to led Monaco to the Champions League final in 2004.