Betfair's 2018 World Cup Betting Guide:
Tips & Analysis

Welcome to the 2018 World Cup on Betfair.

Before the big show starts we bring you our tournament betting guide, featuring sections on the favourites, all eight groups, England's World Cup hopes and much more.

We hope you enjoy it and have a great World Cup on Betfair.

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What can we expect from England at the 2018 World Cup?

For the first time in a long time, it feels like expectations have been tempered.

Yes, captain Kane has said England can win the World Cup, but imagine the reaction if he'd said the opposite. Among the wider populace, while excitement is definitely brewing, underwhelming showings at the most recent World Cup and European Championships have knocked the edges off the big tournament fever that usually infects fans of the national team.

But if we look, there are positives to be found. In Harry Kane, the Three Lions possess a world-class striker, whose international record almost matches his stunning form in the Spurs kit.

Qualifying, as ever, was completed with minimum fuss, the Three Lions unbeaten in 10 Group games, conceding just three goals. Friendlies have shown England to be competitive against the very best and comfortable against lower-ranked opponents.

Manager Gareth Southgate has picked a young side, lacking in ego, perhaps the most professional of any Three Lions tournament side.

A forward with true threat, a solid defence, a team that is all pulling together - it's not a bad combination. It feels a jump too far to suggest England will go all the way but, for once, they are not stupidly short in the betting. A run to the quarter-finals, and possibly further, does not feel that implausible.

England are 3.25 to make another quarter-final exit

World Cup Favourites - Brazil

They're tournament favourites at 5.6 on the Betfair Exchange, and the team that have won the World Cup more times (five) than any other nation. Can anyone stop Brazil?

It's been a strange four years for the Canarinho. Appointing Dunga, following their traumatic exit from World Cup 2014 against Germany, proved to be a mistake. There was even talk at one point of Brazil failing to qualify for the Finals in Russia.

New head coach Tite, however, has turned things around dramatically and the old swagger is back. Star man Neymar will probably not be at peak fitness until the knockout stages. That shouldn't be a problem though, as Brazil look a shoo-in at 1.33 to win their group.

They're no longer the one-man team. Gabriel Jesus, Philippe Coutinho and Paulinho should all score, while Douglas Costa, Fernandinho and Roberto Firmino aren't a bad trio to have on the bench.

Back Brazil to win the World Cup

World Cup Favourites - Germany

No nation has won back-to-back World Cups since Brazil in 1962. Can tournament second favourites Germany change that in Russia?

They have the firepower, as the omissions of Mario Gotze and Leroy Sane shows. Their squad is a mix of exciting youngsters - Joshua Kimmich, Julian Brandt, Timo Werner - and players like Thomas Mueller and Mesut Ozil who are in their prime and know what it takes to win a World Cup.

This is Germany's third World Cup under Jogi Low and they will, as ever, be well-prepared for the tournament. Unlike Brazil, who are only team ahead of them in the betting, Germany will know what to expect in terms of conditions in Russia.

Progression to the knockout stages looks assured Low's men are 1.4 to win Group F, ahead of Mexico, Sweden and South Korea. Germany's only real concern is the fitness of goalkeeper Manuel Neuer who has only recently returned from long-term injury.

Back Germany to win the World Cup

World Cup Favourites - Spain

After winning three tournaments in a row between 2008 and 2012, Spain flopped spectacularly four years ago, winning only one match and exiting at the Group stage. This time, under Julen Lopetegui, things should be different and, at 7.4 on the Exchange, Spain look a touch of value to regain the crown.

Spain do not have any easy group, with Portugal and Morocco capable of testing them. There's no doubt, however, that the Spanish have the strongest squad in the group and, after Brazil and Germany, probably the strongest in the tournament.

In David de Gea, Spain have arguably the best goalkeeper, while Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique boast nearly 250 caps between them. In midfield, David Silva and Andreas Iniesta are capable of opening up any opponents, although Diego Costa up front remains unpredictable.

A fourth major tournament win for Spain in a decade is by no means out of the question in Russia this summer.

Back Spain to win the World Cup

World Cup Favourites - France

Like Spain, Les Bleus pulled off a World Cup and European Championship double within living memory (1998 and 2000). Since then, outside of reaching the final in 2006, France have been largely underwhelming at tournaments. Yes, they reached the European Championship final two years ago, but their performance in losing to Portugal, on home soil, was disappointing.

Head coach Didier Deschamps would love to make up for that in Russia. On paper, he has the players, with Top Goalscorer third favourite Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele leading a ferocious attack. They are surely the reason that France are 7.8 to win the World Cup, although a midfield featuring N'Golo Kante and Paul Pogba looks formidable, providing the latter turns up. A defence marshalled by Raphael Varane and Hugo Lloris in goal isn't bad either.

