Other than the Olympic Games, there is no other sporting event that captures the imagination globally more than the World Cup and on Thursday 12th June, the action gets under way in Brazil, when the hosts take on Croatia in the opening game of the tournament.
The World Cup – a brief history
The first tournament was scheduled in 1930 with hosts Uruguay winning. Since then there have been 19 finals contested (with a 12 year break caused by World War II). Brazil have won the most tournaments with five, followed by Italy with four, Germany three, Argentina and Uruguay two apiece and France, England and Spain have won the trophy once.
Only four other countries have made the final outside of the winners listed above. Holland have been runners up three times, Czechoslovakia and Hungary both twice apiece and Sweden once.
This summer’s World Cup is the second time that Brazil have hosted the event. They first hosted the competition back in 1950, when they were pipped to the title by Uruguay after a shock 2-1 defeat to their much smaller South American neighbours.
The current holders are Spain who won the 2010 World Cup in South Africa thanks to a 1-0 victory, after extra time, over Holland, thanks to a goal from Barcelona midfield ace Andres Iniesta.
The 2014 World Cup Finals – top bets and top tips
The most popular bet at this summer’s finals will likely be on the outright winner market and it is fair to say that this could be one of the most open World Cup Finals perhaps since 2002, when two relative minnows in the world game, South Korea and Turkey, both reached the semi finals.
Brazil will start the tournament as clear favourites due to a very talented team and playing at home. The home side are pinning their hopes on Luis Felipe Scolari’s (a winner in 2002) more muscular defensive approach, finished off by the undeniable skill and brilliance of Neymar in attack.
Argentina are the clear second favourites and along with Germany and Spain clearly have the most talented squad at the finals in terms of depth. They also possess undeniably the finest player of the modern era in Lionel Messi, who could be the player to take this summer’s event by storm.
Germany are also well worth considering. Joachim Low’s team are always in the shake up at the end of major tournaments and with the success of Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund in recent years and a hugely strong squad, the Germans will prove to be a tough nut for any team to crack.
The other major contender is likely to be current champions Spain. Vicente Del Bosque’s men are still a class act and they will be looking to defend their crown with the same style as they did the European Championship back in 2012. A lack of striking options however could prove to be their downfall, alongside a very tough opening group featuring Chile, Australia and Holland.
If you are looking at outside bets then the likes of Belgium, Italy, Uruguay, France and England could all be considered decent outside bets.
Our top tip: The smart money is on Brazil but if one team can defeat the Brazilians on home soil and have a player capable of out-performing Neymar, it is Argentina. My choice therefore is Argentina who are currently 4/1 with Bet365.
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A lot of people believe that picking the top goalscorer at the World Cup is a very tough bet, but in actual fact, by using some logical thoughts, you can actually narrow down the market considerably. Past winners of the top goalscorer award have usually come from teams who reach the quarter finals or beyond at least.
They are usually their team’s first choice striker and they will start every game if they are fit. By using these simple parameters, you can narrow the selection down to a handful of top stars who could be the top scorer this summer.
Brazil’s main man is Neymar, who takes on the major goalscoring burden ahead of the likes of Hulk or Fred, who don’t have anywhere near the goalscoring record for their country as the young Barcelona star. Argentina have three men who will likely grab their goals, Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain, but the question is, which two of the three will likely start? One is likely to be on the bench for most games, in my view Higuain, which means Aguero and Messi look the stronger bets.
Aguero however rarely completes 90 minutes, therefore Messi looks Argentina’s best bet. Germany and Spain often play without a recognised striker, therefore the goals tend to be shared more around the team. That said Thomas Muller was top scorer at the last World Cup and he could be German’s focal point in attack once again.
For Spain, it is hard to pick a single player likely to score the majority of their goals and as such, I’d rule out any player from the Spanish squad. Then there are the individuals at lesser teams who could seriously challenge. Luis Suarez (Uruguay), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) both fall into that bracket but both have injury concerns ahead of the World Cup. As such, a bet on either is a risky proposition.
Out of the main contenders, it is Argentina who arguably have the easier group stages and as such, I think this makes Messi the wisest choice here. He is the favourite at 15/2 with Bet365, but if he finds his best form, even at that price, he is an outstanding bet.
And for England?
If your patriotism is such that you fancy a flutter on England, some good bets include an England v Brazil final at 66/1 or an England v Argentina final at 80/1. England are 16/1 to be the top European Team at the finals and they are 4/7 to qualify from their group ahead of two from Costa Rica, Uruguay and Italy.
Another good bet could be England’s top goalscorer at the finals with Daniel Sturridge currently 9/4 to top score for the Three Lions, Wayne Rooney 11/4, but the stellar bet here is skipper Steven Gerrard, a 10/1 shot. And if you fancy England to win outright, you can take 28/1 with Bet365 right now.
They are 12/1 to reach the final, 10/1 to be eliminated at the semis, 7/2 to be eliminated at the quarter finals and 11/4 at the last 16. The action kicks off on Thursday night with Brazil hosting Croatia in what promises to be the sporting event of the year.