Ultimate 2018 World Cup Betting Guide

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Mar 6, 2018
Ultimate 2018 World Cup betting guide

John Eastham

The biggest betting event across the globe -- the 2018 World Cup -- is set to kick off Thursday in Russia.

With a dizzying amount of betting options, we're here to break down the best bets to advance from every group, the value bets to take home the title and some other props.

Here's our complete World Cup betting guide.

Note: All odds from Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, unless otherwise listed, as of June 12.
Group breakdown

Group A

The tournament host is in this group, but Uruguay is understandably the favorite to win the pool. In Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, the South Americans have two of the most dangerous strikers in the competition, and it would be a big surprise if they didn't propel the team to the final 16. Egypt's chances of claiming a top-two berth against the odds will be highly dependent on Mohamed Salah, whose fitness is a concern after he suffered a shoulder injury in Liverpool's Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid. Saudi Arabia are rank outsiders -- and their price, like everyone else's in this group, looks about right, hence there are no appealing selections.

Odds to win group:
  • Uruguay -160
  • Russia +220
  • Egypt +550
  • Saudi Arabia 40-1
Best bet: None

Group B

Iberian rivals Spain and Portugal are favorites to emerge from Group B, and their head-to-head clash on June 15 will be one of the group stage highlights. It would be a shock if either of these two sides failed to progress to the last 16. That said, group rival Morocco is a definite dark horse: The team has some talented players in its ranks (center-back Medhi Benatia, playmaker Younes Belhanda, attacker Amine Harit) and looks good enough to capitalize on any mistakes that the top two make. Morocco's team spirit has improved considerably under manager Herve Renard, too, making the North Africans an interesting selection to qualify for the second round at 3-1.

Odds to win group:
  • Spain -240
  • Portugal +220
  • Morocco 16-1
  • Iran 40-1
Best bet: Morocco to advance (3-1)

Group C

France has landed in one of the easiest opening-round groups. Boasting the tournament's most exciting collection of attackers (Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele, Nabil Fekir, Olivier Giroud), les Bleus are a smart selection to win all three group games --- against Denmark, Peru and Australia. There are legitimate concerns over their defense, but they have enough attacking firepower to ensure they win even if they concede a goal. Looking to Tottenham playmaker Christian Eriksen for inspiration, Denmark are a sound bet to follow the French through to the second round, with Australia and Peru likely to lack the quality to trouble the top two.

Odds to win group:
  • France -300
  • Denmark +425
  • Peru +750
  • Australia 20-1
Best bet: France over 7.5 points in the group stage (+160)
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Mar 6, 2018
Group D
Argentina's best XI looks average compared to that of the tournament's top teams, so the South Americans will rely heavily on star Lionel Messi
to drive them toward the latter stages. He has some good attackers alongside him (Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuaín) but a lack of quality in defense and midfield is a concern for the two-time winners. Croatia is the second favorite, but Nigeria's and Iceland's chances of going through appear underrated. Nigeria has some players who have done well abroad this season, while Iceland gained crucial experience at Euro 2016, beating England during its impressive run to the last eight of the competition.

Odds to win group
  • Argentina -200
  • Croatia +225
  • Nigeria 14-1
  • Iceland 14-1
Best bet: Nigeria (+250) and Iceland (+325) to advance

Group E
Brazil deserves to be a short-priced favorite as it's difficult to see Switzerland, Serbia or Costa Rica stopping a Neymar-inspired team from topping the pool. Switzerland is the second favorite, although this is harder to understand why; Serbia's starting XI looks just as strong as Switzerland's, while Costa Rica can count on several players that were part of the side that came within a penalty shoot-out of making the semi-finals four years ago. Serbia and Costa Rica are available at odds-against prices to qualify from the first round to make the last 16, so you'll make money from backing the pair at level stakes as long as one of the two goes through.

