There are several countries that have a legitimate reason to be hopeful for the 2018 World Cup, in this order i would put their chances:
Her is my thinking on each one
The Germans remain as consistent a team as there is in world football. The coaching staff, the players, everything is coordinated in a unique and organized way for the Germans to reach success. The squad is as strong as ever, even though a few of the players are starting to show some signs of age. Thomas Müller is expected to remain a deadly attacker in the tournament, and may set the record for most WC goals in this next tournament. Müller currently has 10 goals in 13 matches at the Wold Cup. He trails several players for all time leading scorer, including his countryman Miroslav Klose (16) in 24 matches played, and Gerd Muller who has 14 goals in 13 matches. Should Thomas get 6 goals in the next WC he would tie for the all time record.
Manuel Neuer, probably the best big-game goalkeeper currently playing, both he and Gigi Buffon are the kind of players that make the difference in big matches.
The most important factor with German is the consistency they have in their program, consistency in coaching, coaching style, development of players in the national program, Germany is by far the most organized system in world football. They will miss the leadership of Phillip Lahm and Basi Schweinsteiger, however, with their consistent development in the youth system, Germany is a clear favorite in any tournament.
Tite has brought a fresh new attitude and level of creativity that has been lacking in recent editions of this side. Neymar has turned into a major force in International Football. Recent success in both the Olympic tournament and CONMEBOL qualifying have shown that Brazil is a force to be reckoned with once again. Tite has been successful in providing a system that allows the great creativity of players like Neymar and Gabriel Jesus to show their strength, and enough of a defensive solidity to make them a real threat.
WIth the void in South American football that Argentina’s FA has made, I really do not blame the players for their recent downfalls, Brazil has taken up the mantle of being the best side in South American football.
The reservation in picking Brazil outright is that they have not been as successful in Europe over the years as they have been in South America and other spots around the world. While Brazil is one of the favorites for 2018, I put their chances just below Germany, simply out of the consistency that Germany is showing. Brazil will be extremely dangerous and depending on the draw could be a favorite to play in the final match.
The Italians certainly do not have the big names that have graced the pitch for the Azzurri in the past, however, they remain one of the most organized and consistent teams in world football. Italy showed in the 2016 European championship that they have a system that can be relied up on to bring out the best in their players, regardless of the big names that may or may not be in the squad.
The loss of Antonio Conte as manager of the Azzurri is certainly a factor in how well they will perform in Russia, Ventura is an experienced and deeply passionate coach who has already shown that he can bring results in heavy competition. Since he took over the Azzurri they have played 8 matches, 5 wins, 2 draws and a single loss coming at the hands of France in a friendly last fall.
The biggest change for Italy will be the upcoming retirement of captain Gigi Buffon, for the mean time he has decided that Russia 2018 will be his final turn on the international stage. The fact that no other GK has seriously challenged for the position in the last 16 years has made it easy for the Azzurri to remain atop the European charts. When he does retire there will certainly be a big void in the team. Having Buffon for the WC is certainly a big help to their chances of lifting the Cup once again.
The Chilean side could be a great success in Russia or a major flop. Never a truly consistent side, the Chilean team has a load of talent, the top two performers for them being Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal. These 2 players are talented enough to carry a team a long ways. Recent coaching changes have made it more of a challenge, but Chile has always been a good tournament team. If they get hot they could do some real damage.
In the Copa America Centenario, Chile was one of the finest teams in any tournament of recent years. That level of performance will have to be on display throughout the WC for them to have a shot. Of all of the first time potential winners, Chile has the best shot (imho) to make their first WC final. They could also crash out in the group stage. That is the biggest issue with Chile, when they are on they are wold beaters, when they are off, they can embarrass themselves.
The two players mentioned, Sanchez and Vidal, have the talent and ability as good as any 1–2 punch in world football. Vidal is one of the most aggressive players in the game, and has only made his game even better under the tutelage of Carlo Ancelotti at Bayern. If Sanchez were to get his club situation settled, he can relax and enjoy playing football once again. There probably is no other player in the game that wears his emotions on the pitch as much as ALexis. That can be great, or destructive, depending on circumstances.
I know that a lot of people are picking Belgium to win it this time, and I agree they have one of the most talented squads in world football. The issue with Belgium is the coaching staff. the last two mangers, Roberto Martinez and Marc Wilmots, are not as talented as the players they are coaching. That is a big reason why Belgium is only a secondary favorite, in my opinion, to the likes of Germany and Brazil.
Belgium has as much or more talent on the pitch as any of the favorites. Hazard, Courtois, DeBruyne, Nainggolain, the list goes on and on. Romelu Lukaku is currently leading the EPL in goals, and has all the potential of being an international success on every level. So far he has failed to come through, but 2018 could be his coming out party. This is a side that has everything, and one that is very fun to watch, it would be even better if the manger was in the same league as the players.
Belgium should have recruited a big name manager when they replaced Wilmots, they didn’t and that could hold them back form winning the WC. There is still time and the players are of the level that they could respond to a coaching change. Belgium deserves a great manager to match the squad. IF that were to happen I would likely change them from a top five team looking from the outside, to favorites to win the whole thing.
A few countries that expect to de well, and possibly make the final
Colombia, lots of talent and good coaching.
Spain, always dangerous in a tournament.
Portugal, you never know with Cristiano on your side
France, loads of talent, maybe they can get their squad filled out by 2018, but for now they are still looking from the outside.
Argentina, even though the FA is a complete disaster, the amount of talent on this side is ridiculous.
Anything can happen, but as history tells us we are more than likely to see a repeat winner than not, that means that Germany, Brazil, Italy, Spain, are all among the real favorites. It would be a huge shock to see a first time winner out of this group of teams. Too many of the traditional heavy hitters are in good shape for a new team to make a breakthrough/. If there were to be a first time winner, my guess is that it would come in the form of a very hot Chle, or a really well organized Belgium.