At the time of writing it is 185 days until the World Cup begins in Brazil. This means we have plenty of time to rack our brains, trying to select what look ‘absolute certs’, and watch the monster gambles unfold.
There are plenty of perils of ante-post gambling, yet the lure of watching your selection get shorter and shorter in the betting is something that we can never escape. There are plenty of stories of gamblers sitting on three figure prices for Belgium to win the competition, as-well as monster bets on the Columbian’s to reign supreme this summer.
However, it is not too late to get involved, and there is still plenty of value to be had.
Bark-ing up the right tree;
Let’s start with England, and the selection headache that Roy Hodgson looks set to face when sitting down to select his 23-man squad for Brazil.
The ‘to make England 2014 World Cup squad’ has been a popular market so far, and there is a surprising amount of disparity between bookmakers, with many seemingly having different squads in mind.
The battle to get on the plane looks intense for the batch of centre-midfielders Hodgson has at his disposal, with Gerrard, Lampard, Wilshere, Carrick, Cleverley, Barkley, Henderson, Morrison etc. all vying for realistically, five places.
This has meant that Ross Barkley has been pushed out to a surprisingly large 3/1 with William Hill to make Hodgson’s World Cup squad, in comparison to the 11/10 on offer with Paddy Power.
He has been played as a ‘number ten’ at times for Everton, excelling in the hole behind the striker as opposed to an out and out centre-midfielder, which automatically enhances his chances of getting on the plane, as versatility is key when there are so few places. His direct running and fearless nature are big assets to have when coming against such lorded opposition, and his style of play looks set to fit well with fellow Liverpudlian, Wayne Rooney.
With Everton continually surprising people, more and more people are taking note of his performances, and if he can continue his rich vein of form, he will certainly have to be on the short-list.
Gerrard can’t escape his hamstring troubles, and with Manchester United seemingly struggling of late, Tom Cleverley could come under serious pressure for his place on the plane. This does make the 3/1 for Barkley to book his ticket, rather large.
Straight Forecast Treble;
Predicting the winner of many of the group’s looks difficult, let alone the top two in the correct order. However the odds on offer mean it is a difficult bet to get away from, and one that could prove very rewarding.
Group B has been heralded the ‘group of death’, with Chile and Australia joining the 2010 World Cup finalists Spain and Holland, to battle out for a place in the next round.
Spain are currently trading at 7/1 to win the tournament outright, which is the largest they have been for a long time. With Barcelona failing to light-up like they used to, with Pique, Xavi, Iniesta and Fabregas looking leggy of late, the price is drifting to a rather attractive one.
They should have enough class to see off Holland and Australia, and while Chile will run them close, the 5/6 on offer for Spain to top Group B looks extremely tempting.
This means realistically it is between Holland and Chile for second place, and it may well pay to side with the South Americans.
A magnificent pressing game, mixed with a batch of flair players with tremendous technical ability mean they are going to be very hard to contain. They are already adept at playing in the climate, and with a large contingent of South American fans, they may well prove too strong for an aging Dutch side who flopped at the last major international competition.
Key man Alexis Sanchez adores the limelight, and he can guide Chile to second place, meaning the 4/1 for the Spain/Chile forecast goes into our treble.
The next selection comes from Group D, where England line up against Uruguay, Italy and Costa Rica.
Uruguay will have an advantage over the other two real competitors in the group (sorry Costa Rica), as humidity, South American fans and sheer skill on the pitch should guide Uruguay to top of the group. Luis Suarez is fantastic, and if he stays fit he should have a sensational tournament, meaning the 21/10 for them to win the group looks tasty, as their defensive frailties shouldn’t be tested too much as neither England or Italy are renowned as excessively attacking sides.
Then, it looks set between Italy and England to battle for the runner-up spot. Italy are favorites to win the group outright following on from their unbeaten qualifying campaign (winning six, drawing four), and fantastic performance in the Euro’s where they finished runner-up. Andrea Pirlo and Gigi Buffon are still fantastic players, however they are not getting any younger.
Mario Balotelli is one of the most inconsistent players on the planet, and if he puts his mind to it, he could be one of the greatest around. However there are two sides to Mario and England will be going all out to rattle him, and attempt to get him out of his comfort zone. The fact that there is no real expectation on the English will only benefit them, and the mix of young fearless individuals mixed with a seasoned spine of model English consistency should mean England will be able to contain Italy in the opener, and then it comes down to the final game against Costa Rica.
Costa Rica will be comfortable in conditions, but do lack the quality of their group opposition, and with England’s attacking threats, they should have what it takes to gain the vital goal difference, which is what it may well be decided on. Uruguay/England forecast pays 11/2, and is the second leg of the treble.
The final selection comes from Group C, where Colombia line-up against Japan, Ivory Coast and Greece.
The South American’s are ranked third in the World, according to FIFA, and should prove their class against slightly lesser opposition. Falcao, Martinez and Rodriguez are three class-acts and should guide their side to top of the group.
Then it is seemingly between Ivory Coast and Japan to battle for second. Japan have looked brilliant in qualifying, and in their recent friendlies however the smart money will be siding with Ivory Coast to get out of the group.
Many will be familiar to Premier League fans, with Bony, the Toure’s and Tiote still in England, whilst Gervinho and Drogba are recent departures. They are a magnificent unit and their attacking threat should see them get out of their group for the first time in their history.
The 100/30 for Columbia/Ivory Coast forecast completes our bet and rewards us with a 139.83/1 treble.
In terms of the top goalscorer market, you have to find the right balance of a weak defensive group and a player in a side that are likely to have a deep run in the competition.
Group F consists of Argentina, Bosnia, Nigeria and Iran. You would have to expect Argentina to qualify comfortably, and with that they should be able to capitalise on the rather weak back four’s of Iran and Nigeria in particular.
This means that it would make sense to side with one of the Argentinian forwards, and it is up to personal opinion on who to select out of a shortlist of Messi, Higuain and Aguero.
Messi has never really done it in a big international tournament, so he will be out to silence doubters that he is the greatest to ever live, and answer the questions about his international form. Higuain got more game time than Aguero in qualifying, playing eleven games to Aguero’s eight, scoring four more goals in the process.
However given Aguero’s form for Manchester City this season, and likeliness to carry on improving in a side that looks set to go very close to winning the Premier League, he is sure to get the nod come the summer.
This makes the 20/1 for him to finish top goalscorer, extremely tempting, given the creative players he will line up beside. Argentina are sure to have a deep run in the tournament, with conditions in their favour, and the fact they have such a magnificent side means the 40/1 on offer for Aguero to land the top scorer prize and Argentina to win the World Cup, is tempting enough to have a small interest bet on.
Ross Barkley to make the England World Cup squad @ 3/1 – William Hill
Straight Forecast Group Treble; Spain/Chile, Uruguay/England, Colombia/Ivory Coast @ 139.83/1 – Ladbrokes
Sergio Aguero to be top goalscorer @ 20/1 – Various
Sergio Aguero top goalscorer & Argentina to win the World Cup @ 50/1 – BetVictor