Home Sports Football 2018 World Cup qualifiers Germany favourites but by no means Europe’s only hope
Germany favourites but by no means Europe’s only hope

Germany favourites but by no means Europe’s only hope

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Wednesday marks exactly a year until the opening game of the 2018 World Cup and although there is still plenty to play for in European qualifying, the usual suspects look likely to reach Russia.

Of the 20 World Cups played, Europe has provided 11 winners, including the last three. Therefore, it is not inconceivable to foresee a similar outcome in Russia and here we have three countries likely to be in the running.

Holders Germany will inevitably be tipped up and as the 5/1 favourites, there is every reason to think they can become the first country since Italy in the 1930s to defend their title. Die Mannschaft’s win in Brazil was their first since reunification but their fourth overall.

The likes of Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm and Miroslav Klose have retired and although boss Joachim Low is currently blooding fresh faces, the old cliche of the Germans always peaking at tournaments is there for a reason. With them well on track for qualification, a fifth title on July 15 next year could be on the cards.

However, it is by no means a foregone conclusion they will be the leading European team and their conquerors at Euro 2016, France, will certainly have something to say. The 15/2 Les Bleus still have work to do in qualifying but having agonisingly missed out on home soil last summer, will be desperate to make amends.

Didier Deschamps led his country to glory in 1998 and is in an enviable position with so much talent available to him. When things come off, France can be spectacular and with Antoine Griezmann most notably set to peak, it could well be their time to win a second world title.

Picking a third team looks tough. Spain (17/2) are obvious candidates, while European champions Portugal (22/1) could threaten. England (20/1) and Belgium (14/1) are due good tournaments and it is hard to predict the hosts’ (28/1) performance.

Italy are always hard to ignore at tournaments though. The four-time champions are developing nicely under Gian Piero Ventura, with a mix of hardened veterans and impressive youngsters combining for an exciting but organised line-up.

Gianluigi Buffon and Daniele De Rossi are the sole survivors from their 2006 triumph but with the likes of Leonardo Bonucci and Georgio Chiellini at the back and Andrea Belotti and Lorenzo Insigne in attack, they may well be the ones to watch at 16/1.

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Jack Ogalbe Jack has been a sports betting writer for over a decade and has an excellent strike rate with his suggestions. A semi-professional footballer, runner and cyclist, his sports knowledge is second to none and he knows all the stats and facts you need when considering a punt.