France will expect to beat Australia in their Group C opener. Denmark will offer a sterner test while Peru could be the tournament's dark horses, so Les Bleus must take nothing for granted.

Back France to win the World Cup

World Cup 2018 Group Betting Guide

Group A World Cup Odds

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Betfair Exchange Group Winner Odds
Uruguay: 1.91
Russia: 2.92
Egypt: 8.8
Saudi Arabia: 40

Simon Mail's Verdict: World Cup hosts Russia have been handed a relatively kind group from which to negotiate a route through to the knockout stages.

As Betfair Exchange odds show, two-time champions Uruguay are the team to beat with the South Americans boasting a potent frontline featuring Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani.

Russia may have home advantage but their preparation in warm-up games has been unconvincing and history is against them with the team failing to progress past the group stage in their three appearances since 1994.

Egypt are an unknown quantity but any squad featuring outstanding Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah, who scored 44 goals for his club this season, has to be taken seriously. Salah's shoulder injury, suffered in the Champions League final, has cast doubt on his availability but Egypt remain hopeful he will recover in time. Whether they have enough to qualify remains to be seen but the Pharaohs can make life very difficult for their group opponents.

Led by former Valencia and Inter coach Hector Cuper, Egypt could be worth backing to progress, assuming Salah is fit, which may mean disappointment for home fans.

Saudi Arabia, at odds of 1000 to win the World Cup alongside Tunisia and Panama, are rated joint biggest outsiders to win the competition which underlines the size of their task just to qualify for the second round. Even in one of the weaker groups of the tournament, it is very difficult to make a case for their progress and it looks like a battle between Russia and Egypt to join Uruguay in the knockout stages.

Back Uruguay/Egypt dual forecast @ 11/4

Group B World Cup Odds

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Betfair Exchange Group Winner Odds
Spain: 1.57
Portugal: 3.2
Morocco: 20
Iran: 34

Jamie Pacheco's Verdict: Group B is a curious one. On the one hand Portugal and Spain will look at Iran and Morocco and feel they'll be massively disappointed if they fail to qualify from the group with two places in the next round up for grabs.

On the other hand, the two favourites won't consider either match against the outsiders as an absolute gimme.

Almost every other group features one side that is considerably weaker than the other three, but not Group B.

The group's key game comes early. Spain play Portugal on June 15 and the result will have all sorts of repercussions for the remaining fixtures.

If it's a draw, both sides will feel that's not too bad and will fancy their chances of taking at least four points from their other two matches, which should be enough. A win for either side and the losing team will very much be up against it.

But everything points to Portugal finishing as runners-up. If they draw against Spain they're likely to score less goals against the other two than La Furia Roja and be beaten on goal difference; if they lose to them that would be their chance of topping the group gone but should still be good enough to finish above the other two.

Back Portugal to be Group B Runner-Up @ 11/10

Group C World Cup Odds

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Betfair Exchange Group Winner Odds
France: 1.37
Denmark: 5.5
Peru: 11.5
Australia: 25

Andrew Atherley's Verdict: France are hot favourites for Group C, which pits them against three rivals who qualified only through the playoffs.

It might not be straightforward for Les Bleus, however, as Peru and Denmark are also in the world's top 12 on Fifa rankings, which makes this one of the toughest groups on paper. Australia, ranked 40th, make up the quartet.

France are fourth favourites for the tournament on the Betfair Exchange at 7.8 and winning the group might be important in keeping them apart from Argentina, the likely Group D winners, in the first knockout round. They have the advantage of facing Australia first, which gives them the best possible chance of taking three points and control of the group.

Peru v Denmark in the other opening match could go a long way to deciding the other qualifier (assuming France don't mess up) and Denmark might have the edge given their European advantage and the greater experience of players like Christian Eriksen.

Denmark, in fact, might be decent value at 5.5 to win the group, given that it could be tighter than expected and goal difference might come into play.

The best bet at this stage is Australia to finish bottom at 1.9, which looks a big price for a team that might struggle to score.

Back Australia to finish Rock Bottom @ 1.9

Group D World Cup Odds

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Betfair Exchange Group Winner Odds
Argentina: 1.7
Croatia: 3.5
Nigeria: 14.0
Iceland: 16.0

Mark O'Haire's Verdict: Despite boasting arguably the planet's greatest ever player, it's difficult to see how Argentina can warrant their position as firm Group D favourites. Of course, qualification is far from a reliable barometer for World Cup success but the fact La Albiceleste went through three presidents, three coaches, six tactical systems, 43 players and a different starting XI for all 18 preliminaries en-route to Russia suggests they're anything but a model of consistency.

