Iceland celebrates

(Photo by PA Images/Sipa USA)

2018 World Cup Preview With Bill 'Mr. Soccer' McDermott

The 2018 World Cup in Russia kicks on Thursday at 11am ET and lasts through July 15.

June 13, 2018 - 12:40 pm
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The 2018 World Cup in Russia kicks on Thursday (11am ET) and although the United States won't be represented, there are plenty of reasons to follow the world's biggest sporting event. 

That's why we are utilizing the expertise of Bill "Mr. Soccer" McDermott (or "Sir Soccer" as KMOX's Mike Claiborne likes to say). The local soccer legend has helped us recognize the tournament's favorites, dark horses and best stories for fans to follow throughout the next month of games. 

Related story: World Cup 2026 Coming To North America

Favorites: 

Germany -

Thomas Muller (Germany)
(Photo by PA Images/Sipa USA)

No country has as talented a starting 11 as do Germany. They were undefeated throughout 10 qualifying games and scored a European record 43 goals along the way. Germany will look to become the first repeat champions since Brazil won consecutive World Cups in 1958 and 1962. 

Brazil

Brazil forward Neymar
(Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)

The host of the previous World Cup in 2014, Brazil is certainly hoping for a chance to avenge its 7-1 humiliation against Germany in the semifinals of that previous meeting. Missing from that game was the squad's star forward, Neymar. The 26-year-old is still recovering from a foot injury in February, but if he's healthy then this team will have as good a chance as anyone to take down the Germans. 

France

France midfielder Paul Pogba
(Photo by PA Images/Sipa USA)

This team could be the best attacking team in the tournament with experience from Antoine Griezmann and Olivier Giroud, plus breakout speed with the 19-year-old Kylian Mbappe. 

Portugal -

Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal
(Photo by Xinhua/Sipa USA)

Although Cristiano Ronaldo is the most notable name on Portugal's squad, he's not alone anymore. This team was the champion of Europe in 2016 and a majority of that squad is coming into this tournament healthy. The five-time world player of year has also been sitting out some of Portugal's meaningless matches, which will hopefully help him keep his legs under him in Russia.

Spain -

Spain's Isco Alarcon celebrates
(Photo by Xinhua/Sipa USA)

Spain comes into this tournament with some last-minute controversy, after firing head coach Julen Lopetegui just two days before the start of the tournament. Coaching aside, this team will still be among the most talented in the field, led by its midfield play maker Isco. 

Dark horse: 

Belgium -

 Eden Hazard of Belgium
(Photo by Xinhua/Sipa USA)

Belgium has become to be known as possibly Europe's biggest underachievers, but with stars at every position this team can't be taken lightly. 

Uruguay

Uruguay's Luis Suarez
(Photo by Xinhua/Sipa USA)

Just like Germany and Belgium are in a "golden generation" of players, Uruguay is a little closer to the ends of theirs, but still very talented. Mainly because of the partnership of forwards Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, who will each be playing in their third World Cup. A championship would be a worthy closure to their of players.

Best story: 

Iceland -

Iceland celebrates
(Photo by PA Images/Sipa USA)

This is the feel-good story of international soccer that refuses to say die. Iceland is the smallest country (with a population of 330,000) to ever make a World Cup. Just imagine seeing the "Viking Clap" after the Nordic country pulls out a couple group-stage victories (maybe).