by Trevor Whenham - 03/30/2006
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Leading up to this summer's 2006 World Cup in Germany, all you will hear is what a 'lock' Brazil is to win the tournament. That may or may not be true, but if you are like me you probably don't like getting only 5/2 for a team to win a tournament involving 32 teams, no matter how good they are. With a favorite as strong as Brazil there will be teams in the bottom half of the field in terms of odds that will offer big enough prices to make them attractive. Live World Cup long shots, in other words. Here are five that might be worth a look. All odds are from Bodog.
Australia (115/1) - There is little evidence from the past to make Australia look attractive for a wager. They haven't been in a World Cup in 32 years and they didn't score during their last tournament. They have one huge factor in their favor, however - Guus Hiddink. Their coach was at the helm of the Netherlands in 1998 when they made it to the semifinals. Four years later he led upstart South Korea to the semis. Hiddink has a golden touch. He led the team to a solid qualifying run and he could find the magic in the World Cup again.
Paraguay (140/1) - There are two kinds of soccer fans - those who love England and those who hate them. The haters will point to a decade or more of disappointing performances and suggest that another collapse is due in Germany. Sweden is a good team, but certainly not one of the elite teams in the world. It has been inconsistent - finishing third in 1994, then failing to qualify in 1998. If either of those two favorites in Group B falters, Paraguay will be ready to pounce. The team made it to the second round in each of the past two World Cups, so they could very well do it here, too. Certainly worth a look at this long price.
Ecuador (190/1) - Ecuador landed in a group with Germany. Obviously, no team will be under more pressure in the World Cup than the Germans. This team comes into the tournament on a rocky road, having looked dominant in some matches and completely terrible in others. The Germans are deservedly a strong favorite in the group, but they could falter for a game or more. The next strength in the group is Poland. It is getting lots of hype, but it is largely unproven. All that means that there could be room for a third team to slip right up the middle and find a spot in the second round. Ecuador is the third best team in the group, so it gets my attention as I shop for World Cup long shots.
South Korea (200/1) - The South Koreans were the Cinderellas of the 2002 World Cup, finishing fourth. This time around they have traded one former Dutch coach, Hiddink, for another, Dick Advocaat. The qualification round wasn't as strong as it could have been, since they qualified behind the weak Saudi Arabian team. France is the strength of their group, but they have been less than consistent in major tournaments over the last six years. After that, it is a toss up, with Switzerland having maybe a slight advantage over South Korea and Togo. The Koreans stand a very good chance of getting through. From there, anything can happen.
Angola (390/1) - This is one for those of you that love really long odds. Angola is only the third best team in its group and they are behind Mexico and Portugal by a large margin. Neither of those teams are unbeatable, though. Portugal comes into the tournament having played inconsistently since its big breakthrough at Euro 2004. Mexico, too, is solid but not without flaws. Angola's best player, Pedro Mantorras, plays in Portugal, so he can provide first hand insight into Portuguese playing style. Let me put it this way - Angola has a much better chance of making the second round than any other team with similar, or higher, odds.