Major League Baseball action over the weekend provides sports bettors with much-needed opportunity, especially since the NBA Finals could end Friday. If that happens, there will be a week gap before the World Cup begins, so the only major American sports playing will be baseball and the WNBA.
World Cup Odds/Picks
Now that the NHL playoffs are finished and the NBA Finals outcome seems pretty clear, we can turn our attention to the biggest sporting event in the world. The 2018 World Cup kicks off from Russia in just under a week when Russia plays Saudi Arabia. Which teams should you consider wagering upon to win the World Cup?
In the World Cup, the teams are broken into 8 groups of 4 teams. Each group’s participants play one another in a round robin style and the top 2 teams advance to the round of 16. In the round of 16, all matches are single elimination and cannot end in a tie. From the round of 16 to the championship, the World Cup proceeds like the playoffs in all American team sports. (16-8-4-2)
Much like the AFC in the NFL, the top teams dominate World Cup play. Over the last 15 years in the AFC, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, and Ben Roethlisberger have gone to the Super Bowl 14 times. Similarly, since 1966 only 12 countries have a top 3 finish, meaning the eventual champion is almost certainly one of the favorites.
All of the odds listed are the odds to win it all and are approximate. Odds can vary from place to place. Make sure to shop around.
Saudi Arabia (1000/1)
The only reason the Russians are 40/1 is because they are the host country and play in a weak group. Their team is much weaker than the actual odds represent, and they should not be wagered upon to win the championship. Uruguay is intriguing at 25/1 because they are far and away the best team in the group, and will almost certainly advance.
Group betting angle: Stay away from Russia. Uruguay is worth a shot, but they are unlikely to actually win.
Poor Morocco and Iran. Their World Cup hopes are basically over and the tournament has not even started yet. Getting stuck with Portugal and Spain is a tough fate for these two teams.
On the other side of the coin, Spain is one of the favorites to win the whole thing and worth a bet at 6/1. Portugal does not have quite enough to be a real threat, though they should make it through group play with relative ease.
Group betting angle: Spain is one of the best bets on the board. Portugal makes some sense, but their odds are inflated because of the star power Ronaldo brings. The other two teams should not be considered.
Group C’s eventual outcome revolves around the Denmark vs. Peru game. Australia will go 0-3. France will go 3-0. Denmark will probably win, but whoever prevails will lose in the round of 16, leaving France as the viable option in the group.
Group betting angle: France is the only team worth a look in Group C. Part of their 6/1 odds stems from the weak draw in group play, and fading them is advisable.
World Cup fans will no doubt recall the Cinderella Iceland team from the last Cup improbably emerging from group play. As remarkable as that was, lightning is unlikely to strike twice. Much like Group C, Group D is a one horse race with the Argentines as the clear favorite.
Group D betting angle: Argentina is the only team to consider. At 7/1 they are worth a shot to win it all.
Costa Rica (250/1)
Costa Rica has had a nice World Cup run, but does not seemed poised to do it again. The Swiss and Serbians do not have enough firepower to compete with the big boys. Brazil has the biggest name in the field, which drives their odds down considerably.
Group E betting angle: Brazil’s chances of winning are not actually 20%, but are worse than that. It is tempting to pick them, but more fun to bet on other teams and root against the favorite. Brazil is fade-worthy despite their position atop the field.
South Korea (500/1)
Welcome to this World Cup’s ‘Group of Death.’ Every Cup there is one group that stands out as being much tougher than the rest, and F is it this go around.
Germany’s odds vary widely and they can be picked anywhere from +350 all the way up to +475. The last time Germany did not finish in the top 3 was back in 1998. At this point, they have to be on a short list as the eventual champs.
Mexico is an intriguing play at 60/1 because they are talented, but can never seem to put it all together. Their odds are inflated because they are in the Group of Death. If they were flipped with Switzerland or Croatia, their odds would probably be cut in half.
Group F betting angle: Germany is the safest pick in the tournament. Mexico is the one long-odds team to consider.
Group G is the most boring group in the entire field. There are two good, but not great, teams. Then, there are two teams with no shot. The Belgium – England game should be a good one, but other than that it is a snoozefest.
Group G betting angle: Ignore Group G. One team will probably get to the quarterfinals, but that is about it.
If Group F is the Group of the Death, than Group H is the Group of Life. Group H is the closest from top to bottom, which will make for the most competitive matches at the outset of the Cup. Like Group G, none of the teams are worth a bet to win the Cup, however.
Group G betting angle: Watch the games in the early rounds because they should be exciting. Do not bet on any of these four teams, however.
Final picks: Germany, Spain and Argentina are the best plays amongst the top teams. Uruguay is a mid-tier play worth a shot because they will almost certainly win their group. The long shot team to take a flier upon is Mexico.