The World Cup’s feast of football will soon be upon us, and France look like a solid bet in the futures market to retain the famous golden trophy.
Checking out the top sportsbook sites (see our online sportsbook reviews here) we can see that the betting for the World Cup winner is tight, although it is dominated by the major nations. Five-time winners Brazil are the favorites at around +500 but World Cup holders France and Euro 2020 finalists England are close behind. Argentina, Spain and Germany make up the remainder of the main contenders, with Germany the biggest priced at +1000.
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Every World Cup has its own narrative, but the story around this year’s edition of the greatest soccer show on Earth is particularly unusual. The tournament is being staged in Qatar, the first time that the Middle East has hosted it, and in November, rather than the usual summer spot in the schedule.
While this is interesting in itself, it is particularly important if you’re betting on the World Cup to understand the effect on the markets and the chances of the contenders. The fact that it isn’t being held at the end of a long hard season is probably good news for spectators, as all the main stars should be fresh and fit, but the climate poses a different set of problems.
Qatar in November is cooler than Qatar in June, but the temperatures will still be extreme compared to what many players are used to and will be combined with high humidity. Spain and Germany have both won World Cups outside Europe, so we can’t say that the old rules about European teams not playing well in hotter climates applies, but northern European teams, in particular, will have to adapt quickly.
Brazil regularly top the World Cup futures markets ahead of the tournament and they are once again the favorites here, as they aim for a sixth World Cup title, but they haven’t won it or reached the final since 2002. There is plenty of evidence to suggest they deserve to be favorites, not least their dominant qualifying performance and the array of attacking talent at their disposal.
Still, there isn’t much value to be had in their current odds, compared to the prices available on some of the other main World Cup contenders.
The same can be said for England. Gareth Southgate’s team are being priced based on reputation rather than reality. While there are some talented young players in the squad, it should be remembered that they had an easy draw on their way to the 2018 World Cup semi-final and they were playing on their home soil at Euro 2020. Recent performances, including a home and away double loss to Hungary have been poor and I can’t contemplate backing England at their current odds here.
That the reigning World Cup champions are longer odds than England with some bookmakers is astonishing, given that Didier Deschamps’ squad is arguably stronger than it was four years ago. They have match-winners all over the pitch, many of them multiple trophy winners and in Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema, they also have two of the most dangerous forwards in world football. They have a great chance of becoming the first nation in the modern era to win back-to-back World Cups.
While smaller international tournaments, such as the Euros, can have occasional surprise small-nation winners, that simply doesn’t happen in the modern World Cup.
This tournament is almost always won by one of the world’s major football nations and some of those teams are available at surprisingly big prices in the futures betting markets.
Two teams, in particular, stand out. Argentina have twice won this tournament, though their last win came in 1986. They have regularly fallen short in the World Cup, despite having Lionel Messi in their squad, but this year could be different. There has been a shift in Messi’s priorities in recent months, coinciding with his departure from Barcelona, and he finally got to lift an international trophy – the Copa America – last year. With a variety of attacking options and a solid defense, Lionel Scaloni’s team are a good bet.
The other team to consider at bigger odds is Spain. Luis Enrique’s team have not always been consistent, but their depth of talent is impressive and they will be better placed than most European teams to cope with the conditions in Qatar. Their relatively tough Group, which also features Germany should ensure that there is no complacency in the Spanish squad and they are a value bet at these prices.