World Cup 2018: BBC pundits predict what will happen in Russia

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2018 Fifa World Cup on the BBC
Host: Russia Dates: 14 June – 15 July
Live: Coverage across BBC TV, BBC Radio and BBC Sport website with further coverage on Red Button, Connected TVs and mobile app.

The 2018 Fifa World Cup starts in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium on Thursday and finishes at the same venue on 15 July.

Thirty-two teams will contest the tournament, including hosts Russia, holders Germany and five-time winners Brazil.

But who will get their hands on the famous gold trophy this time? Which outsiders will spring a surprise? And how will England do?

Here, BBC Sport’s TV and radio football presenters and pundits predict what will happen during the next four weeks…

Who will win the World Cup?

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Gary Lineker: History tells us that it’s normally a European team who wins when the World Cup is on this continent – and there are some very strong European teams at the moment.

Germany are always a threat and won’t be far away, while France have got some amazing players and will have a chance if they can get it together – but, if I had to pick someone, I would go with Spain. They have a tremendous depth to their squad and are technically brilliant as always.

Outside of that, Brazil are always contenders – but I don’t like the way they play at the moment, it’s a bit negative. I hope they don’t play with three holding midfielders, which they have been using lately.

Kevin Kilbane: Spain, because the way they play as a collective is the best brand of football, and many of their big players are used to winning major tournaments at club level.

Alan Shearer: I am going to go for experience, and I am going to go with Brazil. I am expecting especially big things from Gabriel Jesus, who is young, fresh and energetic.

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Mark Lawrenson: I think putting the 7-1 Germany defeat in the 2014 semi-finals behind them is the big thing for Brazil. It is almost like they need to exorcise the ghost of that defeat for the entire country.

They had a similar sort of redemption when they won the 2002 World Cup after losing the 1998 final. Ronaldo made amends then by scoring two goals in the final, and I am sure Neymar visualises himself doing the same in Russia and helping Brazil win it.

They have got so many players who can cause teams problems and their coach, Tite, seems to be able to get the best out of them. I still don’t think they are brilliant defensively – but who is?

Lawro will be predicting the outcome of every game throughout the tournament in his World Cup predictions.

Chris Sutton: You just cannot rule out the moody Blues of France. As usual, it will be triumph or disaster – there will be nothing in between – but they have got some talented players. If they they click – and it is a big if – they are my tips.

Frank Lampard: France and Belgium might be the two strongest sides in the tournament in terms of individuals but I would go with Germany to win it because of how good they are as a team.

They also have a winning mentality. They will come into the tournament thinking they are going to win it, while we are doubting ourselves. That means a lot at this level.

Rio Ferdinand: I don’t think there’s a clear front-runner. France have got the talent but I’m leaning towards Germany because of their experience.

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Alex Scott: Germany have got the right blend of young players coming through, alongside the ones who have been there and won it before. They will find a way to get it done.

Jermaine Jenas: I will be surprised if Germany don’t win it. They showed the depth they have by winning the Confederations Cup last year with what I would call their B team and they have always been so consistent at major finals.

They get themselves into a position where it doesn’t come down to a bit of luck. They will be in Russia to seize the moment.

Who will win the 2018 World Cup?
Germany (5): Rio Ferdinand, Jermaine Jenas, Frank Lampard, Gabby Logan, Alex Scott
Brazil (2): Mark Lawrenson, Alan Shearer
Spain (2): Kevin Kilbane, Gary Lineker
France (1): Chris Sutton

How will England do?

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Alan Shearer: I cannot make a case for us winning it, or reaching the final. I also don’t think it will be as easy for us to get out of our group as everyone seems to believe either, but I do expect us to do that.

What I want to see is improvement from two years ago, which should not be too difficult because the way we went out of Euro 2016 against Iceland was pretty embarrassing. If we can come away having given everything then I will be happy and I think the majority of fans will be too.

It is a huge tournament for Harry Kane, especially because he struggled in France. He is already known around Europe but to put himself on a world stage he has to perform this summer.

One word to sum up England’s prospects in Russia? Hopeful.

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Gary Lineker: In four years’ time, we are going to be massively competitive but at the moment it is a big ask to win a World Cup with a totally inexperienced team with obvious areas of weakness.

We have bags of firepower but we are a little bit short in midfield and at the back and I am worried about the goalkeeper. But if we got to the knockout stage and we could win a match – we have not done that since 2006 – then that would be a step in the right direction.

One word to sum up England’s prospects in Russia? Precarious.

Gabby Logan: The quarter-finals were not enough in 2002 or 2006 because we wanted more, but this time they would be a success.

One word to sum up England’s prospects in Russia? Measured.

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Chris Sutton: We should be excited because England have a chance of winning the World Cup. They are a young team with match-winners like Kane and Dele Alli and there is no pressure on them.

If they start the tournament well, and gather a bit of momentum in the group stage then with knockout football you never know what could happen.

One word to sum up England’s prospects in Russia? Optimistic.

Frank Lampard: We have got lots of ability in the attacking areas with the youth and invention of Alli, Jesse Lingard and Raheem Sterling.

I think we will get out of our group and the quarter-finals should be the minimum target, even with the young squad we have got.

One word to sum up England’s prospects in Russia? Hopeful.

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Rio Ferdinand: We have a very inexperienced young squad and I am excited to see how they take to senior tournament football.

Can we have another Michael Owen-type goal, one that announces someone on this worldwide stage? If we get a moment like that, then the World Cup will have been a success.

In terms of how far we will go, is it feasible we will play Belgium in our final group game, knowing we are already through? Based on history, no.

How these players deal with the pressure is the main thing. Reaching the quarter-finals would make it a good tournament – there would still be room for improvement but they would have shown the mettle to get that far, which would be encouraging for the future.

One word to sum up England’s prospects in Russia? Exciting.

England fixtures in Group G

Jermaine Jenas: I genuinely feel that England are a dark horse because I don’t feel as if the rest of the world really respect us that much on this sort of stage.

I think they feel as though we fall apart and the pressure gets to us, but there is a real togetherness in the squad and I actually have a feeling we might surprise a few people.

A lot of people are expecting the quarter-finals at best but we can go further if we perform well, and get a little bit of luck too.

For that to happen Harry Kane has to be electric, and play the way he has been playing in the Premier League – he is our special ingredient who can score goals out of absolutely anything.

One word to sum up England’s prospects in Russia? Intriguing.

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Alex Scott: For me, Kane is the key – we need his goals, his leadership and his presence as well – but we will need big performances from a handful of players, not just the one.

I am excited about the team, though. I have been plotting our route if we get out of the group stage and, potentially, we can play Brazil in the quarter-finals (if both teams win their groups).

On paper, you would say we would have no chance there but, in a one-off game, anything is possible.

One word to sum up England’s prospects in Russia? Hopeful.

Who will be the surprise package?

Chris Sutton: Other than England, I think Uruguay will do well after finishing second behind Brazil in the South American qualifying section.

Their centre-half pairing of Diego Godin and Jose Maria Jimenez are very strong for Atletico Madrid and with Luis Suarez and Edison Cavani they have got goalscorers too.

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Alex Scott: I am going for Belgium. Every tournament we talk about them and think this might be the one for them – but the difference now is that their golden generation has got some experience of major finals. If there is ever a time for them to make an impact at a World Cup, this is it.

Frank Lampard: We all expect Argentina and Brazil to do well but one of the other South American teams could have a run. Colombia have some good individual players and will be tough to beat.

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