2018 World Cup Group E Expert Betting Picks
Brazil is no longer the greatest soccer nation on the planet.
After spending a half-century with that unofficial title, I think that Brazil has finally been passed by Germany. The reverberations of Germany's 7-1 annihilation of Brazil in the 2014 World Cup semifinals are still echoing through the soccer world. The Germans enter the 2018 World Cup as the favorites, the defending champions, and as the No. 1-ranked team in the world.
But it goes well beyond one match in determining who is the greatest soccer nation on earth. Brazil's fourth-place finish on their home soil was actually their best finish in the past three World Cups and the first time they made it out of the quarterfinals since 2002. Brazil has played in the championship game just three times since 1978 (compared to seven times for Germany), and they seem to be perpetual underachievers in the late stages of this tournament.
Will this year be any different? Brazil should be able to handle its group, which has no clear-cut contenders. Switzerland and Costa Rica are two teams that both had strong showings in the 2014 tournament. And Serbia has a dangerous level of attacking quality. But Brazil has yet to lose a match in the group stage of the World Cup this century. And I would be stunned if they did so this time around.
The 2018 World Cup will take place in Russia from June 14 to July 15. Russia will host this year's quadrennial event, and current 2018 World Cup betting odds and odds to win the World Cup are currently posted at all offshore and Las Vegas sportsbooks.
Here is my 2018 World Cup Group E Preview:
Odds To Win Group E: -355
Odds To Advance: -1600
Odds To Win World Cup: +400
Brazil Group E Predictions: Now that I have officially questioned Brazil's stature at the top of the world soccer food chain, let me now tell you how much I like this team! They absolutely dominated qualification, scoring 47 goals and allowing just five over the past two years. They have also been wrecking people in the lead-up to Russia, winning their last four friendlies since March 23 by a combined 9-0 score, including wins over World Cup participants Russia, Germany and Croatia.
This year's squad isn't as reliant on Neymar, one of the best players in the world. But he has come back strong after months lost to injury, scoring in each of his last two matches this June. He is the triggerman for a creative, diverse offense that could pour in goals in this group.
Brazil has not lost in the group stage since 1998, going 10-0-2. In fact, a 2-1 loss to Norway in 1998 was the only group stage loss this nation has taken in the last half century. Brazil is 23-1-9 against their initial group over the last 50 years. And since the format change in 1986, Brazil has won its group six consecutive times.
Maybe not having the pressure of playing on home soil will be an advantage for Brazil. Things will be difficult in the knockout round, though, as they could have to beat Mexico and Belgium just to make the semifinals - where Germany would be waiting.
Odds To Win Group E: +650
Odds To Advance: -105
Odds To Win World Cup: +12000
Switzerland Group E Predictions: In every World Cup there is a some European team that is grossly overranked entering the tournament. This year that would be Switzerland. According to the FIFA rankings, Switzerland is the No. 6 team in the world, behind Argentina and ahead of France and Spain. That is, frankly, ridiculous.
The Swiss needed a controversial playoff win in qualifying just to earn a spot in this World Cup. They played well prior to that in qualifying - they shared a group with Portugal - but this team still lacks any of the star power that the other real contenders posses.
Switzerland has made the finals five straight times. They actually survived their group in Brazil in 2014. And their team has no real weakness. But I do think that this team is a bit overvalued. And if you're looking for a No. 2 seed that could come up short of expectations, this is as good of a spot to start as any.
Odds To Win Group E: +700
Odds To Advance: +115
Odds To Win World Cup: +17000
Serbia Group E Predictions: The Serbs are a dangerous wild card in this group and could definitely wreak some havoc. Serbia's starting 11 has as much quality as any team in the field, and there are a plethora of playmakers in the midfield and attack.
But Serbia sacked its manager in November and was still tinkering with lineups and formations heading into June. They thrashed Bolivia 5-1 in their final friendly before the World Cup. But that came just five days after a 1-0 loss to non-qualifier Chile. They did the same thing in March, losing 2-1 to Morocco before coming back four days later and manhandling Nigeria.
Serbia would love to earn three points in their first match, facing No. 4 seed Costa Rica. If that occurs, then they will be well positioned for advancement when they face Switzerland in their second match. That showdown will likely determine who qualifies from this group.
Odds To Win Group E: +2000
Odds To Advance: +400
Odds To Win World Cup: +54000
Costa Rica Group E Predictions: Before you dismiss Costa Rica's chances at this tournament, remember that in 2014 Costa Rica was 50-to-1 to win a group that included Italy, England and Uruguay. Not only did they win that group, but also they beat Greece in the knockout stage and took Netherlands to penalty kicks before bowing out in the quarterfinals.
This is virtually the exact same team that made that run in Brazil. Eight of 11 starters from that team will take the pitch in Costa Rica's first match versus Serbia. This team hangs its hat on its defense, and goalie Keylor Navas is one of the very best in the world. They have shown some cracks recently, though, giving up two goals to England last week and four goals to Belgium on Monday. This team doesn't have much momentum heading into the finals.
It would be astounding if Costa Rica could pull off another surprise run out of the group stage. This is essentially the same team from 2014. But they are playing a world away, and these guys are all four years older. If Serbia or Switzerland overlooks this squad then they can pull an upset. But I don't see advancement for the team that took the United States' spot in the tournament.
2018 World Cup Group E Predicted Order Of Finish:
3. Costa Rica
ROBERT FERRINGO is one of the top all-sports handicappers in the country and will be releasing rated selections in the 2018 World Cup this June and July. Robert has posted back-to-back winning World Cups (2010 and 2014) and went on an insane +$4,700 run with his plays in Euro 2016. Sign up for his plays here .
Read more articles by Robert Ferringo
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