Now I’m over my slight man-crush on Channing Tatum (see my 2015 Oscars piece on this site), my attention has turned to the biggest event in 2014…the football world cup. Starting a week tomorrow, the excitement is building as a football fan and as a football bettor. With so many markets available, there must be some good bets at decent prices around. In this article, I will outline my best bets for this year’s tournament with some quick reasoning. You can find the team’s picks for each of the groups and the outright markets here http://sbbcolumns.co.uk/2014-fifa-world-cup/. I urge you to have a look and gauge as many opinions as possible.
Right…down to the selections!
1. Karim Benzema Golden Boot (33/1)…1/4 odds first 4 each-way terms
The main man up front for the French and if they score, the Real Madrid man will more than likely be the guy to put the ball in the back of the net. He scored 24 goals this season with 13 assists but he probably would have a lot more if he was not in the same team as the best player in the world. Franck Ribery will be providing the firepower for our man and with games against Ecuador and Honduras, I’d expect him to rack up the goals before they have even left the group. To win this, we probably need 5 goals and it is not impossible that he could have 4 after the first 3 games. He will start every game and play >80 mins each time out. Past the group stage, should they win, they will face Bosnia or Nigeria and this will be another chance for KB to bag a few. This is the first of my 10 bets this year.
2. Number of African teams to reach last 16 – None (9/2)
This is a market only offered by the Betfair sportsbook and I think this is a cracking bet. If we go through the African teams, we have: Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Ghana and Algeria. The first two to write off in my opinion are Cameroon and Ghana. The former are in a group with the hosts, Brazil, so are already in a 3 way playoff for one place. The other two teams in this are Mexico and Croatia; both of these teams are far better than a Cameroon side that are appalling away from home and simply not at the same level. Secondly, Ghana are in a group with the 3rd favourites for the competition and a side that plays host to the greatest player walking the planet…good luck! Portugal and Germany feature later on in this piece as well but I don’t see a situation where Ghana can finish above either of these two sides although they should beat USA (the final team in group G). We are now left with 3. Let’s tackle Algeria. In by far the weakest group, they look to have more chance than the first two mentioned but it is still a group with an outright favourite (Belgium) so are tackling 2 other sides for one place, again. Another side who are decent at home but awful away from home – losing to Benin and Burkina Faso during qualification. They scraped through the latter to qualify for this tournament. A draw with England in 2010 earned them their only point and they failed to register a goal in 3 games there. I’m willing to say they will not get past South Korea or Russia. Nigeria are in a shootout with Bosnia and Herzegovina for the 2nd place position behind Argentina in their group. Another side who feature later in this, I like the chances of the Europeans in this group. All 3 sides should beat Iran (again featuring later) and then I like Dzeko and Ibisevic in a match vs Efe Ambrose! You cannot take the African Cup of Nations champions lightly but the price is enticing enough. Finally, Ivory Coast…what do we say here? Perennial favourites for their continent’s major competition and they always find a way to lose. Yaya has been a force all season in the EPL and they have other stars (Gervinho, Kalou, Drogba, Bony) going forward. Unfortunately, this isn’t matched by their defensive players. In defence we have a selection from Kolo Toure, Didier Zokora and Sol Bamba…hardly names that fill you with confidence! Behind them a keeper that is not the greatest and we see the issues. In a group with free scoring and well supported Japan and Colombia, I fear for their chances.
The other thing to note here…the best price accumulator in the “not to qualify” market for each of these teams would be a shade over 7/2.
3. Top Man City Goalscorer – Edin Dzeko ( 9/2)
We will take on the odds on favourite (Sergio Aguero) here with the big Bosnian. The team scored 30 in 10 games during qualifying (in albeit a weak group) to secure their first ever appearance at a World Cup and Dzeko chipped in with 10 of these. Over his career, he has 35 in 62 games and we are looking for him to carry this record on. One of the major reasons I am taking Aguero on is the injury factor…how will he cope with the rigours of a World Cup? A second reason is the fact he is in that Argentinian side. Finally an Argentinian side that has put Messi in the middle of everything they do and a front 3 of Higuain, Messi and Aguero where Higuain and Aguero are secondary to the Barcelona star. He only scored 5 in qualifying compared to Messi’s 10 and compared to Dzeko being Bosnia’s main man, this could be telling. Aguero is a deserving favourite but if Bosnia can get out the groups and play 4 or 5 games, Dzeko will have 3 goals minimum (they should score a few past Iran!).
4. Outright winner – Spain (13/2)
Ignore the fact that they lost to Brazil in the Confederations cup final last year. Brazil were taking that very seriously in comparison to a Spain side that didn’t look to be. Brazil didn’t have a qualifying campaign so needed some intense run outs and saw this as a chance. Spain saw it as an end of season thing by the looks of it. Anyway, the 4th favourites for the competition are being written off for a variety of reasons. One is the “European teams haven’t won in South America” argument…another is the “Spain are getting old” argument. Firstly, we have only had 4 world cups in Central/South America (1930, 1962, 1970 and 1986). Nearly 30 years ago was the last one…Science has moved on, players are much fitter now and they know what to expect. Every single one of the European players will be primed and ready for what they will encounter. Add to that, the style of football that Spain play where they hardly exude any excess energy and I don’t see an issue at all. Spain conceded 2 goals during the 2010 world cup and that is how you win this tournament (think Italy in 2006 and Brazil only conceded 4 in 2002). The squad is littered with star names in every position (an advantage they have over the likes of Argentina and Germany in my opinion) and I can’t see why people are looking to get them beat. Spain average well over 70% of possession in their games and this is going to take its toll on teams in the Brazilian climate, a good in running bet to have with this side may be draw/Spain in the HT/FT markets. This is a monstrous price when you consider the 3 ahead of them.
