With Russia 2018 just days away, it is currently being greatly prompt that this could be the most open up and unpredictable FIFA World Cup in a long time.

But while there is a prolonged list of possible winners, discussion of pre-match favourites has tended to focus on 4 star-studded sides. With that in the brain and the massive kick-off looming, FIFA.com takes a nearer search at this quartet of leading contenders.

BRAZIL

A team transformed below the astute leadership of Tite, Brazil has been the to start with the country – aside from the hosts – to book their place at Russia 2018. The ghosts of 2014 and that 7-1 walloping by Germany have been exorcised by some exceptional performances, like a current 1- win above the world champions in Munich. Gabriel Jesus, the goalscorer in that match, Alisson and Coutinho have also risen to prominence considering the fact that the very last World Cup, and number among numerous exceptional players in a solid, well-well balanced and united Seleção squad.

Crucial player: Neymar

There was a collective consumption of breath when Brazil’s talisman endured a season-ending foot personal injury for Paris Saint-Germain in February. But Neymar, who at 26 now has fifty-four goals for his country and is closing in on Romario, Ronaldo and Pele in the all-time list, is now back again in action. His comeback against Croatia, which featured an excellent specific goal, reminded every person of this superb player’s capability for the remarkable.

Coach’s watch

“Brazil is a favourite at the World Cup. By the football introduced, the campaign completed, by level, performance as well as results… we are 1 of the groups [who can win the Trophy], sure.”

FRANCE

Didier Deschamps comes at Russia 2018 with a squad crammed entire of specific talent. A mere search at their 23-man list, which incorporates names this sort of as Pogba, Griezmann, Mbappe and Dembele, assures a degree of expectation. Need to Deschamps settle on a method that brings out the very best of this stunning array of stars, he could turn out to be just the 3rd man – soon after Mario Zagallo and Franz Beckenbauer – to win the Trophy as coach and player.

Crucial player: Antoine Griezmann

Superb for the French at UEFA EURO 2016, and the hero once all over again for Atletico Madrid in their current UEFA Europa League last, Griezmann has proved himself to be a man for the massive occasion. Dynamic and fatal, this speedy ahead will all over again be predicted to spearhead Les Bleus’ multi-gifted assault.

Coach’s watch

“We have a large amount of ambition but if we search at the other nations, there are two in Europe (Spain and Germany) who are in advance of us, and 1 in South The USA (Brazil).”

GERMANY

Retaining the World Cup is notoriously challenging, and no-1 has managed it considering the fact that Brazil in 1962. Germany, on the other hand, gets there at Russia 2018 with a group of players that is arguably even stronger than the 1 that brought them glory 4 many years ago. Their victory at the FIFA Confederations Cup with a youthful squad heralded the arrival of youngsters this sort of as Timo Werner, Leon Goretzka and Joshua Kimmich, all of whom are all set and ready to contribute to the team’s impending title defence.

Crucial player: Mesut Ozil

Good on his day, and a stalwart of Low’s Germany, Ozil has been criticised in current many years for his inconsistency for both of those clubs and country. He stays as gifted and inventive as ever, nevertheless, and if the holders are to retain their Trophy, they will have to have their assist king at his creative very best.

Coach’s watch

“Germany will be hunted like never ahead of, and near-superhuman forces will be desired if we want to stop up getting world champions all over again.”

SPAIN

After early exits at Brazil 2014 and UEFA EURO 2016, Spain has rediscovered their swagger and approach Russia 2018 in wonderful fettle. In mixing heroes of the team that won three successive major titles between 2008 and 2012 with a new technology of exciting players, Julen Lopetegui appears to be like to have found the fantastic blend. Superb showings in qualifying, and against massive-name friendly opponents, have strengthened the belief that this is hungry and hugely gifted Spain facet is all set to go the length.

Crucial player: David Silva

However a veteran of well above 100 internationals and a member of Spain’s golden technology, Silva tended to play a supporting job throughout that aforementioned, silverware-laden 4- year time period. Now, aged 32, he is 1 of the team’s undisputed stars, with sparkling performances and five goals throughout qualifying getting cemented the Manchester City hero’s place at the coronary heart of Julen Lopetegui’s designs.

Coach’s watch

“You generate the title of the favourite when you win. Spanish football has lived through a remarkable time period in 2008, 2010 and 2012, but soon after that, the team has not found the exact consistency or success. We have the major ambitions but we get there at this World Cup experience humble and seeking to verify ourselves.”