Brazil World Cup
All eyes on Brazil at this 2018 World CupBuda Mendes/Getty Images

Before the start of a major tournament, especially one as big as the Fifa World Cup, everyone goes through pretty much every single range of emotions – happiness, anticipation, hope, expectation, fear, anger, worry. And if you are a supporter of one of the 32 teams in the Fifa World Cup 2018, undoubtedly, those every single one of those emotions will continue as long as your team is in the tournament.

The beauty and tragedy of supporting a sports team is that, you are setting yourself up for one of two things – unbridled joy or intense disappointment. And, you have to be crazy to put yourself through those emotions.

However, that is precisely what billions of people do around the world, and there isn't a bigger competition on earth than the World Cup; the Olympics might come close, and it has a case considering it isn't just one sport, but for true global appeal, nothing trumps the football World Cup.

Which is why it is such a big deal, and there were so many concerns about Russia holding the quadrennial showpiece. But, like in most cases, at the end of the day, it works out, and so far, even if one single minute hasn't been played, the feeling has been good, as we get ready to kick off the Russia World Cup on Thursday when the hosts play Saudi Arabia in Group A.

The build-up, though, hasn't been about this opening game – not just because it isn't the most glamorous one – with Spain deciding it is their turn to press the self-destruct button.

What the turmoil in the 2010 world champions' camp has done is give the rest of the favourites for the title a bigger slice of hope that they can indeed go on and lift the Jules Rimet trophy. With one major rival in such trouble, the likes of Germany, the defending champions, France, Brazil, Argentina and more (yeah let's just include England in the more, along with Belgium, Uruguay, Portugal and Croatia under the kinda-maybe-possible-but-not-really list) will fancy their chances just that little bit extra.

Germany World Cup
Germany have the strength in depth to defend their World Cup titlePatrik Stollarz/AFP/Getty Images

And while there are 32 teams competing for the title here, there are only a handful capable of going all the way. Yes, there might be a surprise semi-finalist or a couple of how-did-they-get-here quarterfinalists, but when it comes to the final, expect it to be between two of the first-list favourites.

Brazil being the top of that tree, with Neymar and co. coming through an impressive qualification campaign after Tite took over and looking primed to erase that awful day in the 2014 World Cup, when Germany thumped them 7-1 in the last-four.

Challenging Brazil will be Germany, still under the same manager Joachim Low and still with pretty much the same nucleus of the side that won the World Cup four years ago.

Then there is the ridiculously talented France side, with Didier Deschamps leaving out some really top-class players from the squad, such are the options he has at his disposal.

Any team that has Lionel Messi in their side will be considered contenders, and for Argentina this World Cup is about finding their mojo as a TEAM.

Even with Spain shooting themselves in the foot, they will remain a serious challenger, such is the talent and experience in their squad.

After those obvious favourites, come the teams that could win it, but might not for various reasons. Belgium have the talent, but maybe not the mentality, and the same goes for England, who always seem to choke on the big stage, despite looking like the real deal in qualifying.

You also have the European champions Portugal, who are unlikely to do a repeat of that run, even if they have Cristiano Ronaldo in their lineup, while Croatia and Portugal might make it to a semifinal, but maybe not go beyond that.

You can add Colombia, Mexico, Switzerland, ranked six in the world by Fifa, Serbia, Poland and Denmark the could surprise mix as well – maybe even Egypt if Mo Salah takes off – while you just cannot count out Russia, even if they start the World Cup as the lowest ranked side in the competition.

So, plenty to ponder then and plenty to get excited about, and here's to the Fifa World Cup 2018 being the be all and end all of World Cups in recent memory.

Predictions: Brazil, Germany, Argentina and France are the semi-finalists (yup, boring and predictable), with Brazil then beating Germany in the final, gaining revenge, and lifting their first title since 2002.