10 Countries to Watch at the 2018 FIFA World Cup

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It’s June 2018 and the world’s favourite quadrennial football tournament is here; the FIFA World Cup. The globe is ready to descend on Russia as it hosts the tournament for the first time ever. With 12 stadiums in 11 cities set to stage the latest chapter in this long footballing story, the hopes and dreams of the 32 nations taking part are already being thought out. Expectation is high for a number of teams, and there are some nations who are feeling ecstatic just for qualifying for this festival of football.

Football Road Trips love a good trip abroad to watch the best football matches in the world, and we know some of you will be trekking to Russia to experience the tournament for yourself. The rest of us will be watching the games on the sofa or in the pub with a few mates. However you are going to enjoy the World Cup, take a look at our list of the 10 countries to watch out for this year in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.

 

1. England

We could only ever start in one place, our beloved England. Gareth Southgate has named the third youngest ever England squad to play at a FIFA World Cup, which is allowing fresh faces to prove themselves at the highest level. Southgate’s new emphasis on bringing in young and exciting talent coupled with solid but attractive football, has got some quietly confident of the squad’s chances of success in Russia. With an unbeaten international season behind them and a positive atmosphere amongst the squad, England believe they can progress from a group containing Belgium, Panama and Tunisia. Beyond that? We shall see.

 

Key player – Harry Kane

England’s new captain is the embodiment of Southgate’s new England; young and driven. The 24-year-old striker scored 41 goals for Tottenham Hotspur last season and is eager to bring that scintillating form to Russia.

 

2. Belgium

We love a European football tour to Belgium, mostly in part to their surplus of talent at the moment. Their “golden generation” may ply their trade away from Antwerp, Bruges and Brussels but their talented squad is the envy of the world. With the likes of Thibaut Courtois, Kevin De Bruyne & Romelu Lukaku selected for the tournament, Belgium boast one of the most dangerous teams in the tournament. Many expect them to go far this time around, especially after the disappointment of losing to Wales at Euro 2016.

 

Key Player – Kevin De Bruyne    

The Manchester City playmaker was fizzing passes around defences in the Premier League all last season and he will no doubt orchestrate every Belgium attack in Russia. Look out for his deadly free-kicks as well.

 

3. Iceland 

Everybody loves an underdog, especially from a nation with a population the size of Coventry. Iceland were the conquerors of England as they shocked their way to the Euro 2016 quarter-finals. They’ve now qualified for their first World Cup and having been drawn in a group containing Argentina, Croatia and Nigeria. The team are confident that they can upset the odds again and reach another tournament knockout stage. Get ready to do the Viking clap again.

 

Key Player – Gylfi Sigurdsson

Iceland’s talismanic attacking midfielder is a man of many talents. Expect his free-kicks and long range efforts to trouble the goalkeepers in Russia.

 

4. Brazil 

Looking for a successful World Cup campaign to fight off any lingering nightmares of the 7-1 defeat to Germany four years ago, Brazil have been reborn under the management of Tite. The defence has worked on its organisation which has allowed the plethora of attacking talent to express themselves once again. Brazil are back and ready to show the world that they are the best team in the world for a sixth time.

 

Key Player – Neymar Jr

Neymar led his country to Olympic Gold in 2016 and was exceptional at the World Cup in 2014, until injury cruelly ruled him out of the semi-finals. At just 26, Neymar has 55 goals for his country and this deadly goalscoring is expected to continue this summer in Russia. He can play anywhere in attack so defences will find him very unpredictable.

 

 5. Argentina

Finalists four years ago in Brazil, Argentina are expected to mount another challenge for the trophy this year. Once more, Lionel Messi is along for the ride which could possibly be his last chance at World Cup glory. Despite leaving Serie A’s prolific goalscorer, Mauro Icardi out of the squad, Argentina still have a squad brimming with talent that will go far in this tournament.

 

Key Player – Lionel Messi

This is likely going to be Messi’s final chance to add a World Cup to his already bulging trophy cabinet. Messi is the finest player of his generation and he will be using all his tricks to make the 2018 World Cup his own.

 

 6. Germany

The current world champions are always one to watch at a World Cup. Popular with our football away days, Germany still has talent seeping from every corner of the country. The likes of Thomas Muller, Toni Kroos and Timo Werner will shine this year in a strong squad – they’ve even left in form Leroy Sane at home which shocked many. The majority of the squad can still be seen across Cologne, Dortmund, Dusseldorf and Hamburg on our trips during the Bundesliga season. With a solid team unit, a very experienced coach and that frustrating ability of scoring accurate penalties, you wouldn’t bet against Germany retaining their crown in Russia.

 

Key Player – Thomas Muller

With ten goals during the last two World Cup’s, Thomas Muller is a proven goalscorer when it matters most for his country. A consistent creator as well as a scorer, Muller is still an ever-present threat in the German attack.

 

7. Portugal

The current European Champions stunned everybody as they beat hosts France at Euro 2016. Despite this success, many aren’t talking about Portugal as serious contenders for the World Cup. Their squad still contains some talent and any team that has Cristiano Ronaldo to call upon always has a chance to cause another upset.

 

Key Player – Cristiano Ronaldo

The current World Footballer of the Year is unstoppable on his day. He ended the club season in blistering form and his country will be looking to him for inspiration again in Russia.

 

8. Egypt

Mo Salah wasn’t born the last time Egypt qualified for a World Cup in 1990. His inspired form for Liverpool has translated to international football which has put Egypt back onto the international map. They will fancy their chances of getting out of a group containing Russia, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay, which in itself will be an achievement.

 

Key Player – Mo Salah

The hopes of a nation rest on the shoulders of Mo Salah, as long as his one shoulder recovers in time for the tournament. If he’s fit, his fast dribbles and accurate finishing could get Egypt to the knockout stage.

 

9. Spain

The 2010 World Champions dominated world football between 2008-2012. Their star may not be shining as high as it used to, after crashing out of the group stage in 2014, but Spain are still a team to watch. Their team may be a little old now but their tournament experience means they remain a threat to any opponent.

 

Key Player – David Silva

Another Manchester City playmaker to watch, David Silva continues to pull the strings for Spain and will need to be marshalled to keep Spain under control.

 

 10. France

Didier Deschamps has arguably compiled the strongest squad of players at the 2018 World Cup. France are spoilt for choice when it comes to talent with a possible 33 top-level players that would be welcomed into any World Cup squad. The 23 that are going are expected to do well, with the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba, Thomas Lemar, Ousmane Dembele expected to shine. This incredible squad sees Les Blues’ best chance of winning the tournament since they hosted it in 1998. The streets of Lens, Paris and Lyon await to celebrate world triumph.

 

Our Football Road Trips are the perfect solution for your stag dos, birthday parties and corporate events. We also offer trips to Holland, who still have good football but didn’t quite make it to the World Cup this year. Contact us today for more information on how you can create your DIY football trip.

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Kai Rigby