The draw for the 2018 World Cup was made in Russia on December 1st so we now have a better idea who may end up winning it. There are eight groups of four teams with the top two nations advancing to the knockout stages of the competition. The winner of Group A will play the runner-up in Group B with the winner of Group B playing the runner-up of Group A and so on. The groups will be paired off as A-B, C-D, E-F and G-H for this purpose.
Let’s take a look at the 32 teams, the groups and everybody’s chances of winning the FIFA World Cup Trophy.
Group A: Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Uruguay
Group B: Portugal, Spain, Morocco and Iran
Group C: France, Australia, Peru and Denmark
Group D: Argentina, Iceland, Croatia and Nigeria
Group E: Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia
Group F: Germany, Mexico, Sweden and Korea Republic
Group G: Belgium, Panama, Tunisia and England
Group H: Poland, Senegal, Colombia and Japan
32. Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia qualified for their first of four-straight World Cups in 1994, but this is their first appearance since 2006 and fifth overall. Their best performance was the round of 16 in 1994. They’ve won the Asian Cup three times, the Arab Nations Cup twice and were runners-up in the 1992 Confederations Cup. Juan Antonio Pizzi is the boss with Osama Hawsawi as captain. Saudi Arabia is ranked 63rd with their highest showing being 21st in 2004 and the lowest being 126th in 2012. They had six wins, five losses and a draw in 2017. Their most reliable players are Hawsawi, goaltender Waleed Abdullah, Hassan Muath, Taisir Al-Jassim, Yahya Al-Shehri, Abdullah Al-Zori, Nawaf Al-Abed, Fahad Al-Muwallad, Mohammad Al-Sahlawi, Nasser Al-Shamrani and Naif Hazazi. They have a slim chance of getting out of their group with Russia, Egypt and Uruguay.
This is Panama’s first World Cup and they have a shot at winning a game or two with Hernán Darío Gómez as manager and Felipe Baloy as captain. Panama is presently ranked 56th with their highest showing being 29th in 2014 and lowest being 150th in 1995. They have two good, but aging goalkeepers in Jaime Penedo and Jose Calderon and some pretty fine outfield talent with the likes of Baloy, Armando Cooper, Gabriel Torres, Roman Torres, Adolfo Machado, Harold Cummings, Gabriel Gomez, Anibal Godoy, Alberto Quintero and all-time top scorers Blas Perez and Luis Tejeda with 43 goals each. Panama isn’t expected to get out of their group with England, Belgium and Tunisia, but anything can happen in a group with England.
This is Morocco’s fifth World Cup and first since 1998. They were the first African nation to win a group in the event and make it to the second round, which they did in 1986. They also won the 1976 African Nations Cup and the Arab Nations Cup in 2012. Their current boss is Hervé Renard with Medhi Benatia as skipper. The team is ranked 40th in the world with their best ranking being 10th in 1998 and worst being 95th in 2010. The squad had nine wins, four losses and a draw in 2017 Along with Benatia, their most dependable players are Nabil Dirar, Mbark Boussoufa, Younes Belhanda, Nordin Amrabat, Karim El Ahmadi and Youssef El-Arabi. It’s unlikely Morocco will get out of their group as it consists of Portugal, Spain and Iran.
This will be Iran’s fifth World Cup and second in a row. They haven’t fared too well though with just a 2-1 victory over the Americans in 1998 to show for their four previous appearances. Things might be a bit better this time around as Iran is ranked 32nd in the world. Their highest ranking was 15th in 2005 and the lowest was 122nd in 1996. Carlos Queiroz of Portugal is the current manager and the team is captained by Ashkan Dejagah. They enjoyed a pretty good 2017 with seven wins, a loss and three draws. If they’re going to do well they’ll need big tournaments from Dejagah, Ehsan Hajsafi, Karim Ansarifard, Sardar Azmoun and Reza Ghoochannejhad. Iran is grouped with Spain, Portugal and Morocco, so shouldn’t advance.
Tunisia is heading to the World Cup for the fifth time, all since 1978. They qualified three times in a row in 1998, 2002 and 2006, but never made it past the group stage in their four appearances. They did manage to win the Africa Cup of Nations in that time span though in 2004 when they hosted the event. They’re ranked 27th with their highest being 19th in 1998 and lowest being 65th in 2010. Nabil Maaloul is the manager with goaltender Aymen Mathlouthi as the skipper. The team wasn’t at its best in 2017 with a record of six wins, five defeats and two draws. They’ll be relying on players such as Aymen Mathlouthi, Ali Maâloul, Youssef Msakni, Aymen Abdennour and Syam Ben Youssef in Russia. Tunisia is grouped with Panama, Belgium and England, so shouldn’t advance unless England collapses.
