Here, theScore plays down the chances of World Cup glory for each of the tournament’s 32 teams.
Russia: This could be the worst Russian ensemble ever, with just one player – Villarreal’s Denis Cheryshev – plying his trade in one of Europe’s top five leagues.
Saudi Arabia: A sluggish defence should prove susceptible to pacey players like Russia’s Fedor Smolov and Egypt’s Mohamed Salah.
Egypt: Judging from recent video footage, Salah’s shoulder is still tender. He would be a huge miss if he wasn’t available for Friday’s showdown with Uruguay.
Uruguay: Martin Caceres, 31, has been plagued by injuries in recent years. He could be tied in knots by Salah in Uruguay’s opener against Egypt, and if his country survives Group A he will be targeted by Spain or Portugal in the round of 16.
Portugal: That defence is looking rather creaky with Pepe, Jose Fonte, and Bruno Alves (complete with his cartoon-bad-guy streak of grey hair) vying for minutes.
Spain: Much of the goalscoring burden is on Diego Costa, and the likes of Andres Iniesta and David Silva may not chip in enough elsewhere.
Morocco: Goalkeeper Munir Mohand Mohamedi has never played a minute of top-flight football, and is currently deepening a groove on the bench for Numancia, which plays in Spain’s second tier.
Iran: Carlos Queiroz’s attack-minded system can be exposed in a strong group.
France: Didier Deschamps still appears at a loss over how to get the best out of arguably the best squad at the tournament, and the final dress rehearsal against the United States exacerbated those nagging doubts.
Australia: Whether Tim Cahill’s selection was sentimental or not, it doesn’t say much about the quality of this Australia squad when a Millwall reserve is called up.
Peru: There was great relief when Paolo Guerrero’s ban was lifted, but his lacking match fitness could be exposed by the defences of France and Denmark.
Denmark: There are plenty of attacking options in Age Hareide’s squad; so many options that the lack of midfield solidity could leave the defence exposed.
Argentina: Lionel Messi single-handedly dragged Argentina over the line to qualify for the World Cup, but he won’t be able to do it alone in Russia. Without sufficient assistance for Messi, Argentina will flop.
Iceland: Gylfi Sigurdsson can’t be fully fit following a long layoff.
Croatia: The corruption scandal surrounding former Dinamo Zagreb executive Zdravko Mamic wrapped up Luka Modric and Dejan Lovren, and left many Croatian fans exhausted and lacking enthusiasm for the national team. This wanting support won’t go unnoticed by Zlatko Dalic and his players.
Nigeria: Inexperience. Nigeria is the youngest team at the World Cup, and Mikel John Obi’s know-how won’t be enough on its own.
Brazil: Dani Alves’ injury means either Fagner or Danilo will deputise. Both represent a huge drop in quality at right-back.
Switzerland: It’s difficult to see where the goals will come from. Breel Embolo somehow has a second chance as a breakout star after failing to announce himself at Euro 2016, and Haris Seferovic only scored four league goals for Benfica last season.
Costa Rica: Built to defend but not necessarily to attack. That could result in a bore fest against Switzerland, but humiliating defeats to Brazil and Serbia.
Serbia: The midfield and attack is supremely gifted, but in defence are some veterans that could be run ragged in Russia.
Germany: It’s difficult to look beyond the surprise snub of Leroy Sane. It reduces an element of surprise for Germany, and will be felt hardest if Joachim Low is chasing a result and looks for energy and inspiration off the bench.
Mexico: There isn’t a great anchor in the midfield after Jonathan Gonzalez didn’t make the cut. Hector Herrera hasn’t done a great job in that slot.
Sweden: Without Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sweden’s forwards look a rather predictable bunch.
South Korea: Heung-Min Son is an incredibly gifted and hard-working player but, like Messi’s situation with Argentina, South Korea is over-reliant on him.
Belgium: “As long as there is no good tactical system for the team, we are going to face difficulties against countries like Mexico. It’s a pity that we have not yet found a solution,” Kevin De Bruyne said of Roberto Martinez’s worrisome tactics in November. Little has changed.
Panama: This is an old and slow team. Even if Panama miraculously vaults out of the group, it won’t have the legs for the knockout rounds.
Tunisia: The team’s creativity was slashed when Youssef Msakni suffered a knee ligament injury while playing for his Qatari club, Al-Duhail, in April.
England: The inexperience of both manager Gareth Southgate and a lot of his squad isn’t conducive to a deep run. England’s national team programme is still in transition.
Poland: It is still unclear whether Poland will opt for a back-four or back-three in what has been a vulnerable part of the lineup.
Senegal: The friendlies leading up to the tournament have been discouraging, and provided little to suggest a team blessed with Sadio Mane and other considerable weaponry won’t be fairly flaccid at the World Cup.
Colombia: David Ospina is an error-prone goalkeeper with few senior minutes under his belt due to being Petr Cech’s understudy at Arsenal. His gaffe against Peru in October – attempting to save Guerrero’s indirect free-kick but contriving to let it in – lives long in the memory.
Japan: Ahead of Tuesday’s final friendly against Paraguay, the preparations have been atrocious. Japan hasn’t won since December.
(Photos courtesy: Getty Images)