Leading up to the start of the World Cup Ben McAleer will take a look at a selection of lively outsiders that might offer some trading possibilities in various markets. First up is Uruguay...
"Cavani topped the CONMEBOL scoring charts, netting 10 of Uruguay's 32 goals in qualifying. On the back of a league season that saw him score 28 times for Ligue 1 champions PSG, the 31-year-old will be confident of continuing that form on the international stage."
With just seven days to go until the World Cup starts, excitement levels are rising with each passing minute. The first match may see hosts Russia take on rank outsiders Saudi Arabia, but football fans around the globe will tune in to watch the opening encounter, such is the pull of grand competition.
Group A rivals Uruguay and Egypt clash in the second match of Russia 2018, but the two group favourites (Uruguay [1.84] to win Group A, Russia [3.05]) are confident of progressing to the next round of the World Cup nonetheless. When the draw was made, Uruguay will have been confident of easing through their group and with Egypt star Mohamed Salah potentially ruled out of their opening fixture, it's little wonder the South American powerhouse are odds-on favourites to defeat their north African counterparts.
They eased to the World Cup, finishing second in qualifying behind Brazil in CONMEBOL, yet struggled against the Selecao and Argentina having failed to beat the giants in their two meetings. At home they thrived, yet away from Montevido, struggled, winning only two of nine matches. Indeed, their away form in CONMEBOL qualifying was the fifth worst, with their two victories coming in Bolivia and Paraguay.
In Oscar we trust
That being said, in Oscar Tabarez, they have the longest serving coach at the tournament, with the 71-year-old appointed back in 2006; that 12-year stint feels like a lifetime in international football. Key, though, is that Uruguay have a degree of consistency in the system and squad. Tabarez's demands and well set out and little has changed in both defence and attack since the 2014 World Cup.
In Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez, Uruguay have two centre-backs that ply their trade in one of the meanest defences in Europe in the form of Atletico Madrid. In attack, Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez scored a combined 53 league goals last season, while Maxi Gomez and Cristhian Stuani both impressed in Spain's top tier for Celta Vigo and Girona, respectively.
In the middle of the park, Matias Vecino performed admirably in his debut season at Inter, while Rodrigo Bentancur is one of the hottest midfield prospects in Italy, with a fine average of 83.5 passes per 90 highlighting his ball retention qualities. Lucas Torreira is another option for Tabarez in midfield, with Uruguay boasting ample strength in depth in midfield and attack. The defence may be far from solid beyond Godin and Gimenez, yet there is plenty of talent within the squad.
Uruguay worth considering to reach the last eight
It's no wonder, then, that Uruguay are strong favourites to progress as group winners from Group A. However, there is better value in Uruguay making it to the quarter-finals on the Exchange. The winner of Group A will face the runner-up from Group B, with that likely to be one of Portugal, Morocco or Iran, in the last-16 stage. Uruguay have the quality to overcome any of that trio on their day and with favourable odds, [2.62], to make the quarter-finals, it's certainly worth a punt.
Alternatively, a trade on Uruguay in the outright Winner market could be worth a play. They are [32.0] to lift the World Cup, but those odds will reduce with each round they progress, and should they reach the quarter or semi-final with some big nations being eliminated along the way, then a very profitable trade should be available.
In-form Cavani a solid Top Goalscorer option
In the top scorer market, there is value to be had with backing a La Celeste individual. Cavani topped the CONMEBOL scoring charts, netting 10 of Uruguay's 32 goals in qualifying. On the back of a league season that saw him score 28 times for Ligue 1 champions PSG, the 31-year-old will be confident of continuing that form on the international stage.
In one of the easier groups of the World Cup, Cavani to finish as Top Goalscorer at Russia 2018 is worth a look at odds of [26.0]. Should he pile in the goals against Egypt, Russia and Saudi Arabia, then his odds will shorten dramatically, again offering a trade should this be your preferred way of punting. To add more confidence, Cavani has scored four goals in his last five international appearances and should be confident of hitting the ground running this summer.
Cavani, Suarez and Godin were all part of the Uruguay squad that reached the semi-finals in South Africa back in 2010, and given their respective success at club level this summer, are well versed with the demands that come with performing on the grand stage. With a favourable group and a potentially easy route to the quarter-finals, don't sleep on the chance to make money on Uruguay at the World Cup, even accounting for their poor away form in qualifying.