2014 World Cup Betting: Teams that Look Strong Heading to Brazil
by Trevor Whenham - 5/19/2014
One of the many challenges of effectively handicapping the World Cup is the absence of meaningful recent form to assess where teams are at. Team rosters aren't set until weeks before the tournament, and the friendlies that come after that can't really be trusted because teams are far more interested in getting ready than in winning - it's like the NFL Preseason in that regard.
While really getting a sense of true form for teams heading into the tournament is tough, we can look at what teams have done in the last eight months or a year to at least see which teams are moving in the right direction and which ones have real questions to consider.
Here are four teams that have had a pretty good run of things lately and that could be ready to do some damage in the World Cup as a result:
Brazil: The Brazilians are in a very tough position heading into this tournament. They would have been favored no matter where the tournament was held, but at home the expectations are going to be just insane. They are thought of as a virtually immortal squad, and they have no room for error. As hosts they don't get to go through a qualifying process, so they miss out on some games that matter to find form and figure out their best lineups. Despite the challenges, though, this team has done pretty much everything they could have hoped for. Their lone blemish in the last 15 months is a 1-0 loss to Switzerland in Basel, but the game was close, and Brazil didn't really look too concerned about the game from the outset. Their biggest test was the Confederations Cup at home, and they did precisely what they needed to - cruised to the finals then beat up on Spain. This team is as ready as they could hope to be.
Chile: The team only has a 3-2-2 record in their last seven games, so on the surface it sure doesn't look like they are among the most prepared for the challenges of the tournament. For a team facing an uphill battle, though (they are 40/1 to win the tournament at Bovada, which makes them the 13th choice to win it all). I really like how they have performed lately despite the record. They beat England in London. They crushed Costa Rica. The draws came against two tournament teams - Colombia and, more impressively, Spain. Even the losses were solid - 2-1 to Brazil and 1-0 to Germany in Stuttgart. This is a feisty team that can't easily be overlooked.
Russia: As hosts of the tournament in 2018, the Russians will face considerably more pressure next time around than they do here. If they can prepare for the tournament then like they have now then they would be happy. There was some real concern in August when they lost their second straight game in UEFA qualification - the 1-0 loss to Northern Ireland of all teams followed a more acceptable 1-0 loss to Portugal in Lisbon. They could have gone off the rails at that point, but instead they strengthened their resolve and haven't looked back since. They haven't played a particularly tough schedule, but they have completely outclassed teams that they should have overwhelmed. They have done their jobs, in other words. The only slight blemish in the last nine months looks on the surface to be a 1-1 draw against Azerbaijan in the final qualification game. At that point, though, they knew they only needed a draw to advance, and the Azerbaijani goal didn't come until the 90th minute. I don't think that this is an elite team, but they are coming into the tournament ready to do their best.
As the defending World Cup champs and two-time defending Euro champions you wouldn't blame this team for starting to get complacent and falling from their
peak as they get older and start to relish their success. I'm not convinced that they are the team they have been in recent years, but I like how they have
come into this tournament. They had a nice run at the Confederations Cup, capped by a comical 10-0 pasting of Tahiti. I would have liked them to have
played closer than 3-0 against Brazil in the finals, but losing to a better team at home is hardly a major concern. Since then they have gone 6-1-1, and
the loss and draw can both be easily dismissed. They lost in Johannesburg 1-0 to South Africa in their second friendly in four days, so they weren't
exactly invested in the game. The draw came in a friendly on a neutral field against Chile, and it was again just four days after their previous game,
which was their final qualifying game. They have been very defensively sound, and they appear to be ready.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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