The biggest sporting event on the planet is imminent!
World Cups only come along every four years and whilst many of you may not bet most of the time, a large proportion of you will have a gamble on the winner, top goal scorer or a specific match over the next month.
The below list is a genuine attempt to beat the bookies.
We know they are armed with statisticians and they rarely lose but hey we watch a lot of football at 101 Great Goals!
Feel free to add your tips in the comments section, we all fancy our chances to take the bookmakers to the cleaners – it could be an epic summer!
1. Back Brazil. There are all sorts of reasons to back the home nation. Not least a very solid defence, featuring the best central defensive pair in world football. A coach with a clear game plan and players that will be playing for the shirt, the home nation and Big Phil Scolari.
When it comes down to a tense knockout round, you would almost certainly pick Scolari as your coach from all the 32 available at the tournament. A winner in 2002, England’s nemesis, expect Scolari to dominate the tournament.
Statistically, there is much to suggest Brazil are by far and away the most likely winners. Six of nineteen World Cup winners came from the host nation. Of seven World Cups hosted in the Americas, all seven were won by South American teams.
And, we didn’t even mention Neymar…
2. An opening group game defeat = DISASTER! Ever since the World Cup expanded to 32 teams in 1998, only 9% of teams have lost their first match and gone on to progress to the second round. Spain bucked the trend in 2010 but it takes a pretty special side to turn the tide.
A win in the opening group game meanwhile is a huge boon. Since 1998, those who have bagged three points in their first match, have gone on to progress 87% of the time.
Drawing keeps things pretty balanced at a 56% likelihood to go through but the win/loss percentages above should help you immeasurably to beat the bookies.
Bottom line: The opening games are pretty much always a good guide to form for the next two matches.
3. Back the South Americans. The quarter-finals of the last World Cup featured four South American sides. Three from Europe and one from Africa. Uruguay went the furthest and will be keen to repeat the heroics of 1950.
Whilst Chile were hugely impressive in South Africa before bowing out to Brazil. Colombia, arguably the hipsters choice, and a very fine side with an experienced coach in Jose Pekerman, were not there and could be the surprise South Americans to impress this time.
The South American teams may well have an advantage over other continents because they face a more gruelling qualification where every team plays each other. Their one league format is far more testing than what the European, African or Asian sides face and this could start to become a factor in World Cups.
4. Top goal scorer options. Traditionally, the top goal scorer at a World Cup goes to a “fox in the box” finisher type. The names will live long in the memory but the likes of Gerd Muller, Gary Lineker, Toto Schillachi, Oleg Salenko, Davor Suker and Miroslav Klose were all a type of striker we rarely see in the modern game.
Thomas Muller bucked the trend last time out and Germany have won the last two Golden Boot awards. Muller remains a great option, well rested having spent much of the season at Bayern Munich on the bench plus with a new contract in the bag and with ageing Miroslav Klose the only recognised striker in Germany’s squad.
We can expect loads of money to be piled on Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to be World Cup top goal scorer but this seems foolish looking historically at World Cups. Diego Maradona dominated the 1986 World Cup but did not finish as top goal scorer. Likewise Pele in 1970.
Argentina will likely share the goals around and Portugal have a super tough group and Ronaldo is not fully match fit going into the tournament.
Avoid the big names and find a finisher with easy games in the group stages. Our outside tip is Colombia’s Carlos Bacca. Brazil’s Fred, a natural finisher, who plays close to goal, has strangely been barely mentioned in this market.
5. Bet on Belgium but only until the second round. Marc Wilmots’ side, especially in England, have been tipped as the dark horses to do something at the World Cup for at least a couple of years now.
Its not hard to see why since the Belgium team is made up of a number of Premier League stars, players that have been performing week in and week out for some time. And, there is serious quality throughout. Thibaut Courtois, Vincent Kompany and Eden Hazard are amongst the very best players in their position in world football.
