World Cup 2018: Teams to Watch

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With the FIFA World Cup just two months away, Sportsbet has assessed the teams to watch, their star players and the current odds for you to best determine where to make your wins.

Odds correct as off 11'th April 2018. For the latest odds click here

Russia

Sportsbet odds: 40:00

When Russia began their bid to host the World Cup for the first time in their history, their football team were enjoying a period of success, reaching Euro 2008 semi-finals. Yet, since then, the team has regressed.

Despite being the host nation, Russia is the lowest-ranked of the 32 teams according to the FIFA standings. Since the dizzy success of 2008, the team has failed to advance past the group stage of any tournament since. Although tournament hosts always find a new gear when the competition begins, if Russia makes it out of their group - will be considered a success for the hosts.

How they qualified: Hosts

Star player: Igor Akinfeev (CSKA Moscow)

null Confederations Cup - Mexico vs Russia

Portugal

Sportsbet odds: 25:00

Portugal proved they have a solid team that can grind out results when they shocked France in the Euro 2016 final, despite losing star player Cristiano Ronaldo to injury early on in the game.

The current European champions will take the bulk of that experienced team to Russia. Their defence does not give much away, and with the passing skills of Joao Moutinho and Bernado Silva feeding newcomer Andre Silva and the world's best player in Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal could go far once they hit the knockout stages.

How they qualified: Winners of European Group B ahead of Switzerland

Star player: Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid)

Russia vs Portugal

Spain

Sportsbet odds: 7:50

Anchored at the back with stalwarts Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique in front of superb goalkeeper David de Gea and their midfield awash with a flurry of ball-playing midfielders - Spain will be a tough team to beat. The only chink in their armour is who they will play up front?

Alvaro Morata is the more stylish of the candidates in line to start for La Roja, being able to score and set up goals. The other, being the more robust Diego Costa who although lacks flair - is more of your archetypical forward when it comes to scoring goals.

How they qualified: Winners of European Group G ahead of Italy

Star player: Isco (Real Madrid)

La Liga Santander 2017-2018 : Real Madrid CF 1-1 Club Atletico de Madrid

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France

Sportsbet odds: 6:50

It's been 20 years since a Zinedine Zidane inspired France defeated Brazil on home soil to record their first World Cup win. The 2018 crop of players contain a combination of both flair and strength, and with the domineering Paul Pogba in midfield and brilliant goal scorer Antoine Griezmann in a rich vein of form, Les Bleus should go far.

Yet France laboured in their qualification for the tournament and lost on home soil to Portugal in Euro 2016 - they are still far from the finished article and will need to iron out their constant lapses in concentration if they wish to be crowned champions for the second time.

Can this talented bunch of players emulate the team of 1998?

How they qualified: Winners of European Group A ahead of Sweden

Star player: Antoine Griezmann (Atlético Madrid)

Europa League 2017-18 - Quarter-finals 1st leg : Club Atletico de Madrid 2-0 FC Sporting Club de Portugal

Argentina

Sportsbet odds: 10:00

The 2014 runners-up still have the effervescent Lionel Messi in their team, a hat trick from him against Ecuador helped Argentina qualify for Russia 2018.

Yet, Argentina nearly missed out, mainly due to key players desperately out of form including star forwards Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain. Any team with Messi cannot be written off, but Argentina needs to sort themselves out fast if they wish to make an impression this summer.

How they qualified: Third in South American section behind Brazil and Uruguay

Star player: Lionel Messi (Barcelona)

UEFA Champions League AS Roma vs FC Barcelona in Rome, Italy - 10 Apr 2018

Brazil

Sportsbet odds: 5:80

One of the favourites for the 2018 title, Brazil has come far from being demolished by Germany 7-1 in the World Cup semi-final on home soil in 2014.

The Seleção was the first team to qualify for Russia and despite an opening game loss, went on an impressive run of form and qualified with ease thanks to the wealth of attacking talent including star player Neymar.

When manager Tite was appointed in September 2016, they have only lost once, being undefeated ever since.

How they qualified: Winners of the South American section ahead of Uruguay

Star player: Neymar (Paris St-Germain)

PSG vs OM - Paris

Germany

Sportsbet odds: 5:50

The defending champions qualified with ease, with 10 wins from 10, bagging a record 43 goals along the way, look very strong heading into the tournament this summer. Along with Brazil, Germany are many people's favourites to defend their title.

In the 2017 Confederations Cup, held in Russia, Germany triumphed and with some blend of 2014 World Cup winners and the latest youngsters off the German production line - it will be hard to dislodge Die Mannschaft's hands from the World Cup trophy.

How they qualified: Winners of European Group C ahead of Northern Ireland

Star player: Toni Kroos (Real Madrid)

Football - UEFA Champions League - Real Madrid CF vs Juventus FC

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Belgium

Sportsbet odds: 12:00

For Belgium's golden generation, it's now or never. With a talented squad that grace several of Europe's leading clubs, it would be a travesty if they did not go far this time around. Yet, Belgium has yet to pass the semi-finals of a tournament since Mexico 1986.

With powerhouse forward Romelu Lukaku up front, creative geniuses Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne in midfield, and solid defenders Vincent Kompany, Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld protecting Thibaut Courtois - Belgium could be this year's dark horse outsider to succeed in Russia 2018.

Yet there is discord in the camp, with Belgium's players unhappy at the style of play under Spanish manager Roberto Martinez. Can he get the best out of his talented stars?

How they qualified: Winners of European Group H ahead of Greece

Star player: Eden Hazard (Chelsea)

United Kingdom: Chelsea v West Ham United - Premier League

England

Sportsbet odds: 17:00

Expectations in England have plunged because of the team's embarrassing performances in the recent 2014 and 2016 tournaments - exiting the last World Cup at the group stage and losing to Iceland in the round of 16 at Euro 2016.

Despite having the world's richest and most famous domestic league, successive England managers have found it hard to find a top pool of players to choose from to represent the national side.

Skipper and prolific goal scorer Harry Kane will lead a young and inexperienced looking Three Lions this summer. If they can get past the group stage, this will be considered a success.

How they qualified: Winners of European Group F ahead of Slovakia

Star player: Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur)

Stoke City v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League - bet365 Stadium

Uruguay

Sportsbet odds: 30:00

Óscar Tabárez’s team went through qualifying with incredible composure. After four consecutive World Cup playoffs, they finished second behind Brazil to qualify in style.

With a mix of youngsters and a backbone including defender Diego Godin and leading strikers Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez, Uruguay could offer a serious threat to other teams at Russia 2018. Although unlikely to collect another World Cup title since their last in 1950, La Celeste could surprise us all.

How they qualified: Second in the South American section behind Brazil

Star player: Luis Suárez (Barcelona)

UEFA Champions League 2017-18 - Quarter-finals 1st leg : FC Barcelona 4-1 AS Roma

Who do you think will end up as World Cup champions? Did we miss anyone out that could make a big impact in this summer’s tournament? Leave your comments below the Facebook or Twitter posts of this article!

Words: David Bailey-Lauring

Images: PA

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