Of course you want us to all look stupid, but we do make it easy for you. Results will follow at the end of the tournament. Daniel Storey asked the questions…
– Right, who is going to win this thing?
Sarah Winterburn: Brazil. I bloody love France’s squad but cannot love Didier Deschamps’ decision-making, while Brazil seem to have stumbled upon the elixir of football – a free-scoring attack and a miserly defence.
Daniel Storey: Change my mind on a daily basis, but I like Brazil. Not being in South America worries me slightly, but they have a rollicking attack and an actual defensive midfield this time.
Matthew Stead: Brazil (Ed. – Someone’s chatty)
Ian Watson: Whoever wins the Spain v Germany semi-final will beat Brazil in the final. Okay, Germany. No, Spain. Definitely Germany.
John Nicholson: I know I’m supposed to say Brazil, France, Germany or Spain. But my belief that football is chaos and that nobody knows anything, is forever my guiding philosophy. And that’s why I’m going to say Uruguay. Yes I am. In Cristhian Stuani they have an ex-Boro, 1-in-5 striker. What could go wrong?
Steven Chicken: Germany to retain it with slightly more difficulty than last time out. No 7-1s here.
– Name me the four semi-finalists too. Because I said so.
SW: You have made me actually work this out – which I resent. Germany, Portugal and Spain will make up the quartet.
DS: Spain, France, Brazil, Germany.
MS: France, Brazil, Germany, Argentina.
IW: Spain, Germany, France, Brazil.
JN: Uruguay, England, France, Spain. I’m hoping the structure of the tournament makes this actually possible. I feel each round should be drawn out randomly, so there is no possibility of tracking in advance who you might play at any one stage. I can’t honestly see what is to be gained by not doing that.
There’s no way Germany are going to make yet another semi-final. There just has to be an interruption to that sequence. Brazil will fall apart due to some internal Neymar-based disharmony.
SC: Spain, France, Brazil and Germany.
– Who will be the biggest team to flunk it at the group stage?
SW: No massive flunkers but I think Croatia could miss out in Group D.
DS: I’m not sure many big teams will go out, but hosts Russia might, and so too will Switzerland, ranked six in the world after some friendly-arranging shenanigans.
MS: Croatia. Tunisia will give Belgium or England a mighty old fright, mind.
IW: The big hitters all look quite secure, but Group D featuring Argentina and Croatia might lead to some good old national shame.
JN: Tim Vickery says Argentina have a propensity to stink and stink bad and I trust Tim. Good up top, bad at defending sounds like a recipe for disaster because they’ll have enough confidence going forward to leave their defence exposed and that’s their weakest area.
SC: I’m not expecting too many group-stage shocks, but then that’s the point isn’t it? I suspect this will be a popular answer but let’s go Argentina, who struggled through qualification and are in the most unpredictable group.
– Which player will win the Golden Boot?
SW: Neymar. I think this actually will be the tournament that elevates him into Messi/Ronaldo status.
DS: I’ve picked Romelu Lukaku at 18/1, but it’s hard to avoid Neymar. He’s fit, and he’s scoring goals again. Lukaku could feasibly score four times in the group stages, but Neymar will probably play 90 minutes in seven matches. I’m going him.
MS: Look, it’s probably just going to be Thomas Muller. Robert Lewandowski comes second for a Bayern Munich one-two.
IW: Cristiano Ronaldo might have it wrapped up by the time Portugal get knocked out in the quarter-finals.
JN: As this is usually just 5 or 6 goals, you need to get at least 2 or 3 against a rubbish team in the group stage. Uruguay have got two very weak sides to play which should give Edinson Cavani a chance to rack up a few. I’ve also got a feeling Marcus Rashford will get three in the group stages, two in the last 16 and one in the losing semi-final. So it’s a joint Boot on six for Cavani and Rashford.
SC: Neymar. This does sort of require him to be fit of course, but out of all the main strikers for the semi-finalists I’ve picked, he seems most likely to bag a load.
– Lionel Messi won the Golden Ball for the best player in 2014. Who wins it this time?
SW: See above. I genuinely think he will be the bloody don. He has basically had a season off to prepare.
DS: Neymar again? He fits the big-name player criteria and I think Brazil will at least reach the final. Antoine Griezmann is my alternative, to avoid picking the same player again.
MS: Neymar, providing no-one breaks his back.
IW: Neymar will be the biggest name to go furthest so there’s your Golden Ball winner.
JN: As I see France reaching the final, if that’s the case Paul Pogba will have to play brilliantly, so I’m going for him to pick up the Golden Ball.
SC: David De Gea will continue to build his already monumental reputation with a Kahn-esque World Cup.
– Which young player will become a bloody star in Russia?
SW: Portugal’s Goncalo Guedes. He will overshadow Ronaldo, which will leave him bloody fuming.
DS: Gonçalo Guedes of Portugal has spent the season on loan at Valencia from Paris Saint-Germain, but he now commands an international starting place and can thrive while defenders double-mark Cristiano Ronaldo.
MS: Rodrigo Bentancur is going to tear up at least five trees. Seen loads of him, me.
IW: Marcus Rashford could do beautiful things this summer.
JN: That’s your man, Rashford again. Though I’d also back Paulo Dybala and his lovely, smooth, almost rubber-like skin to be the only star of a dysfunctional Argentina.
SC: Senegal’s Ismaila Sarr is young enough, obscure enough, and plays for an underrated-enough side for him to take a lot of people by surprise.
– And yes, I do have to ask: How will England do?
SW: Quarter-finals. And we should all be happy with that. We will be better than anybody expected two years ago but not nearly as good as we are all secretly hoping.
DS: I have a nagging feeling it might be a last-16 exit again, probably at the hands of a team we *should* beat. Quarter-finals would be an excellent effort and show things are moving in the right direction.
MS: They’ll scrape into the last 16, then I can’t decide whether Poland do them or not. I’ll be generous and say they win 2-1 with a last-minute Danny Welbeck goal. Germany obviously put them out in the quarters.
IW: Qualify second from the group, maybe on goal difference, ease past Poland in the last 16 before Germany put on a clinic in the quarter-finals.
JN: This will be the tournament that England play well, win all their games and then get heavily beaten by Uruguay in the semi-final after a significant defensive injury. Their 5-1 destruction of Belgium will live long in the memory.
SC: Three nervy opening wins out of four will see them through the group and round of 16 before a fairly low-key quarter-final defeat to either Brazil or Germany. As long as they win the group I’m happy, because should they come second they would likely meet Germany in the quarters on the day I’m at a stupid wedding in the middle of nowhere with no internet.
– Finally, because it is my mission to get everyone excited, in one sentence tell me why the World Cup is brilliant.
SW: Because it makes you happy and I love you.
DS: Its the only football occasion that truly unites football lovers and football non-lovers, which shows the sport’s continuing power to bring people together, despite the best efforts of those in charge.
MS: Anything that brings Stan Collymore closer to Vladimir Putin is brilliant in my book.
IW: Because it legitimises watching Australia v Peru on a Tuesday afternoon and Panama v Tunisia on a Thursday evening as a perfectly acceptable pattern of behaviour. And what Storey said.
JN: Because it is the only elite football played where you can’t use money to bring success. Nationality not cash matters.
SC: Because I really really like football and at the World Cup they play bloody loads of it.