With the World Cup approaching, we want some of our most passionate football fan ambassadors to discuss what might happen at Russia 2018. Can France win the World Cup 20 years since their home turf triumph? C'est très possible. Will Germany become the first team since Brazil in 1962 to win in back-to-back tournaments? Warum nicht. Will England finally end a 52-year hoodoo? Er... no.
We spoke with some of our finest Team partypoker players to see if they believe in their countries, and what they think will happen when the month-long football festival kicks off on Thursday.
Team partypoker's Joao Simao (top) and Patrick Leonard have different levels of
expectations when it comes to their team's chances at the 2018 World Cup in Russia
What's the first major tournament that you can remember as a football fan?
Patrick Leonard (ENGLAND): The first major tournament I can really remember was Euro 1996, I remember Spain winning a penalty shootout on penalties and my Dad was infuriated that the player did a hesitation in his run-up. It's safe to say he doesn't enjoy the modern day diving culture or dabbing celebrations. The next World Cup was France '98 and my memory of the tournament was Michael Owen breaking through past two defenders then there was just one defender who was 20 yards deeper. I had no idea how he got that deep and I thought about that for years... anyway, Owen went past him and scored!
Anatoly Filatov (RUSSIA): I remember France winning in 1998 really well.
Sam Trickett (ENGLAND): The first World Cup I watched I was in Crete in 1994, when Brazil won it. I think I only watched final. I don't remember any players, I just remember Brazil lifting the trophy.
Fedor Holz (GERMANY): I watched 1998 in France too, when France won the final. I was five years old at the time, but I can remember lots of cars honking and people going crazy.
Anatoly Filatov: It was great and since that time I've supported their team. Zidane!!!
Joao Simao (BRAZIL): For me, it was 1994, the whole country in Brasil stopped to watch it. Romario did great and we won!
Elky (FRANCE): The first one I can remember watching is Italia '90!
Richard Dubini (ARGENTINA): Same here. I was very young but I have a lot of memories from that tournament; the best song in the history of World Cup and Argentina finished in second place, we lost the final against Germany!
Argentina and Germany have met in the World Cup final a record three times, in 1986, when Diego Maradona ruled the world, in 1990 when Andreas Brehme's penalty decided matters, and in the last World Cup final in 2014, when Messi blew his big chance at glory and Germany's Mario Götze scored the winning goal in extra time.
Who is the key player to your country’s chances?
Joao Simao: Neymar for sure, he's so good and has the heart for the big games.
Richard Dubini: The key player for us is the best player in the world, Lionel Messi.
Elky: For France, it's got to be Antoine Griezmann.
Anatoly: These are all such good players! For Russia, the key player to our chances is Mohammed Salah! If he is injured for Egypt, Russia has a chance. But to be honest, we have one of our weakest teams for a long time.
Fedor Holz: I think Kroos will be an important player for the German team.
Patrick Leonard: For England, it's probably John Stones or Jordan Pickford. In almost all of our previous tournaments, we have gone out because of defensive mistakes. People speak about attacking limitations against Iceland [when England were embarrassed in the 2016 European Championships], but we went 1-0 up in the first five minutes! If we hadn't conceded those easy goals then it would have been a much easier game and a lot easier to score on the counter-attack.
Sam Trickett: C'mon Pleno, Harry Kane's the key player for our country's chances. His goalscoring record is so good. He's been as clinical as any other player in the world over the last few years. If we can keep the games tight, he could be the difference and lead us quite far in the competition.
Harry Kane has 13 goals in 24 England appearances going into Russia 2018, better than a goal every other game. Kane, England's captain, still needs 40 more to level with England's top goalscorer, Wayne Rooney.
Which player from your country shouldn't have made the squad and which player should have been on the plane?
Richard Dubini: German Ponzio is not in the team and he is one of the best midfield players from Argentina.
Anatoly Filatov: I trust in them all, I believe that Stanislav Cherchesov [Russia's national team coach] knows what he's doing!
