World Cup favorites and betting odds

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The usual soccer powerhouses top the list of favorites to win this year’s World Cup in Qatar, with DraftKings selecting Brazil, Argentina, defending champions France, Spain and England as the top picks. My own betting recommendations are a bit more eclectic – see below – but here’s a brief look at the odds for the main contenders:

Brazil (+400 to win; $400 to win bet $100)

The five-time World Cup winners have not lifted the trophy in 20 years and have appeared in the quarterfinals in three of the last four tournaments, but an impressive South American qualifying run (14 wins and three draws with no losses) has returned. To glorify on the table. The Seleção have probably the best goalkeeper in the world (Alisson) and a bunch of attacking options, who will be fully healthy for the first World Cup.

It will be the final chance at World Cup glory for 35-year-old legend Lionel Messi, who has made it past the World Cup quarterfinals only once in four attempts with Argentina. The two-time champions are unbeaten in 35 matches, which includes a victory over Brazil in the 2021 Copa America final. This time, Messi is surrounded by talent and plays in a pass-heavy system that suits his game.

As noted below, the reigning champions have had a tumultuous four years since their 2018 triumph in Russia, and no team has successfully defended their World Cup title since Brazil in 1962. But any team that includes Karim Benzema (recent Ballon d’Or winner), awarded to the best player in the world at a European club, Kylian Mbappe (only 23 and one of the world’s most dangerous scorers) and Antoine Griezmann (a wise veteran) will be hard to stop. France’s greatest enemy is France.

Manager Luis Enrique insists his attack-first-and-attack-always system is fully adhered to: “We always want to be in our opponents’ half and take risks,” he said. But that system doesn’t amount to much without effective finishers and Spain may be lacking in that department. (A lot of expectations are placed on the slight shoulders of the 19-year-old Pedri.) Plus, Enrique’s methods can leave Spain’s defense vulnerable to counterattacks.

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Expectations have not been high for the Three Lions for some time, but it seems fitting for a team that reached the World Cup semi-finals four years ago and lost to Italy on penalties in the Euro 2020 final. Recent form hasn’t been great, however: England are winless in six UEFA Nations League games this year, losing three and drawing three, although a 3-3 tie with Germany on September 26 was heartening. Harry Kane is the lynchpin and if he can’t get going, England could struggle.

How to Run a World Cup Pool

There are several strong options to win the Golden Boot, awarded to the World Cup’s top goal scorer. Here are the top contenders again according to DraftKings.

Harry Kane (England) +700

Kane is the reigning Golden Boot winner after scoring six goals in Russia four years ago. He needs three goals to overtake Wayne Rooney as England’s all-time top goalscorer.

Kylian Mbappe (France) +800

Mbappe scored four times as a 19-year-old in Russia and he and Pele are the only teenagers to score in a World Cup final. He has 190 goals in five-plus seasons for French powerhouse Paris Saint-Germain, 19 in 20 games in all competitions this season.

Lionel Messi (Argentina) +1000

For all his achievements, Messi has scored just six times at the World Cup, four of them in Argentina’s 2014 final. He never scored in the knockout rounds.

Neymar has scored six goals in two World Cup matches and 15 goals in all competitions for Paris Saint-Germain this season.

Here are the top 12 picks on DraftKings as of November 15.

It might be fun to throw a few bucks on the team you think will win or be the top goal scorer, but there are countless other options to bet on. Here are some bets that I think might be worth your time.

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Costa Rica scored the fewest goals, +800 (FanDuel)

Of the four CONCACAF teams that qualified for the World Cup, the defensive-minded Ticos scored the fewest goals in the final phase of qualification (13 in 14 games) and were the only team without the least number of players. Three goals in qualifying. Instead, Costa Rica will let its opponents press the attack and defense and allow goalkeeper Keylor Navas (Paris Saint-Germain) to come up big.

When considering this bet you’ll want to pick a team that isn’t expected to advance to the knockout rounds, and Costa Rica will compete in Group E alongside European titans Spain and Germany and Japan. A staggering -2000 to be eliminated in the group stage, which tops every other team’s odds for the same bet by a wide margin.

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Spain under 8.5 goals, -110 (DraftKings)

Spain scored just 15 goals in qualifying, equaling low-scoring UEFA qualifying group winners Switzerland, and seven of those goals came in four games against Spain’s group worst teams Georgia and Kosovo. La Roja last surpassed two goals in a match against Iceland on March 29, and its previous three World Cup teams — including the 2010 team that won them all — have not finished with more than eight goals. Since David Villa retired in 2019 after scoring a Spain-record nine career World Cup goals, La Roja has lacked a finisher and that – perhaps combined with its presence in the World Cup’s toughest group – could lower its scoring.

France exited in round of 16, +400 (DraftKings).

The last three defending World Cup champions were eliminated from the tournament at the group stage. In the middle of Group D with Denmark, Australia and Tunisia, France should avoid that fate, but Les Bleus are a mess on the field entering this year’s tournament and an exit in the early knockout stages is unlikely.

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France enter the tournament with just one win in their last six matches. Nine players thought to be candidates for the World Cup roster are struggling with injuries and star Kylian Mbappe is fighting with the national federation over image rights. There have been cases of sex-tape blackmail among players and allegations of witchcraft-related threats, and the head of the national federation has been accused of sexual harassment. It’s ugly.

Having beaten Les Bleus twice in the last five months, Denmark will certainly not be intimidated by France. A runner-up group finish probably means a Round of 16 tie with Group C winners and tournament second favorites Argentina, and that’s no easy task.

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Canada qualifies for knockout round, +280 (FanDuel)

The Canadians are back at the World Cup for just the second time (and first in 36 years), but that doesn’t mean their players lack experience in the spotlight. Jonathan David (Lille), Ciel Laurin (Brugge), Stefan Eustaquio (Porto) and Alfonso Davies (Bayern Munich) have all played in the Champions League and their experience against the world’s best will carry over to the Belgium, Croatia and Group F matches. Morocco.

Finishing ahead of Belgium is perhaps too much to ask, but not finishing second. Croatia, runners-up four years ago, are caught between the ages, a combination of age and inexperience should do no favors and Morocco are a long shot. Canada topped the table in CONCACAF qualifying ahead of continental big brothers United States and Mexico and have nothing to fear here.

Odds to win the World Cup (Draft Kings as of November 15)

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