2014 World Cup betting preview
The eagerly awaited 20th FIFA World Cup kicks off in Sao Paolo tomorrow where a fervent Brazilian crowd will turn up expecting their beloved Selecao to kick off the month-long festival of football with a victory against Croatia in the opening game.
Brazil are chalked up as 3/1 favourites to secure a record sixth World Cup title, and it is hard to see past anything other than the host team lifting that famous trophy in Rio on 13 July. While being a relatively young outfit in comparison to recent Brazil World Cup rosters, the bulk of this squad would have gained much impetus from their Confederations Cup victory of last summer – also on home soil – beating the likes of Italy, Uruguay and of course Spain on the way.
Current world champions Spain seemed chastened by their 3-0 loss in that Confederations Cup final and this year’s World Cup may well be a tournament too far for the likes of Xavi and Andres Iniesta. Those two players in particular will still be licking their wounds after a poor domestic campaign for Barcelona in the season just gone, and it is questionable whether the La Furia Rioja can raise their game once again for an extremely tough looking group containing 2010 runners-up Holland and an excellent Chile side, as well as Australia. The Socceroos look to have their work cut out in this group with a host of inexperienced and home-based players in their line-up, as they struggle to fill the void left by genuine all-time heroes such as Mark Schwarzer, Lucas Neill and Harry Kewell.
Chile are one of a number of South American sides expected to prosper in their home continent this summer, with Colombia and Uruguay initially attracting a lot of support to make fine progress from Group C and D respectively. Injuries, however, have blighted these two teams’ preparations, with Falcao ruled out of the tournament for the Columbians after sustaining a serious knee ailment while playing for Monaco in January, while Uruguay’s own lead striker Luis Suarez has also been plagued by knee problems of his own in the run-up to kick-off. Suarez though is expected to be ok to participate in his country’s games, and that may spell bad news for England who face the Uruguayans in between their opening game with four-times champions Italy and a final match-up with Costa Rica. It is a devilish itinery for the Three Lions and while one of their lauded youngsters may come to the fore, Roy Hodgson and his team may be squeezed out by Italian-Uruguayan collusion in the final group game. Watch this space.
Argentina have, on paper, the most thrilling squad and are expected by the bookmakers to breeze through their group containing Iran, Nigeria and Bosnia & Herzegovina. Expect Lionel Messi and in particular Gonzalo Higuain to get among the goals from early on in the tournament, with a Brazil-Argentina final in the offing. The key contribution may though come from behind them, with Angel di Maria coming into the tournament after an excellent Champions League-winning campaign for Real Madrid. He was able to get noticed with Benzema, Bale and Ronaldo playing in front of him at club level and can do the same for his country among the more celebrated Messi and Higuain.
Alongside Argentina’s group you can find the tournament’s weakest group – Group E – where France could get a nice head of steam against mediocre opposition in Honduras, Ecuador and Switzerland.
On the other side – Group G – highly-fancied Germany do battle in a tantalising pool containing Portugal, Ghana and Jurgen Klinsmann’s USA. Those backing the Germans should beware that all three of their group games are in the heat-inducing 5pm kick-off slot and if Cristiano Ronaldo is in the mood for the opener then Die Mannschaft could have their work cut out.
Belgium are many punters’ dark horses for the World Cup and they should progress serenely from a Group H containing a below-par South Korea, Africa’s weakest offering Algeria and a Russia side who – although admittedly stronger for the presence of Fabio Capello with a previous World Cup behind him – seem stymied by a lack of genuine striking options.
Brazil though is where our ante-post tip lies. Let battle commence.
Brazil to win the World Cup – 3/1 Bet365
Chile to win the World Cup e/w – 50/1 Bwin
Spain not to qualify from Group B – 4/1 Winner
Australia to lose all three group games – 5/4 Bet365
England to get 5 or 6 points in Group D – 9/4 Winner
Japan to qualify from Group C – 11/10 Winner
France highest-scoring team in group stages – 16/1 Paddy Power
Argentina to win all three group games – 5/4 Bet365
Gonzalo Higuain World Cup top goalscorer – 20/1 Bwin
Angel di Maria World Cup player of the tournament – 33/1 Bet365
Brazil vs. Argentina Final – 8/1 Bwin