World Cup 2014: Latest Group Odds for All Favorites

Matt Jones@@MattJFootballFeatured ColumnistJune 8, 2014

Brazil's Willian, left,  celebrates with teammates after scoring against Panama's during a friendly soccer match at the Serra Dourada stadium in Goiania, Brazil, Tuesday, June 3, 2014.  Brazil is preparing for the World Cup soccer tournament that starts on 12 June. (AP Photo/Andre Penner)
Andre Penner/Associated Press

It’s often the group stage that is the making of a team at a major international tournament.

Drawing what looks like a straightforward group is naturally desirable, but early contests against lesser nations can often pave the way for some pretty lacklustre showings in the latter stages. By contrast, some tough clashes early on can see a team battle-hardened and better prepared for those high-pressure games in the final knockings.

The group stages make for a fascinating spectacle. It’s the best bit of the entire World Cup, really. They provide us with back-to-back football, a myriad of different cultures to sample and, with the pressure not quite as intense as it is in the latter stages, arguably the most entertaining matches.

So as we stand on the brink of the World Cup group phase, let’s take a look at who the favourites for the title in Brazil will be pitted against and how they look likely to fare in their opening three games.

All odds are courtesy of Odds Shark.

  

Brazil

Group A: Odds to Win Group
TeamOdds
Brazil1-4
Croatia8-1
Mexico9-1
Cameroon25-1
Odds Shark

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - JUNE 06:  Neymar  of Brazil in action during the International Friendly Match between Brazil and Serbia at Morumbi Stadium on June 06, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  (Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images)
Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Expected to progress from the initial stage with consummate ease, a closer look at Brazil’s early opponents might tell a different story.

As the hosts they’ll take their place in Group A and will get the tournament underway against Croatia on June 12. Then they tackle Mexico and Cameroon in their remaining two games. While it’s difficult to see the Africans posing many problems for Brazil, in Croatia and Mexico, the Selecao have a pair of potentially difficult opponents in their other two matchups.

Could Rakitic and Modric call problems for Brazil?
Could Rakitic and Modric call problems for Brazil?Alex Grimm/Getty Images

Croatia may have endured a torrid qualification period, but under the tutelage of Niko Kovac, they have rediscovered some cohesiveness. In Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, they have two of Europe’s outstanding playmakers, and just in front of that mercurial duo, Mateo Kovacic is a young player capable of causing plenty of problems.

As for Mexico, they’ve fashioned a reputation as something of a bogey team for Brazil, as noted here by the BBC’s John Bennett:

They too endured a difficult qualification phase, and they have enough energy in their ranks to cause problems for the hosts. Manager Miguel Herrera looks likely to implement a style founded on this industry, and they look likely to be an enterprising, attacking outfit at the World Cup.

Brazil should still have enough to progress from the group, but backing them to be group winners at 1-4 would be dangerous. They won’t be quite as sure a thing as many pundits are making out.

 

Argentina

Group F: Odds to Win Group
TeamOdds
Argentina1-4
Bosnia and Herzegovina6-1
Nigeria8-1
Iran33-1
Odds Shark

Victor R. Caivano/Associated Press

Alejandro Sabella looks set to unleash a plethora of Argentinean attacking riches this summer, and an offensive foursome of Angel Di Maria, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero and Lionel Messi should see them have enough to make it out of Group F with plenty left in the tank.

They’ll be taking on World Cup debutants Bosnia and Herzegovina, Nigeria and Iran in their opening three games, and it’s difficult to see any of those nations containing such a stellar Albiceleste front line.

Argentina have a formidable set of forwards.
Argentina have a formidable set of forwards.Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press

The Bosnia and Herzegovina side do have some intriguing attacking players that should be able to cause problems for the best of sides, with the likes of Miralem Pjanic and Edin Dzeko very difficult to handle. But they have a host of problems with reliability and know-how at the back that could see them come undone.

Nonetheless, the World Cup's official magazine editor, Thore Haugstad, thinks the Bosnians can give Argentina problems if they adopt an attacking approach:

By comparison, Nigeria and Iran are both pretty well organised. They'll look to sit in deep, limit space in behind and then spring on the break. But they don't have supreme defenders in their armoury, and skilful, intricate operators like Aguero and Messi will find a way through.

Argentina are the same price to get out of their group as Brazil. At this juncture, it's the Albiceleste that look the best value at that price.

 

Spain

Group B: Odds to Win Group
TeamOdds
Spain37-50
Netherlands9-4
Chile4-1
Australia33-1
Odds Shark

SEVILLE, SPAIN - MAY 30:  Andres Iniesta of Spain scores his team's second goal during an international friendly match between Spain and Bolivia at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on May 30, 2014 in Seville, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
David Ramos/Getty Images

The current world and European champions find themselves in one of the most difficult groups in the tournament. Alongside Vicente Del Bosque's wonderful La Roja squad will be Netherlands, Chile and Australia.

How will the Spanish fare against Robben and Van Persie?
How will the Spanish fare against Robben and Van Persie?Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images

Admittedly, the Socceroos could be the whipping boys of this competition as they look to integrate a host of young players into their squad. But the Dutch and the Chileans could cause problems for the 2010 winners.

Louis van Gaal's side also have a refreshing feel about them, but while the next Manchester United manager has looked to bring in some youthful exuberance, experienced and quality figures such as Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben remain. On their day, that duo are enough in themselves to cause chaos in the ranks of any side.

The intriguing match in this group will surely come when Spain meet Chile, though. Jorge Sampaoli's team play a vibrant, aggressive and intense style, and it'll be interesting to see how opposition fare against them in the stifling South American heat.

Spain look in for some tough tests, but they remain a quality outfit. Their ability to keep possession and subsequently keep the opposition chasing the ball will be vital given the climate, not to mention their winning mentality and tournament nous. Your money would be safe if you backed them at 37-50 to top Group B.