The globe will come to a standstill over the next month for the World Cup as 32 nations challenge for the biggest prize in world sport. There will be tears of joy for some and cries of despair for others but one thing is for certain… it will be a month full of the greatest game of them all, The World Game – football!
To celebrate The Wolf is gearing up for the biggest month of the year and has given us his best futures bets for Russia 2018.
World Cup Winner
The Wolf is looked closely at three critical stats in picking the winner for Russia 2018: ‘European’, ‘Squad’ and ‘Proven’.
European: Europe has hosted the World Cup on 10 occasions with a European nation claiming the title 9 times, including the last 6. Brazil is the only non-European nation to claim a title on European soil but that came in 1958. They have made it beyond the quarters in only 1 of their last 5 attempts on European soil. For Argentina it is even worse – 1 in 8 while for France, 3 of their 5 major finals (World Cup and Euro’s) have come on home soil. They failed as big favourites on home soil against Portugal in Euro 2016 and The Wolf cannot forgive them. It shortens the list to Germany and Spain.
Squad: When it comes to choosing a team paper The Wolf cannot look past Spain. They have the best keeper in the world in David de Gea and in The Wolf’s opinion, the best backline by some margin. Ramos and Pique have done it all before while Jordi Alba and Carvajal provide pace and excellent passing ability. There are no lack of options in midfield with Busquets, Alcantara and Koke all capable ball winners and distributors. That leaves Iniesta and one of The Wolf’s favourite players, David Silva, to pull the strings in midfield. An in-form Isco will roam freely and Wolfy is expecting him to challenge for Golden Ball honours. The front man is not as relevant for Spain as other nations as they tend to play with a false number 9 anyway. Goals will not be an issue and with only 3 goals conceded in qualifying, they will be awfully hard to break down.
Proven: Until a decade ago they were perennial under achievers but that has all changed. They finally won the World Cup in 2010 and won the European Championships twice – either side of that victory. Their side is littered with international experience and players who have had continued success at club level. They went undefeated in qualifying scoring 36 goals and have the pedigree to perform at the highest level. Spain will be lifting the trophy for a second time.
Value: Those looking for value should look no further than Croatia. They have no shortage of talent with a handful of their starting XI playing at the highest level. Modric and Rakitic have been in the hear of midfield at two of the biggest clubs (Real Madrid and Barcelona) while Lovren has improved vastly since Van Dijk teamed up with him at Liverpool. Madzukic is a proven goalscorer while Perisic is a perfect foil for him. The Wolf has them edging out Argentina to Group D which will place them on the other side of the knockout draw to the Spaniards.
Best: Spain ($7.00)
Value: Croatia ($36.00)
Anyone wanting to back Brazil to win the tournament should be backing Neymar to take out Golden Ball honours instead. If they do win the tournament it will be because of him but he can still win the Golden Ball if they don’t – just like Messi four years ago. If Brazil and Spain win their respective groups, one of them are almost certain to make the final and the Neymar bet is a great hedge for those following The Wolf’s predicted winner bet (Spain). In conjunction with that bet, The Wolf believes that Isco with be the star for the Spaniards. He has 8 goals in his last 9 appearances for his country and is coming off a spectacular season with Real Madrid. Furthermore, he will play in the hole behind the striker and with the way Spain are set up tactically, he is likely to contribute both goals and assists.
Best: Neymar ($7.00)
Value: Isco ($34.00)
Golden Boot (Top Goalscorer)
The Wolf doesn’t want to tip up 3 or 4 players in this market and is opting to go with some value instead. He will have to come from a team that will make it well beyond the group stage and being the primary penalty taker is always a bonus. France are among the favourites in Russia and one of the reasons why is Antoine Griezmann. He has been a star for the national side and was the top scorer at Euro 2016 with 6 goals. The striker slotted 29 goals for Atletico Madrid this season and has 20 international goals in 53 appearances for his country. He has a silky left foot and a magical finish. A goal scoring spree from Griezmann will help his side to the semi finals and beyond.
He may not take the penalties but The Wolf cannot look past Romelu Lukaku at the price. He has been on fire for his country with 14 goals in his last 13 appearances. In addition, they are in a group that includes Panama and Tunisia. The fact that they are grouped with England is a good thing for this market. Group honours could come down to goal difference which will result in Belgium pushing the pace in the other two games. Lukaku could get 4 or 5 goals in the group stage alone!
