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2018 World Cup: Who has qualified for the finals and who can win the trophy?

With World Cup Qualifying stages coming to an end across the World, it is time to take a look at the nations competing for the greatest glory in football. For some national teams, even participating in Russia is an honorable accomplishment, but for some giants of the international football, anything other than the trophy could be considered as a failure. So far, 23 nations have booked their place to join host nation Russia in next year's tournament and nine places are still available.

2018 World Cup

Qualified nations: Russia (hosts), Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Egypt, England, France, Germany, Honduras, Iceland, Iran, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Panama, Poland, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, South Korea, Spain, Uruguay.

The final nine places are decided by:
2 playoff winners (Australia or Honduras, Peru or New Zealand)
4 European playoff winners (Northern Ireland or Switzerland, Denmark or Ireland, Sweden or Italy, Croatia or Greece)
3 group winners from Africa

UEFA will have the most teams aiming the trophy unquestionably, with Germany as the most serious contender. Die Mannschaft have steamrolled every team in their group while winning the Confederations Cup with their B squad and UEFA Euro U21 at the same time. Joachim Loew will have some serious headaches regarding his selection as his men have enough quality for two highest quality teams. They have lifted the World Cup trophy 2014 and for sure all players are eager to make the same in Russia.

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Spain is right behind especially after completely outplaying Italy with 3-0 in their respective qualifying group. Their tactic with Isco as false nine worked perfectly along with several approaches tested in the previous year.

Led by Harry Kane, England are looking quite solid. The Albion haven’t had any success in the last two decades and following the shameful defeat by Island at EURO 2016, England are certainly hungry for the international trophies.

Despite they weren’t convincing in the last few months, the European champions Portugal cannot be underestimated. Ronaldo & Co can parry any team in the World both mentally and physically which was perfectly illustrated in Poland.

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The team that suffered a defeat on the home turf in the final of EURO 16 by Portugal is Didier Deschamps’ France. The combination of young prospects, future stars, and several experienced players, France is one of the top contenders for the trophy. Griezmann, Mbappe, Pogba, along with their world-class teammates will certainly aim for the top of the World in Russia.

Italian national team is still searching for the optimal solutions and replacements for several players but Azzurri are unquestionably capable of beating any team in the World but also disappoint against a number of the teams as well. It is safe to say that they will be in their top form when the World Cup kicks off, but first they need to beat Sweden in WC 2018 Promotion stage. You can find very good betting offers for this matches at BetOTG.

Stalking from the shadows, Belgium possess the insane individual quality at every position. However, keeping the team spirit up and choosing the right tactic is going to be a difficult task for Roberto Martinez as his men recently shown significant weaknesses in the defense.

CONMEBOL’s greatest hope is undoubtedly Brazil. Carioca had a masterful qualification stage where they outplayed every team in South America. Casemiro, Neymar, Jesus & Co are their most reliable players and each of them will target 2018 FIFA World Cup Best Player Award.

It would be a huge shock that Argentina failed to qualify for the final tournament, but they have reached World Cup and now stay as a one of the favourites. Despite Sampaoli took the responsibility, some of the World’s best players might not participate in Russia as Argentina’s woes persists. Every football fan out there wants to see Messi, Dybala, Di Maria and their teammates fight for the top.

Uruguayan’s lethal attack could lead them all the way to the trophy as Cavani and Suarez are the dream attacking duo. Aside from the two strikers, Uruguay’s team has achieved the desired chemistry and deservedly sealed the appearance in Russia.

Mexico always find the way to impress at the major tournaments. Their team spirit is very unique and it will represent their main weapon at the final tournament.

Despite these teams have the highest chances for lifting the trophy, other selections can’t be underestimated, which was perfectly illustrated at UEFA EURO 2016, where Island, Wales, and Northern Ireland all registered a historic performances. Poland have impressed in their group but Denmark is looking quite sharp at the moment. Despite they were in the weakest group, Switzerland have made quite a statement with the nine victories from ten games. Despite currently struggling, Croatia has the ability to reach the last eight and potentially join the fight for the semi-finals.

With the African, Asian and CONMEBOL team joining, it is safe to say that the forthcoming World Cup in Russia will be the most unpredictable ever. Therefore, football fans around the World eagerly await the kick-off on June 14th when the full month of the excitement will commence.

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An experienced sports columnist, analyst and author with focus on football. He began covering sports while still a student and really enjoy what he is doing. Also he likes to place bets on his betting tips.