World Cup 2018: Soccer Saturday pundits predict group winners

Who will come out on top at the World Cup group stage? We challenged the Soccer Saturday pundits to predict the eight winners…

The pundits might be in agreement that some of the favourites at Russia 2018 will breeze through their opening fixtures but they’re divided when it comes to some groups – including England’s.

Read on to find out who Paul Merson, Charlie Nicholas, Matt Le Tissier and Phil Thompson are tipping to prevail. You can also plot your predictions with our Road to Moscow virtual wallchart, with £5,000 up for grabs for the leader come July 15.

Group A: Egypt, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Uruguay

Merse predicts: Uruguay

Charlie predicts: Uruguay

Le Tiss predicts: Uruguay

Thommo predicts: Uruguay

Le Tiss says: “I don’t think this one is a particularly strong group but Uruguay were second only to Brazil in South American qualifying so, with Mohamed Salah a doubt, I’m backing them to secure top spot.”

Group B: Iran, Morocco, Portugal, Spain

Merse predicts: Spain

Charlie predicts: Spain

Le Tiss predicts: Spain

Thommo predicts: Spain

Merse says: “I think that even if Portugal can get a draw in the opening game against Spain then they might still struggle as they’ll be too negative and Spain will score more goals in the remaining games.”

Group C: Australia, Denmark, France, Peru

Merse predicts: France

Charlie predicts: France

Le Tiss predicts: France

Thommo predicts: France

Charlie says: “I can see France winning this group by a distance. It should be nice and easy for them, wrapping it up in their first two games and being able to rest and rotate in their final game, which is a big advantage.”

Group D: Argentina, Croatia, Iceland, Nigeria

Merse predicts: Argentina

Charlie predicts: Argentina

Le Tiss predicts: Croatia

Thommo predicts: Argentina

Le Tiss says: “This is an interesting one and I’m torn between Croatia and Argentina. Lionel Messi is obviously a big factor, but I’m not sure the Argentines are strong enough beyond their forwards.”

Group E: Brazil, Costa Rica, Serbia, Switzerland

Merse predicts: Brazil

Charlie predicts: Brazil

Le Tiss predicts: Brazil

Thommo predicts: Brazil

Thommo says: “This might be the most straightforward group to predict, especially if Neymar is fully fit. Brazil look to have a nice balance to their side along with their usual wealth of attacking talent.”

Group F: Germany, Mexico, South Korea, Sweden

Merse predicts: Germany

Charlie predicts: Germany

Le Tiss predicts: Germany

Thommo predicts: Germany

Le Tiss says: “It is very tough to look past Germany here. They have another strong squad and they very rarely fail to turn up in major tournaments.”

Group G: Belgium, England, Panama, Tunisia

Merse predicts: Belgium

Charlie predicts: Belgium

Le Tiss predicts: Belgium

Thommo predicts: England

Merse says: “I just think that Belgium are a better team individually. It’s a hard one to call and it may well depend on how many goals they beat the other two teams by. With the way they keep the ball, Tunisia isn’t an easy game to start for England, so I’m edging towards Belgium as they should build confidence with their opener against Panama.”

Group H: Colombia, Japan, Poland, Senegal

Merse predicts: Colombia

Charlie predicts: Japan

Le Tiss predicts: Poland

Thommo predicts: Poland

Thommo says: “This has got to be the toughest to call of the all the groups and perhaps the only one where any of the four sides could go on and secure top spot. However, I’m backing Poland based on the firepower of Robert Lewandowski.”