Senegal head the betting to be the continent's best-performing side, but it looks set to be a disappointing tournament for Egypt and Nigeria.
Africa will have five teams at the World Cup and it is realistic to expect at least one side from the continent to make it to the knockout stages.
But that’s unlikely to be Tunisia, who are to outperform all other African sides.
They will realistically need to take at least two points from their opening two games against England and Belgium to stay alive going into their meeting with Panama.
A run of just one defeat in 10 games in the lead up to the tournament, including consecutive 2-2 draws with Portugal and Turkey in their last two friendlies, shows that isn’t out of the question.
But an injury to the squad’s main striker Youssef Msakni, along with fitness worries over experienced players Mohamed Amine Ben Amor and Ali Maaloul, makes their task even harder.
Former Sunderland man Wahbi Khazri netted nine goals while on loan at Stade Rennes last season and Tunisia will rely on him in the absence of their other star men.
The winger is to be his country’s top scorer at the tournament.
But while they should finish above Panama in Group G, a third-place finish represents the best value for them at .
It’s much easier to get behind Morocco at , despite another tricky group.
The Atlas Lions play Iran and a vulnerable Portugal side in their opening two matches and are capable of at least staying alive until facing Spain in Kaliningrad.
Manager Herve Renard has an array of impressive talent to call upon.
They will be captained by Juventus defender Mehdi Benatia, while Ajax’s Hakim Ziyech – who scored nine goals and laid on a further 14 in the Eredivisie last season – is another key player.
Morocco also head to Russia with confidence, having won eight games in a 10-match unbeaten run that has seen them beat Slovakia and Serbia in their last four.
Progression is far from assured, but Renard’s side are capable of upsetting the European champions and are worth backing for second place in Group B at .
Nigeria have been placed in an open group – alongside Argentina, Croatia and Iceland – but are likely to be edged out.
The Super Eagles would probably have to remain unbeaten against Croatia and Iceland in their first two fixtures to have any chance.
But, even with a talented squad featuring Victor Moses, Alex Iwobi and Odion Ighalo, it is difficult to see that happening.
Goalkeeper remains a problem position for Nigeria, with 19-year-old Francis Uzoho prone to mistakes, as England experienced in their 2-1 victory last weekend.
With three defeats and a draw from their last four matches, they are coming into the tournament cold and a group-stage exit at is the safest bet.
No team at the World Cup is as dependent on one player as Egypt are on Mohamed Salah.
The Pharaohs have managed just one goal in their last four matches without the Egyptian King, coming in the last minute of a 1-1 draw with Kuwait.
But even with a half-fit Salah, it is questionable whether he alone can secure a top-two spot.
A defeat in their opening match against Uruguay will leave them in the difficult position of needing a victory against hosts Russia in the following game.
The best value, therefore, lies with a third-place finish at .
Senegal’s World Cup squad is stacked with talent from Europe’s top leagues and they are worthy favourites to be the top African side at .
Sadio Mane, Keita Balde and Kalidou Koulibaly, among a host of others, will all travel to Russia and can emulate 2002’s quarter-finalists.
Aliou Cisse’s side have lost just one of their last 16 matches in the lead up to the World Cup and can take that form into the most open group at the tournament.
A win in their opening game against Poland would see the Lions of Teranga in a commanding position to earn at least second place.
That would result in a likely last-16 tie against England or Belgium, which would be winnable.
Back them to make the quarter-finals at .
Morocco and Senegal both to qualify for the last 16 –
Top African team: Senegal –
Worth a punt
Senegal to qualify for the quarter-final –
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