With the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 now underway, we thought we would revisit Shane’s preview from December and see how it is shaping up six months later.
How does each group stack up and are the Socceroos any hope of progressing past the first stage?
Group A: Russia, Uruguay, Egypt & Saudi Arabia
Hosts Russia will tackle Saudi Arabia to kick things off, as the two worst-ranked sides to qualify go head-to-head. Betting suggests Uruguay and Russia will be the two qualifiers from this group to the round of 16. However, it looks highly unlikely that the World Cup winner will be coming from this group.
Group B: Portugal, Spain, Iran & Morocco
The two sides that stand out here to make it through to the round of 16 are Portugal and Spain. Spain are single figures with the bookmakers to win the whole tournament, however if Portugal can finish top of the group the $25+ on offer looks a good early price for traders.
Group C: France, Peru, Denmark & Socceroos
France by how far in this group! Denmark shouldn’t pose a huge threat, Peru was one of the weakest qualifiers and as we know Australia doesn’t have a coach. France will qualify on top, followed by Denmark in second spot for mine. The betting currently has France as third pick to win the tournament so this gives them a nice tune up for the knockout stages.
Group D: Argentina, Croatia, Iceland & Nigeria
For mine, this looks to be the hardest group in the World Cup. Iceland play incredibly well as a team as demonstrated at the European Championships. Croatia has a lot of talent on the park and Nigeria is the best fourth seed in the tournament. Argentina only just qualified for Russia, and I can’t jump in at the $8.5 for them to lift the Cup given the strength of this group.
Group E: Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica & Serbia
This has a similar feel to Group C. Brazil is currently equal favourite for the World Cup, and should get through the group stage with no problems. However, the battle for second is not quite as clear cut, with very little between the three of them. I would be leaning towards Switzerland to advance.
Group F: Germany, Mexico, Sweden & South Korea
There should be no issues for the other equal favourite, Germany, getting through this group, and setting themselves up for a push to win the Cup in the process. I’m leaning towards Mexico to qualify for the second spot. Sweden is limited and South Korea doesn’t have the class.
Group G: Belgium, England, Tunisia & Panama
On paper this group reads as two quality sides and two average sides. Belgium and England should hold down first and second in this group without too many issues. Betting suggests Belgium is slightly ahead of the mother land. Can either of these countries win the World Cup? I can’t see it happening.
Group H: Poland, Colombia, Senegal & Japan
Along with Group A, this is one of the most even groups. Poland is the weakest of the top seeded countries, and all four will now harbour dreams of making the final 16 as a real possibility. The betting is telling us this is the weakest of the groups, with the highest seed Poland currently at $50+ to win the tournament. I wouldn’t be getting too involved with any of these sides.
It’s going to be very hard for them to get through to the final 16. As for the draw, it is as good as we could have asked for. France is the obvious standout for the group and we will struggle against their might. However, the Socceroos will fancy their chances of pushing and taking points in both the Denmark and Peru clashes. Will it be enough to get us through to the final 16? Time will tell.
As for betting strategies, despite being eight months from the tournament, the big three in France, Brazil and Germany look to be the standouts with the bookies. They have been dealt what looks on paper to be an easy route to the final 16. One outside the market I quite like is Portugal at their current price. They have improved dramatically over the past 12 months and are the current European Champions. Their previous best result at a World Cup is a third-place finish in 1966, but I’m tipping they can give it a shake this time.