In recent World Cups, the teams who have been seen as the favourites pre-tournament have not really changed much since 2010.
Brazil are always there. They are much like Real Madrid and the Champions League, there is always a belief that the canary shirted side will be there or thereabouts – the team and the competition just seem to be made for each other. If there is a World Cup on the horizon, Brazil just seem to raise their level.
Of course, in the last World Cup, they were walloped in the semi-final by eventual winners Germany. Nevertheless, a run to the last four was far better than the team who recently dominated international football, Spain, who suffered a meek group stage exit, but under former FC Porto coach Julen Lopetegui the Spaniards appear to have bounced back to prominence.
These three teams, Brazil, Germany and Spain, are most people’s favourites. Then there is France, a nation with a supremely talented squad but who just don’t seem to be able to gel as a team… yet. The same can be said of Argentina, another team who have perennially flattered to deceive. Will Messi and company finally get it together in Russia?
The secondary contenders
But moving away from the usual suspects who are always among the favourites, is the pack of ‘dark horse’ teams with a shot given a fair wind and peaking at the right time, but not quite seen as one of the strong favourites.
This group is more influenced by circumstance and form, rather than the history that has always made Brazil and Germany so strongly backed. This outside group are usually favoured by punters and once again many are eyeing up Belgium at 12/1 or Portugal at as long as 28/1 as possible big winners. Portugal’s friendlies over the past four days – unimpressive performances against Egypt and the Netherlands – have not exactly filled Seleção fans with hope, but nobody really fancied Portugal ahead of Euro 2016...
With more and more insider info shared by SBAT and their football predictions, this World Cup will be better than ever for people who like a flutter. These great odds and solid predictions have led many to ask who is the best out of the best of the rest.
A lot of people throw their weight behind Belgium’s golden generation of players that include Premier League stars like Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard as well as Serie A star Dries Mertens. However, their big issue has always been peaking at the right time and forming a coherent side before a major tournament after disappointing displays in recent big matches, especially their Euro 2016 defeat to Wales.
Portugal, on the other hand, showed during that tournament that they know how to play when the going gets tough, they can deal with big games, they can win big matches and they can stand up and be counted when it matters. Even allowing for poor displays this last weekend, without several of their first-choice players, the Seleção showed that fighting spirit once again as they turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 win against Egypt on Friday night.
Portugal have the coach, the players and most importantly the experience of winning a major title behind them. If the big boys fail to fire, then Portugal could and should be ready to step in and perhaps win what would be a debut World Cup title.