If I didn’t know better, I would think host Russia got a real sweetheart of a draw for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. A lucky, fortunate, miraculous draw. A “let’s investigate everyone involved” draw.
But after the Winter Olympics, there are already enough accusations of cheating going around. I’m just here to handicap some football matches.
The Sbornaya originally sat in Pot 1. That was bad news considering the pool of 8 included 2014 World Cup winner Germany alongside Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, and France. None of those countries ended up in Group A with Russia.
Instead, the hosts will only have to contend with Uruguay, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Challenging? Sure. Uruguay is stacked with young talent and the Egyptians are highly motivated.
Bettors don’t have it quite so easy when it comes to Group A. One dilemma of betting on World Cup futures is that tasty odds are often found in the odds-to-win column. Picking a side to beat 3 other teams for 1st place feels a lot easier than choosing an outright winner of the tournament.
But many FIFA nations and their managers aren’t focused on winning their group. They’re trying to advance. Remember that a single team wins the group but the top 2 move on. If a marginal squad wins its opening match, it may assume a kick-and-chase defensive posture that brings extra time and 0-0 or 1-1 draws. Other nations may push harder trying to finish 1st in group and decrease their chances of meeting a titan before the quarterfinals.
How will Russian manager Stanislav Cherchesov react to an opening win over Saudi Arabia? Will the Russians play to advance or go for the gusto in front of a home throng?
Group A: Rugby World Cup Group A Odds Favor Ireland to Finish First at -400; Group B: Favorite New Zealand Has -1000 Odds to Win Group B; Group C: 2019 Rugby World Cup Group C Odds Give France and Argentina a Fighting Chance to Beat England; Group D: Wales Narrowly Favored Over Australia in Group D Odds at 2019 World Cup.
The hosts are only the 2nd-most accomplished FIFA side in their group but sit at near-minus odds thanks to playing in the comforts of home. Sbornaya has only played in 2 World Cups since 1994 and finished 0-2-1 in Brazil in 2014. Russia’s record is more comparable to a side like Egypt’s than any other country at shorter than 2/1 odds to win a group.
Handicappers are expecting a pair of factors to work in Russia’s favor. The fans will be cheering like mad, and Alan Dzagoev will make opposing defenders crazy. The skinny 27-year-old midfielder led the Russian league in assists in 2017-18 and once tied for the scoring crown at the European Championships as a 21-year-old.Important:
Dzagoev could feel a bit overwhelmed though. It’s easier for a forward to score a bunch of goals and lead an underdog in the World Cup. That doesn’t mean Dzagoev can’t make successful runs at the goal from midfield.
He can and will. But the responsibilities of being the spine of the Russian squad at its own World Cup could test his stamina and resolve, especially with a questionable supporting cast. Best odds online gambling.
Russia’s odds-to-advance are (-300) at Sportsbetting.ag.
La Celeste hasn’t done a whole lot at recent World Cups. But Uruguay has qualified 3 times in a row and made a thrilling run at a medal in 2010 before losing to Colombia in the 2014 knockout round.
But Óscar Tabárez’s squad is full of talent and getting better all the time.
Goalkeeper Fernando Muslero is a veteran of 96 international caps who kept a clean sheet against the Czech Republic in the China Cup.Note:
Backliners Diego Godin and Jose Maria Gimenez provide excellent man-on-man defense and good clearance. Striker Luis Suarez could have a career-defining World Cup at age 31.
Uruguay’s odds-to-advance are best in the group at (-425). Bookies seem to think that while the Uruguayans could very well lose to Russia, there’s no chance that the side will lose to either Egypt or Saudi Arabia.
Nations going into the World Cup merely hoping to advance as far as possible have extra motivation to win their group and get a less-powerful opponent in the round of 16.
Egypt is only ranked 31st in the world. But that’s not as prohibitive as some handicappers seem to think.
