We’re just two days away from the 2018 Men’s World Cup which kicks off June 14th in Russia. This will be the 21st World Cup tournament and the first to ever be held in Eastern Europe. The qualification process began in March 2015 and wrapped up in November 2017 with a few notable omissions.
Here’s a look at the odds for past winners and runners-up at the World Cup since 1986 (based on pre-tournament consensus odds):
There hasn’t been a winner with odds longer than 10/1 in the last eight World Cups, proving just how hard it is for underdogs to hoist the trophy.
Back in 2016, Westgate sportsbook posted World Cup odds for 75 different countries with defending champions Germany (+450) listed as the early favorite. Brazil have now taken over as the favorites at +430 odds.
Here’s a look at how odds have fluctuated at 5Dimes sportsbook for each of the 32 teams:
(It’s important to note that all bets are action, so even teams that did not qualify for the World Cup were losing bets, like the USA or Italy)
Brazil are the new favorites at +400 to win the World Cup, just days before action begins in the group stages. Germany are right behind at +455, while Spain (+650), France (+700) and Argentina (+950) round out the top five.
Spain fired their head coach Julen Lopetegui just one day before the start of the World Cup after he took the Real Madrid job earlier in the week. Their odds slipped from +610 to +680 following the news, roughly a 1.3% decrease in win probability, but they’re currently at +650.
Sportsbooks have been taking action for more than six months and all the top teams are well-represented:
William Hill US: Germany (20%), Argentina (15%) and Brazil (10%)
Westgate: Brazil, Germany, Argentina, France, Spain
BetOnline: Brazil (30%), Germany (13%), Argentina (12%)
5Dimes: Germany, Argentina, France, Spain
Teams To Watch
The first bet I made was Argentina (9/1) to win the 2018 World Cup. I also wagered on Messi and company to win the 2014 World Cup and just missed out on cashing after Germany ripped their hearts out in extra time of the final.
There will be plenty of Argentina doubters this time around saying that there’s not enough support around Messi and that could be partially true, especially in a difficult Group D. However, their lack of talent is overstated and they still have the best player in the world, so I feel confident backing the South American giants.
The darkhorse that I’ve bet is Belgium (14/1) despite their struggles in recent big tournaments. They’re usually a trendy pick but public bettors may be souring on them this time around, and could go under the radar leading up to the tournament.
Teams To Avoid
A couple teams I would absolutely avoid are Russia and Sweden. I don’t think either country has any realistic shot of coming close to a World Cup title, and both will likely struggle just to advance from their groups. I loved fading Russia at the 2016 Euros and have done so again at the 2018 World Cup.
Sadly, USA who won’t be participating in the 2018 World Cup. They were unfortunately knocked out on the final day of CONCACAF qualification after losing to Trinidad & Tobago, part of a 40/1 moneyline parlay that crushed all hopes and dreams.
Although I’m bummed out about USA not making it to the World Cup, I was lucky enough to bet the doomsday 40/1 scenario which kept them out. Sportsbooks around the market, however, won’t be too thrilled at all with USA’s omission– according to Westgate Sportsbook’s Jeff Sherman, they expect a drop of about 15% handle with the USA missing the World Cup.
There are also a few notable countries that missed who are proudly represented and supported across the states including Italy, Ireland and Netherlands. For the casual fans, these teams missing out will decrease the overall intrigue and betting interest throughout the tournament.