When it comes to the World Cup, everyone’s got an opinion. Sitting down and consulting the odds prior to the tournament is an enjoyable part of the build-up to the showpiece itself, which will unravel over 32 enthralling days.
So with the tournament just over a fortnight away, let’s run the rule over some of the best-value bets ahead of the Brazil showpiece and isolate a handful of shocks that you should think about putting your money on in the group stages.
All odds used are courtesy of Odds Shark and correct as of 1:30 p.m (BST) on May 27, 2014.
Here are the 12 favourites for the tournament, as well as a preview of the teams that look to have excellent value ahead of the big kick-off:
Even without their talisman, Radamel Falcao—whose fitness remains in doubt ahead of the tournament, per John Drayton of the Mail Online—this Colombian team look like they could do some real damage in Brazil.
Going forward they have a plethora of top-quality attacking talent at hand. James Rodriguez of Monaco and Juan Cuadrado of Fiorentina will provide a major threat from wide areas, whilst the much-coveted Jackson Martinez looks likely to partner one of Falcao, Carlos Bacca or Luis Muriel in attack.
They are in a very winnable Group C alongside Ivory Coast, Greece and Japan, and given their quality and familiarity with the conditions, they should have more than enough to best all of those sides. Jose Pekerman’s team could face England, Italy or Uruguay in the second round, but with the firepower at their disposal, they should fear nobody.
If they progress into the last eight with Falcao approaching his best, that price of 28/1 will come right in. Colombia are a genuine dark horse for the title.
Betting on the French might seem a little misguided, given their recent form, especially when you consider the controversy that gripped the camp when Samir Nasri was omitted from the squad, per Julien Laurens of The Telegraph.
But the French struck gold with their draw and look to have a relatively simple run to the quarter-finals. If they can top their group ahead of a progressive Switzerland team, they’ll most likely face a winnable tie against Bosnia and Herzegovina, Nigeria or Iran in the last-16.
Granted, anything can happen when it comes to Les Bleus, but Deschamps has a very talented group at his disposal that contains a pleasing blend of youthful talents like Raphael Varane and Paul Pogba, plus some quality experienced campaigners such as Karim Benzema and Franck Ribery.
For the Bayern Munich winger Ribery, it'll be his last ever World Cup, so he'll be desperate to replicate his club form in the blue of the national team:
France and Bayern Munich winger Franck Ribery says the upcoming World Cup in Brazil will be his last #SSFootball— SuperSport Blitz (@SuperSportBlitz) May 21, 2014
As is the case with Colombia, if this French side can make it to the quarter-finals—which they definitely should do—a price of 22/1 will look like an absolute steal.
Most Likely Group-Stage Shocks
Croatia To Hold Brazil In Opener
The Croatian qualifying campaign was extremely poor, and after they only managed to make it to the playoff stage, Igor Stimac was annexed from the manager's position.
Who will win the tournament opener?
Niko Kovac took over and was able to steer the team through the playoffs against Iceland, and they were rewarded with a tie against Brazil in the World Cup curtain-raiser. Despite their poor qualifying phase, morale seems to have improved under Kovac, and a quick glance at the Croatian squad suggests they have the tools at hand to hurt this Brazilian team.
Especially in midfield, where they have arguably two of the best playmakers in La Liga in Real Madrid’s Luka Modric and Sevilla’s Ivan Rakitic. If Modric and Rakitic can continue the form they showcased in the final knockings of the club campaigns—where they won the Champions League and Europa League respectively—they could have Brazil chasing the ball for long spells in that opening clash.
Croatian football expert Aleksandar Holiga expects both players to start in an attacking midfield setup for Kovac's team:
Btw, Niko Kovac is seriously considering playing Modric, Rakitic and Kovacic in MF vs Brazil. He told me that himself last week.— Aleksandar Holiga (@AlexHoliga) May 14, 2014
Without striker Mario Mandzukic—he misses the opener through suspension—they may not have the penetrative edge to beat Brazil, but with the pressure on the hosts to put on a show in that opening game, Croatia could surprise a few and nick a draw.
You can pick up odds of 4/1 on that happening.
Chile To Topple Spain
Group B looks like it could be tasty, with Spain, Netherlands, Chile and Australia all vying for a place in the last-16.
One of the most intriguing clashes in the group will be a La Roja vs. La Roja, when Jorge Sampaoli’s enterprising Chile outfit take on the holders, Spain. And it’s a match that the Chileans certainly have the potential to win.
Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated thinks highly of both of these sides, and thinks they can cause problems for Brazil in the the second round:
Realizing once again that World Cup draw did Brazil no favors. Facing likely Round of 16 game vs Spain, Netherlands or Chile.— Grant Wahl (@GrantWahl) May 2, 2014
Sampaoli has this team playing in a high-octane style that could certainly ruffle a few of the Spanish feathers, and in the punishing South American heat, that could shunt the current world and European champions out of their stride.
Chile have a host of players that can cause Spain problems too, most notably the duo of Arturo Vidal—fitness permitting, per BBC Sport—and Alexis Sanchez. Vidal has enjoyed a marvellous campaign for Juventus and his wide-ranging attributes make him arguably the most complete midfield player on the planet heading into this tournament.
Here's a taster of what to expect from the Bianconeri man:
Sanchez also poses a big threat and will be well aware on how to hurt the Spanish defence, having played against the likes of Gerard Pique and Jordi Alba in training at Barcelona, and players such as Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos on a regular basis in La Liga.
You can get Chile at odds of 9/2 to beat Spain.