2014 World Cup Draw and Odds to Win Groups
by Trevor Whenham - 12/6/2013
The draws were made for the 2014 World Cup this morning. Now we know who will be playing each other, so the serious World Cup speculation can begin — and it’s a good thing too, since we have six months to fill before the action starts. There will be plenty of time to plunge deep into what we see, but for now here are ten quick thoughts on what we have seen:
1. Conspiracy?: The two most popular teams in terms of live fan support are likely to be the home Brazilians (obviously) and Argentina. The two squads were given absolute gifts in the draw. It would be almost impossible for Brazil not to advance out of Group A and even tougher for Argentina not to move on. There really isn’t a serious threat for either team to not finish first in their group. Smooth sailing. Frankly, I was hoping for the sake of the Brazilians that they would be in a bit of a tougher group. Since they didn’t have to qualify, they have gone a long time since playing a really meaningful game with their full roster. A good tune-up before elimination play could have helped sharpen them up.
2. England’s fans must want to cry: Few fans long for success more than England, but yet again they are in a brutal position. Uruguay and Italy are both better teams in stronger form right now. England was never going to be a favorite, but with a fairer group they would have had a better chance of advancing, and in the elimination rounds anything can happen.
3. Tough luck for the Americans: The U.S. dominated their qualifying stage, and they were rewarded with a terrible draw. Germany is all but certain to tie up one spot, so it is a dogfight between the Americans and Portugal for the second spot — and the European team has the edge in my eyes. Ghana is no pushover, either. To add to the insult, the Americans really helped the Mexicans secure a spot they barely deserved, and Mexico got a smoother path to the second round.
4. Colombia did well: The South Americans generally got treated well in their home tournament. The promising Colombian team is in a very good position to win Group C. Chile is in a decent position, too — especially because Netherlands is looking far from their best. The only South American power in a tough spot is Uruguay.
5. There are a lot of straightforward groups: This doesn’t feel like it is nearly as competitive in the round robin as it has been at times. Brazil will clearly win Group A. Spain and Chile are in a good position in Group B, though the Netherlands could make it interesting if they can find their form again. Colombia is strong in Group C. France and Ecuador are well-positioned in Group E. Argentina is a stone-cold lock in Group F, and Bosnia-Herzegovina is a good bet as well. Germany will come out of Group G, and Belgium and Russia are likely to emerge from Group H. Only Group D and perhaps Group G appear wide-open. The good news from that is that the elimination rounds should be competitive and interesting as top teams should be able to get there without too much stress. The challenge, though, is that a lot of the first round won’t be as compelling as it could be.
6. Brazil offering value?: The Brazilians opened at -350 to win their group. That’s a low price but not nearly as low as it should be. The team will be fired up. Mexico is really struggling to find their form and lack a real identity. Croatia is just a second-tier European team that doesn’t measure up. Cameroon’s days as a Cinderella are in the past. It would be a real shock if Brazil were to lose. I don’t think it makes any sense to lock up your money for six months at the promise of such a low payoff, but the risk involved in this bet is minimal. By comparison, Argentina is at -600, and though they have a slightly easier path, the difference isn’t as big as the prices suggest — and Argentina’s price seems fair.
7. I like Spain’s test: Spain has a challenging group since both the Chileans and Dutch could be decent. It’s a good blend for Spain, though. The group is very winnable for them, and they should be able to comfortably advance either way, but it also provides two very good tests to get them ready and have a sense of where they are moving forward. I’m not sure Spain can stay on top, but this sets them up reasonably well.
8. Spain and Brazil could meet in the Round of 16: If one team wins their group and the other finishes second them, we would have this dream matchup. What an epic that would be! If they both win their groups then they couldn’t meet before the finals.
9. More bad news for Group G: Assuming Germany plays to form and wins then USA, Portugal and Ghana are playing for second place. Their reward for coming out of that fight and advancing would be a likely Round of 16 game against a very good Belgium team. No rest for the wicked.
10. First glance awards: Most compelling first-round matchup: Uruguay vs. Italy. Runner-up: Portugal vs. USA. Toughest group: Group D. Team most improved by their draw: Colombia. Team most hurt by their draw: England. Most hopeless team: Australia.
Ivory Coast (+300)
Costa Rica (+3000)
South Korea (+800)
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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