The 21st edition of the Football World Cup will be the biggest sporting event of the year. What are the groups? Who are the key players? What are the best odds for betting? We have done an analysis to answer to all these questions.
Group A will consist of the following four teams in the 2018 World Cup: Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Uruguay. As we all know, Russia is the host team in this year’s World Cup and will look to have similar success as many of the host countries in past years. Russia may have gotten lucky being placed in a group without big names like Germany or Brazil, but still have a challenging group stage ahead of them. Uruguay is surely the favorite to take the top spot in this group, the talented Uruguayan roster is led by strikers Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez. Uruguay also has the advantage of being the only country in the group with the experience of being crowned a World Champion in past years. Egypt will look to rising star Mohamed Salah, coming off an incredible year with Liverpool, to lead the team during group stage. The healthiness of Salah will be something to keep an eye on, however, as he was injured in the Champions League Finals just weeks before the start of group stage. It will be a tough group stage for Saudi Arabia, but an opening win against the Russian hosts would be a great way to gather some momentum towards qualification.
The key match to watch in Group A is Russia vs. Saudi Arabia which will be played on 14 June 2018. This is the game to watch for one simple reason: it is the World Cup Opening Match. No matter which country you are cheering for, football fans all over the world will gather together to watch the inaugural match of this year’s World Cup. Saudi Arabia’s Mohammad Al-Sahlawi netted 16 goals on the road to Russia; it will be interesting to see if Russia’s backline will have an answer for that kind of offensive firepower. Will the advantage of being the host be enough for Russia to pull this one out? This match has the potential to be an extremely exciting start to this year’s World Cup.
Luis Suárez (Uruguay) – The skill of Suarez is well known to football fans around the world, but his antics in the past two World Cups makes him a player to watch as well. He had controversy in 2010 with the handball against Ghana and the biting of an Italian player in 2014. If Suarez is able to maintain his composure on the pitch, his world-class talent alongside Edinson Cavani could be enough for Uruguay to make a run in this year’s World Cup.
Edinson Cavani (Uruguay) – The duo of Suarez and Cavani has brought a lot of attention to football fans around the world. Cavani has experience playing in the World Cup and demonstrated this past year with PSG that he can play along other talented players like Neymar and Kylian Mbappe. He was the top goal scorer in Ligue 1 this past season and continued to look unstoppable in recent months including the qualification matches. With Cavani and Suarez both in prime form, they are a dangerous team to watch.
Mohamed Salah (Egypt) – After this past season, Mo Salah has earned the right to be labeled one of the best players in the world. Salah was unstoppable in the Premier League and led all players in goals scored. Apart from his talent, Salah will be watched carefully to see how the injury following the Champions League Final will affect his form on the pitch. Behind the leadership of Salah, the Egyptian roster will be looking to make history and become the first Egyptian team to win a match in the World Cup.
Odds to win group
Uruguay – 2 (-100)
Russia – 2.25 (+125)
Group B will consist of the following four teams in the 2018 World Cup: Portugal, Spain, Morocco, and Iran. With Group F being the only possible exception, this looks to be one of the toughest, most intriguing groups in this year’s World Cup. Spain will strive for similar success from the 2010 World Cup where they were crowned World Champions, and Portugal will strive for similar success from 2016 where they were crowned European champions. These two powerhouses will likely battle it out for the first spot in the group, however, the other teams will look to compete as well. Morocco is coming off one of the most impressive qualifications among African Teams as they did not concede a goal throughout all qualifying matches. Iran will look to the young striker Sardar Azmoun to score goals as easily as he did throughout the qualifying matches to give them a shot to make the Last 16.
The key match to watch in Group B is Portugal vs. Spain which will be played on 15 June 2018. This match might be the most anticipated one in all of the group stage. These European powerhouses, and neighbors, have been known to have some extremely compelling matches when paired up with one another. Portugal will be looking for some revenge this tournament; Spain defeated Portugal in the 2010 World Cup and knocked them out on penalty kicks at the Euro 2012. Spain will look to some of its young players to step up and play well alongside veterans like Andres Iniesta to avoid another embarrassing group stage exit like the one they faced in 2014. The key for Spain to win the match is to at least slow down superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, but we all know that is way easier said than done. Both countries will look to win this game in their hopes to solidify their spot as the top team in the group.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) – This should be to one surprise, Ronaldo is debatably the best football player in the world and never fails to put on a show when the world is watching. He is coming off an impressive qualification netting 15 goals and demonstrating his dominance game after game. The key for Ronaldo and Portugal all together will be finding ways to score on the infamous David de Gea of Spain.
