A lot has changed in the four years since Germany won the 2014 World Cup, but still they remain a favorite to bring home the trophy this summer in Russia. Brazil, Spain, France and Argentina are the other contenders. So who has the best shot at winning it all? Let’s take a look at a few of our favorites followed by our prediction on how the finals will play out.
Let’s start with the reigning champions. With plenty of depth and experience, Germany has again earned the right to be the team to beat heading into the 2018 World Cup. They bring plenty of exciting young stars along with vets to compile a balanced roster capable of beating any team they face.
But injuries are a serious concern. It all starts with Manuel Neuer in goal. Neuer has not played in a competitive game since suffering a foot fracture in September followed by multiple setbacks along the way. That’s a long time to be on the sidelines. Now, Neuer is one of the best in the world, and of course he won the Golden Glove award in 2014. If he is at his best, Germany can win the tournament, but if he is still bothered by the foot injury, it could lead to an early exit.
In addition to Neuer, Jerome Boateng (hamstring) and Mesut Ozil (knee) come with injury concerns. Overall their Team Injury Risk is Elevated, and it could be the reason they don’t win it all.
Our analytics show that a series of injuries will lead to an early exit for Brazil. Dani Alves has already been ruled out after tearing his ACL, Fred recently picked up an ankle injury while training, and Neymar comes with quite a bit of risk after recently returning from a foot fracture. Those are three big names that are High Risk. With this many injury concerns, it’s hard to see them taking home the trophy.
While Uruguay may not be one of the favorites to win it all, they are the best team with a Low Injury Risk according to our analytics. Lead by Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, a deep run in Russia is very possible. There are no real injury concerns to the squad. And they now have some exciting young players to complement their top veterans.
Long before the team announced their final World Cup squad, Laurent Koscielny ruptured his Achilles, making him unavailable to represent France in Russia. It was a tough loss to their back line, and now there are other injury concerns to worry about as well. The most important one to watch at the moment is the ankle injury to Mbappe. He was hurt during a tackle while training and may be unavailable in the group stage. Mbappe is one of France’s many young, exciting players. But the injuries are mounting. This team was already inconsistent over the last year, and injuries only complicate things. They could make a surprise early exit despite being a favorite due to their energetic and exciting style of play.
With Ronaldo leading the way, Portugal shouldn’t have a problem advancing out of Group B alongside Spain. But both Ronaldo and Pepe, two key players for Portugal, have concerning injury histories. This team comes with a very High Injury Risk, the highest of the contenders we highlight in this article. For that reason, they aren’t going to make much of a splash in the Knockout Round.
Prediction: Round of 16
Spain is the clear favorite to win group B, but with an Overall Team Injury Risk of Elevated and quite a few injuries to deal with, a deep run isn’t expected according to our analytics. Dani Carvajal won’t be available due to a hamstring strain. And while Sergio Ramos will be tasked with anchoring the back line, he has a long list of injuries to his name. Diego Costa is another player that Spain relies heavily on, but his Injury Risk is a concern as well as he just recovered from a hamstring strain.
While there has been some criticism of Belgium when they face a tactically superior side, there is no denying their talent, especially in the attack. With players likeEden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku, anything is possible. Lukaku recently recovered from an ankle injury, and while his Injury Risk remains Elevated, he should be healthy enough to find the back of the net at least a few times. Vincent Kompany is their only real injury concern following a recent groin injury (and a long history of other injuries). If they can stay healthy and their defense can be solid, this team is scary good and could make a deep run.
With Lionel Messi leading the way, Argentina is our favorite to win it all. They have the lowest injury risk of the top contenders and have quite a few difference-makers on their side. This Argentina squad also comes with plenty of experience. Their average age is just over 28, and they have more than enough international caps on their side. Look for Argentina to make a deep run once again, and maybe this time around Messi can bring home his first major international trophy.
Prediction: World Cup Champion