Iceland made the headlines last year by knocking England out of the European Championships and is now the smallest nation by population to ever qualify for a World Cup. Their first major tournament appearance was Euro 2016 and they reached the quarterfinals. The side is managed by Heimir Hallgrimsson and is ranked 22nd in the world. Their high was 19th in July with their lowest ranking being 131st in 2012. They qualified by topping their group with a record of seven wins, a draw and two defeats. The team posted seven wins, four losses and a draw in 2017 and they’ll be relying on skillful midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson to lead the way in Russia. Iceland will be facing Croatia, Nigeria and Argentina and will find it tough to advance.
The lads from Down Under will be heading to the World Cup for the fourth straight time and fifth time overall. They first qualified in 1974 and their best showing was the round of 16 in 2006. The team didn’t have a manager in place when the World Cup draw was made on December 1st. However, Mile Jedinak is the captain. Australia is ranked 39th with their best showing being 14th in 2009 and worst being 102nd in 2014. Australia beat Honduras 3-1 on aggregate in the inter-confederation playoffs to reach Russia and then former manager Ange Postecoglou promptly resigned. They’re solid in goal with Matthew Ryan and will be relying on players such as Jedinak, Trent Sainsbury, Aaron Mooy, Massimo Luongo, Tom Rogic, Matthew Leckie and Robbie Kruse. And who knows, all-time leading scorer Tim Cahill with 50 goals may even play at the age of 38. Australia will have a tough time getting past the group stage though against Peru, Denmark and France. They had five wins, five draws and three losses in 2017.
The most successful domestic team in Africa has been Egypt with seven Africa Cup of Nations titles. In 1934 they became the first African/Middle Eastern team to qualify for a World Cup. However, they’ve only qualified twice since, 1990 in Italy and next year in Russia. But for all of their success in Africa, they’ve failed to win a game at a World Cup. They’re ranked 31st in the world after peaking at nine in 2010 and falling as low as 75th in 2013. Hector Cuper is the manager with 44-year-old goalkeeper Essam El-Hadaray as captain. Mohamed Salah of Liverpool is easily their best player and he’ll likely be helped by the likes of Mohamed Elneny and Ahmed Elmohamady. Egypt is playing Uruguay, Saudi Arabia and Russia, so could advance.
Russia probably wouldn’t have qualified for the tournament if they weren’t hosting it. The squad is currently ranked 65th in the world, which is the lowest of the 32 teams in the event. It’s also the lowest Russia has ever been ranked by FIFA with the highest being third in 1996. This will be their 11th World Cup with their best finish being fourth in in 1966. Russia didn’t make it in 2006 and 2010 and has been struggling lately by failing to make it past the group stage of Euro 2012 and 2016 and the 2014 World Cup. They couldn’t even get out of their group at the 2017 Confederations Cup which they hosted. Stanislav Cherchesov is the team’s third manager in the past two years and other than having home advantage in the tournament, the side doesn’t have much going for it, especially with just three wins in their past 11 outings. They should at least get out of their group with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Uruguay, but only because they’re the host nation.
The Swiss qualified for their fourth straight World Cup and 11th appearance overall by beating Northern Ireland in the playoffs. They’re currently ranked eighth in the world with their highest being third in third in 1993 and worst being 83rd in 1998. It’s doubtful they’re the eighth-best squad on the planet though. Switzerland’s best World Cup finish was the the quarterfinals on three occasions, but the last time was back in 1954 as hosts. Vladimir Petković is the manager and his team had seven wins, a draw and a loss in 2017. There aren’t any superstars in the side, but there are some solid pros such as skipper Stephan Lichtsteiner, Ricardo Rodriguez, Granit Xhaka, Fabian Schar, Xherdan Shaquiri, Haris Seferovic, Johan Djourou and goaltender Yann Sommer. Switzerland plays Brazil, Costa Rica and Serbia and will be 50/50 to move on.