David De Gea (Spain) – To add to the extremely impressive backline of Spain, they also have in many people’s opinions the best goalkeeper in the world. De Gea is coming off an incredible season with Manchester United and will be crucial to Spain’s success in this World Cup. Spain’s attack may really struggle to score goals and that is why the play of David De Gea will dictate how far Spain will advance this year.
Isco (Spain) – Back to the topic of Spain lacking talent on the offensive end, they are going to need to find players to score goals. Spain relied on their midfielders in Isco and Silva to score most of their goals during qualifying, each netting 5 goals a piece. Isco is an extremely well-rounded midfielder and will be crucial not only in scoring goals for Spain, but also setting up goals for other players on the team. An in-form Isco along with the talented defense of Spain should be enough to propel them into the Last 16.
Odds to win group
Spain – 1.5 (-200)
Portugal- 2.85 (+185)
Group C will consist of the following four teams in the 2018 World Cup: France, Australia, Peru, and Denmark. France will enter the group stage as the obvious favorites to advance while also being projected as one of the favorite teams to win the World Cup. France has won the World Cup once before in 1998 when they hosted the tournament and will look to a young, talented roster of players to try and make it happen again. This group shows no obvious weakness; France will need to focus on not making similar mistakes that cost them games in qualification. Australia will look to veteran World Cup player Tim Cahill to lead the team to the Last 16, who could become one of the few players in history to score in four different World Cup tournaments if he nets a goal this year. Peru is one of the least fancied teams in South America, however, will use the motivation of missing the World Cup since 1982 to fuel the team. Look for Denmark, behind star player Christian Eriksen, to expect to grab a qualifying spot and advance to the next round.
The key match to watch in Group C is Denmark vs. France which will be played on 26 June 2018. There is a likely chance that this match between the two European sides, who know each other well, will decide who takes the top spot in the group. The two sides have gone head-to-head in two previous World Cups, both occasions being the final game of the group stage. France was able to overpower Denmark in their first match in 1998, but was unable to do so again in 2002 when Denmark emerged victorious 2-0. Keep an eye on the pace of young stars like Mbappe and Griezmann, and the world talent of Paul Pogba, to really challenge Denmark’s backline and make this a game to watch.
Kylian Mbappe (France) – There is no question that France’s success down the line in the World Cup relies heavily on the play of Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann. With that being said, it looks as if Kylian Mbappe has emerged as France’s biggest threat to other teams. Believe it or not, Mbappe is only 19 years old and is coming off a tremendous season with PSG. He is a very skillful, fast-paced player who will be looking to add to his first international goal that he scored against Holland in qualifying.
Tim Cahill (Australia) – How is a 38 year old a key player to watch in a World Cup? That is a good question, but Tim Cahill has once again earned the right to compete in yet another World Cup. This will be Cahill’s fourth ever World Cup and he is Australia’s greatest ever goal scorer. If Australia wants to advance to the next round, Cahill and other Australian role players will really need to step up during the group stage.
Christian Eriksen (Denmark) – Eriksen is a peculiar player to watch, as it seems like his style of play differs greatly between club and international play. For Tottenham, Eriksen is known as the assist master and is constantly setting up his teammates with easy finishes. For Denmark, he has been on the squad for 8 years now and has scored 21 goals for the country. It would be ideal for Denmark to see both of Eriksen’s side, scoring and assisting to lead his team to the Last 16.
