Home Must See World Cup 2018: Guardian writers give their predictions for the tournament

World Cup 2018: Guardian writers give their predictions for the tournament

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Who will triumph in Russia? Which player will be top scorer? Who will be the breakthrough star? How far will England go?

Which two teams will reach the final – and who will win?

My time of selecting Spain to win every tournament is now officially over probably four years too late and Im reverting back to Germany, in a penalty shootout against France. Daniel Taylor

Brazil and Argentina, with Lionel Messi to illuminate the grandest stage, then retire from international football clutching its ultimate prize. Maybe. Dominic Fifield

Notoriously hard to call before a round of games has been played. Brazil beating Germany would be my preference. Barney Ronay

Brazil against Germany – the ultimate test of Brazils temperament and a tale of vengeance in result if not in scoreline. Amy Lawrence

Brazil to beat Germany. Brazil have got everything but, most importantly, balance and a hardier mentality under Tite. Germany remain intimidating and even greater than the sum of their parts. David Hytner

Brazil and Germany, and Brazil will ultimately be champions. Stuart James

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France and Germany would not be a massive surprise but a lot depends on which Paul Pogba shows up; the player who dictated a 100m move or the one which has struggled for consistency at Manchester United. Martha Kelner

Brazil and Spain, and Brazil will win. Tites side have been impressive in the build-up to the tournament, have solidity and have rested Neymar. Sid Lowe

The dream final would be France versus Brazil – a repeat of the final from 20 years ago, and hopefully with the same result. Marcel Desailly

Germany against Brazil, and Germany will win. Thomas Hitzlsperger

Im certain Brazil will be in the final. Who will join them is a hard choice to make but it would certainly be interesting, and make for a great match, if Argentina joined them. Marta

Neymar
Neymar is well rested, in form and ready for revenge on Germany. Photograph: APA-PictureDesk GmbH/REX/Shutterstock

Who will be leading individual scorer?

Neymar is a decent shout and should be particularly fired up bearing in mind the way his last World Cup finished. DT

Neymar, whose goals will propel Tites side to the final and presumably then earn him a long mooted move to Real Madrid. DF

Romelu Lukaku. Or someone else. Ideally a surprise from a minor nation who gets four in one game then goes home. BR

Gabriel Jesus, supplied by Neymar and Roberto Firmino, could fill his golden boots. AL

Luis Surez. Uruguays draw is a dream and they will make the quarter-finals, at least, giving Surez plenty of game-time to do damage. DH

Romelu Lukaku. The Belgian has a good scoring record at international level and is the spearhead of a team that should go far. SJ

Antoine Griezmann could light up this tournament, arriving in Russia on the back of inspiring Atletico Madrid to a Europa League title. His record for France isnt bad, though, with 20 goals in 53 games. MK

Neymar.The Brazilian arrives in Russia with fresh legs and a desire to take his nation all the way. Frances Kylian Mbapp is also a decent shout. SL

Romelu Lukaku. Hes on great form, has everybody playing for him and some great passers to provide him with the ammunition he needs. MD

Gabriel Jesus. I watched him quite a lot last season and really liked his movement, not to mention his scoring rate. Hell get plenty of service playing in the same team as the likes of Neymar and Philippe Coutinho and, given Ive predicted Brazil will get to the final, he should play plenty of games, also. TH

Neymar. He was hurt, played two games and scored in both I cant wait to see him in action. M

Frances
Frances Kylian Mbapp and Antoine Griezmann are contenders for the World Cup golden boot. Photograph: Gerard Julien/AFP/Getty Images

Who will be the surprise team of the tournament?

Switzerland. The Fifa world rankings are not the best way to judge a team, perhaps, but there must be some valid reasons why they are currently sixth (ahead of France and Spain). DT

Serbia. Mladen Krstajics team are unfancied, but boast strength and quality. The key will be ensuring players perform to the same levels they invariably achieve at their clubs. DF

This question contains an internal contradiction. Colombia for the semis, maybe. BR

Uruguay, a mix of renewed confidence and wily old know-how. AL

I see Croatia going deep into the tournament maybe even the semi-finals. Any team with Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Mario Mandzukic deserves respect. DH

