The 2018 FIFA World Cup is almost upon us and while some of the well-known countries missed out, we’ve still got a host of world-class players on show.
Ahead of next Thursday’s kick-off, we have gone through the best outright bets of the tournament.
Market leaders look strong
The outright market for the 2018 World Cup is dominated by six teams – Brazil, Germany, Spain, France, Argentina and Belgium and it’s not hard to see why.
Across the board, these six have the best players and their strength in depth is shown by the talent they’ve left out of their squads. Germany have left out Leroy Sane while France haven’t picked Anthony Martial. If only England had such luxuries!
Samba stars looking to bounce back from 2014 drubbing
The second ranked team in the world are, as usual, blessed with bundles of attacking flair and creativity with the likes of Coutinho, Jesus, Willian and of course the returning Neymar.
The Brazilians have, in recent tournaments been let down by their poor goalkeeping and defence, but with Alisson in goal and a central defensive partnership of Thiago Silva and Marquinhos those fears are a distant memory.
Such sturdiness at the back means the likes of Neymar and Coutinho have full license to roam and cause chaos and this freedom seems to be working as they’ve only lost once since June 2016.
Germans look in fine shape to retain title
Joachim Low’s men are once again one of the favourites for a major tournament and despite the loss of stalwarts such as Philipp Lahm and Lukas Podolski, they seem to perform on the biggest stage time and time again.
Like Brazil, they’ve got a wealth of riches all over the park and have so many options in almost every position. A number of their players have enjoyed plenty of success with their country too, meaning they know what it takes to get over the line when the pressure is on.
They also have Thomas Muller in their ranks and the forward has scored an impressive 13 goals in the last four major tournaments and he looks well worth a few quid at 25/1 to be the winner of this year’s Golden Boot.
Muller’s side are the 9/2 second favourites to repeat their success of four years ago.
Spain and France have the all qualities to go far
Of the remaining sides at the head of the market, I’m going to concentrate on Spain and France. Argentina are dangerous no doubt, but I worry about them defensively and while it’s certainly possible that Lionel Messi will carry them deep in the tournament, at 9/1 I’m happy to leave them alone.
Belgium, who are ranked third in the FIFA rankings, are another side who have an incredible squad of players and man-to-man they are arguably the strongest side in the competition. However, their lack of experience at the latter stages worries me and while I think they offer better value than the Pumas at 11/1, I don’t think they’ll be quite good enough here.
Spain, once again come into the tournament with an impressive squad on paper and will be looking to get back to playing the football which won them three major trophies in a row.
They did, however struggle in Brazil in 2014 and failed to make it out of the group stages and Julen Lopetegui will he hoping he can get his side back to the football which wowed so many.
France, meanwhile, showed during their runner-up finish at Euro 2016 they are a team not be messed with and are now beginning to match the potential they possess with results.
Didier Deschamps has crafted a strong-side and he looks to have blended experience with youthful flair and the way they performed on home turf in 2016 means they have the temperament required to do well in Russia.
The French are 13/2 to win their second World Cup.
Brazil to prove they are the world’s best again
As the betting suggests, this is a wide-open World Cup and all the teams towards the head of the market have pretty solid claims of taking the trophy.
The fact that France performed so well at the Euros makes me think they’ll go pretty deep and the 5/4 about them finishing in the top-three looks a very solid bet.
While they are big dangers, I’ll be backing Brazil at 4/1 to win their sixth World Cup.
Yes, since 1958 only two south American countries have won World Cups outside of South America, and that stat does worry me slightly. However, I go through their side and I just don’t see any weaknesses – they’ve shored up their defence and in Alisson they now have a quality keeper.
There has never been any doubt about their attacking quality and with the likes of Coutinho pulling the strings, they are going to create a hatful of chances. Then there is the return of the country’s hero, Neymar which is sure to give the camp a confidence lift. The PSG forward instils self-belief wherever he goes, and he will feel he has unfinished business after injury curtailed his tournament in 2014.
The Brazilians are a confident selection to lift the trophy on 15th July.