Since the first World Cup in 1930, there have been 21 editions of the tournament, and eight winners. Of the 21 finals, just three teams have won 13 between them – Brazil winning five, Italy and Germany taking four each. Three South American nations have reached the pinnacle of world football, and five from Europe – and the last new winner to have their name etched into history came in 2010, when Spain defeated the Netherlands in the final.
Could a new name find its way onto the trophy this year? Football betting sites don’t seem to think so. Across the range of bookmakers offering World Cup betting odds on the winner, the top six names in the running have already won it at least once. Remember that Italy isn’t even in the competition and that Uruguay last won it in 1938, and you can begin to understand that it’s going to be very difficult this time for a team that’s never won the World Cup to join the party. But if someone is to gatecrash that select group, these are the most likely contenders…
The world’s second-ranked side is full of players who will likely look back when they retire and say “2018. That’s when we should have done it.”. It’s not that Belgium are an objectively worse side than they were four years ago in Russia, but while other sides seem to have added to their artillery since then, Roberto Martinez’s men have stood still. Of course, an international side can’t just go out and sign players – and new names like Charles de Ketelaere and Amadou Onana have come through – but Belgium still rely heavily on a group of players who are getting on in years and are increasingly injury-prone. They’re also more vulnerable defensively than they’d like to be.
In terms of an international footballing roller-coaster, being a Dutch fan is comparable only to the experience of the Italian supporters in recent years. In 2010, they made the final; in 2014, the semis. Then in 2018, they missed out on qualification entirely, having also missed the preceding European Championships. They are in many ways the team who should win it next, having played and lost three finals to teams who were, at the time, easily the world’s best. They’ve got decent odds at in2bet to break their hoodoo, and have a squad that is better than most people realize. The main concern is that they could use a first-choice striker; top scorer Memphis Depay is more effective coming off the flank.
There are some who would argue that for the last decade, Portugal have had the best player in the world to call upon. There are others who would point out that the only time they’ve won anything, in Euro 2016, it was after he had been subbed off injured.
Cristiano Ronaldo is a luxury player – for sure capable of moments of sublime talent, but he requires everything to be arranged around him. It’s hard to shake the feeling that Portugal will perform better when he retires because the rest of the squad will no longer be expected to play to his demands. In terms of this World Cup, they required a play-off to reach the finals, and it’s hard to see them coming through the trickier half of the draw to win this one. If they do, they’ll have earned it.