Denmark. Theyre 15 matches unbeaten and this could be the stage for Christian Eriksen to shine. Mind you, their opening game, against Peru, wont be easy. SJ

Peru return to the World Cup after a 36 year absence but they are full of hope, galvanised in part by their captain, centre forward and all time top scorer Paolo Guerrero managing to overturn a 14-month drugs ban just weeks before the world cup. MK

Would it count as a surprise for Egypt and Uruguay to do well? The two sides from group A certainly could do so. Uruguay have their usual qualities, have Rodrigo Bentancur in midfield and a quiet, competitive confidence. SL

Belgium. Technically they are so good, they have so many talented players. I truly think they can bring a new name to the nations that have won the World Cup. MD

England. There is little expectations around the squad but I think they will get to the quarter-finals. TH

Sweden. It is a country that I have a lot of affection for and I want them to do well in this World Cup. M

Denmark
Denmark are unbeaten in 15 matches and Christian Eriksen makes them tick. Photograph: Lars Ronbog/FrontzoneSport via Getty Images

Who will be breakthrough player of the tournament?

Hirving Lozano of Mexico sounds good fun: talented, fiery and nicknamed Chucky because of his apparent resemblance to the Childs Play doll. Lozano scored 19 goals as a winger for PSV Eindhoven last season and is likened to Luis Suarez, though hopefully he will manage not to bite anyone. DT

Samuel Umtiti. That may sound odd given the French centre-half plays at Barcelona, but he was rushed into the team at Euro 2016, making a senior debut in the quarter-final, and is a far better player now. DF

Hes already at Barcelona and cost 90m but I think Ousmane Dembl could remind everyone exactly why. BR

Kylian Mbapp, who has achieved so much already but in his teens this will be his first major tournament. AL

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic. The 23-year-old Serbia and Lazio midfielder is tall, dynamic and has an eye for goal. Im looking forward to watching him, together with Moroccos creative midfielder, Hakim Ziyech, who plays for Ajax. DH

Polands Piotr Zielinski. The 24-year-old was a key member of the Napoli team that pushed Juventus all the way in Serie A last season. SJ

Karol Linetty. The Polish midfielders inventive play has seen him glitter for Sampdoria and catch the eye of one or two Premier League clubs. More could take interest if he has a good World Cup. MK

Marco Asensio and Kylian Mbapp. This could be the tournament when they underline just how brilliant theyre going to be. SL

Its difficult to say, but, if pushed, Kylian Mbapp. He has the potential to be a big World Cup star. But will it be at this World Cup? He is still very young. MD

Benjamin Pavard, a young defender I work with at Stuttgart and part of Frances squad. He can play right-back but, for me, is much better suited to being a centre-back. He is calm and composed, good in the air and aggressive when he needs to be. A real talent. TH

Hes still only 19 and there were ups and downs in his first season at Paris Saint-Germain but I feel Kylian Mbapp could make a really big impact for France. M

Sergej Milinkovic-Savic
Sergej Milinkovic-Savic

How far will England get?

There is a potential quarter-final against Brazil or Germany looming. Even with the new wave of optimism, surrounding Gareth Southgates team its difficult to see them getting past that stage. DT

The quarter-finals, playing some encouragingly enterprising football along the way. DF

Respectable/brave 2-0 quarter-final loss after narrow squeak to that stage based on discipline and a couple of flukey clean sheets. BR

The usual in all probability, maybe a quarter-final this time. AL

The quarter-finals, where we will lose on penalties to Germany. DH

They will get out of the group but its hard to see them progressing any further than the last 16. SJ

Quarter-finals. This is the minimum target the FA has set and is eminently achievable for a team which seems to have had the shackles removed. MK

Quarter-finals. Am I alone in thinking that England are actually quite good? I like the look of them offensively. SL

It is hard to say as England are short of experience. I feel they will need this tournament to grow as a group of players. MD

The quarter-finals. With a bit of good fortune and good play, they could even make the semi-finals. TH

They will definitely get out of their group and possibly go beyond that. M

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Who will be Englands best/most important player?

