IT is now less than 24 hours until the 2018 World Cup kicks off in Russia.

The opening game may not exactly set pulses racing, with the host nation taking on Saudi Arabia tomorrow at 4pm, but the next month will see a feast of football as 32 nations battle it out.

Here at the County Gazette we have set up a fantasy league to add that bit of extra excitement to proceedings and we'd love you to join in the fun.

To enter your team, simply click here and pick your squad, then enter the league code VHZIAOYZ.

May the best team win...

For a full preview of the tournament, including the thoughts of various key men from the world of local football, see our special guide in tomorrow's County Gazette.

And for those wishing to have a punt on this year's World Cup, the Gazette's resident tipster Paul Martin has put together the following guide.

Winner – France (13/2)

When consulting my copy of World Soccer last week, two squads leapt off the page – Brazil and France.

If results go as predicted, the two sides will meet in the last four and, on paper, Brazil should have what it takes to get through to the final.

For me, however, their odds of 4/1 to win the tournament are far too short and Les Bleus represent far better value.

Somerset County Gazette:

TALENT: Antoine Griezmann and Blaise Matuidi

A world-class centre-half in Raphael Varane, warriors in midfield in N’Golo Kante and Blaise Matuidi, the creativity of Paul Pogba and the goals of Antoine Griezmann – the French have a recipe for success.

In a group with Australia, Peru and Denmark, France are also worth backing for Highest scoring team (6/1).

Top goalscorer – Luis Suarez (25/1)

The trick for top scorers is to look at who is likely to go deep into the tournament and, crucially, who has a relatively straightforward group.

Uruguay are my dark horses as they should top Group A, and Suarez is capable of bagging at least four goals from the games against Egypt, Russia and Saudi Arabia - five has been enough to win the Golden Boot in two of the last three World Cups.

Somerset County Gazette:

TIP: Luis Suarez

That would be likely to set up a knockout game against either Portugal or Morocco, which the South Americans would fancy - suddenly they’re in the quarter-finals and who knows what could happen from there.

Cristano Ronaldo, Romelu Lukaku and Gabriel Jesus, meanwhile, are all temptingly priced at 16/1 and are certainly worthy of a few shillings.

Team to score the least goals – Iran (9/1)

There are plenty of sides who may find goals hard to come by in this tournament, but Iran look set for a particularly tough time.

Opening group games are traditionally cagey and Iran’s is against Morocco, who are the highest-rated of the African sides.

They then come up against the notoriously miserly defences of both Spain and Portugal, so it is feasible to see Iran failing to score in Group B despite being led by the experienced Carlos Quieroz.

Marcus Rashford to start England’s first group game (2/1)

If the pre-World Cup thoughts of Somerset’s cricketers (below) have taught me anything, it’s that Marcus Rashford is a popular player among the England supporters.

It’s easy to see why. He’s a player of vast potential with express pace who can stretch opponents, and he showed against Costa Rica that he is capable of moments of magic.

England surely have to name attacking line-ups in their first two group games, against Tunisia and Panama, who will both sit back against Gareth Southgate’s men.

With Jamie Vardy likely to be used as ‘x-factor’ from the bench, Rashford could find that his impressive friendly performances earn him a spot in the XI.

Australia to finish with 0 points (7/2)

Their cricketers have had a tough time this year and the Socceroos look ill-equipped to deal with a group containing France, Denmark and Peru.

Tim Cahill, who scored arguably the most satisfying goal at the last World Cup with *that* volley against the Netherlands, remains part of their squad but, at 38, is unlikely to be quite so inspirational this time around.

England to get knocked out on penalties (5/1)

If, as expected, England finish second in their group and Germany win theirs, the two sides will meet in the quarter-finals (should both win their second-round fixtures, of course).

Should that be the case, we all know what happens next.

All odds courtesy of Bet365 - please gamble responsibly (

Need more help? Watch the complete Guide to the World Cup - with Somerset County Cricket Club - below...