The World Cup is about to get underway and it’s undeniable how much it sucks that the United States won’t be there. As amazing as every day of the World Cup is, there’s nothing better than waking up the morning that your country will be playing and standing amongst hundreds of other people drinking and screaming in support of your country.
While we won’t be able to enjoy that first part, we can still enjoy all the other joys that the World Cup brings such as: soccer all day, day drinking, cutting out of work early, and of course gambling on ridiculous prop bets. Hey, it’s just like the NCAA Tournament! And now that sports betting is increasingly being legalized, it’ll be easier to lay a bet on the World Cup this year.
As always, there are a lot of things you can bet on at the World Cup. The trick is to find the value in all of them, so I’ve put together a nice quick guide on some of my favorite ones.
Golden Boot Winner: Romelu Lukaku, Belgium (+1600)
Obviously a lot of people are looking at the best players on the teams they think will go furthest, which is why Neymar (+900) is the favorite. If Brazil go to the final in this tournament it’s because they’ll be less reliant on Neymar than ever, especially with players like Gabriel Jesus, Roberto Firmino, and Coutinho to help pick up the scoring. I’ve also seen some love for Timo Werner (+1400) as he’ll be the talisman for Germany, but I’d just like to remind you that Thomas Muller outscored Germany’s number 9 in both of the previous two World Cups.
Find a player that carries the burden of his team’s scoring, which is exactly what Lukaku does. Since Roberto Martinez took over Belgium, Lukaku has 19 goals compared to Eden Hazard’s eight and Kevin de Bruyne’s one. Sure, Belgium may not make it past the quarterfinal, but 2014 Golden Boot winner James Rodriguez didn’t make it past that stage either.
With opening games against Panama and Tunisia, Lukaku can inflate that goal tally real quickly.
Group Winner: Senegal (+400)
I don’t like the group winners at all this tournament. It seems very straightforward so there isn’t really any value. I wouldn’t be shocked to see England (+120) get it from Belgium, but if you’re looking for one long shot, Senegal snatching Group H from Poland and a not-as-strong-as-you-remember Colombia isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
Group Qualification: Iran (+525) Iceland (+250) Senegal (+125)
Here’s where you can have some fun. Like one of those Pot 3 or 4 teams to advance? Have at it.
My biggest long-shot is obviously Iran, mainly because I’m very out on Portugal. I think they’re overrated every tournament. They barely qualified for the 2014 World Cup and got destroyed by Germany once there. They are the European Champions but they did that in the most disgusting way possible, and didn’t win a single game in 90 minutes. They completely rely on Ronaldo, who is no spring chicken anymore. A lot of people like Morocco (+300) to come out of the group, including the bookies. so I wouldn’t discourage you to go down that route either. I’m not as high on Morocco as most, and Iran is the better value.
It seems like everyone is either way too into Iceland or way too out on Iceland. Mainly because they either expect them to repeat their Euro 2016 performance or because they think they got a little too lucky. Iceland are better than they were two years ago, but more importantly, they’re incredibly organized and a pain to play against. Nigeria isn’t good enough to beat them and I’m tired of getting excited about Croatia only to see them lay an egg at every tournament.
If I’m picking Senegal to win their group I’m obviously going to take out a bit of an insurance policy by picking them to advance.
Group Qualification: Spain to NOT advance (+800)
They just fired their coach 24 hours before the tournament. Their group isn’t as strong as the one they failed to get out of in 2014 so I’m not telling you to do it, but I’m not not telling you to do it either…
Player goals: Romelu Lukaku over 2.5 goals + Gabriel Jesus over 2.5 goals PARLAY (+145)
Again Lukaku can easily have three goals by halftime of Belgium’s second match. If Brazil run all the way to the final like everyone expects them to, you really don’t think their starting striker will score three times in seven games? There’s a reason individually both of these are -145. This one is too easy.
(Disclaimer: Bets that are too easy are always too easy for a reason. Always.)
Golden Ball: Neymar (+700)
As FIFA taught us in the last World Cup, the Golden Ball is less the tournament MVP and more the “How can we market our biggest star award.” If Brazil makes the final, Neymar is taking home the award whether they win or lose. If France gets by Brazil and makes the final, then I’d guess it’ll go to Griezmann (+1300) unless Mbappe (+3300) outscores him, which I think will be the case.
Team to Win:
I know everyone likes to find a long shot with value when picking a winner but the truth is, that’s not going to happen. You know it and I know it, long-shots just don’t win the World Cup.
For a lot of people this came down to about three and a half teams: Germany, Brazil, Spain, and for some people, France. Spain is now out due to their manager situation so that leaves Brazil and Germany. (And you wonder why they’re the bookies favorites?)
Everyone is on either Brazil (+375) or Germany (+450) so recommending one of them not only goes down to your personal preference but would also be pretty boring. However what I will say is this, if you’re that confident in one of those teams, double down on them and bet the Winning Group as well, Group E (Brazil at +375) or Group F (Germany at +375).
Enjoy the tournament!