Odds to win group
France – 1.4 (-250)
Denmark – 4.5 (+350)
Group D will consist of the following four teams in the 2018 World Cup: Argentina, Iceland, Croatia, and Nigeria. On paper, this is another very strong looking group and could provide extremely compelling matches during the group stage. Argentina will understandably be the favorites of the group behind Lionel Messi, but their qualification raises some questions of concern. Argentina indeed struggled in qualifying matches, however, it is unlikely that Messi’s desire to win an international trophy won’t be enough to carry them into the next round. Nigeria has lost all 4 World Cup matches to Argentina in the past, but will look to their win over Argentina in a recent friendly for helpful motivation. A large part of Croatia’s success in this tournament will be dependent on the play of Luka Modric, if he is on his game this could be a very dangerous squad to watch. It will be a tough group stage for Iceland, but look for them to give it their all in their first ever World Cup.
The key match to watch in Group D is Argentina vs. Croatia which will be played on 21 June 2018. There is no question this is the game to watch from this group as the two strongest teams on paper from this group will face off for the first time since 1998 where Argentina edged a 1-0 win. The matchup between Barcelona teammates Lionel Messi (Argentina) and Ivan Rakitic (Croatia) is one of the many reasons this game will be an exciting one to watch. Another key proponent to remember is that the group’s runner up will be potentially be facing France in the last 16, so expect these teams to really battle this one out and fight for the top spot in the group.
Lionel Messi (Argentina) – As everybody expecting, the best football player in the world will be one to watch in the 2018 World Cup. With the Argentina squad historically having a poor defense, including this year which almost caused them to miss qualifying for the World Cup, they will again be relying on Messi for offensive production. Argentina’s problem in the past though has been relying on Messi too much, so other key players like Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain will need to step up to help solidify a top spot in the group for the squad.
Luka Modric (Croatia) – Ever since finishing third in the 1998 World Cup, Croatia has failed to make it past the group stage. Modric will look to continue the success he has had during club play to follow him into international play this year. Luka Modric was named in FIFA’s best XI of 2017 as well as the EA Sports’ Team of the year and will need to continue his excellent play for Croatia to be successful in the tournament.
Mario Mandzukic (Croatia) – To go along with the impressive Croatian midfield centered around Modric and Rakitic, Mandzukic will need to add to Croatia’s offensive production. Going against highly talented offensive rosters like Argentina’s, Croatia will need to look for goals to be scored at every position to stay in the game. Mandzukic is Croatia’s second greatest goal scorer ever with 30 goals. Look for him and other key players to step up and score goals and help the team advance into the Last 16.
Odds to win group
Argentina – 1.56 (-180)
Croatia – 3.25 (+225)
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Group E will consist of the following four teams in the 2018 World Cup: Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, and Serbia. To no one’s surprise, Brazil seems to be the main team to avoid in this group with possibly the most well-rounded team in the World Cup and the humiliation of last year’s World Cup remaining in the back of their heads. It is likely that the remaining three teams will battle for the remaining qualifying spot. Switzerland was able to crawl into the tournament with a play-off win against Northern Ireland, however, have shown sparks of quality in their squad led by their star player Xherdan Shaqiri. Costa Rica is a team to keep an eye on as they did reach the last eight just four years ago, while Serbia’s confident qualification with only one loss makes them a team to watch as well.
The key match to watch in Group E is Brazil vs. Switzerland which will be played on 17 June 2018. This meeting could potentially be crucial to both sides’ chances of winning the section, and winning the section means avoiding the reigning champions Germany in the last 16. The matchup between the two teams looks to be promising with Brazil’s attack-minded style of football matching up against a less offensive firepower roster in the Swiss who still love to possess the ball.
Neymar (Brazil) – This should not be a shock to anyone. Neymar has earnt himself the right to be labeled as one of the top 3 players in the world alongside Messi and Ronaldo. Many viewers will be interested in seeing how Neymar performs after a serious injury with PSG this season, keep an eye on him and expect him to lead his team to the Last 16.
Xherdan Shaqiri (Switzerland) – Switzerland has multiple talented players who we expect to perform well in the group stage, but Shaqiri is crucial to the team’s success. Shaqiri has experience with winning as he won a Champions League title with Bayern Munich back in the 2012/2013 season. In addition to his experience, look for Shaqiri to utilize his pace and impressive passing abilities to help his team grab the second qualifying spot.
