In my third & final article (7th installment of World Cup primers as first article had 4 parts & second article had two parts) prior to the World Cup competition kicking off let’s take a close look at some of the futures wagers available to us. Anyone that has followed me for any period of time knows I generally frown upon future type wagers as there are so many variables that can occur in the “future” that I feel the prudent sports investor should pass in most instances – but here for the World Cup it’s a smaller sample size we are playing futures on (compared to win totals in the four major sports that extend over months of action where the instances of injury or other variables greatly increases).
Format wise I will break down these wagers according to Groups – starting with A and ending with H. I will list teams in order of their current FIFA ranking (which was released on June 6th and is available to reference in my last article on the World Cup if necessary). I also initially wrote down all prices for the futures discussed below on May 16th along with this morning, and will thus comment where applicable changes in price.
Group A: Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, Cameroon
“To Win Group”: Brazil is my favorite to win this tournament so I obviously believe they are going to win their group here. The price of -400 however is the second highest amongst all the groups, just short of Argentina’s -550 to win Group F. I very rarely play any money lines that high, especially on future wagers, but in this instance I feel strongly Brazil has no trouble in this group.
“To Reach Knockout Stage”: Brazil has gone from -1900 to -3500 to reach the knockout stage meaning you would have to lay three thousand five hundred dollars to win just one hundred on the chance they finish either 1st or 2nd in the group. I rarely use the term LOCK, but here this would appear to be one of those rare spots to apply it – however, I would never recommend a play at that price; plus you do not need a handicapper to tell you that’s a good play – the odds do it alone. Croatia & Mexico sit at +115, while Cameroon is the longshot at +500; all three teams have not seen their odds shift much. Mexico has reached the knockout stage in each of the last four World Cups, while Croatia has not advanced that far since 1998 – however I feel Croatia is the better team this year, especially with Mexico struggling. Cameroon has an outside shot since neither Mexico nor Croatia are juggernauts, but I will pass here.
“To Not Reach Knockout Stage”: similar to the above breakdown I do not suggest any plays here.
“To Win World Cup”: Brazil currently sits at 3/1 to win the championship & I do like that play despite the fact there is little “value” in that price. The shortest price amongst the other three teams is 130/1 on Mexico – but considering the 2nd place team is likely to open their knockout stage against Spain there is no value on any other Group A team.
Group B: Spain, Chile, Netherlands, Australia
“To Win Group”: right away I would knock Australia out of any potential future plays here as the only one that would make sense from a team perspective is “To Not Reach Knockout Stage” – but considering that price is -2000 to win 100 it’s much too high. Spain is a small favorite -140 to win this group which I also like – and would recommend a play on them.
“To Reach Knockout Stage”: again like Group A I like Spain to certainly reach the knockout stage but would not suggest laying -700 to win 100. However, I do see some value in playing Chile, currently even money to advance to the knockout stage over a Netherlands team that lost in the final to Spain in the last World Cup.
“To Not Reach Knockout Stage”: tying into my comment above I do see value in Netherlands here +155 (plus money) to not make it out of the group stage this year.
“To Win World Cup”: while I do like Spain to go deep in this tournament (who doesn’t?) I do not think the value is there at +650 for them to win back to back World Cups. Chile, at 40/1 odds, does seem attractive as they will be playing on their home continent, have a lot of support, and are in solid form going 6-2-2 their L10 with a +11 goal differential. However, when considering the fact they will likely face Brazil in their opening knockout stage matchup, it’s hard to pull the trigger even at those odds.
Group C: Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast, Japan
“To Win Group”: Colombia is the favorite to win this group, however recent injuries in particular to key striker Radamel Falcao leave their chances in peril. The longest shot of the group is Greece at +800, and I love a play on them here. They are a defense first team that plays with a ton of discipline – which I feel will really stifle both Colombia & Ivory Coast’s more reckless, offense first game plan. Over the last five World Cups Japan is the only team in this group that has advanced past the group stage in any World Cup, but I feel this year they will fall short.
“To Reach Knockout Stage”: all four of these teams come into the World Cup with positive goal differentials in their last ten games; that being said, with Colombia the biggest favorite to advance at -450, along with Ivory Coast & Japan also laying money at -110, I would pass with a play already on Greece to win the group.
“To Not Reach Knockout Stage”: although I am not bullish on Colombia’s chances in the competition due to injuries & inexperience (despite their high FIFA ranking) I am also not going to pull the trigger at +300 that they will not reach the knockout stage, although it tempted me.
“To Win World Cup”: Colombia sits at 20/1, the clear favorite amongst the group with the next team Japan checking in at 140/1! Based on the fact the two teams that reach the knockout stage will likely face some combination of Uruguay, Italy or England in their opening knockout stage matchup I will pass on any of these teams having value as far as winning the championship goes.
Group D: Uruguay, Italy, England, Costa Rica
“To Win Group”: this is clearly the strongest group top to bottom with an average FIFA ranking of 13.5 & all four teams settling inside the Top 28. Costa Rica is the clear longshot of the group, and also the only team heading into this competition with a negative goal differential over their last ten games. No value here as I could easily see any of the top 3 teams winning this group – all three have odds between +160 & +200.
“To Reach Knockout Stage”: the three favorites are all priced -175 to -225, too high for such even teams. It’s also hard to make a case for Costa Rica as discussed above, even at +1000.
“To Not Reach Knockout Stage”: same comments as above.
“To Win World Cup”: the three favorites all have 25/1 odds to win the World Cup, and frankly the only team I could see winning the championship is Uruguay as they finished 4th in 2010, are playing on their home continent this year & perhaps no striker has played better this past season than Luis Suarez. There is however some concern about the health of Suarez heading into the competition which combined with the strength of this group is enough for me to lay off playing anyone from this group to win the championship.
