Wondergoal’s Future Bets For The World Cup
Patrick Smith/Getty. Pictured: Christian Pulisic.
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We are here, we finally made it to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Leboff, Cunningham and Dabbundo, who are part of the Wondergoal podcast crew, will be guiding you through the World Cup with breakdowns of every single match throughout the tournament.
If you'd like to see their picks during the World Cup, follow them in the Action Network App.
Group A: Netherlands 1st/Qatar 2nd Dual Forecast (+650 via Bet365)
Cunningham: Qatar have a major rest advantage over the rest of the countries in this competition. All of their players play in the Qatari Stars League, which went on pause on September 14th, and the 26 players that are on the World Cup roster didn’t feature at all for their clubs this season, as they’ve been in training with the national team. So, these players will have multiple months of rest and training together before they take on Ecuador on November 20th.
They are very capable of sitting in a deep low block in their 5-3-2 formation, clogging up the middle of the pitch and staying well organized, so they will be very comfortable conceding possession in this group. They also have the advantage of experience playing together as their starting XI has over 1,000 international caps.
The Netherlands have by far the most talent in this group and they've been in terrific form under Louis Van Gaal. They also get the advantage of playing Senegal when they won't have Sadio Mane, so the Netherlands should cruise thorough in first place in this group.
It comes down to who finishes second? Given the spot that Ecuador and Senegal have been put in with Qatar having rest, training and experience playing together over those two squads, you could have a nice hedge opportunity to play either Ecuador or Senegal moneyline in the final round of the group stage since they play each other.
Group B- England to Finish at the Bottom (+800 via Bet365)
Leboff: The Three Lions are easily the most talented team in this group, but their pragmatic style requires them to grind out results and that asks for variance to play a key role in their matches, which is not what you want when you’re a favorite in a tournament where every match is basically do-or-die.
In all likelihood, England’s talent wins out and they top the group, but we always see surprises in the World Cup. Germany finished last in their group in 2018, while Italy, England, Spain and Portugal failed to make it to the Round of 16 in 2014. And back in 2010, France finished bottom of their group. I think this number is long enough and the other three teams (Wales, USA, Iran) are scrappy enough to make this a play.
Group C: Pass
Nothing for any of us here. If you like Poland or Mexico to advance just bet them on the moneyline in the first match. Argentina should cruise through in first place.
Group D: Denmark to Win the Group (+275 via PointsBet)
Dabbundo: The gap between France and Denmark right now is not as big as the market is indicating. The French come into this World Cup as the title holders, but that has not been a good predictor of future success in this tournament recently. The 2006 champions Italy failed to qualify from the group in 2010. The same was true for Spain in 2014 after winning in 2010 and for Germany in 2018 after their 2014 victory.
France are going through a medley of injuries to the point where the entire three man midfield from 2018’s triumph — Blaise Matuidi, N’Golo Kanté and Paul Pogba — will not be in Qatar. Denmark have a very experienced group of solid players that is one of most organized pressing and possessing teams in all of international football. While Denmark may not have the top end world class talent that the French do, they’re more cohesive and did beat France twice this summer in the Nations League.
Group E: Japan to Qualify (+400 via Bet365)
Dabbundo: Japan are the best team from Asia coming into this tournament and Samurai Blue match up decently against Spain and Germany. The Japanese are excellent in transition moments, are well organized and apply good ball pressure to force high turnovers.
If you let Germany and Spain have easy access to your final third, they’ll strangle possession and prevent transition opportunities. But Japan are likely to use a mid-block and counter approach against both clubs, forcing mistakes and capitalizing before both teams are able to recover from lost possession.
The gap between the top two teams and Japan isn’t nearly as big as the market is indicating here. They were highly competitive in a 1-0 friendly loss to Brazil, beat the USMNT 2-0 in dominant fashion and outplayed Ecuador in a goalless draw.
Germany haven't proven that they has solved their problems from last summer at this point and they enter the tournament with one win in their last six matches from the Nations League. Spain are in better form, but don’t be surprised if this group isn’t as chalky as it looks on paper.
