The 32-team FIFA World Cup begins Nov. 20. Here’s a look at the five favorites in inverse order.
5. Spain (Group E: Spain, Costa Rica, Germany, Japan)
Last World Cup title: 2010
Top players: Ferran Torres (Forward), Pedri (Midfielder), and Sergio Busquets (Midfielder)
Spain has played poorly in the World Cup since its 2010 title. It has built a team with good, young talent, especially Pedri and Torres of FC Barcelona. The young Spaniards look to FC Barcelona’s Busquets for leadership. His 146 caps make him the most experienced player on the team. Jordi Alba in the backfield makes Spain a fairly balanced squad.
Quotable: “While he does score goals occasionally, it’s Pedri’s passing and footwork with the ball that set him apart — just like Andres Iniesta.” Via usnews.com.
4. Argentina (Group C: Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Poland)
Last World Cup title: 1986
Top players: Lionel Messi (Forward), Lautaro Martinez (Forward), and Angel Di Maria (Forward)
This is presumably the last World Cup for Argentina star Lionel Messi, who seeks his first Cup title to cap a legendary career. Argentina is on a 32-game unbeaten streak, five shy of the global record. Veterans Nicolas Otamendi, Angel Di Maria, and Messi could be what Argentina needs to lift the trophy.
Quotable: “France, beyond the last Euro where it went badly, they have impressive players [and] the same coach for a long time. Brazil, too,” said Messi. “Today, I think they are the two favorites.” Via HITC
3. England (Group B: England, Iran, United States, Wales)
Last World Cup title: 1966
Top players: Harry Kane (Forward), Bukayo Saka (Forward), and Jude Bellingham (Midfielder)
After 1966, the English camp was the closest to another Cup title with fourth-place finishes in 1990 and 2018. England’s squad is full of young, bright stars making names for themselves in top leagues across Europe, notably the English Premier League. Harry Kane, England’s top scorer, has 51 goals, two short of Wayne Rooney’s all-time national team mark.
Quotable: “Kane admitted he would have felt a ‘real sting’ had Tottenham been consigned to the Europa League before he flies off to Qatar with the England squad on November 15. But Three Lions captain Kane says that should serve as a warning and no big player will even think about easing up to ensure they get to the World Cup in peak condition.” Via the Mirror.
2. France (France, Australia, Denmark, Tunisia)
Last World Cup title: 2018
Top players: Kylian Mbappe (Forward) and Karim Benzema (Forward)
France will be without star midfielders Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante, both out with injuries. Pogba and Kante were a driving force in France’s run in 2018, so “Les Bleus” could struggle without them. Mbappe showcased his talent in the 2018 World Cup as he tied for second in goals scored with four. Benzema missed the World Cup in 2018. He was UEFA Player of the Year after leading Real Madrid to a Champions League trophy.
Quotable: “It is a big headache for Deschamps and the loss of Pogba and Kante in particular is a huge blow. Even if they haven’t been at their best for months, and even if they are not the same players as they were four years ago when they led this team to World Cup glory in Russia, not having them in Qatar is massive.” Via ESPN.com.
1. Brazil (Group G: Brazil, Serbia, Switzerland, Cameroon)
Last World Cup title: 2002
Top players: Neymar Jr. (Forward), Vinicius Jr. (Forward), and Casemiro (Midfielder)
Brazil, which has won the most World Cups (five), is stacked at almost every position with great young talent and seasoned veterans. With stars Neymar Jr., Vinicius Jr., and Gabriel Jesus in exceptional form, Brazil’s forward attack will be difficult to stop. Thiago Silva, Marquinhos, and Casemiro form a strong defense.
Quotable: “When Neymar says that at a given time he made a mistake, it is beautiful. What an example. He is no superman, he is telling kids that at some moment they will also make mistakes, feel weak, have a stomachache, a headache. It is only human,” said Tite, Brazil’s coach. “Some people know how to grow and evolve. And they are brave to say it when they make mistakes. That’s his maturity.” Via indianexpress.com
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