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2014 World Cup Betting Preview

June 12th marks the day the 2014 World Cup will begin in Brazil, lasting just over 1 month with the finals being played on July 13th. 32 countries will compete for the biggest title in international football, with at least half of them having genuine hopes of lifting the trophy in Rio. This years world cup already has some mouth-watering ties to be played, and is bound to throw up some interesting clashes from a betting perspective.

As per usual, there are 8 groups in the world cup, with the top two teams from each advancing to the last 16 knockout stage. Each team will play all their respective group opponents, with the knockout rounds beginning on June 28th. Below are the groups;

Group A

Brazil:

The hosts enter the tournament as favourites. There will be enormous pressure on the Brazilian team to lift the trophy; however we saw that they can use this as an advantage in their route to lifting the Confederations Cup. Manager Luis Felipe Scolari has managed to shape an impressive unit during his time in charge, with a star-studded line-up boasting the likes of Neymar, Fred, Oscar and Hulk to name a few. They have a relatively easy group, with a Mexican team who just got qualified through the play-offs, a Cameroon team in crisis, with the only potentially awkward tie against Croatia. Tougher matches will lie ahead, where they will face the runner up of Group B, which will either be Chile or the Netherlands, but possibly Spain. A tie against Spain so early on could very well spell disaster for the hosts. Brazil will most likely enter every game as favourites if they can keep their squad injury free.

There is no doubt Brazil have an abundance of attacking options, however serious question marks still remain over their defence. Full backs Marcelo and Rafinha are not the most defensive minded. Scolari may look towards the option of a holding midfielder, who can drop as an auxiliary centre-back when required, likely to be Luis Gustavo, with Paulinho and Fernandinho being used as attacking options in the middle of the park.

Brazil are deserving favourites, but are far from flawless. Too many uncertainties remain over there defensive abilities, with Uruguay showing us last year just how vulnerable they can be. In my opinion, their price is too short to back.

Outright odds: +274

Croatia:

Croatia is a team with a lot of ability, particularly in midfield. Despite this, they only scraped through the qualifying rounds. However, the sacking of hapless Igor Stimac for former midfielder Niko Kovac has come at the right time. Look out for Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic to be their playmakers in the middle of the park. The loss of Mandzukic will be a serious blow to their hopes however, with their match against Mexico most likely a decider for the runner up position. If they manage to escape the group, they will be unlikely to go much further.

Outright odds: +15,000

Cameroon:

As long as Samuel Eto’o doesn’t change his mind yet again on his international eligibility, Cameroon will have at least one top class player at this years WC. He has recently come into form with club side Chelsea, and will be the main man in their squad. That is where it stops however. There is a lack of any real ability elsewhere. There are also serious question marks over unrest in their camp, particularly after recent tournaments. They have the potential to be a factor in the battle for 2nd place in the group between Croatia and Mexico, but that will be pretty much it.

Outright odds: +50,000

Mexico:

Strong potential doesn’t always translate into what it should – with Mexico being a perfect example of this. With recent success at underage level, there was the expectation that Mexico would become a force to be reckoned with. An awful qualifying campaign which saw them beating minnows New Zeland to get in doesn’t exactly exude confidence. They have a remarkable record of being consistently average in the world cup, regularly making the last 16 but never threatening to lift the cup. Although they have some quality players in the likes of Javier Hernandez and Javier Aquino, I expect their trend to continue.

Outright odds: +12,000

Group B

Spain:

Having stopped a long trophy drought, Spain has won the last 3 major tournaments they have been involved in. With an abundance of talent in what really is the golden age of Spanish football, the have the ability to control possession like nobody else. With star players from Barcelona and Real Madrid such as Iniesta, Xavi and Alonso, it is easy to see why they have such control in games. They had to overcome a stiff test from France in the qualification stage, and will face another tough examination from The Netherlands in their opening game. They should be able to manoeuvre through this group, and should make a deep run in this tournament. Their start will be crucial, as we will get an indication if there remains a hunger within the squad, having won so much.

Outright odds: +676

Chile:

Similar to Mexico, Chile are consistent qualifiers to major tournaments, albeit have a stronger squad than their South American counterparts. Having never won a major trophy, a very tough draw in this year’s world cup would suggest that will continue. Their game against The Netherlands should ultimately decide who will be runner up in this group. While they will most likely have a larger support, and will be much more used to the climate, I would have to expect they will struggle to beat Chile. But even if they manage a result, with a last 16 tie most likely against Brazil, it’s hard to see them going too far.