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Group E: Morocco to Qualify (+200 via Bet365)
Dabbundo: Belgium and Croatia are two teams that had mediocre underlying performances at the Euros last summer, and their age profiles suggest they’re both at the end of their best generations.
These are teams I typically look to play against in these tournaments, and they’re both in the same group. There are two teams that could be the beneficiaries of that — Morocco and Canada. Canada are inexperienced and while they could make noise in Qatar, I prefer the talent and experience of Morocco. They had the best underlying numbers in African World Cup qualifying and welcomed back stars Hakim Ziyech and Noussair Mazaroui to the international team.
There’s not a lot of holes in this Morocco lineup. Their two fullbacks are as good as any in the tournament with Achraf Hakimi and Mazaroui. They have a reliable target man in Youssef En-Nesyri and the supplementary wide players to get the crosses into him. The one question could be the midfield, but Morocco’s back four should be one of the best of the non-international giants.
They are one of the more dangerous lower seeds and got partnered with two of the more vulnerable top seeds. Morocco are worth a bet to advance from this group. I’m also taking fliers on Morocco to win the group (+1000) and Morocco/Canada to advance (+4000).
Group G: Brazil 1st/Switzerland 2nd (+175 via Bet365) + Hedge with Serbia to advance after first round of matches.
Cunningham: There really isn't that much of a gap between Serbia and Switzerland and that is reflected in the odds to advance with both of them sitting right around -110. However, the way this group sets up there are some fantastic hedge opportunities.
Brazil play Serbia and Switzerland play Cameroon in the first round of matches, where both Brazil and Switzerland are heavy favorites. Serbia are most likely going to be without one of their best strikers Aleksander Mitrovic for the first match, so they are deservingly big underdogs against the pre-tournament favorites Brazil, who should cruise through this group.
Switzerland are one of the biggest dark horses in this tournament. They have progressed to the Round of 16 in the last two World Cups and just upset France in the Round of 16 the Euros. Much like Denmark this is a squad that has been playing together for a really long time and understands what they want to do tactically, which is one of the most important aspects of international soccer. So, they should be able to get all three points against Cameroon and they are -145 favorites to do just that.
If everything goes according to plan with Brazil beating Serbia and Switzerland beating Cameroon, you are going to be able to get a really nice price on Serbia to advance after that first round of matches. Then, Serbia play Cameroon and Brazil plays Switzerland. If Brazil beat Switzerland and Serbia at the very least get a result against Cameroon, the Switzerland vs. Serbia match on the final day will be essentially for second place in the group and you could be sitting there with a +175 and +200 ticket on both teams.
Group H: Uruguay to Win the Group (+200 via Bet365)
Dabbundo: With Cristiano Ronaldo out of form and most of Portugal’s attack built around him, Uruguay are lying in wait to steal Group H.
The infusion of young talent into a team that had recently teetered on the edge of too old has made Uruguay an excellent dark horse pick at this World Cup. Rodrigo Bentancur and Federico Valverde are both in tremendous form at club level and partner well together in the midfield. Darwin Nunez has been a shot monster for Liverpool and should take the minutes from Edinson Cavani. Nunez and Luis Suarez are an excellent complimentary strike partnership, and you can always rely on Uruguay for sturdy and organized defending.
A lack of depth and quality of the wide players has the potential to become an issue for Uruguay later in this group, but I do not see much of a gap between Uruguay and Portugal. Far too often, the sum of the parts for Portugal has been less than the whole under manager Fernando Santos. They lack good ball progression plans and their defensive numbers were quite mediocre compared to qualifying teams from Europe this cycle. If Portugal falters, Uruguay will win this group.
Dabbundo: Spain doesn’t have any holes that make me think they can’t win the World Cup. If you think about the last few World Cup winners, dominant strikers haven’t been the reason those teams have won. France started Olivier Giroud up top in 2018 and Germany started Miroslav Klose at age 36 in 2014.
Spain will turn to Alvaro Morata, a do-everything striker that has struggled with finishing at times. Spain had the best underlying numbers at the last Euros and were a penalty shootout away from making the final.
