|Host nation: Qatar Dates: 20 November-18 December Coverage: Live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, BBC Sounds and the BBC Sport website and app. Day-by-day TV listings – Full coverage details|
The World Cup starts in Al Khor’s Al-Bayt Stadium on Sunday and finishes at Lusail Iconic Stadium in Doha on 18 December.
Thirty-two teams will contest the tournament, which will be played out in 64 matches over 28 days, including hosts Qatar, holders France and five-time winners Brazil.
Who will get their hands on the famous gold trophy this time? Who are the other main contenders? And how will England and Wales do?
BBC Sport’s TV and radio football presenters and pundits predict what will happen over the next four weeks…
Who will win the World Cup?
Alan Shearer: Argentina. It will be a great way for Lionel Messi, the best player in the world, to go out. It could be a defining moment for him – he has probably been the greatest player we have ever seen, but the thing that is always chucked at him when comparisons are made between him and Diego Maradona is that he has never won the World Cup. If he was to win this one, that would pretty much be the end of that debate – and what a story it would be.
Micah Richards: It’s Brazil for me. I understand why there is a buzz about Argentina, but this is Neymar’s time to shine. He scored eight goals in qualifying and has taken his game to the next level this season. There is the weight of the nation on his shoulders and he has to deal with what Brazil expect from him, but he will be the star of the show.
Chris Sutton: France are the holders and have arguably got the best forward line with Karim Benzema and his Ballon d’Or, Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele, even Antoine Griezmann too. Yes, they have got some injuries in midfield, but they have got two young stars in Aurelien Tchouameni and Eduardo Camavinga of Real Madrid who are already absolutely top class. It’s not an exact science but when you think of France at World Cups, they are either all in or all out. This time? I’m saying they will be all in. If they click like they did in Russia, why not?
Alex Scott: I am going with Brazil. Their squad has a great blend of experience with exciting and in-form young players who could have great tournaments, like Vinicius Jr. Neymar is in great form too and, with every team having so little preparation time before the tournament to get key organisation right, it could come down to individual brilliance to settle some games.
Ashley Williams: Your team is always a little reliant on how much firepower you’ve got and Brazil have got a wealth of attacking options. It will be great for football if they win too. We are all fans of Brazil, aren’t we?
Fara Williams: My head is telling me that with the squad Brazil have, they will win it – the depth of their attackers is the best out of all the squads. But my heart is telling me differently. I’m going to predict an England v Brazil final… and we are bringing it home.
Jermaine Jenas: Everyone is always obsessed with the attacking side of things, but defensively Argentina look really solid and, off the back of winning a Copa America in 2021, they will have found a rhythm of what works for them. In the final they beat Brazil, who will be their biggest competitor in Qatar too, but I have a feeling Messi is going to get it done.
Karen Bardsley: Historically, it looks as though clean sheets and conceding the fewest goals is the key to winning World Cups. So which team has the most solid defensive unit, with a good goalkeeper? Then also their ability to manage moments in the tournament and how they will gather momentum in the group stages. My top two are Brazil and Argentina – and I would say Brazil will win because they are fully loaded in every position and defensively they are the strongest I have seen them in many, many years.
Rio Ferdinand: Brazil have got depth in their squad and experience too – as in, all the way through the spine of their team is experience of winning things.
Rob Green: They have some young exciting talents to go with that experience of winning. It’s Brazil for me.
Gabby Logan: I’m not going to be sentimental and say Messi will triumph but a South American team will win. Vinicius Jr will be a really important player and the World Cup winners will wear yellow shirts.
Danny Murphy: I can’t see past Brazil or Argentina. Both are full of quality and experience and will take some stopping. Maybe Argentina will do it this time, as it seems written in the stars that the greatest ever player will win the World Cup.
Danny Gabbidon: I fancy France. Overall they are a really well-balanced side with so much quality up front, and the biggest problem for manager Didier Deschamps is to find the best system and decide on his starting XI.
Jurgen Klinsmann: With Argentina, the big driving force is Messi. All football fans know his situation and how this has to be his moment if he wants to win his first World Cup at the age of 35. He knows that too, and so do his team – so they will do everything possible to get that World Cup win. Brazil, though, have got so much quality in every position. They are a team I have watched a lot over the past couple of years and I have been very impressed – they are coming to Qatar to win the World Cup and I believe they will.
|Brazil (7):||Micah Richards, Alex Scott, Ashley Williams, Gabby Logan, Jurgen Klinsmann, Rio Ferdinand, Karen Bardsley, Matthew Upson, Rob Green|
|Argentina (3):||Alan Shearer, Jermaine Jenas, Danny Murphy|
|France (2):||Chris Sutton, Danny Gabbidon|
|England (1):||Fara Williams|
What about England’s chances?
