World Cup: Expert predictions ...

Richard Sutcliffe

What are you expecting from this World Cup?
Concerns over safety and potential racism have dominated the pre-tournament headlines but the usual tribalism of club football in Russia will be absent. For Messi and Ronaldo, this is their last chance so expect fireworks.  
Can England end 52 years of hurt?
No, but a kind draw means a quarter-final place and likely defeat to Brazil or Germany awaits for a group of players that is still evolving and likely to peak in 2022. 
Which team is most likely to be home before the postcards?
Technically already ‘home’ but Russia, the lowest-ranked host team in history, could even rival England’s dismal display in 2014 when they were out after just two games.
Which group game are you most excited about watching?
Portugal tackling Spain on Friday night should be a cracker but, having followed Huddersfield Town up and down the country last season, Aaron Mooy’s Australia meeting a Denmark side that could feature Mathias ‘Zanka’ Jorgensen and Jonas Lossl is one to enjoy.
What will be the dream final? And who will win?
France against Brazil, with the French most likely prevailing come July 15.

Leon Wobschall

What are you expecting from this World Cup?
Controversy surrounding VAR unfortunately as the power of technology again impinges on a sporting tournament. A pleasant surprise from the host nation, whose inhabitants will open their soul to the world and bring colour to the World Cup tapestry.
Can England end 52 years of hurt?
Being knocked out in the last eight has proved a bugbear for England over the years. But a quarter-final finish would constitute progress for an evolving side this time around ... and a disappointment if they did not reach this stage.
Which team is most likely to be home before the postcards?
Portugal. European champions no less, but may fall prey to a dangerous Moroccan side, who conceded no goals in qualifying. Their pre-tournament form has been underwhelming and they are overly reliant on the fading magic of Ronaldo.
Which group game are you most excited about watching?
Argentina v Croatia. The middle game for both sides in their group, so this will have a fair bit riding on it. With a competitive group containing Iceland and Nigeria, a win could prove precious for either side. A fascinating game in prospect.
What will be the dream final? And who will win?
Germany against France, a repeat of Seville 1982, without the Battiston diplomatic incident. The Germans again to prevail – they always find a way.

Richard Hercock

What are you expecting from this World Cup?
A feast of football. No expectations when it comes to England, so there is little chance of encountering more disappointment.
Can England end 52 years of hurt?
Why not?! On their day England have shown over the last decade that they can beat anyone in world football. They need some good fortune, but there is always a surprise package, so why not England?
Which team is most likely to be home before the postcards?
Sweden. Just scraped through in the play-offs against Italy, but I fancy Germany and Mexico to progress from Group F. 
Which group game are you most excited about watching?
England v Belgium on June 28 stands out for me, but as a neutral, I’m really hoping that Liverpool’s Mo Salah is fit for Egypt’s opener against Uruguay next Friday.
What will be the dream final? And who will win?
England v Germany. And if we can avoid the dreaded penalties, then Harry Kane could be lifting that famous trophy on July 15. (Excuse me while I go and lie down in a darkened room!)