Plenty will have already mapped out how they think the World Cup may play out. It could well be in a Brazil versus Germany final for most. However, the tournament never fails to throw up a few surprises.
Costa Rica were the overachievers last time out, shocking the likes of England and Italy. They’ll go into the Group of World Cup favourites, Brazil this summer, and they won’t make it easy for Neymar and co..
The Brazilian’s go into the tournament at 4/1 favourites with bookmakers to win their sixth World Cup title, whilst Germany are available at 5/1 to win consecutive titles. Argentina are available at 6/1 and should Messi turn up there’s no reason why they can’t win it.
There will be an element of caution against the Costa Ricans in Russia though, leaving the shocks to a whole host of other nations…
Egypt are expected to be the surprise package in Group A, and should have Mo Salah playing with them from the first game.
The Liverpool man is further expected to shine and could be the difference in the Pharoahs’ games against Saudi Arabia and Russia.
That would put them well on the way to qualification to the knockout stage, with Uruguay favourite to top the Group.
Clinical finishing is going to be key to qualification in this one, and the Egyptians certainly have that in Salah.
Morocco are keen to land the World Cup for 2026, so they will want to impress this summer.
Lining up in Group B, they face tough ties against Spain and Portugal. Is against the latter however where they could cause an upset.
They’d be expected to win against Iran in the opener, which could set them up nicely for Cristiano Ronaldo’s men.
A good pre-tournament campaign will have also boosted confidence, and a result against Portugal could cause problems in the European Champions’ bid for qualification.
Everyone remembers Iceland’s exploits from two years ago and they could well do it again.
Argentina will prove tough opposition, but if the South American’s underestimate Iceland, it could prove fatal.
The Viking Thunder Clap nation were in the same qualification group as Croatia, and beat them, so they certainly have the ability to take second spot in Group D, even first if Argentina take them lightly.
Panama are a complete unknown quantity, and that will certainly work in their favour.
It seems almost inevitable they will cause England problems, it wouldn’t be a true England team if they didn’t. But what’s more, they’ll have heart, which is worth its weight in gold.
What a huge shock it would be if they did qualify, and while that might not happen, they’ll certainly make life trickier for both the Three Lions and Belgium.
Their recent friendly with Northern Ireland, a goalless draw, proved they had plenty of fight, so it’ll be interesting to see how the likes of Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling react to that.
Of those nations in this list, it’s in Group H and Senegal where the biggest chance of a surprise could happen.
The African nation join a Group alongside Colombia, Poland and Japan. The two former nations are favourites to qualify, but there’s a huge chance Senegal could pip either of those to the post.
Widely considered dark horses for this tournament, they’ve an in-form player in Sadio Mane, while all the nation’s midfielders are either playing in the English top flight or Championship.
There’s a good chance of qualification, and potential even for a shock in the Round of 16.