Nemanja Matic (Serbia) – Many teams will be focusing a lot of their attention on Aleksandar Kolarov who has proven how dangerous it can be to concede a free kick against his squad, however, Matic is another player to watch. Matic has played a key role for Manchester United since his signing and is extremely versatile having the ability to possess the ball and take long distance shots. If Serbia wants to make it to the Last 16, Matic needs to be in good form.
Odds to win group
Brazil – 1.25 (-400)
Switzerland – 7 (+600)
Group F will consist of the following four teams in the 2018 World Cup: Germany, Mexico, Sweden, and South Korea. Although there is no extremely obvious “group of death” in this year’s World Cup grouping, it seems like this group might take that label and provide some fierce competition in this year’s group stage. With that being said, Germany are the reigning champions and the slight favorites in this year’s World Cup so look for them to be on top within this group. Similar to Group E, it looks as if the remaining three teams in the group will compete heavily for the second qualifying spot. Led by forward Javier Hernandez, Mexico had a very convincing qualification and will look to take that second spot in the group. South Korea will likely face some struggles with their team being under the management of their youth coach, but will look to show some adversity in their ninth World Cup in a row. Sweden will face some struggles of their own missing the superstar quality of the great Zlatan Ibrahimovic, however, still have a well-organized, talented squad on the roster and will have a chip on their shoulder after a 12 year World Cup absence.
The key match to watch in Group F is Mexico vs. Sweden which will be played on 27 June 2018. With Germany expected to be the front-runner of this group, this key match will be crucial for both teams chances of grabbing that second qualifying spot and making it out of the group stage. Mexico has advanced to the last 16 in the previous six World Cups and will look to keep that streak intact, while Sweden looks to advance to the last 16 for the first time since 2006. This will be the 10th meeting between the two nations; Sweden has the upperhand winning four to Mexico’s two with three drawn.
Jerome Boateng (Germany) – Even with big name players like Bastain Schweinsteiger and Phillip Lahm retiring from International play, it is tough to pinpoint one player that will be the most crucial to Germany’s success. With that being said, Boateng has stepped in and plays an instrumental role at the heart of the German defense. The younger guys on the squad will look to Boateng’s experience and leadership to hold that back line and boost Germany into yet another advancement past the group stage.
Timo Werner (Germany) – Speaking of the young guys mentioned above, the 21 year old might be the one with the most potential. Since breaking onto the scene, Werner has taken Muller’s limelight and shown some incredible production for the national team. He had an incredible season with RB Leipzig and has scored 7 goals in just 10 appearances for the German national team.
Javier Hernandez (Mexico) – Many spectators who may know Javier Hernandez as “Chicharito,” also know how crucial he has been to the success of the Mexican national team in the past. His goal against Croatia in 2017 earned him a spot in history as Mexico’s all time erasing goalscorer. The Mexican national team relies on Chicharito’s goal scoring, so plan for the team to look for him in crucial late moments to net a goal and help them earn their spot in the Last 16.
Germany – 1.32 (-310)
Mexico – 6 (+500)
Group G will consist of the following four teams in the 2018 World Cup: Belgium, Panama, Tunisia, and England. A quick look into this group might suggest that England lucked out by not being grouped with some of the biggest names in world football, however, throughout the past few years Belgium is starting to emerge as a top international team. Belgium is coming off a record breaking qualifying campaign, but must deal with the drama of key player Kevin De Bruyne publicly criticizing Roberto Martinez’s tactics in what looks to be an unsettled camp. Panama’s roster is characterized by a group of young, hard-working players led by veteran manager Hernan Dario Gomez, who has plenty of experience coaching in World Cups. Tunisia has plenty of unpredictable attacking flair that other teams in the group will have to figure out how to contain, but will need to find a way to win games late as their only win in the World Cup came in 1978 against Mexico.
The key match to watch in Group G is Belgium vs. England which will be played on 28 June 2018. This match has the potential to be one of the most intriguing and electrifying of them all through the group stage with extremely impressive rosters on both sides. Belgium has been showing signs of greatness for several years now and has endless amounts of potential. With that being said, this generation of Belgian players isn’t getting any younger and this World Cup looks to be their most promising one yet. This roster will match up well with a young, rejuvenated England squad who has posted impressive results and earned lots of praise around the world. This match may very well be the deciding factor for who comes out on top of this group so we expect to see an engaging spectacle.
