The World Cup kicks off on June 14th, with 32 of the world’s best teams competing for the sport’s ultimate prize. That presents plenty of opportunities for bettors, as high-level international soccer will be played thrice daily for the first two weeks of the tournament. But beyond individual games, wagers may be placed on how teams fare within the standings of the initial group phase. Each team will play three games against their group, with the top two teams in each pool advancing.
Let’s take a look at some of these World Cup odds, and see if there’s anything worth putting our money on (all odds via 5Dimes):
Odds to Advance
First, you can wager on teams to advance out of their group. Since two out of four teams advance from each group, the favorites (Germany, Brazil, France) have overwhelming odds to successfully navigate the group stage. If you think the talented teams will fall short in Russia, you can also bet on a team to “Not Advance.”
Russia Does Not Advance
Not only is this something I really want to see, it’s entirely plausible for the host nation. Russia is a slow, defensive team, and could easily lose to both Uruguay and Mo Salah’s Egypt. The host nation has reached the next round in every single World Cup sans 2010, when South Africa was overpowered by a group containing Uruguay, Mexico and France.
Russia is +230 to not advance from Group A, and it’s only because of their status as hosts. Russia is 44th and slipping in the World Football Elo Ratings, several spots behind teams like Romania and Scotland. Translation: this team isn’t very good, and home-field is the only thing going for them in this tournament. No pressure.
The most shocking story of Euro 2016 is now a World Cup debutante. In case you forgot about Iceland’s run, rewatch this goal video to remember how much fun it was.
Fun aside, this is a technically sound squad that plays defense and fears no one. Iceland has a tough group, one of the toughest in the Cup, taking on Argentina, Croatia and Nigeria in Group D. But Iceland catches Argentina in their first match, which give them a twofold edge: Argentina may come out a little rusty or nervous, and Iceland can play it’s latter two matches knowing the result against the toughest opponent. If Iceland can scrape a draw in their opener, their odds of advancing will skyrocket. And at +295 to advance, they’re a solid bet heading into the first week of action.
Costa Rica Advances
Another underdog with big-stage experience, Costa Rica shocked the world in 2014 by reaching the quarterfinals for the first time in the nation’s history. Led by world-class goalkeeper Keylor Navas, Los Ticos were actually a one-goal penalty shootout loss away from reaching the semifinals. Now they’re back in the tournament, but facing a tough task in Group E against two of the world’s top teams.
The obvious contender to advance is Brazil, who is the current favorite to win it all this summer. But there’s a tough challenge in Switzerland as well, who are currently ranked 14th in the World Football Elo Ratings. If you factor in Serbia’s ELO, Costa Rica is actually the lowest-ranked team in the group. They’re priced as such, but given their defensive style and experience, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to sprinkle a little funds on them priced at +395 to advance.
Odds to Win Group
It’s slightly riskier, but you can also bet on teams to win groups outright.
Poland Wins Group H
While the billboards will likely feature Messi, Ronaldo and even Salah, it’s easy to forget that Robert Lewandowski might be the best scorer in the tournament. Lewy recorded another double with Bayern Munich this season, then announced a revelation- he’s told his agent he wants to leave the club this summer. This could have massive implications in club soccer, and Lewandowski could break transfer records with a strong summer in Russia.
Other than the man up top, Poland are a top-20 Elo team with one of the softer groups in the tournament. Group H mates Senegal, Colombia and Japan have ratings of 33, 9, and 47 respectively. If Poland can overcome an inconsistent Colombia squad – they scored just 21 goals in 18 World Cup qualifiers, then Poland has a very easy road to winning the group. +170 isn’t a lucrative price, but it’s a solid ticket for early in the tournament.
Egypt Wins Group A
Why not? Mo Salah is amazing, Russia is not, and this would be an incredible story. Salah carried Liverpool to a Champions League final, so it’s plausible he could do the same for an Egyptian team in the World Cup for the first time since 1990.
If anyone wins Group A, it’ll probably be Uruguay. But there’s always a chance Luis Suarez gets himself suspended like he did in 2014, when a neutered Uruguay then promptly fell to Colombia in the Round of 16. Six points could be enough to win this group, and Egypt can beat Russia and Saudi Arabia to steal the top spot. It’s the longshot of this post at +600, but I’m down to put my money on something that’s both Pro-Salah and Anti-Russia.