The world is waiting with baited breath for the 2018 FIFA World Cup and the greatest show on Earth is just round the corner.
We get to see 32 of the world's best teams go at it. The clash of styles and cultures, the fans and the atmosphere, it's all so close you can almost feel it. But who is going to win the world's greatest sporting event? Who is going to lift the Jules Rimet trophy and take the glory?
Germany is the safe bet. The reigning World Champions defend their title with the same coach, the same efficient style and just a few subtle changes to the squad. There is fearsome strength in this combination. Striker Thomas Muller has a chance to become the World Cup's all-time leading goalscorer if he has an exceptional tournament and Leon Goretzka is looking to make a splash. They might not be the most exciting team to watch, but the Germans are ruthlessly efficient. Expect occasional flashes of brilliance from the likes of Mesut Ozil and Goretzka. These are great times for German football and the team goes in to the tournament confident and strong. The Germans maintained a perfect record in the qualifiers and their 22-game winning streak has only just come to an end. A friendly with Brazil was the first defeat for Germany in a long time. Iconic keeper Manuel Neuer is in the provisional squad, but his fitness is in serious doubt.
Brazil are still sweating on the condition of their talisman as well. News of Neymar's foot has dominated the reports in recent weeks. A bad foot could be bad news for their World Cup hopes. The team desperately want to atone for the brutal defeat at the hands of Germany on home soil last time out, but they may just be putting too much pressure on the jewel in their crown. He hasn't played since February and surgery on a metatarsal has just barely had time to heal. The South American legends have another great goalscorer in Gabriel Jesus, and Philippe Coutinho is in devastating form for Barcelona after his big money transfer. But if Neymar isn't up to speed, Brazil might struggle.
One team that really has a shot is Portugal. Don't forget, this is Ronaldo's last chance to add a World Cup winners' medal to his personal museum, which is already brimming with trophies. The 33-year-old led Portugal to the honours in Euro 2016 and now he wants to go one better on the biggest stage of all. The team is a blend of experience and youth. Ronaldo is in top form and Goncalo Quedes looks set to be one of the stars of the tournament. If Portugal gets it right, they could spring a surprise in Russia.
France is another team that could easily be there at the end. The French might just have the best attacking line-up in the tournament, with the mercurial speed of Kylian Mbappe and the predatory approach of Antoine Griezmann. Defensively, France is rock solid. Hugo Loris is an experienced and talented keeper and Raphael Varane and Samuel Umtiti are the rocks at the heart of Real Madrid and Barcelona's defences. Paul Pogba hasn't had the best year at Manchester United but he's angling for a move and wants to put himself in the shop window. If France really hits its stride, it will be hard to stop them. Mbappe, in particular, has the potential to truly light up the tournament.
Argentina will play a role, especially with the spectacular Lionel Messi leading the line. The feeling is, though, that Argentina simply doesn't have the squad to really push for the win this time around. Time will tell and you should simply never underestimate Messi's dogged determination and talent He could drag this rag tag bunch to the title through sheer force of will. He does have quality by his side in the form of Sergio Aguero. Also, veteran Javier Mascherano will step into the breach in midfield but it would be a triumph of grit and determination over talent if this squad lifts the cup in June.
Belgium has a potent squad with some real star names, which include the sublime Eden Hazard and Manchester City's puppeteer Kevin de Bruyne. The Belgians have one of the best goalkeepers in the world. They should score goals and they will feature in the final rounds. Do they have that something extra to take them to the Jules Rimet trophy? Probably not, but the beauty of the world's greatest sporting event is that you just don't know. That's why 3.4 billion people are going to tune in to the 2018 FIFA World Cup and live the highs and lows of the greatest sporting event in the world. It's just around the corner, so get ready to be entertained.