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.

Winning experience

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.


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Great article. I think there are some great points here, especially that casual footy fans who know nothing about the game blurt our the usual “Spain, Brazil, Germany, Italy” nonsense with no factual evidence.

I actually had someone tell me that...

Great article. I think there are some great points here, especially that casual footy fans who know nothing about the game blurt our the usual “Spain, Brazil, Germany, Italy” nonsense with no factual evidence.

I actually had someone tell me that Italy was a heavy favourite to take the tournament this year. I told this person Italy would be in the record books as the first unqualified team to win the tournament! Imagine how well they will have to play! Lol.

I personally do not rate Brazil at all. I feel that their progress last tournament was down to luck and an easier bracket. They did not really impress during the tournament to be honest.

Germany has to be considered because even though they have weaknesses they always have a wave of young players coming through that are talented.

Spain.... meh. Lopetegui sucked at Porto. I mean really sucked. But, he does well in tournaments, having won the Euro U19 with Spain. Still, Spain will do ok based more on the talent of players that are now getting older. I don’t see them going all the way but I could be wrong.

France is talented but imo have regressed since the Euro. Griezman has not really been in form the last few seasons and Pogba... well I think the hype train came crashing to a halt with that fella.

Belgium are solid, but they have Roberto Martinez as a manager which is like having a bus driver do a lap in a formula 1 car.

Portugal has defense issues, but if you look at all these teams I mentioned, they are also not stacked with CB’s. France certainly has good but not great D. Germany has Hummels but he’s been sub par this season at Bayern. Spain has arguably the strongest back 2 but Pique and Ramos are certainly beatable.

I honestly think Portugal and England may be the surprise of the tourney. I know, England. But look at their form. Southgate was never touted as a full on replacement so he’s had room to grow the team, and the next gen of Sterling, Kane delle Alli are impressive. And they’ve been getting results.

Portugal, well, they’ll have to replicate that steely fetermination to get all the way. But I believe. Cheers.

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“The plan was to create a system to help Bernardo cut inside. The problem is we don't play by ourselves and Ukraine packed the midfield to counter this.”

Fernando Santos
(Portugal coach after 0-0 draw at home to Ukraine)