Odds to win group
  • Brazil -450
  • Switzerland +750
  • Serbia 8-1
  • Costa Rica 16-1
Best bet: Serbia (+115) and Costa Rica (+400) to advance

Group F
Germany is expected to cruise through, and it's difficult to see Joachim Low's highly experienced players slipping up. With quality and talent in all areas of the team, the group favorite should be too strong for its rivals. There is little separating Mexico, Sweden and South Korea, so the teams at longer odds are worth considering. South Korea's price in particular makes little sense given the talent in its ranks. It has a poor World Cup record outside Asia, but reached the knockout stages in South Africa (2010) and will look to Tottenham Hotspur forward Son Heung-min to inspire the side.

Odds to win group
  • Germany -400
  • Mexico 6-1
  • Sweden +750
  • South Korea 20-1
Best bet: South Korea to advance (+425)



Mar 6, 2018
Group G
Belgium and England look set to battle it out for the top spot, with Roberto Martinez's Diables Rouges the favorites to hold off Gareth Southgate's Three Lions. That's a fair assessment given the individual and collective quality in Belgium's squad, with Martinez able to count on the likes of Chelsea winger Eden Hazard
and Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku. In the build-up to the finals, the young England side has shown signs of promise, but its odds of +115 to top the group look about right. Tunisia and Panama are the group outsiders, and both appear too limited to upset the predicted pecking order.

Odds to win group
  • Belgium -135
  • England +115
  • Tunisia 20-1
  • Panama 50-1
Best bet: None

Group H
This is the most open group, with odds-on favorite to win the pool. Colombia has the narrow edge, ahead of Poland, Senegal and Japan, in that order. With little to pick between the teams, outsiders Senegal and Japan may provide the best value, with Senegal a particularly interesting selection. Manager Aliou Cisse's squad is packed with talented players, with the likes of center-back Kalidou Koulibal, midfielder Idrissa Gueye and attackers Keita Balde and Sadio Mane
-- the latter scored for Liverpool in its 3-1 Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid last month -- capable of thriving at this level. With eight or nine players of international standard in total in their 23-man party, the Lions of Teranga have a better chance of making the second round than their odds suggest.

Odds to win group
  • Colombia +110
  • Poland +180
  • Senegal 5-1
  • Japan +850
Best bet: Senegal (+115) to advance
Title futures bets

Looking through the list of contenders to lift the World Cup trophy, it's obvious four teams are stronger than the rest of the finalists in Russia.

Brazil, Germany, Spain and France top the betting odds at most shops between 7-2 and 6-1. Sometimes the market gets it wrong, but not this time: The "Big Four," as you might label them, really are the best four teams in the competition.

Argentina (a best-priced 10-1 with European bookmakers) and Belgium (11-1) are next in the betting. Behind those two, there's a big gap to seventh-favorites England (16-1), and then the chasing pack is even further behind.

As well as having star-name players, Brazil, Spain, Germany and France have high-caliber performers throughout their sides. Squad strength will be crucial as the tournament unfolds, and all four nations have outstanding deputies waiting on the touchlines, as well as vital recent experience of having gone deep in major competitions.

Despite such obvious strengths, there are also reasons to oppose all four, however.

Brazil has a problem at right back as Dani Alves is out of the competition because of injury. Neymar's fitness is a talking point, too, as the PSG superstar has only recently returned from a three-month injury lay-off.

Spain lacks a consistently effective central striker and goal-scorer. The squad boasts outstanding defenders and midfielders, but the absence of a reliable finisher means there's a chance that the team will fail to turn possession and scoring chances into goals.

For Germany, the issue is retaining the trophy, as the last team to do so was Brazil in 1962. Are the Germans really equipped to follow suit, especially considering they've lost two key players from their 2014 triumph, with Philipp Lahm and Bastian Schweinsteiger having retired?

France's concern is a supposed lack of character. Didier Deschamps has picked arguably the tournament's most exciting squad, but the lack of on-field leaders means it'll need to grow up quickly once the tournament gets under way in order to come through moments of adversity when facing the competition's better sides.

The Germans are marginal outsiders of the four on the basis that successfully defending a World Cup is such a difficult feat. They do not appear to have the exceptional quality required to secure a second consecutive global victory.

If you backed Brazil, Spain and France, you'd make a profit as long as one the three turns out winners, as all three are available at odds of 7-2 or bigger. Brazil (7-2) are much shorter than France (6-1) and Spain (6-1) for no apparent reason, however, so focus your attention on the European duo.

