The greatest show on earth is finally upon us. As ever at the World Cup there will be plots, subplots, scandal and intrigue. And we've got all the best betting angles covered.
World Cup winner
Brazil look a solid option however they've not done the business on European soil since 1962 and their most important player (Neymar) is not fully fit. Germany have a strong squad and have previous when it comes to winning big tournaments as defending champions. However they've looked poor in their last two friendly matches and the decision to omit the brilliant Leroy Sane raised more questions than it answered.
Argentina? Scraped through qualifying and are laughably over reliant on Lionel Messi. France? Have the squad depth and a comfortable group but a manager who is over conservative and there are question marks surrounding their defence. All things considered, Spain look the most complete team right now and are playing some sublime football under Julen Lopetegui. They are unbeaten in 20 matches since Euro 2016 and it doesn't harm their chances to have the best goalkeeper in the world, David De Gea, between the sticks.
Golden boot winner
Lionel Messi won't be short of backers but one wonders whether Argentina, with their defensive frailties, will go deep enough for Messi to be involved in the final reckoning. Expect Neymar to be on everything barring goal-kicks for Brazil but doubts persist about his fitness -- and England fans know from bitter experience that taking a half-fit superstar to a major tournament is a gamble. If you are after something a bit more left field it could pay to take a punt on Edison Cavani. Uruguay are in a group that looks pretty weak defensively and the marksman could easily have notched three or four times before we reach the last 16. Cavani has scored 42 goals in 101 appearances for La Celeste and looks a tasty price at 25/1.
When will England go out?
You have to tip your hat to the way Gareth Southgate has managed this campaign. But will he emerge from Russia with love? The most likely scenario for England is to finish second in Group G. And if the seeds hold that would mean a last 16 clash with Colombia. That's a winnable match even if you factor in England's shambolic displays at the last two major tournaments. This is a young England side (nobody in the squad has ever played a World Cup match) but they have a chance against anyone if their biggest players turn up on the day. However let's not book July 16 off work just yet to nurse the inevitable World Cup victory hangover as the most likely scenario for the Three Lions is a creditable quarterfinal exit (most probably at the hands of the Germans).
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There has been money for Uruguay (8/11) to win Group A and it's easy to see why. There's a chance that Egypt's Mohamed Salah won't feature in their opening game and Russia have been abysmal in the lead up to this tournament (and have not won a match since October). The South Americans have a fabulous forward line and look strong defensively. Elsewhere Belgium were outstanding in qualifying (scoring 45 goals and conceding only six). They have a stronger squad than England and look rock solid at 5/6 to win Group G. Throw in Columbia to win Group H at 11/8 for a treble paying better than 13/2.
Selection: £2 on the treble at 6.52/1 with bet365.
Name the finalists
Spain do not have the easiest group but if they can top it at the expense of Portugal their draw opens right up. It would also mean they then could not face either Brazil or France until the final. And if it happens a Spain vs. Brazil final really would be one for the football purists.
Selection: £2 on Brazil and Spain final at 18/1 with bet365.