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Spain tipped to win 2018 World Cup by CIES

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There could be parties in the streets of Madrid and Barcelona this summer if the CIES Football Observatory’s analysis comes to fruition.

In the Football Observatory’s latest weekly issue, it claims that Spain is most likely to win the 2018 World Cup in Russia based on a combination of two criteria. The percentage of matches played by the most-played 23 players on each national team at a domestic, league level, and the average sporting level of the clubs those players play for.

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The Football Observatory found that the Spanish National Team has played in 81 percent of the available domestic league matches, and with so many playing for giants Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United and Manchester City, the overall sporting level of the team was listed at a jaw-dropping 1.37. These criteria have Spain as the overwhelming favorite to win the World Cup.

Brazil (89), France (84) and Germany (82) each had a power index of over 80, though the Les Bleus squad has played the fewest domestic league matches of the top four (69 percent). England, with a power index of 74, rounds out the top five.

Panama, set to make its World Cup debut, sits at the bottom of the list with a power index of just 12, as many of their top players either have been injured or are sitting on the bench at bigger clubs.

Of course, while it’s good for players to play regularly at a high level, we’ve seen in recent World Cups that end-of-season burnout is a real problem, and teams with players who are fresher in June and July have been able to run to the title. Both Spain and Germany, the last two World Cup winners, have winter breaks in their domestic calendar, while England of course, does not.

Russia warns of locusts destroying World Cup fields

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MOSCOW (AP) A plague of locusts could destroy the fields in World Cup stadiums this year, the Russian government said Wednesday.

Locusts often feast on crops in southern Russia and the person who oversees plant protection at the agriculture ministry said they could descend on stadiums, too.

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“We have more or less learned how to deal with locusts, but this year I’m afraid we could end up in an international locust scandal,” Pyotr Chekmaryov said in comments reported by state news agencies. “Soccer fields are green. Locusts like places where there is a lot of green. What if they fly to the places where football is played?”

Chekmaryov pointed out the Volgograd region as a particular concern.

Group games in Volgograd will include England’s match against Tunisia and a game between Poland and Japan.

Addressing a conference of agricultural experts, Chekmaryov said it was “our responsibility” to ensure that Russians do not “disgrace ourselves in front of global society, especially where we will have guests from all over the world.”