You feel that, right? That’s the feeling we football fans get in the days leading up to the start of a FIFA World Cup. That’s the feeling you get when you know there’s a whole month of tournament football lying in wait. After Russia face Saudi Arabia in the tournament opener at the Luzhniki on Thursday, there are 55 games in the space of 19 days. Once it all gets going there’ll only be one day left of June that won’t have a match on. You feel it, right? It’s called FIFA World Cup fever.
Everyone at Icons.com has it. We’re all heading out to Russia over the course of the tournament and we could’t be more excited. But nor could we be more divided on what’s going to go down when the best of the best go head-to-head.
Making a hash of what’s to come over the next 32 days, our staff and partners have made their predictions for the competition ahead. But don’t take our word as gospel, feel free to get involved on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages by giving us your predictions. After all, you can hardly do much worse.
Edward Freedman, Chairman
Winners: SPAIN have the best individuals and, since their victory in 2010, they are experienced in winning this tournament.
Runner-up: FRANCE’s weakest link is their inexperience but they have a great team that can get them to a second straight tournament final.
Shock exit: ENGLAND are rubbish. I don’t think they’re in the same class as a lot of the teams being talked about at this tournament. The Three Lions will draw against Panama and lose to Tunisia with the former shocking the world to progress to the knockout stages.
Golden Boot: DIEGO COSTA will inspire the eventual winners with a glut of goals.
England will… well, see above.
Random predictions: Iran will do a lot better than people expect while Belgium will disappoint despite progressing through Group G.
Dan Jamieson, CEO
Winners: SPAIN know how to win it, can keep the ball forever, have the world’s best goalkeeper and this time around they have the ugliest of ugly up front. And, of course, Sergio Ramos can take out any striker whenever necessary.
Runner-up: I like the look of FRANCE. They are my office sweepstake pick and I also like the look of about 23 high-calibre players that can’t even get into the squad (think Franck Ribery, Karim Benzema, Anthony Martial etc.). I think it’s a tournament too early for them to become world champions but the mix is right and in Antoine Griezmann they have a potential Golden Boot winner.
Shock exit: BRAZIL are not as good as they think they are, especially at defending. Neymar Jr can’t be 100% fit and the team is built around him. If they are dysfunctional upfront then the first big team that stands up to them can exploit the spaces at the back.
Golden Boot: If France get to the final then GRIEZMANN will play seven games and clean up just as he did at UEFA EURO 2016.
England will… play better football, look relatively organised, narrowly win the first two games, lose to Belgium and then come close to beating Colombia in the ROUND OF 16. They will come home feeling that the future’s brighter than the present.
Random predictions: Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo’s mission to complete their trophy collection will be the journalistic narrative but team ethos, top goalkeeping, multiple goal threats, sound defending and ball-keeping midfielders will triumph over what they can offer. England fans will be looking through the silverware-winning U17 and U20 squads and drawing up their 2026 FIFA World Cup teamsheets come early July.
Ben Soley, Sales and Marketing Manager
Winners: You don’t necessarily need the depth GERMANY have to win seven FIFA World Cup matches but the quality they possess is just insane. The fact that Leroy Sane will be watching from home (or more likely from a private island resort) speaks volumes.
Runner-up: FRANCE have the joint second youngest squad at the tournament. They beat Germany at UEFA EURO 2016 but that was on home soil. A second straight loss in a major final will be hard to take but we will be approaching a period of French dominance if they can eventually get it right.
Shock exit: Expectations will be higher for COLOMBIA after a stunning FIFA World Cup campaign four years ago and their group is one of the more competitive. PORTUGAL’s time in Russia will end as soon as they reach the knockouts. Both will be seen as underachievements.
Golden Boot: So many options! Having said that, I fancy someone from Group A with those kind fixtures against Russia and Saudi Arabia providing a good chance for the hat-trick that would take you halfway to the crown. I’ll be brave and go with Uruguay to be the nation with the most goals while MOHAMED SALAH takes the individual prize.
England will… lose in the QUARTER-FINALS. It’s hard not to put on the rose-tinted glasses. We have some outstanding wing-backs, one of the best strikers in the world and some great and in-form attacking support. Tight wins against Panama and Tunisia, coupled with a draw against Belgium, followed by a gritty win against one of Colombia or Poland in the round of 16 takes us to the quarters and Germany. That’s when I throw my glasses away.
Random predictions: Iran will only concede two goals but still go out at the group stages. Harry Kane will score a hat-trick while Harry Maguire will be an unlikely goalscorer. Lionel Messi will speak out against the AFA when Argentina are knocked out.
Alistair Hunter, Senior Editor
Winners: BRAZIL are the perfect combination of gritty between the lines and irresistible going forward.
Runner-up: SPAIN are back to their best but come up just shy of a fourth title in ten years.
Shock exit: It pains me to say it as a massive fan of Lionel Messi but I see ARGENTINA going out at the group stages. Group D is deceptively tricky and there is a clear imbalance to Jorge Sampaoli’s squad. A fast start is needed to keep the immense pressure of their supporters’ expectations from getting to them.
Golden Boot: A relatively straightforward group and a deep run to the latter stages gives NEYMAR JR the best chance.
England will… reach the QUARTER-FINALS. Victory over Tunisia will lift their spirits enough to also cruise past Panama but defeat to Belgium leaves them second in Group G. They scrape by Colombia in the round of 16 causing a surge of excitement back home before Southgate’s men are outclassed (but hardly embarrassed) by the almighty Germans.
Random predictions: Lacking experience, training and guidance, FIFA World Cup officials struggle to properly implement VAR, which leads to several high-profile mistakes and widespread protestations over the use of the technology at future tournaments. Meanwhile Group C tops the goalscoring charts.
James Tildesley, Head of New Business
Winners: GERMANY, as I really don’t see a weak area of their game and they have such depth to their squad. Couple that with a manager who knows how to win and I can’t see past them.
Runner-up: I like the look of Spain and Brazil but I think FRANCE will be the ones who eventually lose out to the Germans. Again, this is a team with a phenomenally good squad which appears to have less of the types of personalities that derailed them so spectacularly in 2010.
Shock exit: PORTUGAL have a difficult group and I felt they really flattered to deceive at UEFA EURO 2016. There will be plenty who say they won it on merit and I would tend to agree but I also feel there was an absence of any real opposition.
Golden Boot: I have money on TIMO WERNER so failure is not an option.
England will… get done 2-0 in the ROUND OF 16. I don’t see us doing much better than scraping out of our group but it’s also difficult for me to picture anything other than a spectacular disappointment in which we lose to Tunisia and Belgium and draw with Panama.
Random predictions: Mohamed Salah will overcome his shoulder injury to score six in Group A as he pulls himself into contention for the Golden Boot (I have money on him as well!).
Brett Sinclair, Warehouse Manager
Winners: BELGIUM have an all-round top quality squad with plenty of experience. They just need to work well together in a way that they have not before. Let’s see what Roberto Martinez can do.
Runner-up: ENGLAND. I must say that I think we are going in to the FIFA World Cup with a young squad that will have a lot to prove. Let’s wait and see what they can do.
Shock exit: There seems to be a lot of hype surrounding SPAIN this year but I think they get frustrated too easily. They may be on the end of a few red cards which could spell trouble in the group stages.
Golden Boot: As long as ANTOINE GRIEZMANN is on the pitch, I would always expect to see big things coming from him. The French squad has tons of talent and they should be able to make it easy for him.
England will… make it to the FINAL, as I stated earlier.
Random predictions: My very random prediction is that we will see a very high number of cards. I also think that VAR will not be used nearly as much as it should.