The 2018 World Cup in Russia will feature 32 nations battling it out to secure the most illustrious prize in international football.
All of those countries are spread out evenly across eight exciting groups, with the top two teams from each set to progress to the dramatic knockout stages on Russian territory.
Top spot is the main aim for those sides hoping to go deep into this summer’s tournament, with the likelihood of avoiding the other bigger threats in the immediate round of 16 once past the groups.
Of course, there are aways shocks, thrills and spills during the rollercoaster ride that is the group games, with each side only having three matches to make an instant impact at the competition.
This means that any early slip ups at all can be costly in the long run, just ask England, who have plenty of experience in that department!
With eight fascinating groups to get through before the knockout stages, we have outlined which teams are most likely to earn progression from their respective standings this summer.
It’s an intriguing Group A to begin with, with all of Uruguay, Russia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia hoping to clinch progression to the knockout phase.
South American outfit Uruguay are the obvious 11/10 favourites with Betway to finish top of the pile here, with the likes of Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez within their current crop of stars.
Hosts Russia will have home comfort and are 9/4 with William Hill to top the standings. Meanwhile, Mohamed Salah’s Egypt side are an outside 7/2 with Coral to rally to the summit of Group A
This Group B roster features 2010 world champions Spain, who are the clear odds-on 4/7 front runners with Boylesports to top the standings, along with Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, Morocco and Iran.
After his goalscoring heroics with Real Madrid this past season and on the back of that Euro 2016 triumph, Ronaldo and his Portugal teammates are 9/4 with Betway to progress via top spot here.
"We know that Portugal are not favourites in the World Cup. For me, the favourites are Spain, Germany, France, Argentina and Brazil."— FIFA World Cup ? (@FIFAWorldCup) February 17, 2018
?? @Cristiano, on @selecaoportugal's #WorldCup hopes
Week in quotes ? https://t.co/OgQwEnkqSQ pic.twitter.com/WgwktWjaER
The Group C standings may be a bit tougher to call in terms of who finishes second, but top spot looks more than likely to go in favour of a star-studded France side, who are 1/3 with Coral to finish atop the charts.
Meanwhile, Denmark, Peru and Australia are seeking progression and this could be a tough test for each of them in qualifying for the next round. However, the Danes, who beat the Republic of Ireland to reach Russia, have plenty of talent, including Christian Eriksen, and are 8/11 with Coral to progress.
? ?? ?— FIFA World Cup ? (@FIFAWorldCup) May 2, 2018
?? Kingsley Coman has told France head coach Didier Deschamps that he will be fit in time for #WorldCup after suffering an ankle injury in February
Details ? https://t.co/yRu2I1VtWR pic.twitter.com/oANlSszkQ7
The sides in Group D are full of talent and it could be a very interesting set of fixtures, with a Lionel Messi led Argentina, always threatening Croatia, dangerous outsiders Nigeria and Euro 2016 surprise package Iceland making up this section.
If Argentina live up to their potential with the amount of unbelievable firepower in their roster, then they are capable of going all the way, never mind winning the group. Meanwhile, Croatia are 9/4 with bet365 to surprisingly top the standings and Nigeria can be backed at 5/2 with Coral to qualify.
This Messi World Cup ad has gassed me up omggggggpic.twitter.com/UnzqUHQQgR— R (@MessiZone10) May 4, 2018
Brazil should comfortably see themselves through Group E without any real troubles, with Switzerland, Serbia and Costa Rica being their rivals in this section.
The Samba outfit are 1/4 favourites with Ladbrokes to top the standings, while the Swiss are 5/6 with Betfair to join them in the next round.
Huge blow for Brazil as Dani Alves has been officially ruled out of the FIFA World Cup. ? pic.twitter.com/RRhQMFutcl— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) May 11, 2018
The reigning World Cup champions Germany begin the defence of their crown in Group F against all of Mexico, Sweden and South Korea.
With such an array of attacking and defensive stars within their set-up, Germany should see themselves through safely, but Mexico are promising even odds with Coral to join them and Sweden enter at 5/4 with Ladbrokes to qualify (without retired all-time scorer Zlatan Ibrahimovic).
Germany's midfield options for the FIFA World Cup.— GiveMeSport (@GiveMeSport) May 12, 2018
Strength. In. Depth. pic.twitter.com/PrjMV6GH24
Group G is the group in which Gareth Southgate’s England find themselves and they face off against dangerous threat Belgium, as well as Tunisia and Panama.
On the face of it, the Three Lions should progress to the next round without any serious issues, but it’s England we are talking about here. They are 6/5 with William Hill to secure top spot ahead of the Belgians, while the Red Devils, featuring Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku, are 5/6 favourites to rally to the summit.
Finally, Group H rounds off the opening stage of the 2018 World Cup and it’s a wide open section with a genuine opportunity for every nation involved to progress.
It’s Colombia who are the 11/8 favourites with Ladbrokes to prevail in top position, while a Robert Lewandowski led Poland side are 7/4 with Betway to achieve such a feat.
African nation Senegal are 7/5 with Coral to qualify for the next round and underdogs Japan 12/5 with Boylesports to progress.
James Rodriguez"In WorldCup I want to take Colombia as far as possible" pic.twitter.com/LZBjtm2YDZ— James Rodriguez (@TeamJDR10) May 11, 2018