One of my personal traditions for the World Cup is to spice it all up a bit with a few bets. I know many are the same – if you’re going to sit up until 2am to watch Ivory Coast face Japan you might as well have something riding on it, right?
In 2010 I placed ten pre-tournament bets and then one more on each match, and I’ll be doing the same this year. As always, you can follow along on Twitter and chuckle at my missteps, or see how I’m doing on the panel over to the right.
So, what ten pre-tournament selections did I make this year? Here goes:
1) Argentina to win the World Cup (4/1)
With the World Cup in Brazil, they are naturally the favourites, but I have a hunch that the tournament may be going to another South American country. With a fairly straightforward group and a good chance of a friendly last 16 opponent, they should come into the quarter finals fresh and ready, while having the conditions on their side and matchwinning talents at their disposal. I think the pressure might crack Brazil at some stage, and I can’t see a European nation lifting the tournament this time around. Argentina it is.
2) Top scorer to score five goals (13/5)
So this one is a bit random. The Golden Boot winner always used to score more than this, but scorelines are not as high as they used to me, and the last two Golden Boot awards have gone to players with five to their name. Simply a case of decent odds for a fairly likely outcome.
3) Belgium to be knocked out in the last 16 (13/10)
Belgium are many pundits’ dark horses. They have some stellar young talent, and some are even predicting they could go as far as the semi finals. Not for me – they are a young side and the climate isn’t to their liking, so while I’d give them good odds of doing well at the Euros in two years, I don’t think this is their tournament. So why the last 16? For me, they have the easiest group – Russia, Algeria and South Korea are unlikely to stop them progressing, but then they face someone from Group G (Germany, Portugal, Ghana, USA). I can’t see them getting past that point.
4) Mexico to be knocked out in the last 16 (19/10)
I have the same tip for Mexico – out of the group but no further. The longer odds are indicative of their tricky group – with Brazil, Croatia and Cameroon to contend with, they’ll do well to get to the knockout stages. But I think they have enough about them to pip Croatia, before running into a Spanish brick wall in the last 16.
5) Uruguay to win Group D (7/4)
The English press amuses me. For all the talk of England and Italy it is an often missed fact that Uruguay are in fact the seeded team of the group, and with conditions in their favour have to start as favourites to top it. Given that, I find the odds of 7/4 remarkably generous.
6) Ghana to qualify from Group G (11/4)
This is my favourite bet of the ten. One rule I’ve always followed in World Cups is to punt on an outsider in a really tough group. Germany and Portugal are the clear favourites to progress, with USA also dangerous, but this isn’t the Champions League, where one bad result can be countered over the course of six games. This is a three game process, and it is extremely common for such a group to see a major nation fall early. Whoever loses between the two Europeans is under massive pressure in their other games, and one great result for Ghana could see them through. In what I expect to be the tightest of groups, I see Ghana getting out.
7) No tournament hattricks (9/4)
This one is quite random too, and Neymar made me extremely nervous last night, as it looked for a while as if it would be scuppered in the very first match. But World Cup hattricks are not as common as they used to be, and are particularly rare once you get past the group stage. Ultimately, the reason I ended up going for this was the heat – I can see plenty of situations like last night, when a player with a brace is taken off to rest them for the next game. I don’t expect to see hammerings this year because I expect teams to take their foot off the pedal to conserve energy. Hence, no hattricks.
8) Four tournament shootouts (9/2)
Sometimes you just have a hunch, ok?
9) Netherlands to go out in the group stage (5/4)
In 2010 I tipped the Dutch to lift the trophy, and they got really close. This time I don’t seem them doing well – I don’t feel they have the strength or the star power (at least, I think a lot of their star power has waned), and I think they could be the victims of a really tough group, being ousted by Spain and the underrated Chile.
10) Switzerland to be knocked out in the quarter finals (9/2)
This is my other favourite bet of the group. While Belgium are the dark horses of many, Switzerland are mine. They are exceptionally difficult to beat, and I can see them topping their group, and therefore avoid Argentina in the last 16. Quarter finals is probably as far as they can can go, but I think 9/2 is extremely generous for them getting that far.
Do you have any tips? Any thoughts on these? Feel free to post yours in the comments below, and follow on Twitter to see which matchday bets I place – I’m 0/1 so far as last night’s bet was for Brazil to win by a single goal, and Oscar’s late toe poke ruined that one. Never mind!