Sam Trickett: I probably wouldn't have taken [Jack] Butland. I never really agree with having three goalkeepers. There are only ever seven games. It's such a small number of games and the chances of getting two 'keepers injured are so slim. I'd rather take the risk and take Jack Wilshere or another attacking option up front, even someone like Andy Carroll if the game's not going to plan. We're into the numbers game and the chances of ever having to use that third goalkeeper are so slim.
Joao Simao: I believe everyone in the Brazilian squad can do well, but I really would like to have seen Patrick da Massa there.
Elky: I'm kind of the same about France. I don't know who shouldn't have made it, but I do think Karim Benzema should have been selected.
Patrick Leonard: I think [England] lack a passer in midfield, somebody who can play through the lines. A lot of our midfielders can't pass between players and choose to go sidewards or backwards, so I would have taken Jonjo Shelvey, who can open teams up pretty easily. I wouldn't play him against Brazil or France, but his defensive limitations are not that crucial when we have five defenders and playing against Panama.
Panama have reached their first ever World Cup and are in England's group with Belgium and Tunisia. Can England reach the quarter-finals of a World Cup for the first time since 2006?
"I'm telling you, Roberto, it's got to be three at the back for England."
"Sam, if you get Brazil in the quarters, you might need them all defending!"
How far do you think your country will get and who’ll be your country’s top goalscorer?
Anatoly Filatov: If Russia gets through the group then it will be a success! Never mind players, I just hope that Russia will score some goals!
Sam Trickett: I think England will get out of the group. We've shown that we're quite hard to beat in the games leading up the World Cup and we might have a deep run to the quarter-finals or semi-finals. I'd be really happy if we got to the semis. Without a doubt, Harry Kane is going to be our top scorer. He's scoring a goal a game on average and he only needs half a chance to nick one.
Fedor Holz: Germany will take it down like we did in Brazil. Thomas Müller is a beast!
Elky: France will take it down! Griezmann is going to be our top goalscorer.
Joao Simao: It's not going to happen, my friends. Brazil will be the champions. Neymar will be top scorer, he has spent his life working for this moment.
Richard Dubini: It won't be Neymar's World Cup. This is the Messi’s World Cup and Argentina will be the champions!
Patrick Leonard: I think England either get knocked out in the quarter-finals or we will win it. The team is set up to create chances for Harry Kane, so he is the obvious choice.
England only have one World Cup win, on home soil, just like France. Brazil have won it an unparalleled five times, a record that Germany (or West Germany up to and including 1990) can equalise with victory in Russia.
Who'll win the Golden Boot, the prize awarded to the tournament's top scorer?
Richard Dubini: Lionel Messi, I don’t need to explain why!
Elky: I think you're right. It has to be Messi, he's just the best.
Patrick Leonard: I don't think so, it could be Neymar's time.
Anatoly Filatov: I agree, it's got to be Neymar.
Sam Trickett: I agree, Neymar for me. Brazil are one of the favourites for the tournament, so they'll likely go deep, he's an excellent player. He takes free kicks and penalties and just the way the team play with him in it, they look for him when they're attacking and the side play around him. They'll create lots of chances and it's likely that he's going to be on the end of most of them.
Joao Simao: Even though I love Neymar, I actually think Firmino might be the tournament's top scorer.
Which hotly-tipped side will embarrass themselves?
Anatoly Filatov: (thinking deeply) Hmm... Argentina and England? I hope I'm not fired! Sorry, Richy [Dubini] and Pads!
Richard Dubini: Not a chance! With Messi in the team?
Sam Trickett: For me, France will underachieve at this World Cup. I don't think they'll embarrass themselves, but someone's not right there, Pogba's out of position and they haven't taken Martial. When I watch them play, I don't think they play to the best of their ability. I don't think they'll go as far as they're expected to.
Fedor Holz: I agree about England being disappointing!
