World Cup Soccer Betting Advice: Toughest Draws
The 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia promises to be a bit of an odd one, so it only seems fitting that the draw for the field was a bit odd, too. There is no real group of death, and all of the top teams seem to have a very clear path through to the elimination rounds. Anything can happen at a World Cup, of course, but on paper right now this sets up as the least suspenseful and intriguing opening round in a long time. While no groups are truly awful, there are four that stand out as tougher than the other four. Here's a look at each (Odds to be one of the two teams to advance out of the group are from BetOnline )
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Group B: Really the only intrigue here is which team wins and which team is the runner up among neighbors and rivals Spain and Portugal. They are so much better than the other two teams in the group - Iran and Morocco - that it is almost laughable. Portugal is a very strong -600 to advance to the second round, but that is nothing compared to Spain at -1200. On the other hand, Morocco is +500 and Iran is +700.
The showdown between the two top teams promises to be one of the best matchups of the round robin, but it ultimately doesn't mean too much. The top two teams in this group will play the top two teams in Group A in the Round of 16, and that is easily the weakest group on the tournament. So, not only are we likely to see both of these teams advance, but we are likely to see them in the quarterfinals.
Still, one of the teams is likely to lose when they meet, which means their margin for error is reasonably small in their other round robin games. Portugal and Spain play each other first, so they will both have the advantage of knowing what they need to do the rest of the way.
Group D: Argentina really doesn't have too much to worry about here - they are at -500 to advance. But the rest of the group is potentially dangerous. Croatia sits at -300 to advance, and they are a solid-if-not-particularly-spectacular team. Iceland, +275, doesn't have a lot of depth, but they have shown without a doubt how dangerous they can be in big games. And Nigeria, +240, is athletic and quite dangerous. Argentina had a much tougher time qualifying than they should have for this tournament, so they are far from invincible.
This is the deepest and most intriguing group in the field - rivalled only by Group H, which we will look at soon enough. Argentina and Iceland open group play in a game that will tell us a lot about how exciting the group could be.
Group G: Like Group B, this sets up primarily as a showdown between two strong teams that also happen to be geographically close. Belgium is favored to advance at -800, with England close behind at -600. If things go according to form both should advance regardless of how the game between them turns out. Of course, when it comes to England in the World Cup things rarely go according to form.
The other two teams in the group - Tunisia at +300 and Panama at +1000 - clearly aren't at the same level as the top two. The biggest advantage they will have, though, is that they will both be quite unfamiliar to the top two, so they could at least theoretically sneak up on their opponents and gain enough advantage from that to make some noise.
Group H: This is easily the most wide-open group in the field because there isn't a single team here that would be viewed as a lock to advance. Colombia is favored to advance at -300 even though Poland at -160 is the highest seed in the group. Poland is ranked sixth in the world right now, but that is at least a little inflated - and likely much more than that. The rest of the group is Senegal at +130 and Japan at +150.
In this group there isn't a team that feels like anything close to a lock to advance, nor is there a team that would be anything close to a surprise if they were to advance. When the draw is done the teams are split into four pots of eight teams each according to their seeding. Poland is probably the weakest team in Pot 1 right now aside from the host Russians, who are actually the lowest seed in the whole tournament but automatically get into the top group. Colombia is in the middle of Pot 2, and Japan is in the top half of Pot 4 and not far removed from Senegal in Pot 3. This one should be a battle right up to the final game.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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