Jorge Sampaoli's appointment as head coach should be celebrated but question marks remain over his ability to get the team functioning in his preferred high-pressing style at such short notice.

With the South Americans vulnerable, Croatia look best placed to take advantage. The Blazers have failed to progress from the pool in their past three World Cup competitions but performed impressively at Euro 2016 and possess a squad littered with star quality.

Iceland became the smallest nation ever to qualify for the World Cup finals although their stay could be a short one. The minnows need both Gylfi Sigurdsson and Aaron Gunnarsson at full throttle to function and the two key components are facing a fight to be fit in time.

Meanwhile, Nigeria have largely punched below their continental weight since 1994 but the Super Eagles could upset the apple cart this summer. The Africans are missing the flair and swagger of yesteryear but make up for it in team-work and industry and were arguably the strongest fourth seeds, boasting bundles of pace and power to pose a genuine threat.

Lay Argentina to win Group D @ 1.72

Group E World Cup Odds

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Betfair Exchange Group Winner Odds
Brazil: 1.33
Switzerland: 8.2
Serbia: 9.0
Costa Rica: 23

Jack Lang's Verdict: The draw could hardly have been kinder to Brazil, who will fully expect to progress as group winners - and are accordingly short odds to do so - and build up a little momentum in the process. The Seleção haven't lost a World Cup group game since 1998 and should have more than enough firepower to see off three opponents who all have their problems.

The Costa Rica side will have a familiar look, with most of the players who pulled up trees four years ago still present and correct. But aside from Keylor Navas, key men have had difficult seasons at club level, and the element of surprise that served them so well last time out is no longer there.

Serbia have some excellent individuals and benefit from playing Brazil last, but new coach Mladen Krstajić - very much a novice at this level - has yet to settle on a formation and expectation levels in the country are low.

Which leaves Switzerland. This is rarely a team to get the pulse racing but La Nati have snuck through to the knockout rounds in the last two major tournaments, displaying an admirable willingness to dig deep and eke out results. In Xherdan Shaqiri they have a player capable of settling a tight game, while Breel Embolo could trouble defences.

Back 1st Brazil/2nd Switzerland straight forecast @ 13/5 (Sportsbook)

Group F World Cup Odds

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Betfair Exchange Group Winner Odds
Germany: 1.42
Mexico: 7.2
Sweden: 8.8
South Korea: 22

Kevin Hatchard's Verdict: It says a lot about how successful Germany coach Joachim Loew has been that it caused no fuss or consternation when he extended his contract to 2022 just a few weeks before the start of Die Mannschaft's World Cup defence. He has led Germany to at least the semi-finals of every major tournament since he replaced Jurgen Klinsmann, and he once again has a squad packed with talent and mental strength. Germany should win the group.

Sweden have adapted well to life after Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and famously dumped Italy out in the playoffs. However, they rely heavily on creative fulcrum Emil Forsberg, and he's had a poor season at club level for RB Leipzig. If he underperforms, a solid yet unspectacular group of players could struggle.

South Korea have talented individuals like Spurs star Son Heung-min and Lee Jae-sung, but the team is vulnerable defensively, and both Son and playmaker Ki Sung-yeung have had punishing Premier League seasons.

Mexico are worth backing to qualify at even money. They have reached the knockout phase of the last six World Cups, and have only lost a handful of games under coach Juan Carlos Osorio. I think they are in better shape than Sweden.

Back Mexico to qualify @ evens

Group G World Cup Odds

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Betfair Exchange Group Winner Odds
Belgium: 1.84
England: 2.34
Tunisia: 30
Panama: 70

Dave Tindall's Verdict: England and Belgium will battle it out for top spot in Group G and recent history says that Gareth Southgate's men deserve to be 13/10 second favourites behind the Belgians at 4/6.

Even if we take finishing bottom of a group featuring Costa Rica, Uruguay and Italy in the 2014 World Cup as a one-off, Roy Hodgson-based flop, there are also the realities of finishing second behind the USA in 2010 and runners up to Wales in Euro 2016 to consider.

Belgium were well touted to do well in Brazil last time and took maximum points off Russia, Algeria and South Korea in the group stage although they weren't leading any of those games with 77 minutes gone. They won two out of three in Euro 2016 to finish second to Italy.

Tunisia - 30 to win the group on the Betfair Exchange - will be no pushovers as they don't concede many. But Panama, as long as 70 on the Exchange, are surely cast in the role of group whipping boys.

If England and Belgium draw the final game and both score narrow wins over Tunisia, goal difference against Panama (6-0 losers in a recent friendly against Switzerland) could ultimately decide the group. Belgium banged in 43 in qualifying so I'd fancy Roberto Martinez's men to win the goal count..

