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28/03/2018 16:27 SAST | Updated 28/03/2018 16:27 SAST

Favourites And Dark Horses For The 2018 Fifa World Cup 🏆

64 games, 32 teams, 12 stadiums -- but there can only be one winner.

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With the recent international fixtures done and dusted, the countdown to the 2018 Fifa World Cup is now at 78 days. Football teams have been playing international friendlies as a way of preparing for the tournament in June.

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64 games, 32 teams, 12 stadiums, but there can only be one winner - who will prevail and come out on top?

Here is a look at top teams who will go into the tournament as favourites, and sides who are under the radar but will ultimately prove to be the tournament's dark horses.

Favourites

1. Germany

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The current world champions, Germany, won the 2014 Fifa World Cup and will be chasing history as they look to be the first team in 56 years to win back-to-back World Cup tournaments.

X-Factor: The ability to win games and play as a team. The German national team has the nickname Die National Mannschaft, which refers to working together to achieve a common aim and thus being responsible for each other.

World Cups: 4 titles 🏆 - 2014, 1990, 1974, 1954

Best Player: Mesut Ozil

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2. Brazil

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The Seleção (squad) of Brazil is undisputedly the best team in the history of the World Cup. They are the only nation with five titles and will be looking to add a sixth as they try to avenge their 2014 humiliation at the hands of Germany in their own backyard.

X-Factor: Brazil have talented players in abundance, known for their flair. The Brazilians can call on a list of players to produce moments of magic to win a game. From Neymar to Coutinho, Willian, Firmino, Marcelo and Gabriel Jesus, the team will be banking on the talented roster to bring home the trophy.

World Cups: 5 titles 🏆- 2002, 1994, 1970, 1962, 1958

Best Player: Neymar

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3. Argentina

Phil Noble / Reuters

The 2014 Fifa World Cup finalists will be looking for redemption in Russia as they aim to go one better and win the cup that has eluded the country and one particular player, Lionel Messi.

To be considered the best, you must have won a World Cup. Argentina will want to write their names in the history books and win their first World Cup since 1986.

X-Factor: They have Lionel Messi, full stop.

World Cups: 2 titles 🏆 - 1986, 1978

Best Player: Lionel Messi, no brainer.

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4. Spain

Juan Medina / Reuters

Spain, the 2010 World Cup champions who made history in South Africa, are going through something of a renaissance as they usher in a new generation of Spanish technical maestros. They will be hoping their expansive brand of football can land them a second World Cup title.

X-Factor: Tiki-taka football is a style of play that involves short passes and starving the opposition of possession, meaning they can dictate the game.

World Cups: 1 title 🏆 - 2010

Best Player: Thiago Alcantara

Juan Medina / Reuters

Dark Horses

Belgium

Francois Lenoir / Reuters

The "other" Red Devils have been dark horses since the 2014 World Cup, but disappointing results in that tournament and the 2016 Euros, as well as the lack of a top-quality manager, have cost the side dearly.

Belgium may have failed to live up to their potential in those competition, but perhaps they can turn things around at the 2018 World Cup.

X-Factor: A stupendously talented starting 11 and top-quality bench

Best finish: 4th place - 1986

Best Player: Kevin de Bruyne

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France

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Le Bleu (the blues) will be coming to this tournament off the back of a successful 2016 Euro campaign, even though they lost in the final against Portugal. The team's depth is unreal, with at least three top quality players in each position. Can Le Bleu win the World Cup exactly 20 years after France last won it? Only time will tell.

X-Factor: Depth in the squad

World Cup: 1 title 🏆 - 1998

Best Player: Samuel Umtiti

Charles Platiau / Reuters