Patrick Leonard: You might be right about England, Fedor. I think Spain might disappoint, though. They don't have a striker and if they have a bad defeat against Portugal in week one, then it only takes one other slip up and they could be going home early.
Who are the dark horses for a deep run in Russia?
Elky: It could be Russia itself.
Anatoly Filatov: I hope you're right. But I think maybe Poland or Croatia could do very well.
Sam Trickett: I've bet Belgium at 15/1 ages ago, but I think Croatia can do quite well in games. They're huge outsiders, but I still think the favourites are all going to have deep runs.
Patrick Leonard: I'm not sure Portugal are dark horses, but they have some young players and a lot of experience.
Joao Simao: Brazil, because they are working hard (laughs).
Fedor Holz: Harder than Germany?
Patrick Leonard: Those two are the pre-tournament favourites! Uruguay don't get talked about but will always be disciplined and have a few match winners in the top end of their team.
Richard Dubini: I hope that Egypt go far, I'm a fan of Mohamed Salah.
Egypt have only previously qualified for the World Cup twice, in 1934 and 1990, and have never won a game at the finals. They will face Russia, Uruguay and Saudi Arabia in Group A.
Which of your players is most likely to get sent off?
We don’t have aggressive players (there is much laughter from the others) OK, maybe Marcos Rojo is most likely to get sent off.
Patrick Leonard: For foul behaviour or retaliation to the Uruguayans, it'll be Dele Alli... or Raheem Sterling for simulation!
Sam Trickett: I'd agree with you about Dele Alli. He's likely to start, and he's a bit young and hot-headed. We've seen it happen in the past with Beckham, people can wind him up and when the pressure's on, he seems like he wouldn't keep his cool in certain situations. It wouldn't surprise me to see him get sent off.
Patrick Leonard: Kyle Walker might get caught out of position in central defence and bring down the striker as the last man, or maybe John Stones for the same reason.
England have suffered due to three red cards in World Cup finals. Ray Wilkins received two yellow cards in two minutes in the heat of Mexico in 1986. David Beckham kicked out at Diego Simeone to do the walk of shame in 1998, while Wayne Rooney saw red in Germany in 2006 prompting the infamous 'wink' from his former Manchester United teammate, Portuguese talisman Cristiano Ronaldo.
One of the newest members of Team partypoker, French poker legend Bertrand
'Elky' Grospellier, is rooting for France to triumph in Russia.
Who's scared of their team taking penalties?
Patrick Leonard: I think this England team seems pretty laid back and not as anxious or stiff as before. We have quite a few set-piece specialists and players who take a good penalty, like Kane, Vardy, Rashford, Trippier, Young, Lingard, even Stones. I'm not sure how great Pickford is at saving penalties though, which is perhaps more crucial.
Joao Simao: Yeah, I hate penalties... like I hate flips!
Sam Trickett: I actually find it quite exciting. I love a penalty shoot-out, although it hasn't gone well for us, but although there's obviously a bit of a mental block, these are different players, it's a different environment and we have different goalkeepers. We'll just see.
Richard Dubini: I'm not scared, we have a good goalkeeper.
Elky: There's no reason to be afraid for France in a penalty shoot-out, we can win it.
Anatoly Filatov: I'm not scared of a penalty shoot-out at all. I will be happy if we make it to a knockout game where penalties can take place!
Fedor Holz: I'm not scared at all!
No-one looks surprised by this statement from Fedor. Germany have won every single World Cup shoot-out they've been involved in (1982, 1986, 1990, and 2006). There could well be a two-hour heads-up, too. The last three World Cup finals were all won in extra time.
Finally, if it's not the team our partypoker team members support, then which country will lift the famous trophy on July 15th?
Sam Trickett: I'm actually going to take Brazil to win the tournament. They've got a decent little side again with lots of attacking players. Gabriel Jesus is up there now, confident and Coutinho is playing the football of his life. Neymar's obviously great too and they have really good wing-backs who can bomb forward. I imagine they're going to be scoring like old school Brazil, scoring lots of goals and being really hard to beat.