Group E: Switzerland, France, Ecuador, Honduras
“To Win Group”: I am not a huge fan of this France team especially with the recent injury to Franck Ribery, while Switzerland is overrated sitting at #6 in the FIFA rankings; Ecuador has just 2 wins over their last ten games but are very explosive offensively, while Honduras has not enjoyed any success in prior World Cups. Oddly enough Honduras has been bet to win this group as their odds have dropped from +3300 to +2000, and with the uncertainty amongst the rest of the teams in this group they are worth a very small play at long odds. Along with Group C this seems to be the most wide open. In every World Cup at least one group is turned upside down, and this may be the group in 2014.
“To Reach Knockout Stage”: this is the only group that doesn’t have a team that reached the knockout stage in the prior World Cup. France is -650, very rich in my opinion for a team that leaves a lot to be desired; Ecuador & Switzerland are laying small odds while Honduras is the longshot at +600. Again, like above, I do see some value in Honduras and would recommend another small play on them here.
“To Not Reach Knockout Stage”: tying into my comment above I feel France has some value here at +450 to not escape the group stage.
“To Win World Cup”: this group is the least likely to produce the champion in my opinion, thus no value here.
Group F: Argentina, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Iran, Nigeria
“To Win Group”: Argentina is the biggest favorite on the money in the competition to win their group at -550. I feel they will win this group but feel stronger about Brazil taking Group A than I do about Argentina taking Group F thus I will pass.
“To Reach Knockout Stage”: again I do not see any value here as B&H is -140 followed by Nigeria +140; neither has enough value on the money to warrant a wager, and Iran’s odds at +750 do not tie into how big a longshot I feel they are to advance.
“To Not Reach Knockout Stage”: same comments as above, no value here.
“To Win World Cup”: Argentina is the 2nd favorite (to Brazil) checking in at 4/1 to win the championship – too short IMO. B&H is next up in this group at a whopping 210/1 & I see value there as this team could be a solid sleeper – and the hedging opportunities would start early at those odds so long as they advanced to the knockout stage. Consider if they finished 2nd in Group F they would face the winner of Group E which I do not feel is a strong group; that would be a great opportunity to reach the QF round where hedging could easily commence, if not sooner.
Group G: Germany, Portugal, USA, Ghana
“To Win Group”: this is the 2nd strongest group (only behind Group H) in the competition with Ghana dragging the group’s overall rating down. Germany is a modest -175 favorite to win this group, and considering they have reached at least the semifinal round in each of the last three groups they are certainly worthy of that distinction. Portugal is next up at +270, then it’s a big drop-off to USA at +900 & Ghana +1000. Call me crazy but I do see some value in USA as I just have a hunch Germany is not going to be peaking in the heat of South America (and you know Klinsmann will have the red, white & blue ready to face the Germans), they have suffered numerous recent injuries & their front line is aging. Portugal is certainly more than formidable, but the US could get the inside track with a win over Germany. I will roll the dice on USA at 9/1 odds to win Group G.
“To Reach Knockout Stage”: no solid odds here as USA is just +200 while Ghana, the clear cut 4th best team in this group in my opinion, sits at +300.
“To Not Reach Knockout Stage”: similar to my comments in the opening portion of the Group G analysis I feel playing Germany to not advance at +550 odds is a decent value play as well. In addition, although I do not like laying big numbers often, playing Ghana here to not advance to the knockout stage at -400 is worthy of a wager as well.
“To Win World Cup”: I think two teams have value here and they are Portugal at 30/1 & USA at 200/1. Portugal only lost one game in qualification & one game over their last 11 including a pounding of Ireland in their last match prior to the World Cup. USA has been downplaying their chances the last few months, which is just when teams typically sneak up and surprise folks. Plus, again, the hedging opportunities on USA at those long odds could start early – and considering they would be in the bottom portion of the bracket if they came in second place (facing teams from Groups E-H) things could really open up for a deep run with Argentina the only team they would like to avoid.
Group H: Belgium, Russia, Algeria, South Korea
“To Win Group”: I am not quite sold on Belgium despite being a Manchester City fan with Vincent Kompany my favorite player. They did not qualify for each of the last two World Cups, and have failed to get past the Round of 16 since at least 1990. They are the only team laying odds to win the group checking in at -175; following them is Russia at +200, the only other team in this group I feel can win it. I am a big fan of an underappreciated Russia team & like a play on them to win this group even at the short odds.
“To Reach Knockout Stage”: oddly South Korea is the only team from this group to reach the knockout stage since 2002. The two teams discussed above are big favorites to advance with the aforementioned South Korea squad up next at a short price of +180, with Algeria bringing up the rear at +450. No value here.
“To Not Reach Knockout Stage”: considering recent injuries to the Belgian squad I see value here on them not reaching the knockout stage at +500. Although I consider this a three team group as far as who has a chance at legitimately advancing to the knockout stage, I think 5/1 odds is attractive enough to fade a banged up and inexperienced Belgium team.
“To Win World Cup”: the only team from this group whose odds I find attractive is Russia, who checks in at 75/1 odds to win the championship. Russia has not allowed more than 1 goal in a match since November of 2012 vs. USA, and has only lost once in their last ten games. As mentioned in Group G analysis I like the chances of teams in Groups E-H as they will be pitted against each other in the knockout stage, and whoever can avoid Argentina will have value & could make a deep run. Keep in mind the deeper the run, and the longer the odds the bigger the profit you can lock in from hedging.
That completes our World Cup 2014 Preview articles. I hope I was able to provide valuable information for your own handicapping efforts, and that you take advantage of some of my free plays above that you can follow all tournament long.
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