Straight Forecast: 1st Belgium/2nd England at 6/5

Group H World Cup Odds

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Betfair Exchange Group Winner Odds
Colombia: 2.46
Poland: 2.86
Senegal: 6
Japan: 10

Steve Rawlings' Verdict: Africa, Asia, Europe and South America are all represented in Group H and it's arguably the hardest of the eight to predict.

Bayern Munich teammates, Robert Lewandowski and James Rodriguez (on loan from Real Madrid) represent the two teams vying for favouritism - Poland and Colombia - but Liverpool's Sadio Mane could very easily progress with Senegal and given only Brazil have enjoyed a longer consecutive run of World Cup appearances, Leicester City's Shinji Okazaki will be hoping his Japan side can progress this time around.

The first group games on June 18, between Colombia and Japan and Poland and Senegal will immediately set the tone for this tricky group and I fancy Japan could be behind the eight ball straight away.

Colombia and Japan were drawn together four years ago, and their performances were poles apart. Japan finished bottom of the group after picking up just a solitary point against Greece, courtesy of a drab 0-0 draw, whereas Colombia topped the standings with three wins - including a comfortable defeat of the Samurai Blue in their final group game 4-1.

Splitting the three main protagonists isn't easy here but Japan look up against it. Manager, Akira Nishino, has only been in charge for a few months after Vahid Halilhodžić's dismissal following some decidedly poor friendly results so whether he can shape the side so swiftly is debatable. Odds of around 2.4 about them finishing Rock Bottom look very fair.

Back Japan to finish rock bottom at 2.4

How to Play the World Cup Top Scorer Market

Some unexpected names pop up in the list of Golden Boot winners alongside the obvious candidates. So will it be Messi, Neymar and Griezmann or Falcao, Sterling and Mandzukic on your betting slip? The way to play it may be a combination of favourites and outsiders...

Although Ronaldo (original version), Thomas Muller and Miroslav Klose would have been popular Top Goalscorer punts, a look back at the last five Golden Boot/Golden Shoe winners shows you don't have to go for the obvious to win big. Neither Davor Suker nor James Rodriguez would have been among the first line of candidates pre-1998 and 2014, principally because they played for relatively unfancied teams.

Clearly your man must play for a team with potential but not necessarily one from the very top of the betting so the opportunity to hit a big winner is clear. We can't ignore the presence of two superstar strikers in the last five winners though, so maybe the best approach is to back a favourite and then throw a few darts at those lower down the list.

Read James Eastham's Top Scorer tips here!

Last Five World Cup Top Scorers

2014 - James Rodriguez - Colombia (quarter-finalists) - Six goals

2010 - Thomas Muller - Germany (semi-finalists) - Five goals (also David Villa and Wesley Snejider)

2006 - Miroslav Klose - Germany (semi-finalists) - Five goals

2002 - Ronaldo - Brazil (winners) - Eight goals

1998 - Davor Suker - Croatia (semi-finalists) - Six goals

Outsider Bets

It wouldn't be a World Cup without a shock or two. Can any of the below wagers land you a winner?

Serbia to reach the quarter-finals

You'll know all about Branislav Ivanovic and Nemanja Matic, but some of their Serbian team-mates could become household names too this summer. Look out for midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and winger Andrija Zivkovic. Serbia are in a tough group but face tournament favourites Brazil in game three, so if they do well against Costa Rica then Switzerland, the pressure might be off. If they finish as runners-up, they'll play the winner of Group A, which we reckon might be Uruguay or Egypt (see below). We'll back Serbia at 7.8 to reach the last eight.

And Mexico could get there too...

In qualifying for their seventh-successive finals, Mexico played excellent attacking football and lost only one match (a post-qualification dead rubber). Like Serbia, their squad is a mix of experience and exciting youngsters, in particular 22-year-old striker Hirving Lozano who's been attracting Premier League club interest following a brilliant season for PSV Eindhoven. Mexico face holders Germany in their opening match but things get easier when they face a weak-looking Sweden and South Korea. Unlucky to lose 2-1 to Holland in the round of 16 in 2014, Mexico have reached two quarter-finals and, at 7.0, they could be worth backing for a third.

Back-to-lay Uruguay

At bigger odds than 30/1 on the Exchange, the experienced Uruguay offer plenty of back-to-lay value in the outright winner market. In Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez, the South Americans 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. Oscar Tabarez's men are strong favourites to top the group and are seeded to face a relatively limited Portgual in the last 16, so have every chance of making the quarters. At this point, a profitable Cash Out should be on the table.

Make sure to visit Betting.Betfair.com throughout the 2018 World Cup for tips, expert advice and the latest betting news from our writers.

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