World Cup 2018 TV pundit predictions: who are favourites, who are the dark horses – and do England have a chance?

The BBC and ITV World Cup pundits pick the players and teams to watch in Russia as the World Cup prepares to take over TV

(BBC)

As the 2018 World Cup gets underway and BBC and ITV set up shop in Russia, England’s top TV pundits nail their colours to the mast.

Advertisement

Find out more about their World Cup 2018 predictions below.


How to watch the 2018 World Cup – full TV guide


Gary Lineker

W1A Gary Lineker

Who will win the World Cup?

Spain. They’re not as strong as they were when they won three tournaments on the bounce – the European Championships in 2008 and 2012 and the 2010 World Cup – but they’ve still got a lot of very good footballers who are effortlessly comfortable with the ball.

[Update: after Spain sacked their manager just two days before their first World Cup match against Portugal, Lineker tweeted that he was “no longer backing Spain” unless they brought in a very special replacement…]

World Cup dark horses?

France will have a chance if they can settle on a system that suits them. They need to play N’Golo Kanté, though. And don’t forget Belgium. I don’t think they’ll win, but they’ll have a decent run.

England’s chances?

Reaching the quarter-finals would be a good effort. We just need a break and something to go our way. But at this stage we haven’t got enough world-class players. In two years’ time we’ll be competitive and in four years’ time we’ll have a real chance. I think Gareth Southgate should sell this to the public as a learning curve. It’s always the hope that kills you when it comes to a World Cup. The expectation rises, then we all get disappointed. That’s what generally happens, but we live in hope that one day it will turn out differently.

Player to watch?

Kylian Mbappé of France could tear the whole place up. He’ll be a strong contender for the Golden Boot, as will his team-mate Antoine Griezmann. Lionel Messi (Argentina) and Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), too. And don’t rule out Germany’s Thomas Müller. There aren’t many individual things you can win in football, but top scorer at a World Cup is the next best thing to winning the tournament.

Rising stars?

For England, I hope 19-year-old Trent Alexander-Arnold will get a chance to shine. He’s going to be an absolutely sensational player, as is Ruben Loftus Cheek (22). Gabriel Jesus of Brazil is still only 21, but he’s playing ahead of Roberto Firmino, which tells you all you need to know about his talent.


Rio Ferdinand

(Getty)
(Getty)

Who will win the World Cup?

The holders Germany are the stand-out side. They’ve got the perfect blend of youth and experience. They’ve got players who know how to win tournaments.

Dark horses?

I really hope we see an entertaining French side. In terms of strength in depth, only Belgium can match the French. But the problem with this French side, and we’ve seen it over the past couple of tournaments, is their mentality. They don’t seem to be able to gel.

England’s chances?

If we get to the quarter-finals, that will be a really good result. But the first match, against Tunisia, is key. Having been there, I can tell you the pressure on that opening game is huge. On paper, yes we should win it, but these games can prove tricky. Our younger teams are winning tournaments now, so we’re going to be a force in four years’ time. But this World Cup has come a bit too early.

Player to watch?

I can see Kylian Mbappé doing what Michael Owen did when he announced himself to the world in 1998 with that goal against Argentina.

What don’t you want to see?

VAR [the Video Assistant Referee system]. I always loved the fact that the naked eye gives you an immediate decision and causes a debate. But now we’ve got technology causing the debate. What have we gained?



Alan Shearer

(Getty)
(Getty)

Player to watch?

Brazil’s Jesus could be the star of this World Cup. He’ll go into the tournament reasonably fresh as he’s not had that many games for Manchester City, after being out injured for a lengthy period earlier this year with the knee ligament damage he suffered on New Year’s Eve.

Who will be England’s star?

This is a huge tournament for Harry Kane. He’s known around Europe, but to put himself on the global stage he has to go out and score goals.


Alex Scott

(Getty)
(Getty)

Who will win the World Cup?

I’d love to say England, but I’ve got to go for Germany. They know exactly what it takes to win and have got an irresistible blend of youth and experience.

Dark horses?

Belgium. Every tournament we think they might show their true quality. When you look at the season Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne have had and the experience in their back line with Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld, this surely has to be the best chance for Belgium to go all the way.

How do you rate England’s chances?

I’m actually excited about the prospect of watching England. We’ll get out of the group stage, but further on it looks like we’ll face a quarter-final against Brazil, so that’s probably as far as we’ll get. Beating them would be a huge ask for this group of players.

Player to watch?

Mbappé has been really lighting things up this year for Paris Saint-Germain, so if he hits form, France could hit new heights.

What don’t you want to see?

My pet hate is watching an England side sitting back and not going for it. I want to see my England go out and express themselves, much like Wales did at Euro 2016, and produce some real gung-ho performances.


Jermaine Jenas

(Getty)
(Getty)

Who’ll win the World Cup?

Germany – they’re always so solid that you’d never bet against them. They’re just a tournament-winning machine.

