World Cup Odds 2014: Best Bets to Advance from Each Group

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World Cup Odds 2014: Best Bets to Advance from Each Group
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The draw is out, the matchups are set, the Groups of Death have already been analyzed and debated, and we're all pumped for the World Cup to begin.

Now, we only have to wait until June. Man, that seems like a really, really long time from now all of a sudden, doesn't it?

But don't fret, my friends, for you can fill your days making predictions and gathering the odds for every team on the draw. Below, you'll find ESPN's Soccer Power Index odds for every team to advance to the knockout phase, along with my own predictions. 

Group Draw

Bleacher Report

Knockout Phase

Bleacher Report

Group A

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ESPN SPI Group Stage Odds to Advance: Brazil (99.6 percent), Mexico (45.4 percent), Croatia (32.6 percent) and Cameroon (22.5 percent)

Analysis: The story of this group isn't whether or not Brazil will win it—that seems virtually guaranteedbut which team will finish second. Historically, Mexico would be the heavy favorite to continue to the knockout phase, but they barely qualified for this tournament in the first place.

Meanwhile, Croatia are a quality side led by Luka Modric and Mario Mandzukic, and one that came out of a tougher European qualifying process than El Tri faced in CONCACAF. And Samuel Eto'o, Alex Song, Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Stephane Mbia won't make Cameroon an easy draw, either. 

The winner of this group is a foregone conclusion. But the battle for second place will be intriguing. 

Prediction: Brazil win group, and Croatia are runners-up.

Group B

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ESPN SPI Group Stage Odds to Advance: Spain (82.5 percent), Chile (74.5 percent), the Netherlands (41 percent) and Australia (2.1 percent)

Analysis: Without question, this is one of the three "groups of death" in this tournament. Yes, three—the 2014 World Cup is going to be fun.

The only certainty in this group is that Australia won't win a game. Spain will remain the favorites to win the group, as the defending World Cup winners and two-time defending European champions are deep, talented and experienced. The Netherlands will be the popular pick to finish as the runners-up, but behind Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez, Chile are not to be taken lightly.

On South American soil, the Chileans will advance.

Prediction: Spain win group, and Chile are runners-up.

Group C

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ESPN SPI Group Stage Odds to Advance: Colombia (86.2 percent), Ivory Coast (50.2 percent), Greece (39.5 percent) and Japan (24.1 percent)

Analysis: While this group is no gimme, Colombia will be pleased with their draw. None of their opponents will have an answer for Radamel Falcao and James Rodriguez.

After that, it gets interesting. The Ivory Coast have plenty of attacking prowess and a midfield dynamo in Yaya Toure but don't play great defense. The Greeks remain disciplined and always seem to exceed expectations at major tournaments. And Japan play an aesthetically pleasing style of football, led by crafty attacking midfielders Keisuke Honda and Shinji Kagawa.

Any of those three teams could advance, but if you are looking for one of the better long-odds plays in this tournament, the Japanese are worth further consideration.

Prediction: Colombia win group, and Japan are runners-up.

Group D

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ESPN SPI Group Stage Odds to Advance: Uruguay (69.4 percent), England (57.6 percent), Italy (44.3 percent) and Costa Rica (28.7 percent)

Analysis: Well, the one thing we know is that Costa Rica won't survive this group.

It's interesting that Italy has been given the third-best odds of advancing out of this group from ESPN. The Italians have questions on the attack, yes, but when Mario Balotelli is clicking, this team is hard to beat. They play excellent defense, are very composed, have plenty of experience and always seem to play well at big tournaments. 

Uruguay is led by the always dangerous Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, and on South American soil, they should advance. That likely leaves England as the odd team out, though Wayne Rooney and company have the talent to go on a run, especially if younger players (and Arsenal stars) like Jack Wilshere and Theo Walcott can make an impact. 

Prediction: Italy win group, and Uruguay are runners-up.

Group E

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ESPN SPI Group Stage Odds to Advance: France (78.3 percent), Ecuador (64.6 percent), Switzerland (36.8 percent) and Honduras (6.2 percent)

Analysis: If the French don't win this group (or at least advance), it will be one of the great disappointments in international play for the country. They were gifted a favorable draw with this group.

The battle for runners-up seems to be between Ecuador and Switzerland. Both are talented teams that come with a major caveat—Ecuador is nearly unbeatable at home but vulnerable everywhere else, while Switzerland didn't lose in their qualifying group, which jacked up their FIFA ranking, but they also faced weak opposition.

Look for Switzerland to sneak out of this group and sort of justify their placement as a seeded team in the World Cup draw.

Prediction: France win group, and Switzerland are runners-up.

Group F

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ESPN SPI Group Stage Odds to Advance: Argentina (97.2 percent), Bosnia and Herzegovina (52.4 percent), Nigeria (31.5 percent) and Iran (19 percent)

Analysis: Argentina will win this group with ease, while Iran probably won't earn a point. That's all that needs to be said about that.

So which team finishes second? Nigeria probably have the more raw talent behind John Obi Mikel, Ahmed Musa, Victor Moses and Emmanuel Emenike, which they proved by winning the Africa Cup of Nations. But Bosnia and Herzegovina were excellent in European qualifying, scoring 30 goals and allowing just six, and they are the better team from top to bottom.

Prediction: Argentina win group, and Bosnia and Herzegovina are runners-up.

Group G

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ESPN SPI Group Stage Odds to Advance: Germany (91.6 percent), Portugal (40.3 percent), United States (39.4 percent) and Ghana (28.6 percent)

Analysis: One of the possible nightmare scenarios for the United States came true. Germany is one of four favorites to win this tournament. Cristiano Ronaldo is worth a few wins by himself. Ghana have tormented the U.S. men's national team in the past two World Cups.

And yet, the United States have been excellent in the past year and have been given nearly the same odds to advance as Portugal.

Could it happen? Certainly. Will it happen? Probably not.

Prediction: Germany win group, and Portugal are runners-up.

Group H

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ESPN SPI Group Stage Odds to Advance: Belgium (79.2 percent), Russia (73 percent), Korea Republic (36.7 percent) and Algeria (11 percent)

Analysis: First, Belgium earned a place amongst the seeded teams. Then, they were gifted with arguably the easiest qualifying group in the World Cup.

With a glut of talented players (Eden HazardKevin De Bruyne, Vincent KompanyJan VertonghenChristian BentekeRomelu LukakuMarouane Fellaini, Axel WitselMoussa Dembele, Kevin Mirallas, Thibaut Courtois and Simon Mignolet, to name a few), anything less than dominating this group will be disappointing. 

And honestly, anything less than Russia advancing as well would be a surprise. Korea Republic and Algeria are two of the weaker teams in this tournament, which makes Group H likely to be a European wash.

Prediction: Belgium win group, and Russia are runners-up.


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