Best: Antoine Griezmann ($13.00)
Value: Romelu Lukaku ($15.00)
The Wolf cannot believe the price on offer for Uruguay to win this group and says it could be the bet of the tournament. They have successfully made the knockout stages in each of their last 5 trips to the World Cup, highlighted by a 4th placed finish in 2010. They could not have asked for a better group with hosts Russia entering as the ‘pool A’ team as the host nation. Uruguay to run the table in Group A with the hosts to join them. South Africa in 2010 were the only host nation in World Cup history not to make it beyond the group stage. Russia will not be joining them.
Winner: Uruguay ($1.72)
Other: Exacta – Uruguay/Russia ($3.00)
Spain are an absolute special to top this group. If The Wolf is tipping them to win it all it only makes sense that he likes them to win their respective group. This also has a lot to do with the fact that Portugal are a very defensive side that are prone to dropping points against inferior sides in the group stage of major tournaments. They may have won Euro 2016 but people are quick to forget that they drew all three of their group games progressed as the 3rd placed team thank to the expanded format.
Winner: Spain ($1.50)
Other: Spain Exact Group Points – 9 ($2.80)
Can the Socceroos progress… Socceroos fans should read no further and skip to the following group. Those wanting to turn a profit should read on and back the France/Denmark exacta. Les Blues will be a contender at major tournaments for the next decade and have one of the most exciting squads at the World Cup. The Wolf loved what he saw in the lead up from Denmark – especially their performance against Mexico. He also likes the fact that they have at least one class player in each of the lines.
Best: Exacta – France/Denmark ($2.50)
Other: Australia Exact Group Points – 0 ($4.25)
Say hello to the first upset. The Wolf touched on Croatia in his tournament winner piece and thinks they are huge value to top this group. Argentina struggled in South American qualifiers with a famous Messi hat-trick in their last game against Ecuador helping them get through. They scored just 19 goals in 18 qualifying matches and 7 of those came from Messi. Argentina have made it beyond the quarters just once on European soil. Croatia for the upset!
Winner: Croatia ($3.20)
Value: Exacta – Croatia/Iceland ($17.00)
This could be a tricky group for Brazil with multiple European sides to contend with. That being said, they are undefeated in their last 11 games and have maintained 9 clean sheets along the way. This shapes at the tournament where Neymar elevates himself to the level of Messia and Ronaldo. He made the Austrians look like kids and the Samba Kings are undefeated against European opposition in almost 4 years. Brazil are like no other nation in that a win is expected every time they take the field. They are value to earn maximum points.
Brazil Exact Group Stage Points – 9 ($2.25)
Germany are the hot favourites to top this group but The Wolf says this is not the side that won the trophy 4 years ago in Brazil. Gundogan and Reus have struggled to get regular game time for their respective clubs while the form of Ozil is far from what we witnessed in Brazil. We know that they are proven at this level and are always difficult to beat. The same can be said about Mexico. They have qualified for the knockout stages in each of the last 6 World Cups but have been knocked in in the Round of 16 each and every time. They will qualify behind Germany and lose to Brazil in the Round of 16.
Best: To Qualify – Mexico ($1.90)
Value: Exacta – Germany/Mexico ($2.80)
They are two teams that can not be trusted on the big stage – Belgium and England. England collected just a single point in the group stage in Brazil and were famously knocked out by Iceland in the Round of 16 at Euro 2016. Belgium fell to Wales at the same stage of that tournament and are quickly becoming perennial under-performers. The two nations will quinella the group but The Wolf is leaning towards Belgium to take it out. Their attack has been outstanding in the lead up with 3 or more goals in 6 of their last 8. Even if they draw with England will see them top the group in the back of a superior goal difference.
Winner: Belgium ($1.75)
This is the most open group and any of the four teams can progress to the knockout stages. Poland will feel right at home and as the only European nation in the group and will not doubt be the best supported. The Wolf is concerned that Japan will be out-muscled by their opponents, especially Senegal. They are not your typical African side and Wolfy says to keep a close eye on their physicality. Kouyate and Gueye rarely come off second best and the energy pf Mane will allow them to press up the field. The Wolf likes them to challenge Colombia for top spot.
Best: To Qualify – Senegal ($2.10)
Value: Quinella – Colombia/Senegal ($4.25)