Harry Kane (England) – Harry Kane is another player that should be of no surprise to anyone being on this list. Kane has proven himself worth of being labeled as one of the best strikers in world football, if not the absolute best at this time. Having an excellent season with Tottenham and having no trouble seeing the ball hit the back of the net, England will be reliant on Kane’s goal scoring ability if they want to advance in the World Cup.
Raheem Sterling (England) – To go along with the abilities of Harry Kane, England is extremely lucky to have Sterling as part of their front line as well. Raheem Sterling played a major role in the success of Manchester City this season scoring or assisting in almost every game. Look for Sterling to lead England to the Last 16 as he helped lead Man City to another Premier League title.
Eden Hazard (Belgium) – Belgium is another team that is filled with numerous skillful players which makes it hard to say which players will have the biggest impact. Even so, it would be dumb to leave one of the best players in the world off of this list. Eden Hazard is one of the most skillful players in the world, combine that with his pace, he is likely wreak havoc on backline in this group.
Kevin de Bruyne (Belgium) – It is EXTREMELY tough to leave Belgium’s all time leading goal scorer in Romelu Lukaku off this list, but if anyone is worthy of taking his spot it is Kevin de Bruyne. De Bruyne is the best midfielder in the world and has shown that in International and Club play. He was the backbone of Manchester City this season; he scored vital goals in crucial moments and assisted in almost every other game. If Kevin de Bruyne is in his usual form, look for him and the Belgian national team to cruise into the Last 16.
Belgium – 1.8 (-125)
England – 2.2 (+120)
Group H will consist of the following four teams in the 2018 World Cup: Poland, Senegal, Colombia, and Japan. When analyzing this group on paper, it may suggest that this is the weakest group in this year’s World Cup. Most criticism of this group stems from the fact that it is the only group without a former World Cup winner, but many also believe this group contains four well-matched teams that could provide compelling contests. Although not as clear as previous groups, Colombia seems to be the favorite of the group and will be dependent on star players like James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao. Poland seemed to be extremely dependent on the goal-scoring of attacker Robert Lewandowski throughout qualification so will need to look to other players to step up during the group stage. Senegal will look for similar success that they had in the World Cup 16 years ago, shocking the world and beating the World Champions France in the inaugural match of the tournament. The defense of Japan was impressive during qualifying matches, with only seven goals being conceited and keeping four clean sheets in their ten matches.
The key match to watch in Group H is Poland vs. Columbia which will be played on 24 June 2018. With both of these teams expected to compete for the top spot in the group, this match could prove to be pivotal in terms of who will advance to the knockout stages and who they will be playing. The key to winning for Colombia is simple; stop Robert Lewandowski. Lewandowski was credited with 16 goals during qualifying matches, more than half of his team’s goals! If Colombia can manage to do this their chances look promising, if not, look for an exciting and high scoring match between these two nations.
Robert Lewandowski (Poland) – There is absolutely no denying that the most interesting player to watch from this group is Robert Lewandowski. Lewandowski is Poland’s greatest ever goal scorer and recorded 16 goals in qualification, more than any other player in the world. He is an obvious contender for the World Cup Golden Boot and is coming off an extremely impressive offensive season at Bayern Munich. A continued in form Lewandowski is exactly what the Polish national team needs to take them to the next stage.
Sadio Mane (Senegal) – Senegal has a much more exciting team than the average spectator would realize with the roster being filled with many Premier League players. The best of these is Sadio Mane, a forward currently playing for Liverpool in club play. Mane wasn’t overly productive in qualification and hasn’t been extremely dynamic in international play, however, Mane has been on fire for Liverpool the last two seasons. If he can figure out how to transition his fantastic club play into the group stages, look for Senegal to surprise some viewers and compete in this group.
James Rodriguez (Colombia) – Does anyone remember James Rodriguez before the 2014 World Cup? Maybe not, but after finishing the tournament as the top goal scorer and netting one of the most impressive goals of the tournament, people remember him now. Since then, James Rodriguez has become one of football’s biggest names. He won two Championship League titles with Real Madrid before moving to Bayern Munich on loan, where he has continued to produce at a top tier level. Combining his young talent with the experience of captain Radamel Falcao suggests Colombia is a force to be reckoned with during group play.