Outright odds: +3,500

Netherlands:

If the Netherlands want to go far in this tournament, they will have to target their opening game against Spain as one to win, rather than be happy with a draw. They had an impeccable qualifying campaign, with a better record than any other European team. However, they were equally impressive in the Euro 2012 qualification, which turned out to be a disaster. Louis Van Gaal has introduced some fresh faces into the squad, but ultimately their fate will rest on the shoulders of their more experienced players like Robin Van Persie. However, they don’t seem to have the same talent as the Dutch teams of the 70s and 80s, and I feel they will struggle in the knockout stages, should they oversee Chile in the race for runner up.

Outright odds: +2,500

Australia:

With an ageing squad and having been dealt a tough draw, the Aussies are highly unlikely to reach the knockout stages like they did in 2006. Having suffered recent 6 nil beatings from Brazil and France confidence cannot be very high in the camp. May cause trouble for their group opponents by getting a draw along their way, but I cant see them winning a game in this campaign.

Outright odds: +20,000

Group C

Colombia:

It seems strange that Colombia hasn’t reached the WC in 16 years, missing by goal difference or a single point on recent qualification attempts. This time around, qualification was an easier process with the absence of Brazil, and the Colombia’s current strong squad managed 2nd place in the group stages.

Jose Pekerman has recently been appointed as manager, and has been able to forge arguably the best defence in South America. Despite the tactically astute manager, Colombia will struggle up front with the absence of Falcao. Porto striker Jackson Martinez and the young Theo Gutierrez will have to step up to the mark and bag some goals if they are to make a deep run in this tournament, with the latter still not guaranteed to be fit. Colombia is almost even money to qualify from their group, which looks like a simple cash on paper. It is also worth noting that they are notorious slow starters in games, and with their solid defence it may be worth looking at betting the Draw/Colombia option of the HT/FT markets in come of their games.

Outright odds: +3,000

Greece:

Greece managed to grind their way to winning the Euro 2004 tournament; however they have a dreadful record in recent World Cups, having never managed to get out of their group. They have only ever managed 1 win in the world cup, having been defeated on 5 occasions and conceding 15 goals in the process while just scoring twice. While they are not completely out of their depth, they have no stand out stars in their current squad and look unlikely to buck their trend. Markets to watch during for their games would be their opponents to keep a clean sheet. It is hard to see Greece scoring many goals, so anything above even money on Greece not to score in a certain game would represent significant value, especially against Colombia.

Outright odds: +15,000

Ivory Coast:

Ivory Coast is one of the strongest African teams coming into this WC, with the likes of Yaya Toure and Didier Drogba in their ranks. There has been high expectation for the Ivory Coast in recent times, yet they so often underperform at the big stage. With an ageing squad, this could be their last chance in a while to make the knockout stage. An impressive qualifying campaign saw Ivory Coast reach the World Cup finals without suffering a single loss. With this group looking so tight, every game will be important and so Ivory Coast know that they need to make a good start in their opening game against Japan. Next up for them is Colombia and the Ivory Coast World Cup betting expects this to be a defeat so anything more will be a big bonus. The last game is against Greece and it could be a cracker because it is possible that both teams will be vying for qualification at this point.

Outright odds: +12,000

Japan:

Japan will be playing their fifth WC but are yet to make it beyond the last 16. They were knocked out by Turkey in 2002 and on penalties against Paraguay in 2010. Japan won their final qualifying group for the 2014 World Cup, finishing ahead of Australia, and is second favourites to win group C. Japan have remained unbeaten in the World Cup group stages only once, back in 2002 when they were playing on home soil (W2 D1). Interestingly, they have scored more than 2 goals on just one occasion in the WC, out of 14 games (3-1 win against Denmark in 2010), which may represent potential value on the goals scored market, depending on their starting strikers. Alberto Zaccheroni is taking charge of his first World Cup as Japan head-coach – he won the 2011 Asian Cup with the Samuraïs. Group C is one of the most open, and realistically any two teams could make it out.

Outright odds: +10,000

Group D

Italy:

Bing one of the most successful teams in the WC, the Italy World Cup betting always has the Azzurri as potential winners of the tournament and this year should be no different after their impressive showing at Euro 2012. Although they weren’t expected to go too far in Poland and Ukraine, the Italians surprised everyone by making it to the final and they will hope to put in a similar performance in the summer and surprise the Italy World cup odds. Can they once again make it to the later stages of a World Cup or will they struggle like they did in South Africa?

