Chris Bascombe: Brazil. Other than Argentina, I can’t make a strong case for any other nation… although it could be argued that Qatar has already won.
Sam Dean: Argentina. The world’s most influential team has not lost since 2019. The team is packed with speed, skill and defensive determination.
Luke Edwards: Argentina. The romantic in me thinks that Argentina inspired by Lionel Messi will find the ultimate trophy and give the little wizard the World Cup to match the legendary Maradona.
Jim White: Brazil. He’s hardly a left-field option, but the other sides don’t have the attacking team to match them, not to mention the great defenders and the best defensive midfielder in the world (and I don’t mean Fred).
Jeremy Wilson: England. The huge improvement in the competition under Gareth Southgate is clear and should bode better for England’s chances than the Nations League.
James Ducker: Argentina. Unbeaten in 35 games, Lionel Scaloni has put an end to dissension to unify the squad and create an organized, hard-working team to maximize Lionel Messi’s rare talents.
Chris Bascombe: James Maddison. If selected (if much) he will give England the ‘X-factor’ they are missing and will dominate the group stages against packed defences.
Sam Dean: Lionel Messi. Messi has 11 goals and 14 assists in 18 games for PSG this season. His final shot at the biggest prize of all.
Luke Edwards: Jude Bellingham. It is always dangerous to expect too much from young English players but Jude Bellingham could leave Qatar as the most popular player in the world.
Jim White: Jude Bellingham. The player who has everything. Especially the mindset to let his talent flourish on the biggest stage of all.
Jeremy Wilson: Lionel Messi. While Kylian Mbappe should be even better than he was at Russia 2018, Messi is in superb form and it doesn’t matter if a glorious swan song is possible.
James Ducker: Lionel Messi. Now 35 years old, it could be Paris Saint-Germain’s fifth Cup debut, and possibly the final World Cup that comes together.
Chris Bascombe: Lautaro Martinez. Any striker with Lionel Messi as his supply line has to be the most likely golden winner.
Sam Dean: Harry Kane. The England captain has been in excellent scoring form at club level and, in theory at least, should have an impact in the group stages.
Luke Edwards: Kylian Mbappe. This is always difficult to predict because so much depends on the goals scored in the group, as well as who goes to the finals, but Mbappe is as much a bet as anyone.
Jim White: Harry Kane. Plenty of opportunities for goals in the group stage, and as he is in charge of England, every chance is likely to fall to him.
Jeremy Wilson: Harry Kane. England’s relatively easy group should benefit, taking penalties and the fact that other potential winners are not as clearly identified as the team’s main attack.
James Ducker: Lionel Messi. If Argentina clicks, Messi should succeed – and that often means goals.
Chris Bascombe: Belgium. They have done a complete 360 degree turn from being dark horses to favorites back to dark horses. Anything is possible with De Bruyne.
Sam Dean: Uruguay. A new generation is emerging, led by the assassin Federico Valverde, and Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani remain a threat.
Luke Edwards: England. England are not one of the favorites and the squad has looked like it has been on the decline for the last 15 months but when you have reached a semi-final and a final in the last two competitions, they might surprise us all again.
Jim White: Senegal. Sadly, their talisman Sadio Mane was broken (at least for a few games), Senegal, with a scumbag in the Premier League like Eduaord Mendy. Kalidou Koulibaly and Idrissa Gana Gueye still have plenty of talent to surprise. In addition there is a group of them that should not cause much of an obstacle.
Jeremy Wilson: Denmark, which is actually too highly ranked to deserve this title. Qatar are better than most think but Ghana are the best ‘outside’ bet to stay long if they go into a treacherous group.
James Ducker: Uruguay. Lots of experience and know how, some interesting young talent and the amazing Federico Valverde.
How far will England go?
Chris Bascombe: If England win their group, they will go far and lose to Brazil or Argentina in the final.
Sam Dean: Quarter finals. It won’t be as bad as they seem to fear, but England will once again struggle in midfield against high-class opposition.
Luke Edwards: There will be humiliation in a treacherous group or they will reach the semi-finals again.
Jim White: Semi-final – France losing on penalties. No need to say more.
Jeremy Wilson: See above for a prediction based on the belief that a country with that passion, resources and talent must prevail again, sooner or later.
James Ducker: Quarter finals. The last two performances will give them confidence but they often find themselves in trouble when they meet the best and most treacherous nations on the way to the final.