Colombia – 2.2 (+120)
Poland – 2.75 (+175)
Argentina – Two-time champions of the World Cup, appeared at the inaugural edition in 1930.
Australia – Will be participating in their fifth straight World Cup.
Belgium – Lost to Argentina in the quarterfinals of the 2014 World Cup.
Brazil – All time winningest country in World Cup history, last won in 2002.
Colombia – Lost to Brazil in the quarterfinals of the 2014 World Cup, Colombia’s best ever finish.
Costa Rica – Reached the quarterfinals in 2014, Costa Rica’s best ever finish.
Croatia – Finished third in their World Cup debut in 1998.
Denmark – Have only qualified for five World Cups, this will be the twenty-first edition.
Egypt – Making their first world appearance since the World Cup in 1990.
England – Winner of the 1966 World Cup, has reached the quarterfinals on numerous occasions.
France – Winner of the 1998 World Cup, participating in their sixth straight World Cup.
Germany – Winner of the 2014 World Cup. The last country to win back to back World Cups was Brazil in 1958 and 1962.
Iceland – Becomes the smallest country by population to ever qualify for a World Cup
Iran – Will be appearing in their 5th ever World Cup, have never made it past round 1
Japan – Made their World Cup debut in 1998 and has reached the round of 16 twice.
Mexico – Beginning in 1994, Mexico has lost in the round of 16 in six consecutive World Cups.
Morocco – Have only made it out of the group stage once in their World Cup history.
Nigeria – Have only missed one World Cup since their debut in 1994.
Panama – The appearance in 2018 will be Panama’s World Cup debut.
Peru – Returning to the World Cup for the first time in 36 years.
Poland – Have placed 3rd in two World Cups, but have not been able to win the tournament.
Portugal – Had a disappointing 2014 World Cup, did not advance past group stage.
Russia – Hosts of the 2018 World Cup.
Saudi Arabia – Have only managed to advance past group stage once in their World Cup history.
Senegal – Reached the quarterfinals in their World Cup debut in 2002.
Serbia – Placed 4th in the first ever World Cup in 1930.
South Korea – Will be participating in their ninth straight World Cup.
Spain – Winner of the 2010 World Cup, one of the top 5 favorites to win in 2018.
Sweden – Runners-up as World Cup hosts in 1958.
Switzerland – Have reached the quarterfinals on three different occasions.
Tunisia – Became the first African team to win a World Cup match in Argentina in 1978.
Uruguay – Won and hosted the first ever World Cup in 1930.
*Italy – Fails to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1958, the same year a 17 year old Pele made his debut for Brazil.
*United States – Fails to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1986.
|1930 Uruguay||Uruguay||Uruguay 4-2 Argentina|
|1934 Italy||Italy||Italy 2-1 Czechoslovakia|
|1938 France||Italy||Italy 4-2 Hungary|
|1942 – Not held||–||–|
|1946 – Not held||–||–|
|1950 Brazil||Uruguay||Uruguay 2-1 Brazil|
|1954 Switzerland||Germany||Germany 3-2 Hungary|
|1958 Sweden||Brazil||Brazil 5-2 Sweden|
|1962 Chile||Brazil||Brazil 3-1 Czechoslovakia|
|1966 England||England||England 4-2 Germany|
|1970 Mexico||Brazil||Brazil 4-1 Italy|
|1974 Germany||Germany||Germany 2-1 Holland|
|1978 Argentina||Argentina||Argentina 3-1 Holland|
|1982 Spain||Italy||Italy 3-1 Germany|
|1986 Mexico||Argentina||Argentina 3-2 Germany|
|1990 Italy||Germany||Germany 1-0 Argentina|
|1994 USA||Brazil||0-0 Brazil Defeats Italy 3-2 Penalties|
|1998 France||France||France 3-0 Brazil|
|2002 Japan||Brazil||Brazil 2-0 Germany|
|2006 Germany||Italy||1-1 Italy Defeats France 5-3 Penalties|
|2010 South Africa||Spain||Spain 1-0 Netherlands|
|2014 Brazil||Germany||Germany 1-0 Argentina|
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