Thirty-two countries, one winner. But how can you predict the team that will lift the World Cup in Moscow on 15 July? By looking at the trends, statistics and patterns from tournaments past, BBC Sport has eliminated 31 nations and concluded which one will be crowned world champions.

 

 

Don't be the defending

champions

The World Cup is hard to defend. Not since Brazil won back-to-back tournaments in 1958 and 1962 has a team lifted the trophy twice in a row. In fact, since that Brazil double, the 13 defending champions have only got past the quarter-finals on two occasions - Argentina in 1990 and Brazil in 1998.

So, there you have it. Belgium are going to win the World Cup. Unless someone else does. Which is possible....

 

 

Be seeded

Since the World Cup expanded to 32 teams in 1998, all of the eventual champions have been seeded. Indeed, the last non-seeded winners were in 1986, when Argentina were carried to the trophy by Diego Maradona and his 'hand of God'. In one move, we have removed 24 teams in the competition and are left with eight.

 

Have the experience

World Cup-winning squads are steadily getting more experienced, a trend that began when the finals expanded to 32 teams in 1998. Champions France had a squad that averaged 22.77 caps per player. Four years ago, Germany boasted 42.21 each. In between, there was a gradual rise - Brazil averaged 28.04 in 2002, Italy 32.91 in 2006 and Spain 38.30 in 2010. When our three remaining teams named their final squads, France's average caps was down at 24.56, while Germany's at 43.26 and Belgium's 45.13.

 

 

Don't be the hosts

 

Russia benefit from a 44-year tradition of the host nation being seeded. Hosting the World Cup, though, is not the route to success it once was. The first 11 editions of the tournament, from 1930 to 1978, produced five home winners. Since then, the past nine tournaments have seen the hosts crowned champions only once - France in 1998.

 

 

Have the best goalkeeper

 

World Cup winners are actually more accurately defined by their goalkeeper, with four of the past five Golden Glove awards for the best keeper going to the team that lifts the trophy.  Of the remaining four teams, it's not hard to imagine any of Manuel Neuer (Germany), Hugo Lloris (France) or Thibaut Courtois (Belgium) being named the best goalkeeper this time around. It seems more of a stretch that Portugal's Rui Patricio will walk away with the Golden Glove.

 

 

Keep it tight

In the 32-team era, none of the five champions have conceded more than four goals over their seven games. Looking at our seven remaining sides, Poland had by far the leakiest defence during qualifying, conceding 1.4 goals per game. Germany and Portugal conceded 0.4 per game, Belgium and France 0.6, Brazil 0.61 and Argentina 0.88.

 

 

Be from Europe

World Cup winners have only ever come from Europe and South America. Until recently, European teams did not travel well, but Spain's success in South Africa and Germany's triumph in Brazil bucked the trend. European tournaments, though, almost always produce home winners. Of the 10 competitions to be hosted by Europe, only one has been won by an outsider Brazil in 1958 in Sweden.