WCup Top Bets - Group A-D
June 8, 2014
By Toby Maxtone-Smith
Top Group Bets: E - F - G - H
Group A is all about Brazil, the 3/1 favorites to win the tournament. With home advantage, an excellent team with an even better team spirit, the Seleção should have trouble getting through what is a fairly straightforward group of Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon. Scolari’s men are 15/1 not to qualify, and a $10 accumulator on three wins for the Brazilians would only pay out $19.42 with Sportsbook.ag.
Many see this as a straight fight between Croatia and Mexico for second spot. Mexico have incredibly gone out at the last 16 at each of the last five tournaments, but I think that run could come to an end in Brazil. They were very goal shy in qualifying and consecutive 1-0 friendly defeats in the run-up to the competition have not changed that perception.
Croatia at 11/10 make more appeal than the 23/20 Mexicans. They have a superb midfield with Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Mateo Kovacic all capable of terrifying defences, while front man Mario Mandzukic is a clinical finisher of the highest order. Cameroon will be competitive, but squad infighting has led to a dreadful recent World Cup record. While the defence is solid enough, their midfield looks very short on creativity. They are 9/2 to qualify.
Group A - Top Bets:
Croatia to qualify at 11/10
Group B is the ‘Group of Death’. Spain are the defending holders. The Netherlands is the most major football country never to have won the World Cup, and Chile have an attack that will score goals against anyone. And then Australia. Spain are the rightful favourites, and their squad has vast experience: They have five players with over 100 caps, and this will prove vital. They are the 5/7 favourites to win the group, but it might be worth backing them not to score many goals. They are the major tournament 1-0 specialists, and it may be worth having a wedge on them to score under 5.5 goals at 50/69.
Chile are the top bet in this group at 5/6 to qualify over the Netherlands, who are 4/7. The Dutch are another team that are often beset by disharmony in the camp, and Chile’s energetic pressing game will make them very difficult opponents. Defence is an issue, but in Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal they have two real superstars. An inexperienced Australia will be totally out of their depth here. Many experienced names have retired since 2010, and the new generation have yet to convince. A treble on three defeats for the Soceroos is a 2.04/1 shot.
Group B - Top Bets:
Chile to qualify at 5/6
Spain to score under 5.5 tournament goals at 50/69
Group C looks the hardest of all to call, with no truly outstanding team and no real weak link. Colombia are the 5/7 favourites to win the group. The loss of Falcao means they are not as tempting a bet to go far as they once were, but in Carlos Bacca, Teofilo Gutierrez and Jackson Martinez they have three able deputies who will share the goalscoring load. I don’t see them getting beyond the quarters, but they should navigate their way through this group.
This is the last chance for this golden generation of Ivory Coast players to make a mark at a World Cup, after group stage exits in difficult groups in 2006 and 2010. They are 10/11 to qualify here, but this to me looks overpriced. They still struggle to find the right balance and the defence is dodgy. I’d swerve them in favour of Japan at 11/10. In Shinji Okazaki they have finally found a reliable goalscorer, and Shinki Kagawa, Hiroshi Kiyotake and Keisuke Honda all contribute well in an exciting team.
Greece are the outsiders and will be what Greece has been since they won Euro 2004: dour, defensive and hard-working. At 2/1 they cannot be written off and always have a shock up their sleeve, but forward Kostas Mitroglou has hardly played since December and is a key part of their team.
Group C - Top Bets:
Japan to qualify at 11/10
Of the 19 FIFA World Cups, teams in Group D have won seven of them. England, Italy and Uruguay all have huge footballing pedigree and this looks like another fiendishly difficult section to call. Of these three teams, it is Uruguay who I think have what it takes to come top of the pile. The draw has come out perfectly for them, with group minnows Costa Rica first up followed by England, then the Italians. If they beat Costa Rica they can afford to play it safe against the tougher opponents. Their game is to defend deep and counter-attack, and in Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez they have two of the world’s great strikers. I’m happy to take the 8/5 on them winning the group.
England and Italy are almost impossible to split. Italy are the favourites to qualify at 8/5, with the Three Lions at 2/1. I have them neck and neck. Italy knocked England out of Euro 2012 on penalties after dominating a goalless match, but England have improved their attack since then, while there are still big question marks over Italy’s forward line with Ciro Immobile relatively unproven and Mario Balotelli predictably unpredictable.
Rather unusually, England’s weakness is probably the defence, where there is a lack of real leadership after the retirements of John Terry and Ashley Cole. Glen Johnson continually looks vulnerable at right-back. Their strength is the youthful pace of their attack, but Hodgson is a safety-first manager who can be reluctant to give full freedom to his most creative players. Costa Rica stand little chance of qualifying at 10/1, but they could throw a spanner in the works with a pesky draw. This is most likely to come against Italy, who have a history of being inept at disposing of inferior opposition.
Group D - Top Bets:
Uruguay to win the group at 8/5
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