FIFA World Cup 2018: Spain, Brazil or Germany, who will win the mega event? Firstpost writers predict the world champion, Golden Boot, Golden Ball and more


The latest edition of FIFA World Cup is here, and despite a handful of contenders vying for the top honours, predicting the winner is an exercise fraught with danger. Will Brazil overcome the ignominy of 2014 or will Lionel Messi finally lay his hands on the coveted trophy? Will Neymar live up to his promise or will Cristiano Ronaldo inspire Portugal to glory? Firstpost’s football writers throw their hat in the mix predict the Russia extravaganza.

Kaushal Shukla’s prediction

Champions: Spain

Semi-finalists: France, Brazil, Germany, Spain

Golden Boot: Antoine Griezmann

Golden Ball: Neymar Jr

Surprise package: ​Denmark

​​I’m going to stick my neck out and go for Spain to overcome all the turmoil leading up to the tournament and lift their second title in Moscow on 15 July. The game against Portugal will be critical for La Roja and a win there could put the Lopetegui drama to bed. The game will demand high focus from Spanish players and that could actually work for them. Fernando Hierro wouldn’t want to tinker much with the system that the players have been very successful with recently. There’s loads of experience in that Spanish side to take this setback in their stride. If they can overcome the group stage and a tricky Round of 16 tie, the sheer number of match-winners in that Spain side will make them unstoppable. If they can keep their heads in place, Spain are as strong as anyone.

Spain's Iago Aspas trains in Russia. Reuters

Spain’s Iago Aspas trains in Russia. Reuters

I expect Brazil to be the other finalist. They have great balance and quality, but might fall short in the final against Spain who have too many players that have won big titles recently. Neymar though will shine as he always does in the yellow and will scoop the Player of the Tournament award. France will entertain the Russian crowd with plenty of skill, but the lack of leaders in the side might haunt them at the semi-final stage. I think Antoine Griezmann will be among the goals in Russia and get home that Golden Boot.

I don’t fancy Germany a lot but their draw would ensure they reach the semifinals. I expect Belgium to put on a good show, but they might run into Brazil in the quarter-finals and that might be too big an ask even for their golden generation. Finishing second in the group might not be the worse thing for the Red Devils who will fancy playing the Germans in the quarters, instead of the Brazilians.

Denmark is a very capable team not many have have acknowledged. They come into Russia with a 14-game unbeaten run that includes a draw against Germany. With the likes of Christian Eriksen, Thomas Delaney, Andreas Christensen and Simon Kjaer in their ranks, Denmark are favourites after France to advance from Group C. With a possible R-16 tie against Argentina, the Danish could be building their appetite for an upset.

Jigar Mehta’s prediction

Champions: Spain

Semi-finalists: Argentina, Germany, Spain, Brazil

Golden Boot: Thomas Muller

Golden Ball: Isco

Surprise package: England reaching quarter-finals

Spain have slowly clawed back to their best following the disappointments of 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Euro. Some might call it an ageing side but experience plays a major role in big events. With the likes Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Jordi Alba, Andres Iniesta, David de Gea and David Silva in their ranks, Spain have a formidable core. They have reinvigorated without changing their playing style under Lopetegui. The coach’s sacking on the eve of the World Cup is a setback, but this is where Spain’s experience will come good. The midfield will again be the key and I expect Diego Costa to fire in whatever chances he will be presented with. Apart from Spain, Argentina will also go deep in the competition. It’s that time of the year when Lionel Messi will again the lone warrior but they will fall short and Messi will retire without the big prize. Brazil and Germany will dominate early but will falter at the fag end of the tournament. ​

Shivam Damohe’s prediction

Champions: Brazil

Semi-finalists: Portugal, Germany, Spain, Brazil

Golden Boot: Neymar Jr

Golden Ball: Antoine Griezmann

Surprise package: England

Soccer Football - World Cup - Brazil Training - Yug Sport Stadium, Sochi, Russia - June 13, 2018 Brazil's Roberto Firmino during training REUTERS/Hannah Mckay - RC1D43C838B0

Brazil would  look to erase the memories of a heartbreaking 2014 campaign. Reuters

Brazil are clearly a notch above the rest. They are hot favourites to lift their sixth World Cup and since Tite took over the helm over two years ago, they have been in top form. The Selecao not only want to eye World Cup glory, but also erase the pain of the 1-7 drubbing on home soil in 2014. The team had lost confidence after learning that Neymar had picked up a back injury against Colombia in the quarter-finals ahead of the team’s last-four clash against Germany. That result still haunts the nation. However, Neymar — the world’s most expensive player — is back to full fitness and Tite’s squad boasts of creative and tactically flexible players. What else can you ask for?