Dark horses?

England. They’ve certainly got the talent, and if they hit form in the first couple of games against Tunisia and Panama and gain a lot of confidence and momentum, they’re capable of upsetting anyone.


Dion Dublin

(Getty)
(Getty)

Who will win the World Cup?

Germany.

Dark horses?

If I was me, I wouldn’t want to play against Uruguay because they make it so difficult. They’re very physical, aggressive and they’re masters at making things ugly.

England’s chances?

I’m very confident England will reach the quarter-finals.

What don’t you want to see?

I hate to see players diving and blatantly turning on the theatricals when they haven’t been touched. Like most fans, that makes my blood boil.

What about VAR?

I’m a massive rugby fan and in that sport there’s no messing about, they do it exactly right. It’s simple: the referee just has to ask, “Is there any reason why I can’t award this try?” Football referees have to change their mindset – asking for help isn’t a weakness. Let’s get it right.


Gabby Logan

(Getty)
(Getty)

Who will win the World Cup?

Germany. They’ve performed brilliantly across five major tournaments and have got the same coach, Joachim Löw, who has brought them so much success. They’re going to be determined to win back-to-back World Cups, too, having been champions in Brazil in 2014. It’s hard to find a reason not to fancy the Germans.

Dark horses?

France might surprise us. I know they have an incredible array of talent but they haven’t really produced it at a big tournament lately [they won in 1998 and were runners-up in 2006]. This could be the year they change that.

How do you rate England’s chances?

I think a quarter-final should be very doable for England. And once they get there, the pressure is really off. With knockout football, anything is then possible. But let’s not get carried away just yet!

What don’t you want to see?

I don’t want to see rioting and people being tear-gassed, as we saw in Marseille at the Euros. And I don’t want to see VAR becoming a story. Let’s hope it helps make some good decisions and doesn’t dominate post-match discussions.

You’re based at the England camp. How do they stop the players from getting bored?

So long as Gareth Southgate treats them like grown-ups, which he’s said he will, they’ll be fine. They’ll probably relish a bit of peace and quiet. As long as the wi-fi’s working, that’s probably the most important thing! Jermain Defoe said he was so bored in 2010 that he sat and watched Wayne Rooney’s entire wedding DVD. So maybe they should pack a box set of that just in case…

Rising star?

I’d really love Kane to take England by the scruff of the neck. I’ve seen him have that drive and desire for Spurs, so I’d love to see him do that in an England shirt and push himself into the same stratosphere as Mohamed Salah, Messi and Ronaldo.


Frank Lampard

(Getty)
(Getty)

Who will win the World Cup?

As usual, Germany. I can’t see beyond them.

Dark horses?

As we’re on European soil, I think we could see Belgium’s individual superstars finally pulling together as a team.

How do you rate England’s chances?

I seem to be on my own with this, but I’m really confident about England’s chances. I’m tipping us to get to the semi-finals. With Kane, Dele Alli and Raheem Sterling, we’re a really potent attacking threat and I think a lot of sides are going to be very wary of us.

What don’t you want to see?

Long delays in games due to VAR. To me, VAR doesn’t bode well because it doesn’t feel ready. Referees all over the world have a slightly different interpretation of it and what it should be used for. I get that it’s intended to rule out huge errors – and, having been on the end of one [his goal against Germany at the 2010 World Cup was wrongly ruled not to have crossed the line], I agree with that. But it’s whether they’re going to use it to look at every decision. It’ll be terrible if we end up talking about VAR instead of some of the world’s greatest players.


Chris Sutton

Chris Sutton, far right (Getty))
Chris Sutton, far right (Getty)

Who will win the World Cup?

I’m tipping France. I really fancy them to click this time. They’ve got so many talented players all over the park, but this time they’ve also got strength in depth.

Dark horses?

Uruguay. Or England, if we get very lucky.

How do you rate England’s chances?

If the group games go to plan, I think England will get through to the quarter-finals.

What don’t you want to see?

I don’t want to see or hear endless debates about VAR. Let’s give it a proper chance and it might just give us a World Cup free from refereeing controversies.


Lee Dixon

Lee Dixon, right (Getty)
Lee Dixon, right (Getty)

Who will win?

I can’t see past Germany. What we saw last year at the Confederations Cup was very scary. They were playing what was virtually their third team and they still walked it.

Dark horses?

I like the look of Colombia. In Juan Cuadrado and James Rodríguez they’ve got some exciting attacking talent that can hurt teams. You won’t see them sitting back.

England’s chances?

Reaching the quarter-finals would be about right for this squad. But I like the way Gareth Southgate has developed a couple of different systems so we’re more adaptable now.

Player to watch?

Advertisement

Germany’s Mesut Ozil is always a delight to watch at tournaments. You’ll never see him down tools in a German shirt in the way he sometimes does for Arsenal.

Sign up for the free RadioTimes.com newsletter