They have been drawn a tough group in Brazil, but would be bitterly disappointed if they didn’t manage to find a way out of the group. Italy is an ageing squad, and star man Adreas Pirlo is no exception at 35. Yet, despite their age, the Italians still have the ability to control the game in midfield before delivering a killer pass at the edge of the box.

I expect Italy to be streetwise enough to concoct a way to get out of the group. They should have no problems in the last 16 ether against Group C winners, yet I sense they will face Brazil in the quarters which should be a bridge too far.

Outright odds: +2,200

Uruguay:

Uruguay starts their campaign with a game against Italy, the side that knocked them out of Euro 2012. The fact that the teams drew in that European Championships game will give England hope that they can get something from this game and boost the England World Cup odds. Next is another tough game against group D favourites Uruguay and England will know that they need to be careful to avoid defeat or they could find themselves out of the competition before their third game begins. With Luis Suarez and Diego Forlan leading the way, the Uruguay World Cup team have the potential to cause trouble for the best of defences at Brazil 2014 and that attacking talent is the reason that the Uruguay World Cup odds have them as favourites to win a tough group D. However, it isn’t just up front where they boast lots of talent as they have several quality midfielders and defenders who also have lots of international experience – a perfect recipe for success.

I expect Uruguay to get out of their group, and should top it pending a good result against the Italians. Luis Suarez has been in devastating form all season for Liverpool, and will need to bring that into the summer if Uruguay is to harbour any hopes of going deep in this tournament. Similar to Italy, they should have no problem in getting through whichever Group C opponent in the quarter finals, but may be a step too far in the quarter finals, where they are likely to come up against Spain.

Outright odds: +2,200

England:

Expectation within the English camp is at an all time low, which strangely may be a good thing. Having been drawn in the group of death, the England World Cup betting only has them as third favourites to win the group and that has helped dampen the supporters’ enthusiasm a little bit. Will the reduced expectations help them upset the England World Cup odds or is it going to be a rare early exit for Roy Hodgson’s side?

England starts their campaign with a game against Italy, the side that knocked them out of Euro 2012. The fact that the teams drew in that European Championships game will give England hope that they can get something from this game and boost the England chances. Next is another tough game against group D favourites Uruguay and England will know that they need to be careful to avoid defeat or they could find themselves out of the competition before their third game begins.

Many talk of Wayne Rooney being the main man, but I feel youngster Danny Sturridge could prove to be a key player in the English squad. I cannot see the English getting out of the group, and at odds against for such a flop, it would be a recommended bet on this team.

Outright odds: +2,200

Costa Rica:

They have never been particularly successful on the game’s biggest stage and the Costa Rica World Cup odds suggest there will be no change this year as they face an uphill struggle against some of the best teams around. Being drawn in a very tough group, it is difficult to see where Costa Rica could even pick up a win, never mind qualify from the group. It is possible that they could cause an upset to a group opponent, in the form of getting a draw, but realistically Costa Rica have no chance of playing any more than 3 games in this years WC.

Outright odds: +200,000

Group E

France:

The French arrive in Brazil, after evading Ukraine in a dramatic qualifying group, and are installed as 6th favourites to lift the trophy. As always, the unpredictable French arrive at a major tournament with several underlying issues within the camp. Frances problems are not cantered around the players at their disposal, where they clearly have an abundance of talent. Politics and player personalities, which caused a national embarrassment at the last WC, are likely to influence how Les Bleus will perform.

Their game against the Swiss is key, if they can top the group they have a relatively easy path to the quarter final, if not Argentina will most likely be waiting for them in the knockout stage. With the likes of Karim Benzema, Frank Ribery, Olivier Giroud, Yohan Cabaye, Hugo Lloris (to name a few), France certainly have the ability to go deep, but the question remains if they can get the balance right both on and off the pitch.

Outright odds: +2,000

Switzerland:

Although the Swiss had a straightforward group in qualifying, they arrive in Brazil after a comprehensive set of results, while remaining unbeaten both home and away. Switzerland is not considered a powerhouse of European football, yet they have a decent amount of quality in their squad to go far in this tournament. The top names in their squad include Bayern Munich’s Xherdan Shaqiri, the brilliant Ghorkan Inler of Napoli and fast paced full back Stephan Lichseiner. Led by Ottmar Hitzfeld, who has two Champions League titles under his belt as a manager, this Swiss team has the ability to top this group – pending their game against the ever unpredictable France.

Outright odds: +8,000

Ecuador:

Ecuador has reached 3 of the previous 4 world cups, having never qualified pre 2002. The have drawn a tricky group, but are trading at about even money the get out of the group. Their best performance was a last 16 game, losing out to England in 2006. Uniquely they have never drawn a game at the WC, having won 3 lost 4. They are a big price to do the unthinkable and go on to lift the trophy; however I think they are worth backing not to get out of their group.

