Written by • Published 14th June 2018 • 3 minute read

It’s finally here the greatest footballing show has arrived. Hosts Russia have kicked off against Saudi Arabia signalling the start of the 2018 World Cup. As a company we couldn’t be more excited, the sweepstake has taken place, the wall-charts have been blu-tacked, we’re ready for the football feast. Welcome to the PHA Predictions.

This was a collaboration between Will Tait, Tom Clarke, Joe Toal & Peter Jackson Eastwood.

Who will win it?

This could be the toughest World Cup to call for a long time. Neymar has returned from injury and will be looking to fire Brazil to redemption after the previous haunting 7-1 Semi-final loss to eventual winners Germany, who themselves will take some beating. The Germans just know how to win high-stake football games. Spain arguably have the best midfield in the tournament with players like Fabregas deemed surplus to requirements, but it remains to be seen how much the last 24 hours have affected the players with Julen Lopetegui sacked as manager on the eve of the tournament. There is of course the case of Les Bleus, if Didier Deschamps can get France on a roll they will be unstoppable.

How will England fare?

In Gareth Southgate, England have found a tactician who isn’t afraid to rip up the rulebook and try something new. Unfortunately, with the draw and the likely knockout pairings England are probably going to be out to Germany in the Quarters without meeting serious opposition beforehand. Still, a last eight finish would represent a good return for Southgate’s first tournament.

Best England performer

Harry Kane is to England what Neymar is for Brazil, both men are talisman for their respective nations. If Sterling can keep his cool in front of goal, his form from the season just gone suggests he will be in for a good tournament. We’re also tipping Kyle Walker to be a stand out performer for the three Lions, the prospect of Walker bringing the ball out of defence at pace is exciting for all English fans.

Star player prediction

We couldn’t ask this question and not include Leo Messi. Can the GOAT finally deliver his nation a World Cup? At 31 years of age, it could be his last World Cup. In David de Gea, Spain have Europe’s best keeper, he could have three clean sheets by the time the group stages are finished. Otherwise France’s Antoine Griezmann or Germany’s Timo Werner. Whichever one fires could win their nation the World Cup.

Which side is your dark horse?

This is always an interesting question.

Serbia’s defence and midfield are strong, but they’ve recently lacked a striker. Mitrovic has scored 12 goals since Christmas and played a major role in firing Fulham back to the Premier League. Denmark could cause an upset, but Christian Eriksen holds the key. For this ever-improving Danish side to do well the Spurs dynamo needs to be on the ball. There’s also the case of Belgium’s golden generation, amazing depth across every position, but has the coaching double act of Martinez – Henry shot them in the foot? Will Mo Salah be fit for Egypt’s group games? If he is and can re-create his form for Liverpool, Egypt have a shot of qualifying from Group A and then, who knows?

Which of the big nations will underachieve?

France’s individually talented pool of players are the envy of the world – but it remains to be seen if they can gel together as a team in a major tournament. Portugal could also struggle under the strain of expectations as being European Champions. The World Champions, Germany have looked unconvincing in the warm-up games, with a loss to Austria and a scare against Saudi Arabia. The return of Manuel Neuer could be an interesting situation, the German No. 1 has been out for the whole season and lacks match sharpness. Could a slip-up be on the cards? We shall wait to find out…