Their debut is against Uruguay, which could be most vulnerable when taking the pitch for the South American side’s opening cap. The Russians will come next in what could be a rubber-match for 1st place.
Most importantly the Egyptians have the talent for an underdog run at the knockout stage. Muhammad Salah is a terrific striker with speed and quickness, and midfielder Mohamed Elneny is going into the prime of his career at age 25.
The Saudis opened as more than 30-to-1 Group A underdogs, but the line has shrunk at least a little bit. Gamblers are looking for a big payoff and hoping that the team’s stunning qualifying run wasn’t a mirage. Mohammad Al Sahlawi has been a top striker throughout the 2018 FIFA cycle with 16 tallies in 10 caps. It seems very impressive.
But that analysis overlooks the level of competition Al Sahlawi has faced to this point. Not only have most of his goals been against nations ranked below the top 100, stronger keepers have held him to almost nothing.
Japan, UAE and Iraq have bothered the Saudis. They’ve got little to no chance in Russia against far tougher nations.
Because there are subtle differences in the 1st place market and the advance-to-knockout market for Group A, I’ll split my recommendations into the 2 categories.
The lines for countries to advance to the knockout round at sportsbetting.ag:
It’s strange to see Uruguay’s line in relationship to Russia’s. The 1st place market’s odds are leaning more toward Russia. The odds-to-advance favor the seasoned Uruguayans most of all.
Casinos are taking the position that while Russia has a chance to play well and ride a drum-beating crowd to a sweep of 3 beatable teams, the host squad could also belly-flop. The South Americans are proven winners in group play at the World Cup.
Under normal circumstances Egypt would be a great pick at these odds. They’re still far and away the stronger of the 2 underdog picks to-advance. But long-time goalkeeper Ahmed El Shenawy has been felled by a severe injury, leaving The Pharaohs with unproven GKs at the elite level.
At least one book isn’t being consistent. Just as Russia could sink or swim in Group A, Egypt could as well.
The price of (+125) is a tricky one. I like Egypt as a pick for the nickel-and-dime sports gambler. Salah will be fun to watch and his name makes a great chant. It’s a fun bet for sure, even with the sudden bummer at the all-important keeper position.
Remember that goalkeeping isn’t as crucial in every FIFA match as it can be in ice hockey or water polo. Hockey Canada has fallen and redeemed itself as usual over the past few days in Denmark, but the real issue is the goalies who are the flakiest they’ve iced at the World Championships in a while.
Great soccer clubs are more able to mask a slight deficiency on the backline or in goal. They’ve got the ball most of the time, and shots are sparing for both sides in the early-going. Soon, they score, and can play lock-down defense from there on out. That makes ancient replacement keeper Essam El Hadary and the Egyptians a solid bet despite the headlines.
Regretfully the odds on Egypt at (+125) don’t carry value the way that a mispriced Premier League over/under market would. It is a fun shot at the Moon…better made with a potato gun than a space capsule. As far as a large-sum gamble? There are better stocks to grab all those shares of.Note:
Russia is a safe high-roller bet in comparison. If they’re playing well, the Sbornaya will be more motivated to keep pushing, as opposed to a France or Italy coasting toward the final bracket.
An opening fixture with Saudi Arabia is a chance to grab the momentum.
Group A is apt to be a much more enjoyable betting experience for the everyman gambler vs the career shark. I should say that The Pharaohs will look exciting and versatile on TV in comparison to the hosts, whose fixtures will feel like mostly running and tackling and sweat in a noisy setting.
If it fails, it can be made up without any further risk than planned.
Just don’t get carried away and make bad decisions during the World Cup. That’s more of a supporters’ group thing after all.
You can check out all the latest standings for each of the World Cup group tables below.
Clicking a World Cup teams name will take you to a page with all of their upcoming fixtures as well as links to pages displaying match odds for each game.
32 teams will make it through to the group stages of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar with only 16 advancing through to the knockout stage of the tournament.
All of the latest group standings for World Cup 2022.
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