22. South Korea
South Korea is headed to their 10th World Cup and ninth in a row with their first appearance coming in 1954. They made it as far as fourth place as co-hosts in 2002 and are two-time Asian Cup champions. The team is currently managed by Shin Tae-yong with Ki Sung-yueng as the captain. South Korea is presently ranked 59th, but has been as high as 17th in 1998 and as low as 69th in 2015 and 2015. They haven’t played well in 2017 though with two wins, four losses and four draws with three more games to play. Their top players include Sung-yueng along with Jang Hyun-soo, Lee Keun-ho, Yeom Ki-hun, Kim Young-gwon, Koo Ja-cheol, Son Heung-min, and Lee Chung-yong. Lee Dong-gook has 33 goals to his name, but he’s now 38 years old, so may not play. South Korea’s in one of the toughest groups with Mexico, Germany and Sweden so their chances of advancing are slim.
Senegal has played in just one World Cup, which was in 2002 when they upset reigning champions France 1-0 in the group stage. They lost just once in the tournament and made it as far as the quarterfinals. They’re currently enjoying their highest ever ranking by FIFA at the moment as they’re 23rd in the world with their lowest being 99th in 2013.The team is managed by Aliou Cissé and skippered by Cheikhou Kouyaté. Senegal was quite busy in 2017 with seven victories, nine draws and two losses under their belt. Their top players include Kara Mbodji, Idrissa Gana Gueye, Moussa Sow, Sadio Mane and Mame Biram Diouf. Senegal is in a tough group with Japan, Colombia and Poland, but if they manage to advance they could face a weak Group G side in the next round.
Serbia has been inconsistent since it’s first game as an independent nation in 2006. They’re currently ranked 37th, but have been as high as sixth in 1998 and as low as 101st in 1994. Mladen Krstajic is the manager with Branislav Ivanović the captain. This is the nation’s second World Cup as Serbia after appearing 10 other times in as either Yugoslavia or Serbia and Montenegro. The team had five wins, three draws and a loss in 2017 and will likely be depending on players such as Ivanović, Aleksandar Mitrovic, Aleksandar Kolarov, Dusan Tadic, Nemanja Matic and Zoran Tosic to advance next year. They’re in a pretty tough group with Costa Rica, Switzerland and Brazil. If they do advance they could keep going as their Group F opponent may not be the strongest.
Although they’re ranked 11th in the world, Peru had to beat New Zealand in the playoffs to qualify for Russia. The side was ranked their record-high 10th earlier this year with their lowest being 91st in 2009. This is their sixth World Cup with their best showing being the quarterfinals in 1970. Their last appearance was in 1982 when they failed to get past the group stage. Peru had seven wins, five draws and six defeats in 2018 qualifying with 27 goals for and 26 against so their ranking may be a bit misleading. Ricardo Gareca is the manager with skipper Paolo Guerrero being the all-time top scorer with 32 goals. Youngster Edison Flores helped out with five goals in the qualifying games. Most of the squad plays in South America, but 33-year-old forward Jefferson Farfan of Lokomotiv Moscow, with 23 international goals, could be a surprise. Peru has to deal with France, Australia and Denmark so is 50/50 to advance.
Three-time Africa Cup of Nations champions Nigeria are no strangers to the World Cup as this will be their sixth appearance and third in a row. They’ve made every tournament since first qualifying in 1994 except for 2006 event. The furthest they’ve gone has been the round of 16, which they managed three times. The team’s ranked just 50th at the moment, but has been as as high as fifth in 1994 and as low as 82nd in 1999. The manager is Gernot Rohr with John Obi Mikel as team captain. The main national team had four wins, four draws and a loss in 2017. Their best players are Mikel, Kenneth Omeruo, Ogenyi Onazi, Ahmed Musa, Kelechi Iheanacho, Alex Iwobi, Elderson Echiéjilé and Victor Moses. Their chances of getting past the group stage are 50/50 as they face Iceland, Croatia and Argentina.
17. Costa Rica
Costa Rica is the most successful footballing nation in Central America and will be playing their fifth World Cup and second straight. Their best showing was reaching the quarterfinals in 2014 when they lost a penalty shootout to Holland. They topped their group though which consisted of three former World Cup champions in Italy, England and Uruguay. Costa Rica is managed by Oscar Ramirez with captain Bryan Ruiz being their best player. Costa Rica’s highest ranking was 13th in 2015 and they’re currently 22nd with their lowest being 93rd in 1996. The team had five wins, six draws and two defeats in 2017 and has some fine players in Ruiz, Bryan Oviedo, Kendall Waston, Marco Urena, Johan Venegas, Joel Campbell and goalkeeper Keylor Navas. Costa Rica is grouped with Serbia, Switzerland and Brazil, so has a decent shot at advancing.
