The biggest tournament in sport is on our doorsteps, and this time it promises to be a different event for several reasons.
Condensed into a shorter timespan than normal, and taking place in November and December in red hot temperatures, the Qatar World Cup promises to be a whole new experience for players, managers, and fans alike.
Starting on the 20th of November and running until the 18th of December, the fixtures come thick and fast, but with only a few weeks to go before it all kicks off, which teams have a realistic chance of lifting the most famous trophy in football?
Interestingly, the World Cup betting odds have not changed much for months, with experts fairly confident the winners will come from a select group of nations.
Whether that will change as squads are picked, injuries are picked up and players and indeed nations come in and out of form is something we will have to wait to find out.
The South American giants are synonymous with the world cup, have won it a record five times, and are the favorites to win in Qatar.
With a team that includes Neymar and Vinicius Junior, they have the quality to threaten anyone, and goals have flowed for Tite’s side, including a run of games earlier this year against Paraguay, Chile, Bolivia, and South Korea that boasted 17 goals scored with only 1 conceded.
There are causes for concern, however. It is 20 years since Brazil last won the World Cup. Since then, they have struggled against top European sides, losing to France, The Netherlands (twice), Germany, and Belgium.
Their opening match against Serbia on Thursday 24th of November is sure to be one of the most eagerly awaited group games.
Winners in Russia last time out, France will be looking to become only the third country in history to win back-to-back World Cups.
On paper, they have probably the strongest squad of anyone in the tournament, with the likes of Benzema, Mbappé, Pogba, Griezmann, and Kanté.
What makes them all the more dangerous is that the majority of the squad, plus their manager Didier Deschamps, know what it takes to win the competition, which just as the opposite will be a disadvantage for Brazil, could make all the difference for Les Bleus.
England has steadily improved all aspects of their game, from the foundations up. Over a period of years, their youth teams started to win European and global competitions including the Under 20 World Cup.
Like Spain who underwent a similar transformation before dominating world football a decade ago, Gareth Southgate has overseen progress with the full squad, going out in extra time in the semi-final in Russia, before succumbing to Italy on penalties in last summer’s Euro final at Wembley.
Harry Kane is widely tipped to win the Golden Boot for the tournament, and a lot will rest on the Spurs striker’s shoulders. He is traditionally a slow starter to a season, so he will be hoping that by November he will be in full stride.
The England side is packed with talent, especially when it comes to attacking options.
Question marks could arise at their ability to keep teams out at the other end of the pitch, and their subsequent need to play more defensively than they otherwise would want to in order to utilize the attacking players they have.
There are a handful of other teams who will go to Qatar with very real hopes of being victorious, including Germany of course, and Argentina who have put together an incredible unbeaten run.
Spain is not the force they once were, but have a good mix of youth and experience in their squad and reached the final of the Nations League last autumn.
Belgium has consistently underperformed in recent World Cups and Euros despite being ranked the number one side in the world for much of that time.
Their team may be on the wane, but with the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, they pose a threat to anyone, and may well finally get their hands on some silverware in what is likely to be their last chance saloon.