World Cup preview: Who will qualify for the knockout stage
The 2018 World Cup is about to kick off in Russia. We look at each group and predict who will qualify for the knockout stage.
The 2018 World Cup in Russia kicks-off on June 14 and numerous nations have genuine hopes of winning football’s most prestigious prize.
Germany and Brazil are favourites to win the tournament, but the likes of Spain, France and Argentina will also fancy their chances.
The first stage features eight groups containing four teams, with just the two top in each progressing to the knockout rounds.
We look at each group and predict who will qualify for the knockout stage.
Uruguay are the favourites to finish top of this group after finishing second behind Brazil in the South American qualifiers. Russia and Egypt look set to fight out second spot and preference is for the African side if forward Mohamed Salah recovers from his shoulder injury. Saudi Arabia are expected to finish bottom.
Spain and Portugal to progress to the last 15 is the easiest of the 2018 World Cup tips to make. Both have won major tournaments over the past few years and look far too classy for Morocco and Iran.
France looked good during qualifying and should reach the last 16, but who will join them there is less certain. Denmark beat Republic of Ireland in the play-offs to reach the finals and could have enough about them to progress ahead of Peru and Australia.
Argentina are strongly fancied to win Group D. Lionel Messi has been in fine form for Barcelona and he is expected to lead them out of this group. Croatia are tipped to take second place, with Nigeria and Iceland finishing close behind.
Brazil’s star-studded squad should breeze through this group. Switzerland qualified after finishing second in their group behind Portugal, but Serbia and Costa Rica are both capable of reaching the last 16. The Swiss drew with Spain in a World Cup warm-up game and may just edge through.
Germany are aiming to be the first country since Brazil in 1962 to retain the World Cup and should reach the knockout stage. It could be close Sweden and Mexico for the other spot, with the latter fancied to join the Germans in the next round. Korea Republic failed to win a match in 2014 and a repeat is on the cards in Russia.
England and Belgium look nailed on to qualify from this group, with neither Tunisia or Panama appearing to possess the quality to trouble the two European sides.
Poland and Colombia should take the top two spots in this group, but Senegal reached the quarter-finals in 2002 and they will hope to spring a surprise again. Outsiders Japan have never progressed beyond the first knockout stage.
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