Outright odds: +12,000

Honduras:

This is the third time Honduras play in the WC, yet they are arguably the poorest team involved. In 2010 they failed to register a single goal in an admittedly tough group. They do boast some semi-decent players, such as Wilson Palacios who has played in the Premier League for many years. Realistically, they will struggle to make any kind of impression in the WC, as it is difficult to see where they could pick up even a single point.

Outright odds: +200,000

Group F

Argentina:

Much is expected of Lionel Messi and co. in Brazil, and the layers have installed Argentina as second favourites behind the hosts. Qualification was a foregone conclusion with Brazil not involved. Argentina was well below par in the 2011 Copa America, for which they hosted, but since Alejandro Sabella has taken over in charge they have been firing on all cylinders. The star studded forwards almost pick themselves, with the only drama being the unlikely inclusion of Carlos Tevez on the basis of troublesome behaviour and potential distruption of the camp.

Apart from Messi, whom many believe to be the greatest player on the planet at the moment, Angel Di Maria will be the key player in their squad. The Real Madrid man works like a Trojan and is able to adapt from being a tricky winger to a shuttling central midfielder. He will be the primary link between attack and the defence in the centre of the park. Argentina’s weakness is in their backline, with the likes of Marcos Rojo far from a top class left back. Sergio Romero in goals has also seen very little game time and could be a cause for concern.

They are almost certain to get out of their group, and should have a relatively easy draw to the quarter final stages, however are difficult to see Argentina go all the way playing in front of their bitter rivals. It may be worth looking at Messi to win the golden boot award, with the Argentines likely to rack up big scores in their group games.

Outright odds: +427

Nigeria:

They burst onto the World Cup scene in the nineties and made a real impact but since then Nigeria have failed to hit the heights. Nigeria’s first game sees them square off against the group F outsiders Iran. This game is their best chance to win a game in Brazil and so we can expect them to put in a strong performance. Next is Bosnia and Herzegovina and it could be an interesting clash because, if they beat Iran first, a draw or better could help improve the Nigeria World Cup odds for reaching the next round. Finally they face Argentina. This will be the fifth World Cup that Nigeria has played in and it will be the fourth time that they have faced Argentina in the finals. Unfortunately for them, Argentina has won the three previous meetings and the Nigeria World Cup betting odds suggest that sequence will be extended. I strongly expect B&H to get the best of Nigeria in the battle for second place.

Outright odds: +15,000

Bosnia & Herzegovina:

B&H are WC debutants, yet have high ambitions and, with some great attacking talent in the squad, could be a potential dark horse at this summer’s finals. If they get a good result in their opening game it Argentina, they will almost certainly make it out of he group. If not, they will have to work hard against Nigeria and Iran to secure knockout football. Eden Dzecko will be their star player and the Man City sticker can play a big role in how far B&H go this summer.

There is enough talent in the Bosnia and Herzegovina World Cup squad for them to secure victories against both Nigeria and Iran but a draw or better against Argentina might be beyond them. Therefore, the Bosnia and Herzegovina World Cup team should comfortably secure second place in group F and progress of the round of 16. That will result in a knockout tie against either France or Switzerland and, while they have the potential to beat those sides and go further in the tournament, we think that will spell the end of their first World Cup.

Outright odds: +12,000

Iran:

They have only ever won one World Cup game and, as far as the Iran World Cup betting is concerned, it doesn’t look like they will improve that record this year. Big underdogs in this group, there is no conceivable way they can get a result against Argentina or B&H, and may even fall short against Nigeria. Look for Iran’s struggles to continue this time around also.

Outright odds: +150,000

Group G

Germany:

They always say that you can never write off the Germans and that seems to be as true as ever this year as they boast an impressive squad that looks capable of going all the way. The Germany World Cup betting certainly thinks they are capable of going far and they currently stand as third favourites to lift the trophy. Goals, goals, goals were the story of Germany’s qualifying campaign. Facing a tough group that included Sweden, Austria and the Republic of Ireland, they had little trouble sweeping aside their opponents and that helped those secure 28 points from their ten games.

Germany begins the tournament with a huge game as they face Portugal in Salvador. They are in a tough group but I expect Germany to finish in first place, perhaps on goal difference after drawing with Portugal.

I expect the Germans, with their wealth of talent all around the park, to go far in this tournament. They may fall just short however, yet they can’t be written off.

