The World Cup kicks off on Sunday the 20th, the first ever winter World Cup in the football powerhouse nation of Qatar. We aren't going to have a rant here about the corruption and issues that clearly surround this historic first but instead we are going to look at the betting opportunities we have and who will ultimately lift the famous trophy in a few weeks time
First up we take a look at the chances of England. Southgates men come in to this as the losing finalists at last years, delayed, Euros and a semi final spot in the last World Cup in Russia. Can they go one better here? They are generally priced around 7/1 to win it sitting behind Brazil, Argentina and France in the betting and I'm sure some loyal fans will be tempted by that.
Englands group, on paper, looks a relatively easy one although Iran in the opener could be more tricky than some are expecting, the USA are an unknown but will be desperate to make an impression before a final game against Wales which is a 'derby' that the Welsh will be desperate to get a result in. If England can get their points on the board early, that final game could well be a bit of a dead rubber in terms of placing although Wales could well need the points to make 2nd
The knockout stages are where I fear for Englands chances as if they top the group and other results go as expected, that would set up a second round clash against the runner up from Group A, which is likely to be Senegal (assuming The Netherlands top the group). The Quarter finals is where it could get tricky as I expect England to meet France here and the French look strong. This is where I think England will bow out, probably on penalties knowing our luck! Skybet offer 14/1 to lose on penalties in the quarter finals which looks tempting or its 5/2 to lose in the Quarter Finals which looks good value to me, if the prior games go as expected. The fan in me would love to see England go all the way but the head just doesn't see it
The Dark Horses
The World Cup has a habit of throwing up a few shocks so I wouldn't be too surprised to see Qatar, as host nation, over achieve and possibly pick up a few points in the group stages. Outside the obvious picks to go far, the Netherlands could go well and Belgium always seem to be the dark horses in recent years but have always flattered to deceive.
Denmark could be a bit of a surprise package coming from a group containing France, Tunisia and Australia although if they finish 2nd in their group they would likely face Argentina in the 2nd round. If they topped the group though it would potentially see two heavyweights in the round with France being the ones taking on Argentina and Denmark with a tie against likely opponents Mexico
Another country with dark horse potential is Uruguay. Again this could depend on where they finish in the group as if they finish 2nd in their group, with Portugal, Ghana and South Korea, they will likely face Brazil in the next round however, top spot would likely see them face 2nd in the group which could be the Swiss, Cameroon or Serbia. Uruguay certainly come in to this in good form and with the South American contingent fancied to go well, particularly with the heat in Qatar, I think they could go far in the tournament and maybe even cause an upset along the way. They are my dark horse and are a huge 40/1 to win outright but a better bet looks the 9/4 to reach the quarters or even the 13/2 to make the semis
The Golden Boot
The Golden Boot is awarded to the tournaments top goal scorer & Harry Kane will need to make history to win as no player has ever won it in back to back tournaments. His 7 goal haul back in 2018 was actually the highest since 2002 when the great Ronaldo hit 8 for Brazil. The average winning total is around 6 goals but recent history shows it is normally a players who's team goes far in the tournament
2018: Kane with 6 (reached SF)
2014: Rodriguez with 6 (reached QF)
2010: Muller with 5 (reached SF)
2006: Klose with 5 (reached SF)
With this in mind there are a few obvious contenders, Neymar and Mbappe being two at the head of the market that will be well fancied. Messi is up there but looks a poor price and as an Argentine alternative Martinez looks much better value at 20/1. There's a good chance the bulk of the goals could come in the group stages so it's worth a look at who each team will play, Brazil for example have a defensively solid team Switzerland in the group and the relative unknown quantities in Cameroon & Serbia. Argentina have a potential high scoring game with Saudi Arabia as well as tougher games against Mexico and Poland
At bigger prices there could be value Cody Gapko of The Netherlands could do well and Spain can't be written off which would bring Moratta in to the mix. Uruguay are a number of peoples dark horse so Liverpools Nunez could also bag a few
It's a very tough market to call but there are some tempting prices and plenty of offers around too, some of which you can find here
The World Cup Winner
On to the final, and most important one, who will win the World Cup this year? We've touched already on Englands chances but the market is headed by the 3 big guns, Brazil, Argentina and France. I think all 3 could well make the semi finals and from there it is wide open and a strong case can be made for all. Brazil come in to this searching for a record breaking 6th win (they currently hold the record with 5!) and are lots of peoples picks and its easy to see why with the squad they have. Neymar leads the line but its a team packed with star appeal, the only negative I see is that the 7/2 on offer feels a tad short and not great value.
Argentina have come in for a bit of support, and are my own fancy, with this surely being Messi's last chance to lift the famous trophy that has so far eluded him. They haven't lost since being beat by Brazil back in 2019 and if they avoid defeat in their opening game (against Saudi Arabia) they will match the longest unbeaten streak in International football, a record of 37 games currently held by Italy. A lot has been made of the heat and conditions so I do think the South Americans will be strong and I have Argentina to narrowly beat Brazil in the semi's before going on to lift the trophy.
Of the European raiders France are the obvious selection and Mbappe could well be the star of the show again. They look a very solid team and I do think they will go far, as mentioned earlier that could also include a quarter final against England! Spain are worth a mention and have a good young team that will be looking to star but of the others, I think the Germans look the best priced at 10/1. You can never write off Germany in tournament football and they have a good mix now of youth and experience and they will be looking to make the semi finals as a minimum.
It's hard to see the winner coming from outside the principles and whoever does win it will need a bit of luck, possibly even coming through an extra time or win on penalties. It will certainly be very different with the winter world cup but hopefully it can still be the greatest football tournament in the world
Winner - Argentina
Golden Boot - Martinez
Dark Horse - Uruguay
Winner - Brazil
Golden Boot - Benzema
Dark Horse - Belgium
Winner - England
Golden Boot - Kane
Dark Horse - Uruguay