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Four Teams Who Will Drastically Improve Before Russia 2018

15/07/2014 16:39 BST | Updated 14/09/2014 10:59 BST

Brazil 2014 started with a bang and a flurry of group game goals, though the tournament somewhat petered out in the knockout stages as nerves and disjointed football took hold.

Nevertheless, this is still arguably the most exciting tournament in recent memory and there has been many a surprise along the way - most notably, of course, champions Spain being dispatched in the group stages.

Along with Spain, here is a list of three other sides who failed to impress in Brazil, but should be a lot stronger during the next World Cup in Russia:

4. Switzerland

For a country with a population of less than eight million people, Switzerland have a surprising number of young, exciting and technical footballers at their disposal.

Although they did not quite have the quality to mount a serious World Cup challenge, the likes of Ricardo Rodriguez and Xerdhan Shaqiri (dubbed the 'Alpine Messi') revealed to the world why all the hype around them is justified.

Like Shaqiri and Rodriguez, other key members of the squad such as Granit Xhaka and Josip Drmic will have another four years of experience playing in Europe's top leagues come Russia 2018 and will surely have improved their game.

When this is coupled with the sudden success of the U-21 side and another four years of learning to play with one another, it becomes entirely conceivable that Switzerland could field a wonderfully talented side at the next World Cup.

The fact that such a small country can produce such an exciting talent like Xherdan Shaqiri puts the English system to shame.

3. Belgium

Belgium were tipped to be one of the dark horses at this summer's tournament, but were unfortunately rather uninspiring on their way to a quarter-final exit against Argentina.

Many of their star players who sparkle for their clubs week-in, week-out simply didn't perform at the World Cup and this was a huge disappointment for fans and neutrals alike.

Despite all of their successes at club level, some members of the squad are still comparatively raw and need more years of experience under their belts.

Nevertheless, the squad have age on their side. The majority of their star players are still in their early-twenties and will be in the prime of their careers in Russia. Even captain Vincent Kompany will only be 32 at the time, so almost the entire first XI has another four years to improve and perfect their game.

2014 may have been a little bit too soon for Belgium, but by Euro 2016 and World Cup 2018 this team could be unstoppable.

2. England

Many England fans thought, or rather hoped, that lower expectations would help England during Brazil 2014, but in reality it was always a forlorn optimism as they ended the tournament with two losses and a draw.

Nonetheless, this was the first major international tournament for a very long time in which something genuinely different was attempted - the old guard were dropped for a younger generation of England players.

Although England are not blessed with the same depth of quality in youngsters as Spain and Germany, many of the first teamers from this summer already play a vitally important role for their clubs and can only improve between now and 2018.

Luke Shaw, Daniel Sturridge, Ross Barkley and Raheem Sterling have the potential to become world-beaters over the next four years. It is up to their club managers and Roy Hodgson to get them on the right track leading up to Euro 2016 and the next World Cup.

1. Spain

Despite the fact that it was evident that Spain's best years were behind them before the World Cup started, nobody expected them to crash out of the tournament as badly as they did.

Nevertheless, Spain still have quality in depth that many other nations simply cannot compare with.

A new Spanish golden generation lies-in-waiting, but coach Vincent Del Bosque needs to be brave enough to cast off the likes of Xavi and Fernando Torres and replace them with Asier Illarmendi and Iker Muniain.

As ever, the Spanish have a wealth of young, quality players who did not even make their squad and this only bodes well for the future. A list of names including Carvajal, Amat, Muniain, Deulofeu and Morata from their last U-21 game is ominous indeed.

It is inconceivable that Spain will perform as badly as they did this year in 2018. With the youngsters they have at their disposal, they could even bounce back and win the tournament.

Given the players at their disposal, a new Spanish golden generation could be almost ready to take the world by storm.

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