Marvel's amazing World Cup spoilers

It might not be part of the traditional comic book universe, but Marvel is lacing up its boots to bring you the epic stories, big heroes and mega-villains in Russia this summer.

Marvel's amazing World Cup spoilers

It might not be part of the traditional comic book universe, but Marvel is lacing up its boots to bring you the epic stories, big heroes and mega-villains in Russia this summer.

by Fabian Nicieza Illustrations by Marvel

Chapter 1 Messi vs. Ronaldo

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Every four years, the world comes together on a unique battlefield, dueling in stadiums filled with screaming masses cheering their countries on.

The 2018 World Cup is where two of the greatest players of all time will seek the glory that has eluded them and overshadowed their careers.

Lionel Messi of Argentina.

Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal.

For Messi the mighty, after losing in the 2014 World Cup to Germany...

... and then losing in the 2015 and 2016 Copa America finals to Chile...

... he drowned in the disappointment.

Messi said he was done playing for the national team and though his countrymen were divided by his decision, they would unite again with their desperation to win.

Messi returned and scored the hat trick that booked their ticket to Russia.

Can he now carry his country to victory?

Chapter 2 Is it Messi's turn?

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The mighty one is again surrounded by some of the world's best players.

Sergio Agüero, a lethal striker who is returning from injury and must rise above the disappointment of his previous attempts.

Gonzalo Higuain, who averages almost a goal every two games for his country.

Ángel Di María, a real competitor with something to prove...

... though in that regard, the Argentines are certainly not alone.

Chapter 3 Ronaldo's quest

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Many call Cristiano Ronaldo the best player in the world...

... others say he's the greatest of all time...

... when it comes to marketing himself. The biggest question: can he focus enough to lead his side to glory?

Ronaldo's teammates were strong enough to overcome his injury and win Euro 2016...

... but they'll need him at full strength to make a run in Russia.

Together, they've made Portugal into FiFA's No. 4-ranked team and an outside shot at the title (though, sadly, without Nani).

Chapter 4 Brazil rises again

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How surprising would it be if the Seleçao redeemed themselves following one of the worst performances in the history of the sport?

World Cup 2014. Brazil lost. Playing in front of a home crowd in the semifinal, they were crushed by Germany.

Their unprecedented success on the international stage no longer mattered, as that heavy loss brought back memories of the "Maracanazo."

That 1950 defeat still resonated with Brazil fans. It was sadness, it was madness and ultimately, that embarrassing, bitter loss to Uruguay over 60 years ago ...

... has fueled generations of passionate play.

Chapter 5 Neymar carries a nation

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Fired by hope but plagued by doubt, Brazil is still the country that gave us Pelé.

From Socrates to Ronaldo to Ronaldinho, they have won the World Cup five times, more than any other nation on Earth ...

... and the pressure to deliver a sixth falls on Neymar. He was hurt in the last World Cup and he's been hurt again. Can he overcome his emotional and physical burdens in time to win in Russia?

Or is the pressure on his supporting cast, like Philippe Coutinho, to banish the specter of 2014 and reclaim their mantle of being the best?

Chapter 6 ... and then Germany wins

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Germany, a winning machine with four World Cups in their cabinet, are a strong favorite to match Brazil's record.

Germany, unwavering and uncompromising, are led by Joachim Low, a methodical coach who demands perfection ... and then watches his team achieve it.

Featuring battle-tested, world-class goalkeepers Manuel Neuer and Marc-Andre ter Stegen ...

... Germany are poised to become the first repeat winners since 1962 ...

... and possess enough experience to do it, led by warriors like Toni Kroos, Thomas Muller and Mesut Ozil.

Chapter 7 America's worst nightmare

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And while the best test their mettle, what about the teams that failed to qualify?

The U.S. famously missed out. How will their young star, Christian Pulisic, handle missing out on the biggest competition in world soccer?

Meanwhile, veterans and legends like Tim Howard may have seen their last chance on the biggest stage slip through their grasp.

Now starting on the long road to Qatar, will Pulisic live up to the hype as "America's Messi" and bring his countrymen the respect they have long craved?

Chapter 8 A rare summer off

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And how about Chile? After winning back-to-back Copa Americas, failure to reach the World Cup was crushing ...

... but for a tired team, it allows stars like Alexis Sanchez to get some much-needed rest with his best mates, Atom and Humber.

Better still, Chile should come out of the summer with a fresh perspective that could help them atone in 2022.

Chapter 9 Italy hit rock bottom

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For Italy, failure to qualify was a stunning embarrassment.

For players like Gianluigi Buffon, it appeared to mark an ignominious end to a long and distinguished career.

But Italy's future lies in exciting, young talent like Jorginho, who will take this loss to heart as he leads his country toward ...

... Qatar in 2022. Will Buffon's grace in defeat drive his protege, Gianluigi Donnarumma, to greater success?

Chapter 10 Outsiders fight for glory

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For the teams that earned their way into the tournament, the time is now.

France features Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann ...

... while perennial power Belgium fields Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard.

Chapter 11 A new generation

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Having won the World Cup in 2010, in between two Euro titles, Spain is always a dangerous team ...

... with players like Sergio Ramos and David De Gea, can they get back to the top?

Perpetual underachievers England take their underdog status with determined defiance ...

... with Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling leading the Three Lions into battle.

Chapter 12 Beware these three

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While Mexico have always seemed ready for greatness, players like Chicharito haven't been able to get beyond the round of 16. Will it be different in 2018?

Superstar striker Robert Lewandowski is expected to be the driving force for Poland. Can one man alone bear such a burden?

Then there is the incredible surprise of Iceland's first-ever World Cup qualification, a testament to team over player.

They take the field to the surging roar of a thunderclap from their boisterous fans, determined to shock the world.

Chapter 13 32 Teams, One Trophy

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Ultimately, the World Cup is about the measure and mettle of the countries they represent. Since 1930, it has broken bodies and hearts ...

... but has lifted us higher while the players on the pitch perform unexpected feats.

The bond between team and country is sealed in steel and silk, in sweat and sinew.

Their deeds are revered for generations. They become immortal.

Who will join the pantheon of soccer gods? Which player? Which team?

Which legends will be forged this summer at the 2018 World Cup in Russia?

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