Outright odds: +576

USA:

With some quality players and a manager who knows some of their opponents very well, the USA World Cup team are capable of surprising some people at this year’s World Cup. However, after they suffered the misfortune of being placed in one of the toughest groups at Brazil 2014, even that might not be enough to see them get past the opening round of the tournament. They do have the potential to upset the USA World Cup odds and make it to the round of 16 but I think the challenge will prove too much for the USA World Cup team. A win in the opening game will get them off to a good start but they will struggle from that point on and suffer two defeats, meaning they will finish in third place in group G.

Outright odds: +11,125

Portugal:

They boast the best player in the world on current form and have him ably supported by a talented group of players. Can Cristiano Ronaldo continue his amazing form and guide the Portugal World Cup team to glory or will he and his team disappoint in Brazil? The Real Madrid star has been exceptional in recent years, even by his own extremely high standards. Scoring goals for fun and producing many memorable moments, Ronaldo reclaimed the Ballon d’Or in 2013 and will head into the World Cup in superb form. His presence alone will help improve the Portugal World Cup odds and he has the potential to win games by himself. He could well end up as top scorer and player of the tournament, although once again he will be battling for those titles with his old foe Lionel Messi.

Unfortunately for them, I think that the Portugal World Cup team might suffer a bit of bad luck and end up exiting the World Cup early on as a result. They face stiff competition in group G and we think they will only qualify for the next round as runners up, with the group potentially being decided by goal difference. That will see them face Belgium or France in the next round and we think that, even though they will be favoured in the Portugal World Cup betting, they will struggle in that game and end with a defeat.

Outright odds: +2,200

Ghana:

They have a good record in the two World Cups they have played in so far, reaching the knockout rounds on both occasions and almost getting to the semi finals in 2010. However, with a tough group, this could well be the year that Ghana’s good sequence comes to an end.

Group G is going to be one of the toughest groups at the 2014 World Cup and that is why the Ghana World Cup betting suggests that they will struggle. I agree with that outlook and think they will fail to reach the knockout stages for the first time ever and probably finish bottom of the group.

Outright odds: +20,000

Group H

Belgium:

Boasting a talented young squad, Belgium has been growing in stature over recent years and they look like they have the potential to go far at this year’s World Cup. Currently ranked as fifth favourites in the outright Belgium World Cup betting, they are appearing in the World Cup finals following a 12 year absence but could be on course to equal their best ever performance.

I agree with the odds makers that put them as favourites for group H and so think they will finish in first place. From there they will face a tough round of 16 game, probably against Portugal, but I think they have the ability to win that tie as well. Based on my predictions, that would mean a quarter final against Argentina and I think that the Belgium World Cup team will see their journey come to an end in that game.

Outright odds: +1,550

Russia:

As second favourites for group H, Russia could well be entering new territory this summer as they try to reach the knockout stages of the World Cup for the first time ever. However, they went into Euro 2012 with a similar amount of confidence but ended up going out early after putting in a disappointing showing. So long as South Korea don’t cause a Russia World Cup betting upset in the opening game, Fabio Capello’s side should have no trouble making it through to the next round of the World Cup. However, I think that they will be beaten to top spot in group G by Belgium and that means they will face a tough very test in the knockout rounds as they will probably face Germany. As far as I’m concerned that means Capello’s Russia will face the same fate that his England side suffered in 2010 – a round of 16 exit after a big defeat by Germany.

It should be noted, however, that there is the potential Russia will upset Belgium and finish top in the group. If that happens then it will cause a big change to the Russia World Cup odds and they will perhaps go further in the tournament.

Outright odds: +5,844

South Korea:

South Korea has been to more World Cups than any other Asian team, having qualified on their last 8 attempts. Their best performance was in 2004 when they managed fourth place, while co hosting the tournament with Japan. They started their last 3 World Cups with a win, and could cause an upset against Russia in their opening game. The relatively unknown Arsenal striker, Park Chu-Young was the Koreans top scorer in qualification, and is likely to be the key man in Brazil. Their opening game will be crucial in determine their chances of getting out of the group, but one would have to think its unlikely they will cause much of an upset in the knockout stages, provided they get that far.

Outright odds: +40,000

Algeria:

Since winning two games in their first World Cup, Algeria haven’t managed to impress on the biggest stage and they look to be heading for another summer of disappointment this year. Things are going to be very difficult for and I can’t see any way that they will make it past the group stage. In fact, with three tough games ahead of them, I think that this will end up being their worst ever performance at a World Cup as the Algeria World cup betting indicates that they could end up with no points.

Outright odds: +200,000