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World Cup Futures Picks: Germany & Belgium at Risk of Early Elimination

World Cup Futures Picks: Germany & Belgium at Risk of Early Elimination article feature image
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Marvin Ibo Guengoer/Getty. Pictured: Leroy Sane.

With the 2022 World Cup in Qatar just days away, it’s time to get all of your futures bets in before the event starts, no matter how far-fetched they may be. 

Here, our Action Network soccer experts are giving out their predictions on which teams may under-perform to a high degree and exit the tournament quickly.

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World Cup Early Exit Picks

Belgium to NOT Qualify (+400)

BJ Cunningham: The Golden Age of Belgium is over and they should no longer be considered among one of Europe’s elite. Yes, they do have Kevin De Bryune, who is one of the best midfielders in the world, but the talent around him is severely lacking. Eden Hazard hasn’t been effective for multiple years, Romelu Lukaku has been injured for months at Inter and has been out of form, and Dries Mertens is now 35 and playing for Galatasaray.

Roberto Martinez typically likes to set his team up in a 3-4-2-1 with Hazard and De Bryune as the attacking midfielders, and Tielemens and Axel Witsel as the center midfield pairing.

Tielemens is an outstanding ball progressor, but he doesn’t do much defensive work, so that puts a lot of pressure on a now 33-years old. Then, what are they going to do at center back? Are Belgium really going to roll with a back three that includes Jan Vertongen and Toby Alderwield? The options beyond those guys are unproven Wout Faes who plays for Leicester City or Arthur Theate who plays for Rennes in Ligue 1.

The thing about Belgium is they are very possession-dominant, which is great, but they don’t really have an identity out of possession. That was very apparent in their match against Portugal in the Euro Round of 16 where they went ahead early and had to sit in a defensive block for most of the match and ended up winning and keeping a clean sheet, but allowed 23 shots and 42 shot-creating actions.

Belgium are an overpriced favorite against both Canada and Morocco in their first two matches and are extremely vulnerable with the attacking talent both of those sides possess. So, I like the price on Belgium to go home early.

Anthony Dabbundo: Group F is one of the more wide open groups from top to bottom in my view, and a lot of that has to do with the vulnerability of the Belgians at the top of it. They are at the end of their golden generation of players and there’s major question marks about both the defense and midfield.

Vertonghen and Alderweireld are both well past 30 now, the midfield lacks the required ball winning and striker Lukaku hasn’t been in good form for the last year now.

Fullbacks have always been an issue for Belgium too and both Morocco and Canada expect to have excellent wing play to exploit the weakness Belgium has out wide. If Belgium were to get out of the group, either Spain or Germany likely awaits them in the first round of the knockout stage.

The Belgians lost both matches to the Netherlands and tied Wales in the Nations League leading into this tournament, and they lost on non-penalty xG in three of their five matches at the Euros last summer.

There’s plenty of reason to believe that we’ve already seen the best of Belgium and that the downturn in performance is near.

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Germany to NOT Qualify (+500)

Nicholas Hennion: This is effectively a “yes” play on Japan, but they’re priced at +375 on that side.

Unless you think Costa Rica have a genuine chance of breaking through, this is the better bet.

Either way, Germany arrive at this tournament in horrific form. Across their last five International fixtures, manager Hansi Flick’s side is 1-1-3 (W-L-D). In eight matches this calendar year, they’re 2-1-5.

Just in the last five, though, Germany’s underlying metrics are very concerning. Although the competition has been anything but easy – two matches against England, two against Hungary and one against Italy – Germany have a -3.16 xGOT differential.

Even in just the two fixtures against Hungary, Flick’s side owns a -0.74 xGOT differential per 90 minutes and a -1.5 big scoring chances differential per 90.

Given the lack of experience in defense – the average number of caps for the nine defenders is 22.7 – I expect an implosion could be on the way. Bet the Germans to miss the knockouts at +450 or better.

Croatia to NOT Qualify (+175)

Brett Pund: When I look at the criteria for larger countries that may not make it out of the group stage, I like to look for a side that lost players from a successful team in the last World Cup, and the side is matched up against countries who are either unknown or making a long-awaited return to the competition.

With that in mind, Croatia are the side that checks those boxes for a surprise elimination.

Yes, the Vatreni do bring back the midfield trio of Luka Modrić, Mateo Kovačić and Marcelo Brozović, but only nine members of the 2018 runners-up squad are on the roster for this World Cup.

One key loss will be the absence of Mario Mandžukic, who has the second-most goals for Croatia all-time and led the team with five goals in 2018. While Andrej Kramarić isn’t a bad replacement, he hasn’t been able to fill the shoes of Mandžukic at either the 2020 European Championship or in qualifying.

Croatia also have to deal with a Morocco side that ranks in the top 25 in the world in the FIFA rankings and will likely have a strong contingent of fans making the trip. Then, they face a Canada side making its return to the World Cup for the first time since 1986 before ending with Belgium.

The Vatreni will be a team that is difficult to beat, but I worry they won’t have enough goals to advance in the competition.

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Belgium/Portugal to Finish Bottom of Their Groups Parlay (+71300)

Michael Leboff: Okay, this is a bit crazy but the World Cup only comes rolling around once every four years so you need at least one absurd long shot on your ticket and this one is a lot of fun.

First, let’s talk history. While favorites tend to win the World Cup, we always see one or two of the blue bloods completely flame out. Germany finished last in their group in 2018, England did it in 2014 (Italy, Spain and Portugal were eliminated in the group stage that year, too) and in 2010 we had two huge teams, France and Italy, prop up their groups. Weird stuff happens at the World Cup.

So, why Belgium and Portugal?

For one, they’re in pretty tough groups. Belgium will need to contend with Croatia, Canada and Morocco, while Portugal will have to navigate Uruguay, South Korea and Ghana. Belgium and Portugal are the best teams in their group, but the floor is a bit higher than it is in other sets that have teams like Saudi Arabia or Qatar in them.

There are also reasons to believe that both Belgium and Portugal are a bit overrated. Belgium’s roster is past its prime, while Portugal’s just hasn’t gelled well over the past three major tournaments.

Will this bet win? Absolutely not. Will it be fun? That remains to be seen.

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