WCup Top Bets - Group E-H
June 8, 2014
By Toby Maxtone-Smith
Top Group Bets: A - B - C - D
Group E is possibly the weakest group at the World Cup, and France are the 20/29 favourites to win it with Sportsbook.ag. However I’d be wary of going in too hard at this price. While I expect the French to do well, they never seem to nail the group stages. In Euro 2012 they surrendered top spot to England thanks to a defeat to Sweden, and even when they reached the World Cup final in ’06, they stumbled through a similarly weak group with just five points. The loss of Franck Ribéry will hit Les Bleus hard, but in Karim Benzema they have a striker on top form, while Paul Pogba is touted by many as a future great.
The bookmakers make Switzerland the 2/3 favourites to qualify with the French. They have a team packed with flair: Xherdan Shaqiri on the right wing is the star, while Granit Xhaka, Ricardo Rodriguez and Josip Drmic all have great potential. Their opening clash with Ecuador in Brasília will be crucial. Ecuador’s main strength is their excellent wide men Antonio Valencia and Jefferson Montero, but their defence could let them down. However I’m happy to take even on them qualifying, as I think home advantage could be crucial.
Honduras are a physical side, but at 6/1 to qualify I expect their contribution to be more about denting other side’s prospects with doughty draws than winning themselves.
Group E - Top Bets:
Ecuador to Qualify at even (+100)
Group F looks like a fairly straightforward affair for Argentina, who are my pick to win the World Cup. Alejandro Cabella’s side are1/4 favourites to win the group. Their three opponents all look shaky at the back, and Argentina’s devastating front three of Gonzalo Higuain, Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero look set to plunder plenty of goals in this section. They are evens to score over 6.5 goals in these three games.
The main match in this group will be Bosnia-Herzegovina’s match against Nigeria, and bookmakers are correct in making Bosnia (the only debutants in Brazil) the 5/7 favourites. They scored 30 goals in 10 games in qualifying with the deadly duo of Vedad Ibisevic and Edin Dzeko scoring eighteen of them. Even if defence is a concern, between the sticks they have the excellent Asmir Begovic. I’m very keen on them scoring over 3.5 group goals at 20/23.
Nigeria look one of the strongest of the five African sides represented, and in Stephen Keshi they have an excellent home-grown coach. However like Cameroon, they have a shortage of creativity in a largely workmanlike midfield, which is why I’m backing Bosnia ahead of the 7/5 Super Eagles. Iran look, on paper, the weakest side at the competition. They got through the Asian qualifying section thanks to good defending (eight goals scored and only two conceded in eight games), but that defence could be found out. The attack looks toothless, and 5/4 on them to score under 1.5 group goals looks a banker.
Group F - Top Bets:
Bosnia-Herzegovina to score over 3.5 Group Stage Goals at 20/23
Iran to score under 1.5 Group Stage Goals at 5/4
Group G is split in two. Germany and Portugal, whom everyone expects to qualify, and Ghana and USA. Germany look one of the teams to oppose this year. They have had four golden opportunities to win a tournament since winning Euro 1996, and have missed every one. Now, Joachim Löw manages a side blighted by injuries and key men out of form. The loss of Marco Reus will hit them particularly hard. They are 4/7 to win the group.
This leaves the door open for Portugal to take top spot off the Germans. If Cristiano Ronaldo is fully fit and firing then the 27/10 on Paulo Bento’s side winning the group has great appeal. Sceptics will look at a lack of depth in quality behind Ronaldo, but the whole team is geared up to get the best out of the Real Madrid man.
The USA do not look as strong as in recent years. Klinsmann’s men will travel 10,188 to and from games - more than any team, and that will take its toll. I also have huge doubts that Jozy Altidore, despite his good international record, is up to it at the highest level of soccer. They are 2/1 to qualify, and while they won’t be thrashed, I’m sorry to say, guys, that it’ll be an early flight home.
Ghana hold more appeal at 3/1 to disrupt the ‘big two’ in this group. They have an abundance of talent going forward, with Andre Ayew, Kevin-Prince Boateng and Kwadwo Asamoah behind Asamoah Gyan. While not blessed with quite the same stardust, they have a better team ethic than fellow West Africans Ivory Coast, and this should stand them in good stead.
Group G - Top Bets:
Portugal to win Group G at 27/10
Leading the betting in Group H are Belgium. Congratulations to those who backed them at monster prices a few years ago (they were 500/1 after the last World Cup), but they hype seems to have gone too far and I can’t have any of the 4/7 on them winning a competitive section. Some of their stars, like Marouane Fellaini, have had poor seasons, and there is a real issue at full-back, where they play two players who are naturally centre-backs.
Russia have been hit hard by an injury to captain Roman Shirokov, and with the 2018 competition being hosted in Russia, this team looks like a work in progress. A good result against South Korea in their first game is certainly realistic, and I’d be happier backing them to win the group at 2/1 than Belgium. South Korea had a dodgy qualifying campaign, but they are excellent at raising their game for the big time. They never shirk away from a fight and are 9/5 to qualify.
Algeria have been written off as a no-hoper, and it’s very hard to see why. In Sofiane Feghouli, Islam Slimani and Hilal Soudani they have an abundance of creativity, while Madjid Bougherra commands the defence well. They’re not going to win the World Cup of course, but they seem well worth a punt at 9/2 to qualify.
Group H - Top Bets:
Algeria to qualify at 9/2
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