FIFA World Cup 2018 overview.
The FIFA World Cup 2018 starts in less than two months and it is about time to start turning my attention to this absolute beast of a tournament. The tournament will be played from 14th June to 15th July in Russia, who won the rights to host the tournament in front of Portugal/Spain and Belgium/Netherlands. 32 national teams will lock horns, from which 20 teams are playing back to back tournament. We will have 2 debutants, Iceland and Panama. A total of 64 matches will be played on 12 venues in 11 different cities. Final is played on 15th of July, of course in Moscow, Luzhniki stadium. The bidding process had some controversies and bribery allegations, but I'm not going to concentrate on that matter. I suggest enjoying the tournament in full, book your holidays early and stockpile enough beer in order not to miss some great goals or games! Matches schedule can be found here!
Before I start concentrating on FIFA World Cup 2018, I take a small look at last tournament in 2014. Why I do this is because we had a heated conversation at the office about a possible winner, finalists and who will advantage from the group stage. I read out all the groups and of course, all the biggest teams were tipped to advance from the group stage. Then I did the same for last tournament groups and for one before that and I proved the point I were trying to. People have short memories! World Cup is a tournament full of surprises, failures and success stories and that's why we love it!
FIFA World Cup 2014
In 2014, Croatia team had high hopes with Modric, Corluka, Lovren, Rakitic, Olic, Kovacic etc. They finished the tournament in Group A as third place after Brazil and Mexico. Tough group actually, but disappointment for this team. Spain went out also already in Group Stages being favourite to lift the trophy. When you have players like Iniesta, Xavi, Pique, Ramos, Alonso and Diego Costa you would think they can play for the title. In group D we had England, Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica. Uruguay and Costa Rica advanced from this group and both of them were outsiders in the group of course. Nigeria advanced from group F in front of Bosnia and there's a small upset again. Portugal finished the tournament also with 3 games only, as Argentina and United States advanced. Portugal were the winners of Euro 2 years earlier!
FIFA World cup 2012
In 2012, France managed to get only 1 point in group stages with Lloris, Ribery, Anelka, Henry, Malouda, Sagna and finished 4th behind South Africa! Italy finished also only as 4th in the group behind Paraguay, Slovakia and New Zealand! Buffon, Cannavaro, Chiellini, De Rossi, Pazzini, Pirlo..they had high hopes but got longer holidays than expected!
I'm very very confident that we can have similar surprises during the FIFA World Cup 2018 also, so betting on low odds favourites in group stages cannot be a smart way.
Group Stage in FIFA World Cup 2018.
FIFA World Cup 2018 Group Stage games are starting in 14th June and last game will be played on 28th of June.
In group A we have 2 strong favourites, Uruguay on 1.25 and Russia on 1.4 to qualify. Uruguay indeed a big favourite, but host nation Russia depends mainly on home league players with 2 exceptions. Goalkeeper and captain Igor Akinfeev made some terrible mistakes in CL and Europa League games and ageing defence is slow. Add that they play in Russian League, I'm not confident enough in their defence even against Egypt, who rely on Momo Salah. Against Uruguay, they most probably will suffer anyway as they have not used to play against such pacey and lethal strikers. Twin brothers Berezutskies are too old now luckily, but there are no reliable replacements anyway. Russia not to qualify with odds over 3.6 have a small value in my eyes in FIFA World Cup 2018.
In group B we have also 2 strong favourites at odds. Spain 1.1 to qualify and Portugal 1.3 to qualify. Morocco and Iran indeed are big outsiders and odds reflect that perfectly. Spain is going through a phase where they have to replace a lot of old horses. They had some very impressive results in friendlies and Madrid clubs midfielders and strikers are working well with Isco, Asensio, Koke, Diego Costa etc. Definitely, the last shot for Portuguese Ronaldo, Quaresma and Nani and team have to solve their long-lasting problem of world-class target striker. Ronaldo in good form, but often covered with several opposing players and young guns have to step up. Renato Sanchez hasn't delivered after Euros in club level and also defence is ageing and a big problem for them. A big loss against Netherlands and overtime winner against Egypt, 2 goals from Ronaldo aren't encouraging. Portugal to finish second over 2.5 odds a small value in FIFA World Cup 2018 group B.
Group C has one big favourite, France. Denmark, Peru and Australia will fight for 2nd place in my opinion. Or, well, Denmark and Peru, as Australia don't have a chance I afraid. I saw some of their games in qualification phase and it would me not a big surprise, but rather a miracle if they advance. Denmark is priced 1.75 to qualify and that's a good shot. They rely of course on Eriksen but comparing the possible squads player by a player they should edge Peru here. I really hope they bring young Ajax striker Kasper Dolberg to Russia. Peru doesn't have any big leagues goalkeeper nor defenders and that's a big problem on this level. In attack, they are too dependant on too old guns, Farfan and probably Guerrero.