They have a few potential breakout stars in Pedri, Gavi and Dani Olmo that performed well at the Euros and can now shine on the biggest stage. Spain have a ton of midfield depth, they have one of the best managers at the tournament and come into this World Cup as one of the most in-form teams. In terms of experience and rising talent, Luis Enrique’s side has the depth and top end talent to combine in this grueling tournament and potentially go all the way.
Cunningham: The Three Lions obliterated everyone in their path during World Cup Qualifying, winning eight matches, drawing only twice and putting up 25.1 xG and only allowing 5.2.
Even during the European Championships in the Summer of 2021, England did lose the xG battle until the final match against Italy and a lot of that had to do with the fact that they scored in the first five minutes of the match and then decided to play ultra-defensive for the remainder of the match.
Per transfermarkt.com, England have the highest total squad transfer value of anybody in the World Cup at a little over 1.2 billion dollars. They have the best defensive midfield pairing in this entire tournament in Jude Bellingham & Declan Rice, insane depth at the attacking midfield/wing positions with Bakayo Saka, Mason Mount, Raheem Sterling, Jack Grealish and Phil Foden. Then they have one of the best strikers in the world and the defending golden boot winner from the 2018 World Cup, Harry Kane.
The media will tell you that England is too conservative, but this England team has the best defensive underlying metrics since the 2018 World Cup with a +1.41 xGD per 90 minutes. They were a penalty shoot out away from winning the Euros and they didn't concede a goal at the Euros until the semifinals against Denmark.
Not to mention, the path for England is fantastic if they can win Group B, which they should be easily able to do. They would play the second place team in Group A in the Round of 16 (Qatar, Ecuador, or Senegal), then a date with France in the quarters, who are incredibly vulnerable.
Then, the semis would most likely be Belgium, Germany, Uruguay or Portugal, and then they would face Spain, Brazil or Argentina in the final and you would have a perfect opportunity to hedge.
The reality is that the most talented squad in this tournament should not be sitting at this price.
To reach the Quarters/Semis/Final:
Netherlands to Reach Quarterfinals (-130 via Bet365)
Dabbundo: The Netherlands are the most in-form team in Europe right now after thrashing Belgium, Poland and Wales in the Nations League. They didn’t have Virgil van Dijk at the Euros last summer and he should further improve the defense. They also add potential breakout star Cody Gakpo to their starting XI as a primary creator. He’s had nine goals and 12 assists at PSV Eindhoven this season.
From a passing and ball progression point of view, the Dutch are as good as any side in this field. Do they have the ball stopping in midfield? That remains to be seen. They’re in one of the weakest groups and if they win said group, they’ll be a solid favorite against all of the Group B teams except England.
Even against England, I’d make the Dutch no worse than a tossup in that match. At -130, I’m fine laying some juice as I see the Netherlands going deep in Qatar after missing Russia 2018 entirely.
USA to Make the Quarters (+450 via Bet365)
Cunningham: For the first time in United States history, most of their players are playing overseas in Europe’s biggest leagues. The Stars and Stripes have 13 of their 26 players on their roster playing in one of Europe’s top five leagues and five players currently playing in the English Premier League. The United States had good underlying metrics throughout CONCACAF qualifying, averaging 1.70 xG per 90 minutes. while only allowing 0.72 xG per 90 minutes over their 14 World Cup Qualifying matches.
The reality is that they should not be a pick'em against Wales in their first match. They’ll have an outstanding advantage in the midfield with Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and Yunus Musah, who are all outstanding defenders in transition. That is key because Wales sets up as a very direct counter-attacking side.
If the United States get through this group, whether it be in first or second place, the worst possible scenario is they would play the Netherlands in the Round of 16 an will most likely be anywhere from +160 to +200 on the 'to advance' line in that match, so you will have a nice opportunity to hedge.
Japan to Make the Semifinals (+3400 via Bet365)
Michael Leboff: Had Samurai Blue not been drawn into a group with Spain and Germany, they’d be getting a lot of sleeper hype. Instead, Japan are being overlooked and that is actually good news for bettors.
