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World Cup 2018

Big guns set to crank up their preparations for the 2018 World Cup

Preparations for the 2018 World Cup in Russia ramp up in earnest at the end of March, with all of the top nations facing international warm-up games.

England are one of the more fancied teams in the betting for the tournament, and they are set to face two major nations who failed to qualify for Russia.

The Three Lions travel to face the Netherlands on March 23, before returning to Wembley Stadium to play Italy four days later.

Gareth Southgate’s side can be backed at 9/5 to beat the Dutch and 6/5 to defeat Italy, and fans can watch World Cup games live online if they’re not able to travel to Russia.

Two strong performances by England could see their odds of 16/1 to win the World Cup slashed, but it remains to be seen whether they can cope without injured Tottenham Hotspur star Harry Kane.

Tournament favourites Germany face two massive friendlies as they get ready to defend the World Cup in Russia.

Home games against Spain and Brazil will be big tests for Joachim Low’s side, but they will head into the matches full of confidence after an impressive qualifying campaign.

The Germans won all ten games in Group C, scoring 43 goals and conceding just four. They are currently priced at 9/2 to win the World Cup for a fifth time.

Brazil are 5/1 second favourites behind Germany and they also comfortably progressed through their qualifying campaign.

The Samba Kings won 12 and drew five out of 18 matches and they are strongly fancied to make their mark when the tournament begins in June.

Brazil are in action before the Germany game as they face Russia in Moscow on March 23. The hosts also face France four days later and they will be eager to build on an impressive performance in their last friendly.

The Russians drew 3-3 with a strong Spain side back in November and their fixtures against Brazil and France will show whether they have the quality to make an impact at the World Cup this summer.

Spain will follow up their game in Germany with a mouth-watering home match against Argentina. The 2010 champions are priced at 7/1 to win their second ever World Cup, while Argentina look an interesting bet at 8/1 to lift the trophy for a third time.

Star man Lionel Messi has been in stunning form for Barcelona this season and he will be eager to carry that forward into Friday’s friendly against Italy and the subsequent game against Spain.

France are also in action before they visit Russia with a home game against Colombia, while Euro 2016 champions Portugal have two home fixtures against Egypt and Netherlands.

The Portuguese pipped Switzerland to top spot in Group B during the qualifiers and they could be overpriced at 25/1 to emerge victorious at the World Cup.

There will be a further round of internationals at the start of June as the teams put the final touches to their preparations for the tournament that gets underway in Moscow on June 14.

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