But, I’d be happy if Germany defend their title.


Anish Anand’s prediction

Champions: Brazil

Semi-finalists: Brazil, France, Germany, Argentina

Golden Boot: Neymar Jr

Golden Ball: Neymar Jr

Surprise package: Portugal’s and Cristiano Ronaldo’s disappointing performance

The 2014 World Cup may be remembered for that 1-7 drubbing Brazil suffered at the hands of Germany but this time around, Neymar and Co will rule Russia. Here’s a thing about Neymar, he was out injured for three months and his World Cup participation was in doubt, but not only he recovered, the forward was quickly among goals during their friendlies against Croatia and Austria. Neymar loves playing for Brazil and now that he’s fit, this is going to be his World Cup. Lionel Messi, as usual, will guide his team till semi-finals but they can’t go all the way. France’s young sensations will be impressive in Russia. Portugal might have won the Euro, but Russia event will be a disappointing one for them. With the likes of Spain, Iran and Morocco in the group stages, the Cristiano Ronaldo-led side will have it tough. Iran is the best-ranked Asian country and they have it in them to trouble Portugal. Spain and Iran will progress to the next round and Portugal’s exit would come as surprise.

Nevin Thomas’ prediction

Champions: Brazil

Semi-finalists: Brazil, France, Argentina, Germany

Golden Boot: Timo Werner

Golden Ball: Neymar Jr

Surprise package: England

Brazil arguably have the best squad in Russia with competition for places so high that the likes of Juventus left-back Alex Sandro didn’t even make the final 23-man cut. Under coach Tite, the Selecao have rediscovered their Samba magic and are playing quality attacking football while being miserly in defence. What works for Brazil is the unity  and the presence of just a single superstar in Neymar, unlike a Belgium or a German squad with a plethora of talent but also many bloated egos to handle. Let’s also not forget they are going to play with vengeance — that 1-7 loss in Rio will take more than an Olympic gold to forget. Selecao go into the tournament as favourites to win it and Neymar will once again be the key to their campaign.

Similarly, Germany will be expected to get better of a young England (assuming England qualifies second in their group). Germany are also a team in transition but have a better roaster as compared to the English team. France have the easiest run till the semi-finals and will mostly have to play Nigeria and Portugal/Uruguay. All teams look beatable for a very strong French squad. The last slot is tricky with Argentina and Spain likely to face each other. Spain impressed in their qualification as opposed to a stuttering campaign by Argentina, but the La Roja have one significant problem in a motivated Lionel Messi. The Argentine will be under pressure to deliver and as is the norm, the five-time Ballon d’Or winner seldom disappoints.

German striker Timo Werner has the potential to lead the goal-scoring chart in Russia. He is a classic centre-forward in the Miroslav Klose mould, and he checks all qualities required to be a striker — is good in the air, has great positional awareness, and is a natural poacher.

Surprisingly (or not), there is very little pressure on England to deliver. The English side under Gareth Southgate is still a side in transition and it looks like the World Cup came two years early for the young team. But this could work in favour of the English players who are otherwise always under constant media scrutiny. An attack headed by the insatiable Harry Kane and the tricky Raheem Sterling could prove tricky for teams, especially if the likes of Eric Dier and Jordan Henderson can anchor the midfield.

Karan Pradhan’s prediction

Champions: France

Semi-finalists: France, Germany, Argentina, Brazil

Golden Boot: Antoine Griezmann

Golden Ball: Neymar Jr

Surprise package: The effectiveness of VAR which will vindicate the system once and for all

France's Steven Nzonzi, Presnel Kimpembe and Benjamin Mendy during their training. Reuters

France’s Steven Nzonzi, Presnel Kimpembe and Benjamin Mendy during their training. Reuters

It’s been 20 years since the all-conquering French team lifted the World Cup at home, and this year’s squad looks equally capable. The absence of divisive characters  — a la — Nicolas Anelka will lend much-needed solidarity to a team that’s been starved of international success for 18 years (Euro 2000), despite coming tantalisingly close in 2006. Defending champions Germany and perennial pre-World Cup favourites Brazil will dominate their opponents throughout the tournament, but are likely to find the final a bridge too far. Argentina, finalists in the 2014 edition, will be the fourth semi-finalist. The talismanic Lionel Messi, who retired and swiftly unretired from international football (following a heartbreaking Copa America final defeat to Chile last year), will have a point to prove. Particularly since he has reiterated that he will retire from international football (again) if Argentina fall short this time around. And sadly for him, despite putting on some fantastic performances, they won’t go all the way.

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