Will Gareth Southgate’s England end 56 years of injury in Qatar? Will Neymar realize his “greatest dream” of Brazil winning the World Cup? Or, will a Messi-led Argentina recover from that almighty shock against Saudi Arabia to go all the way and claim glory?
Readers have been plotting who they think will be champions using our World Cup predictor tool and the pre-tournament standings showed Argentina as the favorite to take home the trophy with 27.1 percent of the vote. Brazil followed closely behind with 23.15 percent and England secured third place with 8.21 percent. Of course, the opening round of matches may prompt readers to reassess those choices.
But here’s why Telegraph readers think the three sides are the ones to beat.
‘Brazil are a solid team and if Neymar leverages that then I don’t see anyone beating them’
For many others, Brazil are the favorites given their overall squad strength, featuring a certain Neymar, who spoke exclusively with the Telegraph prior to the tournament starting.
Readers also think, similar to Argentina, that they will be better equipped to adapt to the hot and humid conditions than other countries.
@Marc Andy via World Cup WhatsApp group:
“Brazil will win the World Cup. It’s been 20 years since the Ronaldo Show and for a footballing nation like Brazil, where football is a religion, 20 years is a very long time.
“There’s the in-form trio of Neymar, Vinicius and Richarlison who can create goals out of nothing. Goals win games.
“The Seleção is extremely well-balanced and plays with the utmost confidence nowadays.
“It is said that defense wins you titles and in Alison Becker, Brazil has the best goalkeeper in the world. Thiago Silva is aging like fine wine. He is older, wiser, fitter and more assured these days. The captain commands the defense impeccably .
“The midfield is filled with streetwise and hardworking players. What it lacks in creativity is made up in the final third with an abundance of striking prowess.
“Coach Tite will definitely have a very hard time picking the players who will partner Neymar upfront and, unfortunately for others, the Samba forwards have all been in blistering form.
“It is the Seleção’s World Cup to lose.”
“Argentina will entertain us with a valiant send off for Messi but Brazil’s World Cup pedigree will shine through. The midfield engine room of Bruno Guimarães and Paqueta alongside Casemiro will be key. They have the best two goalkeepers in the world behind Silva et al in defense.
“Neymar is a man for the biggest stage of all and despite his poorer form at club level in recent years, I think he will overshadow Ronaldo and Messi’s farewells in this tournament. Martinelli and Raphinha could be major threats out wide if the manager uses the squad and substitutes well to conquer fatigue as games wear on.
“It’s not about starting line-ups in Qatar, it’s about squad strength and super substitutes. Brazil is a solid team and if Neymar leverages that then I don’t see anyone beating them.”
“I think Brazil will win the World Cup. Brazil lacks only on the full-backs, but has a strong squad in all other positions. Also, the manager, Tite, evolved his work with the national team. It will not be an easy World Cup for Brazil, but I understand that the Brazilian national team is the favorite. As a Brazilian, this scares me, as the country has never won the tournament as a favorite.”
Argentina: ‘This is Messi’s last hurrah and with the best Argentina side for decades’
Led by the experienced and irrepressible Lionel Messi, Telegraph readers believe an Argentina World Cup win would be a fitting end to an extraordinary career for their captain. Others also highlighted how Argentina’s shocking defeat to Saudi Arabia could actually be beneficial to them.
“As Argentina lost, they will probably finish second in their group. This will move them to the bottom half of the tournament for the knock-out stages. If Brazil wins their group, they will remain in the expected top half.
“It’s very convenient for Argentina to lose.”
“It has to be Argentina. It would be an unfair representation of the greatest player of all time not to have a World Cup as part of his trophy cabinet. This is Messi’s last hurrah at a World Cup and with the best Argentina side for decades around him (as well as Messi himself being in great form), I struggle to look beyond them. Martinez is well suited to international football, for example, Julian Alvarez is an incredible talent and Enzo Fernandes has caught the eye of most top Premier League clubs. If England do not win, it would be a fitting climax to an incredible career for Messi.”
“Argentina will be the champions because they have more experienced players, with Lionel Messi leading the team. The game itself is in the hot weather, which will favor them compared to European teams. They are also current Copa América champions, which is a plus point for their morale. They have a good team with top strikers and solid defenders with experienced midfielders, too.”
England: ‘The team has the perfect combination of youth and experience’
For others, England’s team – with a mix of youth and experience – are capable of winning the World Cup. Some argue that the focus on the politics of Qatar and England’s recent poor performance outside the tournament has lowered expectations and could work to their advantage.
“England for the win! It is halfway through the season and all the key English players are fit and playing well. The team has the perfect combination of youth and experience. Plus, some players need to prove themselves and will therefore play exceptionally well.”
“Well done England. Iran could still qualify. They and the rest are playing for second place. Playing halfway through the season means we have actually hit the ground running. We are bringing it home!”
“The game against Iran was a great start. In his previous two tournaments, Southgate has made one World Cup semi and a Euro final, both of which I was at, so has an excellent pedigree. Plus, the battering of Iran means he has won more tournament games than any other England manager ever.
“Stop the pessimism, get behind the boys and cheer them on until they’ve either won it or been knocked out because that’s what tournaments are all about. Football’s coming home!”