While not nearly as talented as Spain or Germany, Japan can match up pretty well against the possession-dominant European giants. That’s especially true of Germany, who want to get the ball and bomb forward, leaving themselves vulnerable to counter-attacks.
You want to be in second place in this group because the opponent waiting in the Round of 16 is most likely going to be Belgium, who are an incredibly vulnerable favorite. Then in the quarterfinals it will be either Portugal, Uruguay, Switzerland or Serbia.
Alavaro Morata (+4000 via Bet365)
Dabbundo: Morata is the top striker and penalty taker on the team that I think is going to win the World Cup. Enrique loves him because of the value he brings beyond finishing to this Spanish side, and there’s even less competition for his minutes than there was at the Euros last summer.
Spain had the best attack in European World Cup Qualifying, they had the best xG difference at the Euros last summer and only one player accumulated more non-penalty xG than Morata at the Euros.
Finishing has been a problem for him throughout his career in the biggest moments, but finishing is also prone to a ton of random variance and anyone can run hot for a week or two to claim the honor. He’ll be playing a lot of minutes and will be able to generate plenty of chances. Given that Dani Olmo is the only player at this World Cup who took more shots than him at the Euros, +4000 is way too long on Morata.
Dusan Vlahovic (+8000 via DraftKings)
Cunningham: What I am looking for in a golden boot long-shot is a striker that means everything to a team's attack, one that is going to play in a lot of high-scoring matches, and one that is going to be on penalties. Dusan Vlahovic fits that profile and is one of the best young strikers in world soccer.
He’s been good for an under-performing Juventus team, putting up a 0.45 xG per 90 minute scoring rate, but for the national team he scored four goals in less than six full 90s throughout qualifying.
Serbia tends to play very aggressive and they absolutely love to create all of their chances via crosses, which really benefits Vlahovic. He stands at 6'2" and over the last three years he has eight headed goals in all competitions.
The other big thing benefiting Vlahovic for the award is that his striking partner Aleksander Mitrovic is dealing with a foot injury and will not be at 100% for the World Cup, meaning the scoring load will be put on Vlahovic.
Serbia’s match throughout World Cup Qualifying averaged 3.1 xG, so Vlahovic is going to have plenty of chances against all three group stage opponents, especially Cameroon.
This price is too good to pass up.
Federico Valverde (+8000 via FanDuel)
Cunningham: Uruguay have one the best in the world right now at the age of 21 in Valverde, who is in incredible form for Real Madrid this season. He has a 0.34 xG + xAssist rate form the central midfield position and has already scored eight goals in all competitions.
The Golden Boot award is built off of narratives because it is a voted award, so if Uruguay make a deep run in this tournament, which they do have a good path if they can win Group H, who is it going to be because of? Valverde.
It's also a misconception that you need to win the World Cup to win the Golden Ball. Luka Modric won the Golden Ball at 200/1 odds at the last World Cup, and Diego Forlan won it for Uruguay in 2010 when they made the semifinals. So, if Valverde leads Uruguay to the semis, it's not crazy to think he could win the Golden Ball.
Cody Gakpo (+3300 via Bet365)
Cunningham: One of the best young talents across Europe playing the pivotal No. 10 role in van Gaal's 3-4-1-2 system is Gakpo. He's having a break out season for PSV in the Dutch Eredivise, scoring 12 goals and dishing out 15 assists in 19 appearances across all competitions.
When betting most assists you need to have a guy who is going to be on a team that has a lot of high scoring matches, will be the focal point of supplying the front line, and has a high xAssist per 90 rate for their club team.
Gakpo checks all of those boxes as the Netherlands will be significant favorites for all of their group stage matches and most likely their round of 16 match where he has ample opportunities to rack up a bunch of assists. Like I already mentioned, Gakpo will be the main focal point of supplying the attack, and he's one of the three guys that will be taking corners
Finally, Gakpo has an insane 0.54 xAssist per 90 minute rate for PSV this season, so the price of +3300 is too good to pass up.