2014 World Cup Betting Picks for MVP and Golden Ball Winner Props Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 6/11/2014
Sportsbook.ag offers an impressive list of potential World Cup MVPs - the Golden Ball - to bet on. In the dozens of names you can bet on are obviously very many players who can be ruled out almost immediately and others that are more intriguing. Before we get into looking at individual players, though, let's look back at the last 10 World Cups to see what trends emerge amongst the winners of this award:
Not always from the winning team. In fact, this isn't even a major consideration unlike is typical in North American sports, though it is uncommon for winners to not have played in at least the semifinals. In the last 10 World Cups, which date back to 1974, only four of the 10 Golden Ball winners have played for the champions, and none of the last four award winners have also won the tournament. Of the six that didn't win the tournament, four lost in the finals and two lost in the semifinals.
Rank strikers highest. Of those last 10 winners, seven have been strikers. Of the other three, two were attacking midfielders, and one was a goalkeeper (the only one to ever win the award).
Goal scoring doesn't convert to winning this award. Despite the high proportion of offensive players that win the award, only three of the Top 10 winners have also led the tournament in scoring, and none have done so in the last five World Cups.
It rarely comes from nowhere. Many of the winners were superstars heading into the event. Last time around Diego Forlan was a heavily-hyped offensive machine. Zinedine Zidane was a big name. Oliver Kahn was the top goalkeeper in the world. Ronaldo, Maradona, Cruyff - all megastars. There are exceptions - Salvatore Schillaci entered his first game for Italy in 1990 as a substitute en route to the win - but it is more common that the winner has been on a reasonably short list of likely winners to begin with.
So, we are looking for an offensive player from a likely semifinalist (at a minimum) who is a well respected star. Shouldn't be too tough - let's take a look with some World Cup betting picks.
Diego Forlan, Uruguay (+10000): There is not going to be a repeat winner of the Golden Boot. It has never happened, and Forlan will not be the first. Two things make that perfectly clear. First, when he earned his 100th cap for Uruguay at the 2013 Confederations Cup he didn't enter the game until the 69th minute. Superstars don't sit that long in important tournaments. Second, and most striking, the 35 year old's current club team is Cerezo Osaka in Japan. With all due respect to Japanese soccer, he absolutely would not be there if he was anywhere close to the top of his game.
Neymar, Brazil (+700): He is the favorite, and he certainly checks all the boxes. He is one of the best players in the world and is widely praised for his level of play, He has the advantage of playing at home - four previous winners have won the award at home, including three from South American squads. His team is strongly favored to win the tournament and has a manageable path at least to the semifinals. He is a strong offensive player and the biggest star of his team right now. Anything can happen, but he is the deserving favorite. Given all the factors, the price seems fair.
Lionel Messi, Argentina (+800): Again, Messi fits well for the most part. He is one of the most popular and respected players on the planet, and he is a goal-scoring savant coming off yet another excellent season in club play. He is only 26, so he is just entering his prime. His team is excellent and has a good chance to go really deep in the tournament, He is already the center of a lot of attention, and he will almost certainly make highlight reel plays during the tournament. As I am very high on the Argentineans in this tournament, I am quite tempted to pick him. The biggest problem, though, is that his teammate and fellow striker, Sergio Aguero (tied as the fourth pick at +2000), threatens to steal some of the spotlight from Messi. He has had an excellent year both with Manchester City and internationally, and like Messi he will benefit from the deep and talented team behind him on the field. Messi is still the more likely winner, but Aguero robs him of any value at this price.
Mesut Ozil, Germany (+2200): If you want a slightly longer shot, this could be the place to look. The 25 year old is the leader of this German team, and he was tops on the squad with eight goals in qualifying. As a midfielder he isn't as explosive offensively as the others we have discussed, but he gets his chances, and he also finds other ways to contribute. He is a true European star, and when he joined Arsenal last year he became the most expensive German player ever. The biggest risk here is that while Germany is very good, they also face a tough path after emerging from the qualifying round. It wouldn't be a shock to see them in the finals, but they could also go out in the quarters without really shocking anyone. Still, I like the pick - he is a big-time player who elevates his game internationally.
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