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World Cup 2018 – Groups & Specials

The final preview of this series focuses on some of the individual groups and the special markets available, as the days continue to countdown the start of the World Cup.

I’ve got a couple of Group bets lined up plus there are plenty of specials out there with a few I’ve lined up.


Group A

Teams: Russia – Egypt – Saudi Arabia – Uruguay.

When this market opened Uruguay were 10/11 to win it, which looked too big, so now they’ve been shortened to a more realistic price of 8/11.

That still looks an excellent bet because they have quality all over the park and I can’t see any of the other three sides laying a glove on them in truth.

They’ve got the experienced head of Diego Godin at the back, Rodrigo Bentancur as the steel protecting the back four then they’ve got Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani scoring the goals.

None of the other three sides have that strength in the side. Egypt will be reliant on Mo Salah and their tight defence, which got them to the African Cup of Nations Final.

In the 2017 AFCON, Egypt lost in the final to Cameroon but they weren’t spectacular with three 1-0 wins, a 0-0 draw and a semi-final win on penalties, so quite a bit will hinge on their defence.

Midfielder Abdallah Said was the one in qualifying to chip in with goals to aid Salah, so he could have a big say going forward.

With the Pharaohs being strong at the back then it could be a case of grinding out 1-0 wins once more and if Salah is fully fit, he can guide them out of this group.

I couldn’t back Russia to get out of this group with stolen money. In the Confederations Cup last year, they only beat New Zealand and in their friendlies since then just one win in eight against South Korea.

They’ve had to play friendlies on the back of automatic qualification as hosts, which hasn’t helped Stanislav Cherchesov in getting this side to play with tempo and urgency.

In Euro 2016, the Russians finished bottom of their group with just one point and scored just two goals, both of which came in the last ten minutes of games.

There is a real lack of quality in this side. It is likely to be a busy tournament for 32-year-old goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev while Alan Dzagoev is the most likely to strike up some magic from midfield.

The goalscoring responsibilities fall the way of Artem Dzyuba and Fedor Smolov, who are the only two forwards named in the squad.

Things look bleak for the hosts and I’m taking them on because the bookies seem to expect them to finish second.

Whether that’s because of them being the host nation or that’s a reaction to the injury sustained by Salah in the Champions League reducing Egypt’s chances of progression.

Verdict:

Straight Forecast – 1. Uruguay 2. Egypt (5/1 – Unibet)

 

Group H

Teams: Colombia – Japan – Poland – Senegal.

This is one of the more tricky groups to settle on but I think there are legs in backing Japan to finish bottom of the standings.

Japan did finish top of their qualifying group ahead of Saudi Arabia and Australia but the Asian section isn’t the strongest for strength in depth given that along the way they faced the likes of Cambodia, Syria and Singapore to get here.

This is their sixth consecutive World Cup but in 2014 they finished bottom of their group with just one point and were thrashed 4-1 by Colombia in that competition.

They’ve struggled of late under new manager Akira Nishino, who has been trying to implement his style of play and formations on this experienced side.

Defeats to Ukraine, Ghana and Switzerland while a draw with Mali hasn’t shown the ideal preparation.

15 of the squad are 28 or older, so there is plenty of experience but a lack of upcoming talent coming through. Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa are two of the more household names who this side will rely upon.

Cologne’s Yuya Osako is tasked with the lone striker role but he could be limited to few chances. In the Bundesliga, he netted just four goals in 25 appearances in a rotten season that saw the Billy Goals finish bottom.

Things don’t look positive for Japan as they head to Russia on a dismal run of form and a group stage exit looks inevitable.

For the other three sides, then you can argue a case for each to go through.

Colombia have plenty of talent and picked up a full nine points from nine in their group in 2014 but conditions in Brazil may arguably have suited them.

Radamel Falcao and James Rodriguez will bring goals to Jose Pekerman’s team while Carlos Bacca is on who can have his say on matches despite a quiet club season.

David Ospina in goal with Davison Sanchez, Yerry Mina and Frank Fabra at the back is a solid trio, which can give them a solid foundation to keep clean sheets.

They are the favourites to finish top and I’d just about agree.

Poland and Senegal are hard to split. The Poles eased through their qualifying group as did the Lions of Teranga.

However, Senegal hasn’t performed to their full levels in recent friendlies but Aliou Cisse does have a side that could surprise a few and qualify ahead of their European rivals.

With Senegal being stronger defensive than Poland, with Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly leading that defence plus their attacking options with the threat from Sadio Mane, Diafra Sakho, and Mame Biram Diouf then I’d be tempted to take Senegal to qualify.

Verdict:

 Japan to Finish Bottom (5/4 – William Hill)


Specials

There is a wide range of specials that include across the groups, tournaments specials and player specials.

Here are a few that caught my eye.

Bet365:

Luis Suarez Over 2.5 Goals (EVS) – I’ve tipped the Uruguayan as a potential top goalscorer option in the competition and I’d expect him to end up with two or three after the group stage because he could rack the goals up in the games against Saudi Arabia and Russia. I’m expecting the Barcelona forward to finish with four or five goals, so this looks a good price.

Edison Flores Top Peru Goalscorer (8/1) – Plenty of attention has been on Paolo Guerrero, who has been allowed to play despite an initial ban for doping but this 24-year-old caught the eye at the prices. He plays in the Danish top-flight and was joint-top scorer for Peru in qualifying with five goals with Guerrero. He’ll play on the left side of a front three and will get into advanced positions.

 

Sky Bet:

England to finish 2nd in their group & Germany to win their group (2/1) – Group G is between Belgium and England to finish top. I wouldn’t be surprised if England did beat Belgium when they meet in the game that will decide top spot but there is a chance the Three Lions could drop points against a stubborn Tunisia side. Germany are World Champions and will pick up the pace in the tournament. There group of Mexico, Sweden and South Korea offer little danger to them finishing top.

 

Bet Victor:

Brazil/Germany 9pts & Panama/Iran 0pts (75/1) – It’s a big ask but Brazil and Germany should outclass their group rivals to win all three group games. Panama will lose to Belgium and England, so that’ll go down to their game against Tunisia, which the African nation should win, while Iran will struggle against Spain, Portugal and Morocco.

 

William Hill:

At least 1 goal, 1 card & 5 corners in all group games (100/1) – There were five goalless draws in the group stages in Brazil at the last World Cup but I do feel this is a runner and will give you an interest across the early stages of the tournament. The last World Cup did average 2.5 goals per game and looking at the groups, there are plenty of match-ups, which should have goals plus cards and corners.

 

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