5. Spain/Chile Group B Straight Forecast (100/30)
I’ve just told you why they will win the tournament so I have to expect them to win their group…that much is obvious. Why do I think Chile will beat Netherlands? Very simply, I believe Chile are the better side. Playing on their home continent, they will have good support and I think a lot of neutrals will warm to their style of play, they certainly pleased the eye in their friendly victory vs England recently. With Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez leading their side, they have some undoubted quality although they may lack a little back in defence. That being said, I do not think they will win the tournament, I just think they will beat Netherlands for 2nd place in this group. Van Gaal’s dutch side have lost Kevin Strootman and this cannot be underestimated. The Roma midfielder and Van Persie are LVG’s two main men and without one of them, he will be tested to the full in his managerial capacity. They did qualify very easily in a poor group and scored a shedload of goals, this won’t happen vs Spain and Chile will be well prepared. Van Gaal has been tinkering with new tactics in his world cup warm up games and it’s not my place to tell him how to do his job but this seems strange. He has said himself he doesn’t have much expectation! Obviously in a side that contains RvP, Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder amongst others you must respect them but I see Chile beating them or at least staying undefeated while Spain should beat the Netherlands.
6. Germany/Portugal Group G Dual Forecast (4/5)
Corals are stand out for this market. This looks like an absolute steal! We have already highlighted the fact that Ghana shouldn’t get out the group and the 4th team here are USA. Germany are ruthless, they will beat both of these sides very convincingly. Portugal are slightly enigmatic but should still have too much. The Potuguese starting XI is very good and this should be enough during the group stages. As the tournament progresses, I worry about their strength in depth but for the first few games, they should be fine. Even if the other 10 don’t perform, Ronaldo may well carry them through on his own (much like the playoff victory vs Sweden)! Not much more needs to be said here.
7. England Stage of Elimination – Quarter Finals (4/1)
As an anti-England man, this pains me to say but I think a lot of the English supporters are downplaying their chances unfairly. The English are notorious for overhyping their own guys and expecting far too much, now they have gone completely the other way! Roy Hodgson knows how to get things done and England don’t fail to get out the group very often. I’m taking on Uruguay and think it will be an Italy/England forecast in group D. If they come out of Group D, they have Colombia or Japan probably so there is a great chance of getting through to the quarters. I think once they get there, this will be a step too far as they will probably have Spain. This looks a good price and I think the general attitude towards England has pushed this price out to a bit of value.
8. Mesut Ozil top German goalscorer (12/1)
This looks like an oversight to me. Germany scored 36 in 10 games during qualifying in which the Arsenal man scored 8. He takes penalties and in a group in which they should score a few (highlighted above), I can see him shining here. Germany have only named one actual striker in their squad and then they rely on the likes of Reus, Muller, and Podolski to pick up the goals. Mertesacker pops up with a few from the back aswell but at 12/1 I’d take a small play on the playmaker. He is certainly more a goalscorer in this German set up than you have seen him in an Arsenal shirt (more because there isn’t someone to feed the ball to!). To top this market, 3 goals may well be enough and a couple of tired defenders giving away penalties gets us on our way!
9. Australia lose all Group Games (11/8)
Skybet are the guys offering this and again, this looks massive. They have to play Spain, Chile and the Netherlands. These 3 teams will know that if they don’t beat Australia, they may as well pack their bags because they will not be getting out of the group stages. This is a must-win for the 3 sides and they will prove the quality difference between them and Australia. This is a team with a Preston North End defender, a Swindon Town midfielder and a whole host of others who should find this level a step up from anything they have seen before. I wish them all the best but this is a tough ask for them!
10. Iran lose all Group Games (12/5)
Again this is Skybet (the double pays 7/1…wouldn’t put you off this!). Where to start with Iran?!?! The game against Argentina is a write off so we will concentrate on Bosnia and Nigeria. We’ve already touched on Bosnia and how good they are in an attacking sense with Dezko and Ibisevic. Iran another side fronted by a League One player…Charlton’s striker,Reza Ghoochannejhad. He does have a very good record at international level but this is a whole new ball game. Their best hope of a point is against Nigeria but, very similar to Australia above, I think both Bosnia and Nigeria will see this as a must-win tie. With this motivation, they should definitely get the job done. In the midst of political trouble where they couldn’t organise a fixture against any top teams, they haven’t had a great preparation and this could really hit home. I don’t even think Iran will score a goal in this tournament so I really can’t see them getting a point!
Hopefully I’ve given you something to think about there and you can see that there is a whole host of markets. You can find your own value plays and let me know, I look forward to hearing them! Again, I reiterate that you should see the pages on here with the other guys’ selections. I just cannot wait for it to start now! Be lucky!