Recommended bets: France (6-1) and Spain (6-1)
Golden Boot

Based on previous World Cups, the top scorer is likely to play for one of the teams that makes the semifinals. That may sound all too obvious -- after all, the more games a player plays, the more opportunities he has to add to his overall goals tally -- but it's worth reiterating in order to dissuade you from backing one of the strikers who plays for an outsider team and is available at super-long odds.

As noted above, Brazil, Spain, Germany and France are the top four teams in the competition. It makes sense to focus your attention on these four teams in the Golden Boot market.

We've mentioned Spain lacks a reliable goal scorer, so no one in that camp stands out. Neymar has a fantastic scoring record for Brazil, but concerns over his fitness are an issue heading into the tournament.

Germany has a reliable international finisher in Thomas Muller. He was the World Cup joint-top scorer in 2010 and has netted 10 goals in 13 World Cup tournament appearances. At 20-1, the Bayern Munich striker will attract attention.

The France squad and its array of highly capable attackers draw the eye even more. Antoine Griezmann was the top scorer on home soil at Euro 2016 and will be many bettors' selection at 9-1. Yet teammate Kylian Mbappe may be a smarter choice.

At 19, Mbappe is playing at a major tournament for the first time. Blessed with pace, dribbling ability, tremendous finishing skills, a maturity beyond his years and reserves of self-confidence, he's adapted to international football effortlessly over the past 12 months. He has looked especially sharp in France's final warm-up friendlies and has netted three goals in his past 331 minutes of international action. At larger odds, Mbappe's our pick.

Recommended bet: Kylian Mbappe (20-1)
Five first-round matches to follow

Morocco vs. Iran (June 15, Group B)
Morocco goes into the tournament quietly confident they can trouble Group B top dogs Spain and Portugal. To do so, it'll need to collect three points from the opening game. It's a minor surprise to see the North Africans available at a good odds-against price vs. a well-organized but limited Iran team.

Recommended bet: Morocco (+125) France vs. Australia (June 16, Group C)
France will look to put down a marker in its opening match and has an abundance of attacking talent to trouble Australia's defenders. But France's back four, plus goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, looked ill at ease in les Bleus' final warm-up friendly vs. the U.S. (1-1), so it would be no surprise to see France's back line breached. Given the favorites' strengths and weaknesses, over 2.5 goals is our pick.

Recommended bet: Over 2.5 goals (-120) Germany vs. Mexico (June 17, Group F)
Germany was once regarded as a slow starter in major competitions, but anything other than a win for Joachim Low's side would be surprising considering the quality and experience here. As you'd expect, the Germans are short-priced favorites to collect all three points, but there's little downside to backing them on the Asian handicap as they seek the perfect start to their title defense.

Recommended bet: Germany -1 (-125) Brazil vs. Switzerland (June 17, Group E)
There have been moments of real class from Brazil in its warm-up friendlies, and it should be far too strong for an unremarkable Switzerland side. Brazil's depth of quality and competition for places in attack should ensure it continues to go forward if and when it takes the lead, making the Selecao an appealing Asian handicap selection.

Recommended bet: Brazil -1.5 (+115) Poland vs. Senegal (June 19, Group H)
Poland's clear favoritism is a surprise given the individual quality in the Senegal ranks. Kalidou Koulibaly, Idrissa Gueye, Keita Balde and Sadio Mane are all as good, if not better, than their direct Polish equivalents. And while talent alone does not make a team, there's enough about the Lions of Teranga to suggest they're a smart bet to avoid defeat.

Recommended bet: Senegal (+220)

The Asian handicap betting eliminates the draw and provides the possibility of getting your stakes back (depending on the bet you place). For example, if you back a team at 0 Asian handicap, your stakes will be returned if the game ends in a draw (as the handicap has been equaled). If you back a team -1 Asian handicap and the team you've backed wins by a single goal, your stakes will be returned (as the handicap has been equaled). This safety net of having your stakes returned is the primary difference between Asian handicap and handicap betting.
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