But, Belgium have not been in a World Cup since 2002 and only 36-year-old Daniel van Buyten has any experience of playing this type of tournament football. Group H looks very winnable for the Red Devils and Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku will surely get amongst the goals versus Algeria, Russia and South Korea.
However, this is when the hard work comes. Belgium face one of two teams from Group G, possibly Germany or Portugal. If not one of those powerhouses, then Ghana or USA – teams with tournament experience that will likely be on a huge high. This is when Belgium could begin to wobble and may miss Christian Benteke to rotate with Lukaku.
6. Never write off Spain. If La Furia Roja win the tournament on July 13, you will be kicking yourself for not backing the greatest team we have seen, perhaps ever.
No side has ever come into a World Cup as holders, having won the previous two European Championships (or continental trophies in the case of South Americans…) Spain have a winning coach in Vicente Del Bosque and undoubtedly the best squad of players at the tournament.
Participation in Group B, arguably the true “Group of Death” has many suggesting La Furia Roja will struggle early on. But, a convincing performance against Holland first up and the whole complexion changes.
The big unknown in Spain’s side is Diego Costa. With David Villa and Fernando Torres past their best, the Atletico Madrid striker looks like the perfect target man for the Tiki-Taka specialists. If the Brazilian-born hitman hits the ground running, its difficult to see anyone, bar perhaps Brazil, stopping Spain.
7. If any African side is going to go far, its… Ivory Coast. Here are some sweeping statements: Cameroon won’t get out of Group A. Nigeria are in poor form, without a win in four warm-up games. Ghana face a hugely tough group. And, Algeria’s World Cup record is woeful.
One African side will fly the flag and its going to be the Flying Elephants!
For once, Ivory Coast have not been placed in a Group of Death at the World Cup and for many of their star players (Didier Drogba & Yaya Toure) this is last chance saloon on the world stage.
Group C also looks like one of the most open groups with any of Colombia, Japan or the Ivorians possible winners. If Ivory Coast, with some incredible attacking talents, such as Gervinho and Wilfried Bony, get on a roll they will be very hard to stop.
8. England in Group D is too hard to call. Steer clear. Expectations for England at the World Cup are perhaps the lowest they have ever been in recent memory. Perhaps Roy Hodgson’s greatest success as manager of The Three Lions was to eliminate almost any belief in the national team.
Group D also features two other teams, full of good players but with major question marks surrounding them. Uruguay struggled to qualify, have an injury to Luis Suarez and with question marks about whether an ageing team can repeat the heroics of 2010.
Italy have incredibly not won an official match since September 2013 and are far from the finished article. Plus the Azzurri always start World Cups slowly and could be caught cold by England.
And, Costa Rica could well pull up a surprise. Goalkeeper Keylor Navas has shown in La Liga that he can keep teams at bay despite heavy pressure.
Anything could happen – don’t be jingoistic with your bets!
9. Group E should be a cakewalk for France & Switzerland. Honduras and Ecuador look set to be two of the weakest teams in Brazil.
Honduras are a side full of journeymen players and whilst they will battle hard should be no match for the accomplished players in the France attack.
Ecuador failed to win a game away from home in World Cup qualifying and have a big advantage with high altitude when they play their home matches.
France could well score a lot of goals – especially if Didier Deschamps maintains a front three that includes Olivier Giroud and Karim Benzema.
Switzerland are a dark horse that have one of the most experienced, successful and canny managers in the tournament, in Ottmar Hitzfeld.
10. The World Cup offers some amazing betting deals that don’t come about very often. A glance at the adverts on Sky Sports during any week of the year, proves just how congested the betting market is.
So much so that one famous bookmaker is offering 2/1 that Brazil will wear yellow shirts in their opening game against Croatia. Its already decided that Brazil will wear their home strip…
You the punter have an amazing opportunity to lose big and still not feel the pinch in your wallet. Below are three of the best deals we have seen in the World Cup betting market so far: