Bookmakers love big tournaments, and they do not come any bigger than the FIFA World Cup. There will be more markets this year than any punter has ever seen before during a World Cup, as the bookies look to attract business from the casual to the avid fan, and everyone in between.
However quirky the bookies want to become, though, it is the traditional markets that are still the most popular. Who is going to win the tournament will always attract the most money at a World Cup. Who will score more goals than anyone else is a common choice for the gambler as well. Alongside, of course, who will win the individual matches.
Here we take you through the best choices in the most popular fields, and one or two of the markets you may not be used to.
The favourites for the trophy, long before a ball has been kicked in the competition, are Brazil. They are the home team, with a wildly talented squad and with recent tournament-winning experience under their belts.
This may not be World Cup-winning experience, but last year’s Confederations Cup was impressive enough nonetheless. The event featured the likes of Spain, Italy and Uruguay, so to come through as champions, and to do it so emphatically, was no mean feat. Unsurprisingly they are just 3/1 to return to the top of the world.
Today's front cover of AS - Cristiano: "Spain and Brazil are the favourites to win the World Cup" pic.twitter.com/U4VBVSISsb— AS English (@English_AS) May 10, 2014
Spain, despite being the defending champions and back-to-back European champions, have drifted out to fourth favourites. Given their recent successes, their best price of 7/1 looks to be very generous, however, the difficulty of travelling to South America cannot be understated.
Which Team Will Win the 2014 World Cup?
Famously, no team from outside of the continent has triumphed when travelling to South, Central or even North America for a World Cup. Brazil’s dominance in the Confederations Cup last year was more evidence to prove how difficult it is to visit their back yard.
As such, Spain, and the other leading European contenders Germany, are fighting a losing battle in this tournament. Whilst both have enough talent to lift the World Cup this summer, the history books cannot be ignored, and they say it will be a South American country that prospers.
The other leading contender is Argentina, and they are directly behind Brazil in the betting at 5/1. They are also in the opposite half of the draw to the hosts, which makes a final between the two sides the most likely outcome. This all-South American matchup in the showpiece can be backed at 10/1.
Zabaleta (City): "Dzeko and Kompany told me the other day that ARG are World Cup favourites because we have the world's best player." [tyc]— barcastuff (@barcastuff) April 25, 2014
The Argentinians have a fairly straight-forward task to get to the quarter-finals of the competition. This is where they have failed in three of the last four World Cups, though, and they seem to reach their ceiling at that point. Scoring goals will not be a problem for their outrageously skilled forward line but keeping them out may be a problem.
Undoubtedly Brazil have the strongest case to be favourites. In some markets, backing those with the shortest odds can be hazardous, but Spain showed four years ago that it does work, as they headed to South Africa as favourites and triumphed. Brazil look most likely to do so this time around.
Widely regarded as the best player on the planet, it is no surprise that Lionel Messi leads the way in this market. The Argentina captain is just 8/1 to outscore everyone else in Brazil this summer.
Over the first few years of his international career he was never especially prolific, but he has improved his strike-rate of late, scoring 10 times in qualification for the World Cup.
His main threat, according to the bookmakers is Brazil’s Neymar, who comes in at 14/1. He has a much better strike-rate for his country than Messi does, having struck 30 international goals from just 47 caps, per ESPNFC. He may not have been prolific for Barcelona this season, but his incredible record for Brazil to date shows he is ready to claim the Golden Boot this summer.
Every World Cup needs a hero. Brazil had Garrincha, Pelé, Romário and Ronaldo. Can Neymar be the hero of the 6th? pic.twitter.com/MJfV6SkcpN— Seleção Brasileira (@BrazilStats) May 4, 2014
Other contenders include Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Suarez, but their teams will not last long enough in the competition for them to outscore their rivals. The Portuguese at 14/1 and the Uruguayan at 20/1 do not look appealing prospects.
The outsider with a chance is Spain’s Diego Costa. The Atletico Madrid forward is unproven on the international stage, but he looks set to lead the line for the world champions this summer. If he gels with his new team-mates, then he could prove excellent value at 25/1.
There is a lot of speculation based around that bet, though. The safer option is to plump for Neymar who should shine for Brazil. The last time a Brazilian won the Golden Boot, their team lifted the World Cup, back in 2002 when Ronaldo struck eight times. You can back Neymar to emulate this achievement at 20/1.
The Golden Ball award for the best player in the competition is much more difficult to predict than simply who will score most goals. Not since 1990 have the Golden Ball and Boot gone to the same man, when Salvatore Schillaci took both home.
The last four winners of the Golden Ball (Diego Forlan, Zinedine Zidane, Oliver Kahn and Ronaldo) were not even in the winning side, per MSN.com. This shows the amount of intangibles there are in deciding the recipient of the award.
As something of a long-shot, it may be worth backing Brazil playmaker Oscar for this award at a lengthy 33/1. The Chelsea star plays in the hole behind the centre-forward, a position where all the most attractive players turn out. If Brazil go a long way, with him pulling the strings, then he could prove a superb bet.
Continent of Winner
Interestingly, this market does not bear out the odds on the outright winner. Brazil and Argentina may be the leading two candidates to lift the trophy, but the winner to come from South America remains a very tempting price of EVENS.
Bizarrely, the winner to come from Europe is a shorter price at 10/11. Backing a South American team to prosper may just be the best bet of the tournament.
All odds are supplied by Oddschecker.com.