Alan Shearer: I don’t see us doing what we have done in the previous two tournaments. Defensively we could struggle in the latter stages, against the big hitters.
Harry Kane is the key, as he has been at all the tournaments we have done well at. If England are going to go deep in the tournament, he is going to have to score five or six goals again, and he will be looking to go back to back with World Cup Golden Boots.
One word to sum up England’s prospects in Qatar?Intriguing – because I am am intrigued whether Gareth Southgate is going to play four or three at the back, and I am intrigued who he is going to play with Kane up top.
Alex Scott: We can be like Brazil in 2002, who went into that World Cup in terrible form and with everyone writing them off but managed something special. Well, that’s the hope with England this time – it seems no-one has real expectations from this team despite being the only European team to reach the semi-finals in each of the past two major tournaments. Another semi-final, at least, is what I’m hoping for.
Rob Green: England will match 2018, and reach the last four.
Micah Richards: We might get to the quarter-finals or semi-finals but I don’t think we’ll win it. If you are going into a tournament with so many injuries and a lot of players out of form, plus some uncertainty over which system will work best, there are a lot of questions about the team. I am sure Southgate will sort a lot of it out, but there are better nations than us.
One word to sum up England’s prospects in Qatar? Cautious. That’s definitely the way I am feeling and that is probably going to be the way Southgate is going to play too.
Jermaine Jenas: We have the quality to get to the semi-finals – it is just whether we can gain that confidence in the group stages. If we scrape through the group, I don’t see us getting past the quarter-finals.
|21 November||Iran||Khalifa International Stadium, Doha|
|25 November||United States||Al-Bayt Stadium, Al Khor|
|29 November||Wales||Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan|
Rio Ferdinand: England will get to the quarter finals and then anything can happen. It’s going to be hard, though.
One word to sum up England’s prospects in Qatar? Excited. I am excited for England because I want them to do well. We’ve been to a semi-final and a final under Southgate, so are we going to be able to go one step further now?
And how will Wales do?
Ashley Williams: We are humble enough to say we are happy to be here after going 64 years since we were last at a World Cup, but getting out of the group stage is definitely doable.
The whole squad is going to have to play its part, with players coming off the bench and having an impact in games. I’m looking at Brennan Johnson to do that. He might not be in the starting line-up but he could play a massive role if we need to change the momentum of a game.
One word to sum up Wales’ prospects in Qatar?Optimistic – based on what we’ve done at the past two European Championships, where we started each tournament well and got out of our group.
Chris Sutton: England should beat every team in Group B but, if Wales win their first game against the United States, they will get through too. I just don’t see it happening, though. They haven’t got the depth of quality in their squad you need at a World Cup, and I have got them down as finishing fourth, behind Iran.
|21 November||United States||Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan|
|25 November||Iran||Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan|
|29 November||England||Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan|
Danny Gabbidon: There are fitness doubts over some of our key players, with Joe Allen a particular concern because he plays such a key role in midfield, defensively and starting moves when we go forward. We haven’t got another player who does what he does, so he is the key to everything.
We are in the most difficult group based on the Fifa rankings – the only one with all four teams in the top 20 – so getting to the last 16 would be a great achievement and our first game against the US is hugely important. If we can get something from that, it really sets us up.
One word to sum up Wales’ prospects in Qatar? Optimistic – based on what we’ve done at the past two European Championships, where we started each tournament well and got out of our group.
Matthew Upson: Wales are definitely capable of getting out of their group, but it does depend a lot on their first game. The US are physically very strong and have one of the youngest squads at the tournament. They will have a lot of energy so they will be tricky opponents to start off with.
Gabby Logan: Wales are my surprise package. They will get out of the group, and then anything could happen.
Who else might spring a surprise?
Jermaine Jenas: Brazil and Argentina are not the only South American teams who are dangerous – Uruguay are very much dark horses in this tournament. From Europe, I am looking at Denmark, and I would never discount Germany, who consistently know what they are doing at these tournaments.
Rio Ferdinand: Portugal will do bits; everyone has overlooked them a bit. From Africa, Senegal will pose teams a few problems and will Alphonso Davies make a few waves with Canada? We will see.
Jurgen Klinsmann: The big European teams have to live with the fact that Brazil and Argentina will both be highly motivated, but they will arrive with the same mission. I am looking forward to watching a courageous Germany side that can help us forget the disaster that happened in Russia, when we were defending champions but went out in the group stage. There is still some repair work to be done for Hansi Flick’s side after what happened four years ago, but they are a young team and I want them to be full of energy and courageous with their play. Anything but the last-four for us is disappointing, based on our history at World Cups.
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