Harry Kane. People forget how poor he was in the European Championship, booed by the England fans, but if Kane is on form the team have a striker who can trouble any defence. DT

Harry Kane, making his mark at a major finals. The one player of real pedigree in English ranks. DF

Raheem Sterling. Will bring a dash of Manchester City to things and finally score a couple of goals – hopefully with his gun foot, before suggestively unfurling his sock for the cameras. BR

Harry Kane. Has to be. AL

Kyle Walker. He has a pivotal role on the right of Gareth Southgates back three, where he brings defensive cover and, crucially, pace on the transitions. Confidence is high after his superb debut season at Manchester City. DH

Harry Kane.Englands captain, principal goalscorer and, its fair to say, best player. SJ

Harry Kane is vital to Englands success as one of our few genuine world-class players. The captain has no shortage of motivation, claiming a World Cup victory would be trump winning the Champions League with Tottenham. MK

Marcus Rashford. On the basis he is given continuity, confidence and a certain level of freedom. SL

The guy who has really confirmed his talent on the big stage is Harry Kane and if he gets good service he could be one of the top scorers in Russia. MD

Harry Kane. He needs to score goals and Im sure he will. TH

Harry Kane. He had a great season with Tottenham Hotspur and his goals will make a difference for England. M

Harry Kane
Harry Kane

What are you most looking forward to, on or off the pitch?

The final. Its a World Cup final. For a journalist, theres no better moment when it comes to covering the sport. DT

Off the pitch, seeing The Motherland Calls in Volgograd. On it, that jaw dropping contest to match the drama of Belo Horizonte in 2014. DF

Discovering that, in fact, everyday Russians arent all Putin-mad dopes or gumshield-clad football hooligans. Also vodka. BR

Exploring Ekaterinburg and watching football in an unexpected place. Japan versus Senegal in a city known as the gateway to Siberia is what its all about. AL

The best thing about the previous World Cups Ive covered has been the carnival vibe. I hope its the same this time. DH

Seeing Colombia play. I had the pleasure of watching them in Brazil and they were a joy. I also havent forgotten how a few of their fans felt sorry for me when I ordered a table for one in a Brazilian steakhouse four years later and were still in touch. SJ

Im genuinely intrigued to see what sort of World Cup-host Russia will be and if they can succeed in reversing opinions of some visitors that the country is cold and unwelcoming. MK

The same thing you always look forward to at the World Cup loads of fans from loads of places making loads of noise and discovering players and teams..Some random player being brilliant. SL

Im excited to see which teams are going to surprise us AND which teams are going to show from the very outset that they are here to win it. MD

Although I think Germany will win the World Cup this looks like a really open tournament, with quite a few genuine major contenders as well as teams would could cause a major surprise. It should be fascinating. TH

Talking about soccer, watching beautiful and clean games, with sportsmanship, fair plays and no dirty plays. Thats what I hope to see, anyway. M

The
The Colombia fans were already out in force to cheer on their team at Kazan airport. Photograph: Luis Acosta/AFP/Getty Images

What are you most concerned about, on or off the pitch?

This might be the worst prediction of them all, but I dont think there will be the racism or riots that people fear. We heard similar before Euro 2012 in Ukraine and Poland, plus other scare stories before the World Cups in South Africa and Brazil, but it tends to be different in the big tournaments. DT

The inevitable shambles and confusion which will be VAR. DF

The only thing any football hack ever really worries about is the wi-fi. Will it be good? Will it come and go? Will it fade at kick-off? Im worrying about it right now. BR

Having been in Marseille for England versus Russia, digging out the old Italia 90 No All Violenza T-shirt and hoping for a peaceful tournament. AL

VAR leading to confusion inside the stadiums and, potentially, killing the emotion of big moments. DH

The battery life on my new mobile phone. Any incomplete answers in here are down to the fact my phone died while trying to file. SJ

That we will spend the next five weeks talking exhaustively about decisions made by Video Assistant Referees. MK

Connection issues and late goals. Long distances. Cyrillic script. On the pitch: teams turning defensive when it gets decisive. SL

That all the talk about security and organisation will overshadow the football. As a Fifa ambassador l have visited many stadiums, met many Russians, and l am confident in the capacity of Russia to run a great tournament. MD

Vladimir Putin and Gianni Infantino appearing on our television screens more often than the actual players. TH

Ugly incidents between supporters. Sport is not a tool for spreading hatred and disagreement but rather love, passion, and unity. M

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