Our expert dissects the futures markets heading into the Russia FIFA World Cup 2018
Just which team will rise above all to claim the most coveted trophy in world football?
Is this one of the most open World Cups in recent memory?
We have marked down at least a handful of countries that are capable of going all the way including previous winners Brazil, Germany and Argentina while England are out to break a 52-year drought in this tournament.
Ultimately, teams such as European champions Portugal along with Belgium also look overs in futures markets but do they have what it takes to go all the way?
We are starting to warm to BRAZIL ($5.75 @ Unibet) as the ones to beat in this World Cup.
Four years is a long time to wait for anything but this side will be anxious to put aside the humiliating 7-1 thrashing at home to Germany in the semis of the World Cup last time out. They look a far more confident team under Tite than they did with Dunga and that is highlighted by the easy of their qualification in CONMEBOL – 10 points separating them and second-place Uruguay.
Brazil also bagged 41 goals in their 18 matches while conceding just 11 which gave them the best attack and defence in the South American qualifiers.
Their team is stacked with talent and its headlined by Neymar who has returned from injury in fine style just in time for the start of the tournament. Add to that the likes of Coutinho, Marcelo, Alves, Jesus and Paulinho and there is class across the park.
They have multiple goal scorers and that makes them one of the most, if not the most, lethal team in Russia. Tite’s squad should easily top Group E which means a date with either Mexico or Sweden standing in their way in the Round of 16. Should they get through that then there is the possibility of facing England in the quarters and potentially Spain, Argentina or Portugal in the semis.
Fellow South Americans ARGENTINA are great value at around $10 with bet365.
Any team with Lionel Messi has to be a big chance of success and they will be hoping to go one better than Brail 2014 when they lost the final in extra-time to Brazil. They have suffered two key blows leading into the tournament though which makes them a slightly risky prospect with both Manuel Lanzini and goalkeeper Sergio Romero out of action.
GERMANY are the defending champions and Centrebet has them at $6 to be the first team since the 60s to go back-to-back.
Joachim Low’s side are unbeaten since losing to France in the semis of Euro 2016 and breezed through World Cup qualification, racking up a record 43 goals in winning all 10 matches. What is more impressive is their defence – just four goals conceded. Their side is stacked with talent such as Toni Kroos, Julian Draxler, Mats Hummels, Manuel Neuer and Sami Khedira just to name a few.
We think they will easily top Group F before facing either Switzerland or Costa Rica in the Round of 16.
The ultimate value team of the tournament is ENGLAND though.
Looking at this side gives you a sense that they can cause some serious damage and win the country’s first World Cup since 1966. Led by Spurs hitman Harry Kane, England won all 10 of their qualification matches and were eight points clear of Slovakia. Despite a host of attacking players at Gareth Southgate’s disposal, England managed just 18 goals in qualifying but only conceded three.
Bookies have them hovering around the $18 mark. We predict they will win Group C which then sets up a potential clash with Colombia, Japan or Poland in the Round of 16.
Of the other countries, Portugal has to be considered a chance but the way they kept grinding out wins during their Euro success doesn’t instil us with confidence to do it again here in the World Cup and most corporates would agree, with $26 on offer @ bet365 for them to lift the title.
Belgium is another team that is loaded with talent and at $12 (with bet365) are capable of making a decent run but the question around them is whether they can finally deliver on their potential.
Verdict: Brazil to win a sixth World Cup and continue Tite’s outstanding form as coach for the national side. In his first nine games in charge, the Brazilians outscored their opposition 25-2.
TOP GOAL SCORER PREVIEW
This is an interesting one because a decision isn’t as clear cut as you would think.
While most punters would go for the obvious and choose the likes of a Messi, Ronaldo or Neymar, it has to be remembered that the stars in the spotlight don’t always get the Golden Boot at the end of the tournament.
In Brazil last time it was James Rodriguez from Colombia that took honours. In the 2010 World Cup it was a three-way tie with Diego Forlan, Thomas Muller, Wesley Sneijder and David Villa. Miroslav Klose, the Cup’s all-time leading scorer with 16, bagged five in the 2006 edition to claim top honours that year.
Neymar ($10) is favourite in front of Messi and Antoine Greizmann ($13) while Ronaldo is a $21 chance @ William Hill.
The $18 for Harry Kane looks a good bet because if England are to make a serious run at the title, the captain needs to be the one bagging the goals for his side. Gabriel Jesus ($17) is a bit under the odds for us as is Neymar because Brazil has a wealth of goal scoring stock and they could share it around throughout the tournament.
Our selection at huge odds is Robert Lewandowski from Poland who is paying $34 @ bet365.
Poland will face Senegal, Japan and Colombia in Group H in their first World Cup appearance in 12 years and the form of captain Lewandowski was sensational through qualifying, bagging a whopping 16 goals in 10 matches.
Should they top Group H then a possible meeting with England or Belgium awaits where Lewandowski will get the chance to add to his tally.
Verdict: Value play from us in the form of Robert Lewandowski.
AUSTRALIA’S STAGE OF ELIMINATION PREVIEW
Just where will the Socceroos end up after Group C is done and dusted?
Well, call us a little biased, but we think the aussies are a good bet to get through the group stages into the Round of 16. It will be a bit much for the Socceroos to top Group C with the likes of France in there with them, however, chances of progressing beyond three games is a distinct possibility.
Two wins in international friendlies in the past week over the Czech Republic and Hungary have given punters some hope and you have to remember, coach Bert Van Marwijk knows this tournament well having led the Netherlands to the final in 2010.
TAB has Australia @ $5 to make the next stage but that is where the journey could end as they are likely to face Lionel Messi and Argentina!
Verdict: Have a crack at the $5 for Australia to make it out of the group stage
AUSTRALIA’S TOP GOAL SCORER PREVIEW
Andrew Nabbout looks a good bet at the $9 (@ TAB) to be Australia’s leading scorer for the tournament.
The Newcastle Jets man has started as the lone pointman for Bert Van Marwijk in Australia’s two final lead-ups against the Czech Republic and Hungary. Nabbout scored his first goal for the Green and Gold against the Czechs and is sure to have his opportunities, however limited, to add to that tally in Group C.
Others to consider in this market are Jamie Maclaren ($8) and of course, Tim Cahill ($9), although Australia’s all-time leading goal scorer is likely to see limited minutes so won’t have as much time to find the back of the net as his teammates.
Verdict: Andrew Nabbout has scored just once in four appearances for Australia but is our top pick to be Socceroos leading scorer for the World Cup.