With just six days left for the World Cup, we rate all the competing nations and try to guess their fate in the competition.
14. Russia – Group A
Ranked 70, Russia go into tournament the as the lowest-ranked of the 32 teams, having failed to advance to the knockout stage of any major tournament since 2008. They have been pitted in group A alongside Egypt, Uruguay and Saudi Arabia.
On their day, they can give all the teams in their group a run for their money but we don’t see them going edging Egypt for second place.
13. Switzerland – Group E
On paper, Switzerland are quite a strong outfit. They have been so for a few years now. Collectively, however, they have always underperformed, badly. They haven’t won a knockout game over a decade and we don’t expect them to break the trend this time.
They will contest against Brazil, Serbia and Costa Rica for a place in the next round, but sadly, the odds don’t look to be in their favour.
12. Iceland – Group D
Since their heroics in 2016 European championships, Iceland have steadily become a team everyone would love to root for. Qualifying for the World Cup ahead of Croatia and Ukraine proved they are in for the long haul.
They have a spirited bunch of players, a dedicated fanbase and a knack for beating the odds. However, in a group consisting of Argentina and Croatia, the mountain be a little too steep to climb.
11. Serbia – Group E
Serbia are did more than enough to secure direct qualification. They scored the most number of goals in their group – 20 – and would look to put on a spirited show in Russia as well.
They are sharing the group with Brazil, Switzerland and Costa Rica and would have to do quite well to advance in second place. Serbia could face Germany in the round-of-16, which could halt their tournament run quite prematurely.
10. Denmark – Group C
Denmark haven’t taken part in a major tournament since the 2012 European Championships but are unbeaten in 11 games since two devastating losses in qualifiers against Poland and Montenegro back in October 2016. En route to World Cup, they have managed to put four goals past Poland and were impressive in the 5-1 victory over Ireland during play-offs.
They are in group C with France, Peru and Australia and should progress in second place. However, they could crash out in the round-of-16, facing Argentina.
9. Sweden – Group F
Sweden mercilessly beat Italy to book their place in the 2018 World Cup and now it’s time to prove they belong in the biggest tournament in existence.
They have played quite well since Zlatan Ibrahimovic decided to step down post 2016 Euro Championship and they would hope to bank on camaraderie to beat Mexico for second place and qualify with Germany in the round of 16. Even if they manage to do so, they could face Brazil, next. Too big a challenge to beat.
8. Croatia – Group D
Despite having one of the strongest midfield units in the world, Croatia barely managed to scrape through the play-offs. Luka Modric alongside Ivan Rakitic and Ivan Perisic, form one of the most potent creative forces which should help them secure second place behind Argentina and ahead of Nigeria and Iceland.
They could come up against France in the next round, which could lead to a heartbreaking elimination.
7. Poland – Group H
Lead by World Cup qualifiers’ leading goalscorer, Robert Lewandowski, Poland have all the ingredients to become a giant killer in the tournament.
They reached the quarter finals in the 2016 European championship, but they are participating in the grand event for the first time since 2006. They could face Colombia in the round-of-16, and will probably find it a little tricky to progress.
6. England – Group G
For the first time in a long long time, the Three Lions aren’t going into the tournament as one of the favourites. They have plenty of talents in their disposal, but Gareth Southgate still hasn’t finalised a concrete XI.
If they finish behind Belgium in group G, they could face Colombia in the round-of-16 and something tells us they would find it quite difficult to go past James and co.
5. Portugal – Group B
Portugal, the defending European champions are one of the dark horses of the tournament. They know they are capable of beating any team in the world but topping the group ahead of Spain won’t be an easy task.
Cristiano Ronaldo could have a say in the potential quarter-final against Uruguay but anything they achieve other than that will be a bonus.
4. Belgium – Group G
The final opportunity for Belgium’s golden generation to make their name worth. They have the two most creative players in the Premier League in Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne and Roberto Martinez must make sure they click together.
They are sharing the group with England, Tunisia and Panama, and are tipped to advance as winners. They could come up against Poland in the next round before potentially facing Brazil in the quarterfinal, a match that can go either way.
3. France – Group C
Filled with experience and exuberance, France would look to put their golden generation to test in the Russia World Cup. Didier Deschamps has been heavily criticised for failing to make an impact, and he would take this opportunity to prove all his critics wrong.
If they top group C consisting of Australia, Peru and Denmark they could come up against Croatia in the round-of-16 before facing either of Portugal or Uruguay in the next round. They could face Argentina in the semifinal before making their way to the final.
2. Spain – Group B
The most successful side of the last decade would look to set things straight after underwhelming performances in the last two major tournaments they participated in.
Spain must top their group, edging Portugal, to avoid Uruguay in the round-of-16. However, topping the group could see them being pitted against Egypt, a challenge they should overcome. They could face Argentina, next, a challenge that won’t certainly be easy.
If they manage to best them as well, they could come up against Uruguay or Portugal in the semis before making their way to the final.
1. Germany – Group F
The defending champions are once again poised to go all the way. They have plethora of talent at their disposal (enough to oust Leroy Sane) and they certainly have the drive to go all the way, one more time.
They are tipped to top the group and could face Serbia next – a challenge they should overcome. Colombia could pose a threat, next, but probably not enough. From the semis, it gets trickier as they could very well face one of the favourites, Brazil. Another favourable result and they’d have a realistic chance to do the double.