While many Americans will be disappointed at the USA men’s team missing out on the World Cup for the first time in 32 years, there will be plenty of great teams for neutrals to cheer on. In fact, it can be argued that the World Cup in Russia (14th June – 15th July) will feature the deepest pool of talented players since the likes of Franz Beckenbauer, Pele, Bobby Moore, Bobby Charlton, Jairzinho and Gerd Muller all appeared together in Mexico 1970.
Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo will, of course, be there. But there are also dozens of other players who are starting to challenge their ‘best in the world tag’: Neymar, Kevin De Bruyne, Kylian Mbappé, Paul Pogba, Harry Kane, Eden Hazard, Sergio Aguero, Mohammed Salah, Gabriel Jesus and Luis Suarez will consider themselves in that argument currently. And, that list skips over all of Germany’s incredible squad.
Lots of reasons to believe this will be a ‘vintage’ World Cup
It all points to a, hopefully, fabulous tournament, one where it will be tough to back a team with any great degree of certainty. But, for punters, uncertainty can lead to opportunity, especially when it comes to getting value in the odds.
Germany, as champions, have been installed as favourites with most betting companies, coming in around 5/1 (+500). But there is little to choose between them and Brazil, who have been made co-favourites with a number of bookmakers. France and Spain are also right at the top of the odds, widely available at 6/1 (+600) and 7/1 (+700) respectively. Click here for betting offers, including free bets, to back any of those teams.
Argentina, England and Belgium all have a huge chance
While choosing any of those four to win is understandable, it is the next tier of teams which will excite plenty of bettors. Argentina, led by the inimitable Messi, can be found at odds of 10/1 (+1000). Surely bargain for a team containing one of the best players in history? England, ever the disappointment on the grandest stage, are widely priced at 16/1 (+1600). But there is a different feel about England this time. They are blessed with young talent, many of whom are integral to the current success of Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur.
Then there is Belgium, also priced at 16/1 (+1600). They have never truly challenged for international honours before, but this is a ‘golden generation’ of players, a side that all came through the youth ranks together. With players like De Bruyne, Hazard, Dries Mertens, Thibaut Courtois, Romelu Lukaku and Jan Vertonghen, it feels like Belgium had several first-round draft picks all coming of age at the same time. They have a huge chance in Russia.
Other nations will be keen to leave their stamp on Russia 2018
The seven teams mentioned above probably have the best chances of lifting the World Cup, but there is also a hugely talented ‘supporting cast’. Luis Suarez and Edison Cavani’s Uruguay, Ronaldo’s Portugal and Luka Modric’s Croatia will all believe that they can go deep into the latter stages of the tournament, nor would it be a huge shock if any of them made it to the Final at the Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow on 15th July.
What sort of tournament will it be? It is hard to say, as even having the best players on show does not always guarantee a ‘vintage’ World Cup. However, the right ingredients are there to make this one a classic. Let’s hope that is exactly what we are treated to from the moment Russia and Saudi Arabia kick off the Finals on 14th June.