World Cup draw: the intelligent punter's guide
Are England worth a flutter in Brazil next year? Don't bet on it, says our expert guide to the World Cup odds
BEFORE yesterday's draw for the 2014 World Cup groups, England manager Roy Hodgson said he would put a tenner on his team to win next summer's tournament. Should we follow his example - or does England's tough draw against Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica in Group D rule them out of even making it through to the last-16 knockout stage?
There are three key statistics we should bear in mind before betting on the outcome of the World Cup.
The first, is that no team from outside South America has ever won a World Cup held in the Americas - and there have been seven of them.
However, while it would be folly not to include in your portfolio at least two South American teams, it's also worth noting that in the last five World Cups held in the Americas, the beaten finalist has been European. So if you fancy a European side, make sure you back them each-way.
The second is the great record of teams who have already won the tournament. Since its inception in 1930, just eight different countries have won the World Cup. Since 1962, there have only been four ‘first time’ winners: England in 1966, Argentina in 1978, France in 1998 and Spain in 2010. Significantly, the first three of those were the hosts.
Before Spain, you have to go back to 1958 to find a non-host team winning the World Cup for the first time (Brazil in Sweden). So we can say that non-host teams who have never won the World Cup before have it all to do.
The third key statistic is the good record of host countries when they are what could be called ‘top tier’ football nations. In 19 World Cups, the hosts have either won - or finished second or third - on 11 occasions. The failures have been Mexico (twice), South Korea and Japan (co-hosts in 2002), South Africa, Switzerland, Spain, the United States and France, back in 1938. The last time a ’top tier’ nation hosted the World Cup and didn’t make the first three was Spain in 1982.
So if you’re looking for win bets in the 2014 World Cup, the ideal profile would be a South American team which has won the tournament before. Add to the fact that they are hosts, then it's no surprise to see five-time winners Brazil, managed by 'Big Phil' Scolari (above), chalked up as tournament favourites at 7-2.
But of course World Cup betting is not just about the outright win and each-way markets. There are good betting opportunities at each stage of the competition. With only two teams from each of the eight groups going through to the last 16, let's see where the best value bets lie:
WORLD CUP GROUP A
BRAZIL 1-4 (best odds to win group); 1-16 (to qualify)
CROATIA 9-1; 5-4
MEXICO 9-1; 7-5
CAMEROON 33-1; 6-1
It would be madness to oppose hosts Brazil in the group winners market, but with question marks against both Croatia and Mexico it could pay to have a small speculative bet on Cameroon at 6-1 to get through to the knockout stage for the first time since 1990. The Indomitable Lions have a strong defence and impressed in their 4-1 aggregate play-off win over Tunisia.
WORLD CUP GROUP B
SPAIN 5-6; 2-9
NETHERLANDS 5-2; 6-11
CHILE: 11-2; 6-5
AUSTRALIA 100-1; 17-1
A strong contender for the Group of Death - and to makes things worse, the ‘prize’ for the team finishing second is likely to be a last-16 tie against Brazil. With Spain arguably past their brilliant best, Chile, who gave England the runaround at Wembley last month, could be the value bet at 6-5 to qualify. They should beat Australia in their opening fixture and that will set them up nicely for the tougher matches to follow.
WORLD CUP GROUP C
COLOMBIA 8-11; 1-4
GREECE 10-1; 5-2
IVORY COAST 9-2; 11-10
JAPAN 11-2; 6-4
Colombia finished second - ahead of the likes of Uruguay and Chile - in the ultra competitive CONMEBOL qualifying group and look a sound bet to win the group. A case can be made for all three other teams for second place. Japan are the best team in Asia and their recent form in friendlies against top European sides (a 2-2 draw with The Netherlands and a 3-2 win over the highly-rated Belgians) shows that they can’t be underestimated. Ivory Coast have had tough tasks in their previous World Cups: they were grouped with Brazil and Portugal in 2010 and Argentina and The Netherlands in 2006, but this group looks more ‘do-able’ and they’ll have their supporters at 11-10 to go through.
WORLD CUP GROUP D
URUGUAY 21-10; 8-13
COSTA RICA 100-1; 12-1.
ENGLAND 5-2; 4-6
ITALY 7-4; 1-2
Uruguay, the 2010 beaten semi-finalists, should win the group and, playing in their home continent, look overpriced at 21-10. For England to progress they’re going to have to get at least a point against Italy in their first match in the jungle in Manaus on 15 June. It’s an undeniably difficult draw, but Roy Hodgson got Switzerland through a tough group in 1994, and England fans shouldn't give up hope yet. That said, the best price of 5-2 for topping the group looks terrible value.
WORLD CUP GROUP E
SWITZERLAND 3-1; 4-5
ECUADOR 9-2; 11-10
FRANCE 11-13; 1-5
HONDURAS 33-1; 15-2
Lucky old France. Not only did they benefit from a controversial offside decision in their qualifier against Ukraine, they now have been drawn in what appears to be one of the two easiest groups. They should qualify but their chances of winning the group appear to have been overrated by the bookies and at 11-13 it’s tempting to take them on. Switzerland were, after all, the seeds after their impressive qualifying form, and Ottmar Hitzfeld’s side - who, let’s not forget, also beat Brazil in August - could be the better value at 3–1.
WORLD CUP GROUP F
ARGENTINA 2-7; 1-14
BOSNIA-HERZOGIVINA 8-1; evens
IRAN 80-1; 7-1
NIGERIA 11-1; 7-5
Argentina look a banker to top the group and it would be silly to oppose them, but second place looks a close call between Bosnia-Herzegovina and Nigeria while Iran are no mugs either, having finished ahead of useful yardsticks South Korea in qualifying. Looks a group to enjoy watching rather than betting on.
WORLD CUP GROUP G
GERMANY 8-13; 1-6
PORTUGAL 3-1; 3-5
GHANA 12-1; 4-1
USA 13-1; 7-2
It only took the hand of Luis Suarez to deny Ghana a place in the World Cup semi-final in 2010 and the Black Stars could be overpriced at 4-1 to qualify from the group. Portugal only scraped through via the play-offs but with Ronaldo in the team they’ve always got a chance and the Ghana v Portugal match should decide who goes through with Germany.
WORLD CUP GROUP H
BELGIUM 7-10; 1-5
ALGERIA 33-1; 9-1
RUSSIA 11-4; 8-15
SOUTH KOREA 11-1; 5-2
At first sight it looks straightforward for Belgium and Russia, but South Korea tend to over-achieve in World Cups - they got to the semis when they were the hosts in 2002 and qualified from the group stage in 2010. They‘ve not been in the best of form, but they have appointed a new manager and the 5-2 for them to get through the group could prove to be a good bet. ·