England more likely to win World Cup than Argentina or Belgium, says study

Spain can be considered favourites for the 2018 World Cup while Gareth Southgate's England are the fifth most likely to win the tournament, according to research group CIES Football Observatory.

Their study looked at the number of matches players were involved in at domestic league level since July 2017 and the profile of clubs that they featured for, with 2010 winners Spain topping the list ahead of Brazil and France.

The 23 players La Roja used most often in the qualification stage played on average 81.1% of domestic league games, the highest figure of all 32 nations who will compete at Russia 2018.

Furthermore, their "average sporting level of the clubs" is the greatest given their squad comprises players from teams like back-to-back Champions League winners Real Madrid, LaLiga champions Barcelona and recently-crowned Premier League title winners Manchester City.

Reigning champions Germany were fourth in the table while CIES found England were more likely to lift the trophy than their Group G rivals Belgium, 2014 runners-up Argentina or Euro 2016 champions Portugal.

The Three Lions players used most frequently during qualifying appeared in 74% of domestic league matches - a figure only bettered by Spain, Brazil, Denmark and Japan.

Panama, who England face in their second group game in Russia, should be considered the rank outsiders, according to the study.

Los Canaleros' squad was also the oldest in qualifying with an average age of 29.4 whereas England's average was 25.9, the third-youngest above only Germany and Nigeria.

All of the players Southgate used during qualifying represented clubs in England, with Saudi Arabia the only other country that selected players exclusively from its domestic league.

From the teams that have advanced to Russia, 164 players involved in qualifying ply their trade in England, 15.3% of the total and the most ahead of Spain (94 players) and Germany (90 players).

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