2018 World Cup Betting Advice: Easiest Groups
Let's get this out of the way up front - there is no such thing as a truly easy World Cup group. Teams play only three group games, so the impact of a single misstep can be magnified dramatically. We've seen many good teams falter when they should be shining and many bad teams get through to the knockout rounds when they barely belonged in the tournament field at all. There is no such thing as a sure thing in the craziness that is the World Cup. Some groups, though, are definitely easier on paper than other groups. And this year there are four groups that, for one reason or another, qualify as being pretty close to easy World Cup groups:
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Group A: I'm not saying that the Russians cheated in any way - they would never do that. But it is definitely in FIFA's best interest to have the host nation in the knockout round, and this draw has done anything possible to make a pretty underwhelming Russian team very likely to advance. Saudi Arabia is the lowest-ranked team in the entire field (aside from Russia, that is, but the Russians are hampered somewhat in the rankings by not having played a full qualifying schedule, which means they have lacked opportunities to get wins that improve their ranking). Egypt was one of the lowest-ranked teams in Group 3 and doesn't have a lot of either depth or experience to draw on here. And while Uruguay certainly has upside, they are inconsistent, and four of their five losses in CONMEBOL qualifying were cause for real concern. Uruguay should advance, but Russia is in a very good position to get one of the two spots as well. The odds suggest how lopsided this group is - BetOnline has Uruguay at -350 and Russia at -300 to advance, with Egypt at +125 and Saudi Arabia way back at +800. It would have been very tough to draw up a group, given the pots that the teams are placed in before groups are drawn, that would favor the Russians and their hopes of advancing on home soil much more than this one.
Group B: Spain and Portugal are both world elite teams and viable contenders here. Normally, their inclusion in the same group at a World Cup or Euro would instantly make that group the Group of Death. But not this time around. They are placed with Morocco and Iran, so barring a massively-shocking setback the only drama is which order the two neighbors advance to the knockout round in. BetOnline sees this group as even more unbalanced than Group A. They have Spain at a laughable -1200 and Portugal at -600 to advance to the playoff. Morocco, meanwhile, is at +500, and Iran at +700. I don't want to suggest that the latter two teams are truly awful. Morocco is doing some nice things lately and had a very strong qualification run. But neither team has anywhere near the experience or firepower to match up to the top two unless those squads fail to show up and therefore let themselves be beaten.
Group E: Brazil is all but a lock to advance out of any group that they are placed in. They have had issues reaching their potential in recent World Cups, but not in the group rounds. But by placing them in a group like this one FIFA has all but guaranteed that they will come out of the group on top. Brazil is so heavily favored to win the group it's almost funny. They are at -400 to win and a stunning -2500 to advance. Switzerland is the second favorite to win, but way, way back at +600. Serbia at +750 and Costa Rica at +1600 bring up the rear in the group. Switzerland hasn't made it past the Round of 16 since 1954, and they are by far the most accomplished squad in the group. This is a gigantic gift for the Brazilians, the team in the tournament that perhaps least needs the help.
Group G: Belgium comes into the tournament for the second straight edition as a popular pick to make some noise and disrupt the top contenders. And England is still England, so they need all the help they can get because they can screw up any situation in a major tournament. Both squads have been handed berths in the round of 16 on a silver platter. Belgium is -800 to advance, and England is -600. Tunisia, meanwhile is at +300, while Panama is at +1000. There are a few teams in the field each year that you really struggle to find things to get excited about when you look at them. England and Belgium are matched up against two of them. Tunisia is obviously the better of the two by a wide margin, but the CAF is far from an intimidating region this time around, and Tunisia didn't dominate that group. If England manages to screw this up, which they very easily could as they have proven time and time again, then they may as well just fold their program. It's not going to get any easier than this.
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