Getting off to a good start in the World Cup is absolutely imperative. The group stage format sees each team play each of the other three teams in the group on one occasion, and that gives sides very little room for error should they slip up first time around.
On the flip side, for teams that start the tournament with a victory, a major step has been made towards qualifying for the last 16 of the competition.
The pressure of an opening game can affect teams in strange ways. Some teams revel under that kind of pressure, as Germany did as hosts in 2006 when they trounced Costa Rica 4-2. But other teams can crumble, just as the mercurial French side did against Senegal in 2002:
So as the planet gears up for 32 days of sensational soccer, here are all the very latest odds for every team's opening clash in the group stages and some advice on what results you should be sticking your hard-earned cash on, should you fancy a flutter.
Odds correct as of June 2 at 7 p.m. BST.
|Match (Team 1 vs Team 2)||Team 1||Team 2||Draw||Prediction|
|Brazil vs. Croatia||100/333||10/1||4/1||2-1|
|Mexico vs. Cameroon||13/10||23/10||21/10||1-0|
|Spain vs. Netherlands||50/59||333/100||12/5||3-1|
|Chile vs. Australia||50/111||7/1||3/1||3-0|
|Colombia vs. Greece||5/6||7/2||12/5||2-0|
|Uruguay vs. Costa Rica||100/227||7/1||3/1||3-1|
|England vs. Italy||2/1||163/100||47/25||2-1|
|Ivory Coast vs. Japan||8/5||9/5||21/10||2-2|
|Switzerland vs. Ecuador||3/2||2/1||2/1||1-1|
|France vs. Honduras||100/303||10/1||7/2||3-0|
|Argentina vs. Bosnia-Herezegovina||100/227||6/1||333/100||4-0|
|Germany vs. Portugal||6/5||23/10||23/10||1-2|
|Iran vs. Nigeria||5/2||6/5||21/10||0-0|
|Ghana vs. USA||163/100||9/5||21/10||1-0|
|Belgium vs. Algeria||1/2||6/1||3/1||3-1|
|Russia vs. South Korea||13/10||12/5||2/1||2-1|
One team that has had a far-from-ideal preparation for this tournament is Germany. Boasting one of the most talented squads in the entire competition, Joachim Low's men have been rightly regarded as one of the big contenders for the title.
But there have been concerns over a host of key players heading into this tournament and something of a reluctancy to stick to a strict tactical blueprint. Most damagingly of all, though, they've lost the superb Marco Reus due to injury.
They open up against Portugal in a game that sees two of the top five teams in the world go head-to-head, as noted here by ESPN FC:
Last FIFA World Rankings before the World Cup: 1) Spain 2) Germany 3) Brazil 4) Portugal 5) Argentina 6) Switzerland pic.twitter.com/j2H1RMiWy7— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) June 5, 2014
At odds of 23-10, Cristiano Ronaldo and co. are well worth a punt. Paulo Bento's side are likely to surrender possession and play a counter-attacking game—a style that could potentially cause this German team a host of problems.
Aside from the brilliance of Ronaldo, the influence of Joao Moutinho will be vital, as he will be tasked with expediting transitions from defence to attack. If Portugal can counter with incisiveness, they have the ability to nick a win against the Germans.
Another team that look very good value in their first game is England, who face Italy in the Group D opener. Roy Hodgson has a selection dilemma on his hands ahead of this one, with a host of vibrant young talent pushing for a starting berth.
Everton's 20-year-old midfielder, Ross Barkley, has been very impressive in the warm-up games, and ESPN's Janusz Michallik thinks he should be in the XI against Italy:
Barkley should start in WC.— Janusz Michallik (@JanuszESPN) June 4, 2014
Despite the clamour for Barkley's inclusion, the England boss looks set to go with the tried and tested up against the Azzurri. But players like Barkley and Raheem Sterling can help swing the game the Three Lions' way from the bench.
The game between these two will be played in Manaus, a city near the Amazon rainforest that has stifling humidity. Therefore, the impact made by energetic players late in the game will be crucial. Looking at both squads, it's England that have the players who can make an impression late in the game.
Finally, if you’re going to back a draw in the opening round of group stage games, go for the clash between Japan and the Ivory Coast. Whilst they may be completely contrasting in their stylistic principles, the two teams look very difficult to split.
Yaya Toure is the standout man for the Elephants, and he'll be coming into this tournament on the back of an excellent season with Manchester City. Toure will form a formidable attacking line-up alongside the likes of Didier Drogba and Gervinho, and his surges from midfield are certainly something to look out for in this tournament.
But against a technically proficient and industrious Japanese side, the African outfit could be chasing the ball for long spells. The Blue Samurai are set to line up with intricate ball players like Yasuhito Endo, Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda, meaning they too will preserve an intimidating offensive threat.
With the attacking talent of both sides looking likely to cause problems for the opposition defences, goals look guaranteed in this one. A score draw looks likely, and you can back a tie at 21-10. Lump on.