Argentina and Croatia are of course big favourites to qualify from group D. Nigeria and Iceland are both above 3.8 odds to qualify. Croatia team have some big problems inside of the team and they are very unpredictable. Argentina can be dark horses in the tournament, as they have been always, but this time I believe in them to deliver some upsets. Definitely, watch Nigeria game, a fun team to watch with Musa, Iwobi, Moses, Ighalo and Ndidi. What Iceland did at Euros was magnificent, but I afraid that their biggest advantage has gone here. They were really underestimated during Euros and no team will make the same mistake here. Luckily we can enjoy once again their fans at the stadium doing Viking clapping!
The toughest group have Brazil, Serbia, Switzerland and Costa Rica. Brazil of course favourite here, but I wouldn't exclude Costa Rica to go through here if they can play their game. Serbia also has some internal problems and have had some terrible games, no decent goalkeeper and ageing defence once again the main issues. Brazil is, of course, one of the main candidates to lift the trophy. They have to wash down the shame of semi-finals loss against Germany in last World Cup semifinals, not going to write down the final score here, as I still can't believe it. They have had always world class strikers, but this time they have also 2 inform world class level defensive-minded midfielders.
Germany, of course, a heavy favourite in group F. Mexico, Sweden and Korea fighting for 2nd place here. Korea has surprised us before and they some capable players to score against Sweden and Mexico. Sweden starts a new era without Ibrahimovic and Marcus Berg with Ola Toivonen have to make room for Guidetti I hope in the attack. Mexico has a well-balanced team and capable attackers with Chicarito and Vela. Hard working team and running a lot, would edge them in front of Sweden. Germany is of course also favourite to win the whole tournament. They have so big selection of top players that they could put out 2 teams and both of them would reach to semifinals. Mexico 2nd place in a group with odds of 3 or above a nice value in FIFA World Cup 2018 Group F.
In group G there's the smallest chance to see some surprises in my opinion. Belgium and England are too much for Tunisia and Panama. Odds perfectly reflect the chances tough. Belgium weakest link is that Carrasco and Witsel are somehow playing in the Chinese league, why on earth! England, unfortunately, hasn't played good in last 20 years in big tournaments and to be honest, it's about time to deliver with these young Tottenham guns being in very good form. Panama doesn't have a single player in one of the top leagues playing in the top team and they qualified in front of Honduras and United States. Tunisia in a similar state with Panama, but have one player playing at a higher level, midfielder Wahbi Khazri in Rennes.
Every team in group H can go through easily and very hard to pick a team here. Milik missed too many good opportunities in Euros and hope he is more matured and confident here. With Lewandowski, they can score against any team. Senegal depends a lot on Mane but can put a starting 11 consisting only Premier League and French League 1 players, which isn't too shabby. James was absolute gold in the last tournament for Colombia, but have some injury worries at the moment, good season in Bayern. Old guns Falcao and Bacca are both having good seasons. Japan relies too heavily on 2 players, Kagawa and Honda.
FIFA World Cup 2018 Top Goalscorer.
We have usual suspects here with smallest odds: Messi, Neymar, Griezmann all between 9 to 17 odds. Then Kane, Ronaldo, Jesus, Werner, Lukaku between 13 to 21 odds following Aguero, Suarez, Muller, Cavani, Morata between 21 to 34 odds. Lewandowski, Mbappe, Hazard, Lacazette, Dybala, Isco all you can find odds around 36 to 50.
Some important things to keep in mind here when searching for potential value:
Pick a player from a team which should make it to at least to semifinals. Should have some high scoring games in the group phase - Exclude Ronaldo and Lewandowski.
Had a great season and were playing in a top league for a top team. The main threat in a team - Exclude Werner, Morata, Jesus(started scoring when Aguero didn't play in last months).
Is the main score threat in his team without support. - Exclude Lacazette, Messi, Neymar, Griezmann.
So I'm left with Kane, Suarez, Cavani, Lukaku, Hazard and Isco. Cavani and Suarez competing also here for goals and Cavani had a monster season with 27 goals in front of teammate Neymar with 19 league goals. I have seen some PSG games this season and Cavani has been wasteful. Also, the overall level in French League 1 isn't comparable with Premier League or Spain La Liga. Belgium and England are in the same group with Panama and Tunisia while Spain plays against Portugal, Morocco and Iran. Suarez plays against Russia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia in group A. All players have great potential to bag some goals already in a group phase. I have to stake Isco with odds 67 considering his form for Real Madrid and Spain. Also, I cant pass Kane odds on 17 as they start with 2 games against weaker opponents and have to seal it in these games before a game against Belgium. My third pick is Lukaku with odds 21. He has been scoring machine for Belgium in recent games and outscored Hazard easily.
To reach into finals of FIFA World Cup 2018 odds.
Brazil, Germany and France are all under odds of 4. Spain and Argentina with Belgium are between 4 to 5 odds of reaching to final. All teams are very strong and very hard to pick anything from that pack. I really think that this tournament can be one of the most interesting to watch. All of these teams have some very good players, of course, so I'm not getting into these markets and just prefer to enjoy watching the games. So let's just hope for a tournament with a lot of goals, especially for Isco, Kane and Lukaku!:)