Uruguay will be shooting for their third World Cup next summer, but first since 1950. The 15-time Copa America winners will be competing in the tournament for the 13th time and third straight. They won the event the first two times they entered, but their best showing since 1950 has been three fourth-place finishes. The team’s currently ranked 21st in the world with their highest being second in 2011 and lowest being 55th in 1998. Their top player and scorer is the controversial Luis Suarez with 49 goals, but manager Oscar Tabarez has plenty of other fine players to choose from such as Maxi Pereira, skipper Diego Godin, Cristian Rodriguez, Nicolas Lodeiro, Egidio Rios, Gaston Ramirez, Martin Caceres, Alvaro Gonzalez, goaltender Fernando Muslera and striker Edinson Cavani, who has 40 international goals. Uruguay will face Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Russia so should advance, but will then likely meet Portugal or Spain.
Manager Ade Hareide led Denmark to Russia by beating Ireland 5-1 on aggregate in the playoff round. The Danes have captured three Olympic silver medals and a bronze as well as a European Championship and a Confederations Cup title, but never a World Cup. They first qualified in 1986 with their best showing being a 3-2 loss to Brazil in the 1998 quarterfinals. Denmark’s ranked 12th with their highest being third in 1997 and lowest being 51st this past April. This will be Denmark’s fifth World Cup overall. The squad had five wins and four draws in 2017 and is strong in goal with Kasper Schmeichel while defender Simon Kjaer is the captain and Nicklas Bendtner as their current leading scorer with 30 goals. However, midfielder Christian Eriksen is the best player. Denmark is grouped with Peru, Australia and France, so have a good shot at advancing.
Sweden has never won a World Cup or European Championship, but has been pretty solid over the years though. They’re ranked 18th with their highest being second in 1994 and their lowest being 45th in March of this year and also back in 2015. They qualified for Russia with a 1-0 aggregate win over Italy in the playoffs. Sweden’s best World Cup finish was runners-up as the hosts in 1958 and they finished third in 1950 and 1994. They’ve also captured a gold and two bronze medals in Olympic action. This will be their 12th World Cup and manager Janne Andersson will likely be depending on veterans such as captain Andreas Granqvist, Martin Olsson, Sebastian Larsson, Marcus Berg and Ola Toivonen. Sweden finished 2017 with seven wins, two losses and two draws. Sweden plays Germany, Mexico and South Korea so is 50/50 to advance.
Colombia will be playing their sixth World Cup and second in a row after reaching the quarterfinals in 2014, which was their best showing at the event. Colombia’s currently ranked eighth with their highest spot being third on several occasions from 2013 to 2016 and their lowest being 54th in 2011. The side is managed by Jose Pekerman with Radamel Falcao as the skipper and also the all-time top scorer with 28 goals. It’s hard to justify their ranking at the moment though since they struggled in 2017 with just four wins, four draws and three defeats. David Ospina’s a solid goaltender and they’ve got some well-known European-based players such as Falcao, James Rodriguez, Juan Cuadrado, Cristian Zapata, Carlos Bacca and Carlos Sanchez. Colombia has Poland, Senegal and Japan in their group so are 50/50 to advance.
Croatia beat Greece 4-1 on aggregate in the playoffs to qualify. They’re ranked 17th after climbing back from their all-time low of 125th in 1994 with their highest ranking being third in 1999. Zlato Dalic is the manager with Luka Modric the skipper. Croatia first played in 1990 after splitting from the former Yugoslavia and becoming an independent nation and this is their fifth World Cup since. Their best finish was third place in their first appearance in 1998, but they failed to make it past the group stage in their last three outings. The team’s been inconsistent lately with five wins, two draws and three losses in 2017. Their best players are Modric, Dejan Lovren, Ivan Strinic, Domagoj Vida, Ivan Perisic, Ivan Rakitic, Mario Mandzukic, Vedran Corluka and Nikolai Kalinic. They’re grouped with Nigeria, Iceland and Argentina and will be 50/50 to advance.
