I have taken some time out from opposing Argentina in as many different group markets as I can to preview the remainder of the groups. I’ve definitely had enough cold hard cash on Argentina not winning group D, or qualifying, and finishing bottom for me not to feel any pangs of guilt should I be proved even partly correct. I say this as I have a strong affinity with Argentina which started in 1980 when my Dad took me to Wembley Stadium as a 7 yr old, telling me on the journey up the M5 that we were about to see the ‘best footballer in the world’.
I had previously only ever heard that said about one man, Pele. The 19 yr old the old boy was talking about was, of course, one Diego Armando Maradona and it only took one mazy run past four defenders to convince me that my Dad was 100% correct.
I loved Maradona like no other player, in fact he was the only player I ever really cared about and even when he knocked England out of the World Cup in 1986 I was sad only because I knew that he would then be hated in England because of the ‘hand of God’ goal, and i was desperate – as a 13 yr old by then – for the whole world to love him as I did.
Argentina soon became my ‘other’ international team and I also became fond of Boca Juniors and Napoli because of his time at each club. Visiting La Bombanera in Buenos Aries to see Boca in the Superclasico versus River Plate was an ambition I managed to fulfil in 2007.
But enough of all this self indulgent waffling old bollocks, let’s try and make some money on the World Cup.
Brazil should cruise though to the knockout stages and are $1.12 to do so but it will be a good fight to see which team joins them.
Serbia are talented as always and in Sergej Milinkovic-Savic they have a player who has been lighting up Serie A and who scored 12 goals from midfield for Lazio – no mean feat in Serie A – last season. They have a new coach however and things are perhaps not as rosy as their table topping qualification campaign from a tough group may have suggested.
Switzerland will be pushing Serbia all the way and they qualified behind Portugal with nine wins from 10 games. They could spring a surprise but often turn up to major tournaments – when they get there – with a somewhat negative attitude.
Costa Rica won their group in the 2014 World Cup but they do not look as good this time around and appear to be up against it.
Germany were imperious in qualifying winning all ten matches, scoring 43 times and conceding just four goals in the process. Their squad is deep, illustrated by the fact that they could afford to leave Man City’s Leroy Sane out of the final 23 man squad. Sane would be the best player in 80% of the teams in this tournament.
The only doubt about Germany as far as I can see is that their most recent form in friendlies has not been good, drawing three and losing two of their last five matches. They have, however, been against some good teams in France (2-2), Spain (1-1) and Brazil (0-1).
Mexico are a little hard to assess having qualified from the notoriously weak North and Central American section. They have traditionally made it through to the knockout stages before their run comes to and end (eliminated in 2nd round of last six World Cups) and this pattern looks set to continue. Their defence looks strong, conceding just one goal in their last six matches and they have pace and goals up front with Lozano and Chicharito.
Sweden look overrated. They won’t score enough goals without Zlatan Ibrahimovic to lean on.
South Korea are not as good as they were, and at one time they were very good They will rely too heavily on Tottenham’s Heung Min Son, making them a little too predictable and easy to defend against.
1 unit Mexico to qualify at $2.05 with Centrebet/William Hill (disclosure – i’ve also backed Mexico to win the group at $7.50 but have cooled on this bet now)
Belgium are the best team in this group which also includes England, Tunisia and Panama. One glance at the Belgium squad is enough to convince anyone that they are a serious contender with the likes of Hazard, De Bruyne and Lukaku amongst others. If they click they can beat anyone, but they are serial under performers and its hard to get too excited about them actually winning the thing.
England will get to the 1/4 finals and lose to Germany on penalties. Obviously.
Tunisia are not the worst team in the tournament, but Panama might be.
Tunisia to qualify is tempting and may be a popular shout with Australians to give a bit of extra spice in cheering against the Poms and I wouldn’t put anyone off a bet at around $6, but I won’t be backing it.
A better bet than Belgium to win the group will be to wait until they play England and back them then, at bigger odds than they are to win the group.
Well i’m glad i made it this far as I think I’ve found a bit of value in this one.
The betting markets tell us this is the most evenly matched group, with all teams priced between $2.6 and $9 to win the group and the roughies Japan only $3.40 to qualify.
Colombia are favourites at $2.6 and they look opposable and appear priced on their good showing in 2014 as much as anything. They qualified with seven wins from 18 matches scoring only 21 times.
Poland are next up at $3 but they don’t look all that either and if Robert Lewandowski (16 goals in qualifying) misfires they are in big trouble.
Japan are not as good as they were, and won a very weak group to qualify which included Saudi Arabia and Australia who finished 2nd and 3rd. I’m not keen on their chances.
The team I like are Senegal. They are coached by Aliou Cisse and the former Birmingham player and captain of Senegal the last time they made the finals in 2002 has a heap of talent to work with, starting with Liverpool striker Sadio Mane and ably backed up by Cheihkou Kouyate and Kalidou Koulibaly. They will be fast, direct and unlike many of their African counterparts at previous World Cups, organised and tactically aware.
1 unit Senegal to win Group H at $5.50 with Bet365