World Cup winner betting preview
With the domestic football season nearly finished, attention will soon turn to the World Cup in Brazil. The biggest and most exciting sporting event on the planet kicks off in Sao Paolo on the 12th June and betting starts now. There is a group of four favoured teams in this competition, two from Europe and two from South America: Spain, Germany, Brazil and Argentina.
Brazil are the number one favourites, partly due to their home advantage. The country will be intensely behind them and the potentially challenging climate will favour them more than European teams. On top of this they (as always) have some outstanding players. Their four starting defenders will probably be Marcelo, David Luiz, Dante and Daniel Alves. This is a typically Brazilian back four and probably the most attacking defence in the World Cup. Alves and Marcelo, of Barcelona and Real Madrid respectively, both play more as wingers than full-backs in their domestic leagues and will not be able to stop themselves getting forward. David Luiz is a gifted if temperamental defender and has blown hot and cold at Chelsea this year whereas Dante is a powerful centre-back and regular in Bayern Munich's Bundesliga-winning team.
The two defensive midfielders in Scolari's 4-2-3-1 formation will probably be Manchester City's Fernandinho and Chelsea's Ramires, two energetic box-to-box players performing well at the top level in England. The attacking midfield three are likely to be Barcelona's Neymar and Chelsea duo Oscar and Willian, as veterans Ronaldinho, Kaka and Robinho have been left out of the squad. Neymar is one of the world's hottest properties, Willian has had a fantastic season at Chelsea and Oscar is talented although in worse form for his club. Up front, Brazil have a choice of Fred, Hulk, Jo and Bernard and will probably go with Hulk, who got his name because of his muscular physique. Brazil's one weak spot is in goal as none of the ‘keepers they have picked are at top clubs. Julio Cesar will probably start as he is an experienced No.1 but he began the season on the bench at second-tier QPR and is now playing in Canada. Brazil's group is one of the easiest as they face Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon.
Next favourites are Argentina at 9/2 with Bet365. Their chances revolve around their outstanding attacking players and Lionel Messi in particular. As well as the former Ballon D'or winner, Argentina have Real Madrid’s Angel Di Maria, Juventus's Carlos Tevez and Paris Saint Germain's Ezequiel Lavezzi to contribute the goals. Their star striker though is Sergio Aguero, who has had injury problems towards the end of this season which may rule him out of the competition. They will be by far the strongest team in a very weak group which features Bosnia-Herzegovnia, Iran and Nigeria.
The most favoured European team are Germany, who announced their provisional 30-man squad today. Germany have a rock-solid goalkeeper in Bayern Munich's Manuel Neuer and a solid defence. Midfield is their strongest area and their wealth of talent includes Julian Draxler, Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller, Mario Gotze and Sami Khedira. If Germany have a weakness, it is their attack. Miroslav Klose is the World Cup's all-time joint second top goalscorer with 14 goals and has been picked again for this tournament. However, he is now 35 and only scored seven goals this year for Lazio. Lukas Podolski, Andre Schurrle and Kevin Volland are the remaining strikers. Podolski has had a poor second half of the season at Arsenal, Schurrle is not an out-and-out striker and Volland is young and untested. Their group is difficult as it features three decent teams: Portugal, USA and Ghana, but Germany should still progress without too much difficulty.
Last tournament's winners were Spain who have also claimed the last two European Championships. So it is no surprise to see them among the favourites, at 13/2, with Bet365. The spine of Spain's team is the same that won Euro 2008: Iker Casillias, Sergio Ramos, Raul Albiol, Cesc Fabregas, Xavi, Andres Iniesta and David Silva. Their experience at winning is unparalleled and they will use their excellent midfielders to play their trademark, world conquering tiki taka style of football and dominate possession no matter who they are facing. They also have two good full-backs in Cezar Azpilecueta and Juanfran whose club sides, Chelsea and Atletico Madrid, defend better than any other team in Europe partly as a result of their efforts. They have a relatively difficult group against the Netherlands, who they beat in the final in 2010), Chile and Australia, and if they finish second they could face Brazil in the next round. However, my money is on them as they are at least as good as the other three and their higher odds are worth getting behind.