This is Mexico’s 16th World Cup and seventh in a row. They’re ranked 16th with their highest being fourth in 1998 and 2006 and their lowest being 40th just two short years ago. Juan Carlos Osorio is the manager with all-time top scorer Javier Hernandez (49 goals) being the main threat. Mexico made it out of the group stage in their last six World Cups with their best showing being the quarterfinals in 1970 and 1986 when they were hosts. They’re the best team in CONCACAF history and have some fine players such as Andres Guardado, Javier Aquino, Carlos Vela, Raul Jiminez, Oribe Peralta, Giovani dos Santos, Hector Herrera Hernandez and goaltender Guillermo Ochoa. On the downside, veteran Rafael Marquez’s future is unclear due to accusations of alleged ties to drug cartels. Mexico had a busy 2017 with 15 wins, seven draws and five losses. They’re grouped with Sweden, Germany and South Korea, meaning they’re 50/50 to move on.
Japan will be playing in their sixth straight World Cup and sixth overall, making it as far as the round of 16 in 2002 as co-hosts and again in 2010. Vahid Halilhodžić is the team manager with Makoto Hasebe as captain. The Japanese are currently ranked 55th which isn’t far from their all-time low of 62nd in 1992. Their highest ranking was ninth in 1998, they’ve won the Asian Cup four times and were runners-up at the 2001 Confederations Cup as co-hosts. Their top players include Hasebe, Hiroshi Kiyotake, Hiroki Sakai, Yūto Nagatomo, Maya Yoshida, Shinji Kagawa, Keisuke Honda and Shinji Okazaki. Their current record in 2017 is four wins, three losses and three draws with three more games to go. Japan is 50/50 to get out of their group as they face Colombia, Poland and Senegal, but could keep going if they do as Group G is relatively weak.
With all-time leading scorer Robert Lewandowski (51 goals) in the squad, Poland has the capability of beating anyone. They’ reached their all-time best FIFA ranking of fifth this year and slipped to seventh by December. Their worst ranking was 78th in the world in 2013. This is Poland’s eighth World Cup after missing the previous two. They were embarrassed at Euro 2012 by going out in the group stage as co-hosts, but bounced back last year by reaching the quarterfinals of Euro 2016. Poland finished third at the 1974 and 1982 World Cups for their best showings. The team had five wins, two losses and a draw in 2017 under manager Adam Nawalka and has some fine players in Lewandowski, Jakub Błaszczykowski and goalkeepers Wojciech Szczesny and Lukasz Fabianski. It looks like 23-year-old forward Arkadiusz Milik could be a hit too with 12 goals in 36 games so far. Poland is grouped with Colombia, Japan and Senegal so is 50/50 to advance.
England, the enigma of world football. They’re currently ranked 15th with their high being third in 2012 and their low being 27th in 1996. This is their 15th World Cup and sixth straight. They’ve lost just four of their 46 qualifying games since 1994, but often struggle once the event begins. They’ve reached just one World Cup Final which they won at home in 1966, but have reached the semifinals just one other time and didn’t get out of the group stage in 2014. Gareth Southgate is the current boss and and he’s trying to groom a new generation of youngsters. They’ll have talent to choose from now and in the future as England won both the Under-20 and Under-17 World Cups this year. They win five games, lost two and drew three this year with the likes of Harry Kane, Dele Alli, and Marcus Rashford leading the way. England is grouped with Tunisia, Panama and Belgium so should advance and could keep going if they face a weak Group H side.
Belgium has never won a World Cup in 12 tries with their best finish being fourth in 1986. They’re currently ranked fifth in the world, but were were number one from November, 2015 to March, 2016, with their low point being 71st in 2007. All-time leading scorer Romelu Lukaku (31) goals is expected to lead the attack and the team features Christian Benteke, skipper Eden Hazard, Marouane Fellaini, Jan Vertonghen, Mousa Dembele, Kevin De Bruyne and Vincent Kompany. They also have two solid goalies in Thibaut Courtois and Simon Mignolet. If there’s anything to worry about it could be manager Roberto Martinez. Belgium didn’t qualify for the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, but reached the final four in 2014. The current squad is arguably its strongest ever and they should advance from their group with England, Tunisia and Panama. They could then keep going as Group H isn’t the strongest.
France has rebounded after a disastrous 2010 World Cup where they were eliminated at the group stage. To make matters worse, the team revolted and temporarily walked out on strike against then-manager Raymond Domenech. Since then, they reached the quarterfinals of Euro 2012 and the 2014 World Cup as well as the Final of Euro 2016. They’ve reached two World Cup Finals in 14 previous appearances and won it at home in 1998. They’re also two-time champions of Europe. France had seven wins, two draws and two losses in 2017 and is currently ranked ninth in the world under manager Didier Deschamps. They’ve been ranked as high as number one from May 2001 to 2002 and as low as 27th in September, 2010. The squad boasts some excellent young talent such as Antoine Griezmann, Alexandre Lacazette, Kylian Mbappe, Paul Pogba, Olivier Giroud, Ousmane Dembele and N’Golo Kante. They’ve also got a world-class goalie in captain Hugo Lloris. They should advance from their group with Australia, Peru and Denmark and could keep going if they don’t run into Argentina in the next round.
Portugal enters the World Cup as European champions and their next goal is to conquer the world. With Cristiano Ronaldo leading the way in caps and goals with 147 and 79 respectively it’s certainly a possibility. Portugal is currently ranked third to tie their all-time high with their lowest being 43rd in 1998. Manager Fernando Santos saw his team win 11 games in 2017 with three draws and one loss and they finished third in the Confederations Cup. This is the seventh World Cup for Portugal with their best showing being third place in 1966. The squad has been inconsistent on the world stage, but Ronaldo has some help with fellow aging players such as Pepe, Bruno Alves, Fabio Coentrao, Joao Moutinho. Ricardo Quaresma and Nani. It’s now or never for this crew though as they’ll be too old for the next World Cup and youngsters such as Renato Sanches will need to take over. Portugal is grouped with Spain, Morocco and Iran and should advance and then keep going as their Group A opponent should be relatively weak.
Brazil has a lot to prove after being humiliated 7-1 by Germany in the 2014 World Cup semifinals on their own soil. This is a nation that has won the World Cup a record five times though so it’s understandable why they’re expected to bounce back and will be among the favorites in 2018. Brazil is currently ranked second in the world, has never been lower than 22nd, and has been number one on numerous occasions. They’ve appeared in all 21 World Cups, reaching the Final seven times and have also won the Confederations Cup four times. Tite took over as manager in the summer of 2016 and led the squad to Olympic gold at home shortly after. Brazil had seven wins, three draws and a loss in 2017. They have several players over 30 though in Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, Miranda, David Luiz, Filipe Luis, Philippe Coutinho and Fernandinho. But on the bright side, forwards Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and Roberto Firmino are just 25, 20 and 26 respectively. Brazil has Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia in their group and should advance.
Spain was the top team in the world at various times between 2008 and 2014, but have slipped slightly. They’re currently ranked sixth with their lowest being 25th in 1998. They’re three-time European champions and won the 2010 World Cup. This is their 16th appearance, but they didn’t make it out of the group stage in 2014. Julen Lopetegui is the current boss and he’s arguably got the best goalkeeper in the world in David de Gea as well as relatively young, but experienced defenders and midfielders while the attack is now led by the likes of Pedro, Diego Costa and Alvaro Morata. The Spanish side went unbeaten in 2017 with eight wins and two draws. They’re grouped with Portugal, Morocco and Iran and should advance and keep going against a relatively weak Group A opponent.
As usual, reigning World cup champions Germany enter a major tournament as one of the favorites. They’re currently ranked number one in the world, have won the event four times in their 18 previous appearances, reached the Final eight times and came in third place four times. They’re also three-time European Champions and won this year’s Confederations Cup. The Germans went unbeaten in 2017 with 11 wins and four draws. Manager Joachim Low has a deep squad to choose from with some of the world’s top players such Mats Hummels, Sami Khedira, Julian Draxler, Toni Kroos, Mesut Ozil, Mario Gotze, Leroy Sane, Thomas Muller, Mario Gomez, Andre Schurrle and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer. There are also several youngsters available, making this one of the strongest squads in the tournament. They’re in a tough group with Mexico, Sweden and South Korea, but should advance.
Two-time World Cup champions Argentina came close to not qualifying for Russia next year, but will now be one of the favorites. One of the main reasons is the presence of captain and all-time top scorer Lionel Messi (61 goals). Argentina isn’t just a one-man team though as manager Jorge Sampaoli has plenty of talent including Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Angel Di Maria, Nicolas Otamendi, Ever Banega and goaltender Sergio Romero. Argentina had five wins, two losses and three draws in 2017 and is ranked fourth in the world. They were first from April, 2016 to April, 2017 with their lowest ranking being 24th in 1996. This is their 17th World Cup and they’ve reached five Finals, including losing to Germany 1-0 in 2014. They should advance from their group with Iceland, Nigeria and Croatia and then keep going against their Group C opponent.