The 2014 FIFA World Cup, which is arguably the world’s most celebrated sporting event is about to kick off in Brazil.
Here’s three of the markets that I would like to explore…
How far will Belgium go?
In the last five World Cups, Belgium have gone past the group stage and their best finish has been the fourth place back in 1986. This time around they have a much more experienced side, of which 15 players play in the top clubs in the English Premier League and La Liga.
Belgium is a part of Group H and their opponents are Algeria, Russia and South Korea, a group they should top with Russia being their biggest opponents.
Despite having never made it to the second round before this, Russia are capable of being a stick in the mud for most opponents.
Interestingly, and unsurprisingly, there has been a lot of talk around Belgium doing well this time, probably much better than on most previous occasions. They are as low as 17/2 (Ladbrokes) to make it to the final while being 20/1 (Paddy Power) to win the World Cup. They also start at only 1/5 to make it into the the knockout stages.
Belgium are definitely a safe bet to enter the second round but the big question is, whether they will they be able to proceed further? They are likely to face either one of Germany or Portugal, with odds in favour of Portugal qualifying second in Group G at 13/10.
My sense is that Belgium will definitely make it through to the second round but will be stopped in their tracks at that stage in what could be an upset win. Interestingly, Stan James offers 8/13 for Belgium to not make the quarter-finals and I will be looking to go with it. Belgium are top price of 6/4 with BetFred to be eliminated at the Last 16 stages.
The under-rated Group C:
A look at Group C and the sense one gets is that it may not be the easiest to call. All four teams, Greece, Colombia, Japan and Ivory Coast will start with a reasonable chance of making it to the second round.
If one were to look at the FIFA rankings alone, Colombia has the best chance of going forward into the second round of the competition. They enter the tournament with a FIFA ranking of five, which is way better than the next best, Greece, who are tenth in the world.
This is also the first time since the 1998 World Cup that Colombia have qualified and they would love to make it count. They have a 3/10 chance of progressing to the next stage making them a decently safe bet, but what happens after that is an important question. They will be up against one of their continental rivals Uruguay or Italy or England and it will not get any easier for them.
I would also be looking at Greece to concede the least number of goals in this group – they are at 9/2 (Paddy Power) and given that they were the best defensive team after Spain during the qualifiers, I will be hoping for them to repeat that showing.
Will the African continent roar?
There’s an interesting market on how many African nations will make it to the round of 16 this World Cup. The African sides in question are Algeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Nigeria. Traditionally, Ghana have done reasonably well over the previous editions of the World Cup while Cameroon and Nigeria have shown sparks as well. However, never have two teams from Africa made it to the round of 16, and it does not look like the record’s going to get any better.
Cameroon are placed in Group A along side Brazil, Croatia and Mexico, which makes their life a touch difficult. However, it’s not as difficult as it would be for Ghana when they take on Portugal, Germany and the USA in their group. And Algeria have Belgium, Russia and South Korea for company, making it equally tough for them.
Then there’s Ivory Coast, who take on Colombia, Greece and Japan making this a tough group while Nigeria are in Group F with Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Iran.
Ivory Coast and Nigeria, to me, look like they have a fighting chance but can both the sides go through? I don’t think so. In fact, it could be more difficult for Ivory Coast than Nigeria, who will fancy their chances against Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Iran.
This is why I would put my money on both, 0 & 1 African team to go through to the round of 16. Betfair offer 9/2 if none of the sides from Africa qualify for the second round and 6/4 if just one goes through.
Below is an infographic giving information on the financials of the host countries over the years showing what it costs to host the World Cup and how much it is worth to the local economies…