The waiting is almost over for the start of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, which begins on June 12. The usual suspects of Brazil, Spain, Germany and Argentina are many people's favourites to go far in the summer's showpiece event.
Equally, when it comes to who will be the tournament's top goalscorer, few are looking past the obvious in Lionel Messi, Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo.
However, World Cups are not as simple as all that. There is so much quality on show, so many different factors to rely on, stars can turn up from almost any country.
Let's take a look at some of the best bets and tips for the tournament winners as well as the winner of the Golden Boot.
Here are the current odds for the five favourites for the competition, via Oddschecker.com:
|World Cup 2014: Outright Winners Odds|
It is no surprise to see Brazil as favourites considering the amount of quality they have in their squad, their 2013 Confederations Cup win, and the simple fact that they are hosts.
In 19 World Cups, the hosts have reached the final on eight occasions and won the tournament six times. Even England managed to win the famous competition when it was played on home soil.
While Germany and Spain are third and fourth favourites respectively, history is against them. Never has a European team won a World Cup in South America and former Germany international Oliver Bierhoff seems to think that trend will continue, per Bundesliga expert Cristian Nyari:
But, while they will likely get out on top of a group containing Russia, Algeria and South Korea, a lack of World Cup experience could prove costly in the knockout stages.
Thus, of the favourites, Brazil and Argentina are likely the best contenders, but their short odds make them a poor bet. The best bet looks to be the 33-1 odds you can get for Group C contenders Colombia.
It is no mean feat to qualify second from Conmebol, which includes all South American teams besides Brazil. But that's exactly what Jose Pekerman's side did, finishing just two points behind Argentina and five ahead of 2010's surprise package Uruguay, per Eurosport.
In their 16 qualifying matches they scored 27 goals and conceded only 13, the fewest in the group.
South American teams win in the Americas—see Uruguay in 1930 and 1950, Argentina in 1978 and 1986 and Brazil in 1962, 1970 and 1994—and Italian legend Alessandro del Piero reckons they have what it takes again, per beIN Sports' Tancredi Palmeri.
Colombia are currently ranked fifth in the world, per FIFA, and their group includes Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan. They have to be worth a punt.
Top Goal Scorer
As with the odds for the outright winner, it is not difficult to predict the bookies' favourites for the Golden Boot, but here they are anyway:
|World Cup 2014: Golden Boot Favourites|
Unsurprisingly the majority of them come from the South American favourites, Brazil and Argentina, while Ronaldo is obviously in there after a season which saw him bag 48 goals in 41 appearances for Real Madrid in La Liga and the Champions League, per WhoScored.com.
However, outside of the obvious, Thomas Mueller looks a good bet at 25-1 after winning the award in South Africa in 2010 at just 20 years old, even while missing out on one game through suspension, per The Guardian's Daniel Taylor:
Germany are also on a roll when it comes to individual top scorers after Miroslav Klose's 2006 win, per Opta:
The player himself has his sights firmly set on becoming the first player to win back-to-back Golden Boots, per SID (h/t Stefan Coerts of Goal.com): "Subconsciously, defending the Golden Boot at the World Cup is on my mind."
Mueller scored 13 goals from midfield in Bayern Munich's successful Bundesliga campaign, per Squawka, and he makes up part of a high-scoring international side who bagged 36 goals in 10 games in qualifying, per UEFA.
He was also on the scoresheet for Germany's warm-up 2-2 draw with Cameroon on Sunday, and he has a knack of showing up in the right place at the right time.
Germany's Group G opponents are USA, Ghana and Portugal, and they should go deep into the competition. If Mueller can bag some early goals, he could be on his way to an historic double.