The contenders

T he path to Russia started three years ago with 210 countries. Now it’s down to the final 32, and it will take another 64 matches to decide who will be the 2018 world champion.

Our team of reporters has run the eye over all 32 teams to give you a guide of which countries might go deep in to the tournament. You can read their analysis in the ‘Groups’ section of our ‘Russia 2018’ coverage.

In a tournament like this, there are inevitably favourites – teams that, at least on paper, look most likely to be holding the Jules Rimet trophy aloft in the Luzhnicki Stadium in Moscow on 16 July*.

Our series – The Contenders – looks at the most highly fancied teams and the factors that might influence the outcome of the world’s largest sporting event.

Germany the ‘hunted’ as they defend world crown

Brazil ready to lay the ghost of 2014 to rest

Time for Belgium’s golden generation to deliver

World Cup hopes written in the stars for France

Argentina, Messi trying to throw the ‘nearly’ tag

*AEST

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