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World Cup Odds – 2018 Favorites and Darkhorses

Zack Garrison

by Zack Garrison in News

Updated Jan 17, 2018 · 9:39 AM PST

It feels like I’ve been talking about the 2018 World Cup for years. And I have, because it’s now been two years since Brazil 2014 finished and I’m always looking ahead.

The constant in the last 24 months is that no one has been able to knock Germany from the top of the heap when it comes to the odds for Russia 2018. But after a semi-final Euro exit, will someone else take over the role as pre(-pre-pre-pre)tournament favorites?

As you’ll learn in about six seconds … No!

2018 World Cup Odds

1. Germany: 5/1

No team has won back to back World Cups since Brazil in 1958 and 1962. Yet the current champions remain the favorites even though they have had problems evolving as a team since their magical 2014 run. Euro 2016 showed that this team is not on the same level as it was back then. At both Brazil 2014 and Euro 2016, Marco Reus was on the sideline due to injuries. The team looked a little lost on offense in the latter tournament without their top playmaker.

The Germans should qualify with relative ease. They won their first qualification match and are in an easy group (Group C) with Azerbaijan, Czech Republic, Northern Ireland, San Marino, and Norway.

2. Argentina: 8/1

This is likely the last kick at the can for Lionel Messi in a major tournament with Argentina. Russia 2018 will be the Little Wizard’s fourth World Cup. His country hasn’t won since 1986 and they haven’t won a major tournament since winning the Copa America in 1993. After back-to-back losses in the Copa finals to Chile, and a runner-up finish at Brazil 2014, it’s starting to feel like there is a significant mental hurdle in finals matches.

That seems all the more likely given Messi’s brief “retirement” following the 2016 Copa finale.

There’s no shortage of talent on this team, even beyond Messi. But they need to find the right person at the top. Where Joachim Low brings stability to the German bench, Argentina has cycled through seven coaches since 2007.

Like Germany, they should qualify with ease. They currently sit third in the South American qualifiers with 15 points in eight games. The top-four automatically qualify.

3. Brazil: 10/1

Brazil, who last won the World Cup in 2002, will have their hopes squarely resting on the shoulders of Neymar. He’s one of the top strikers in the world and led the country to an Olympic gold in 2016.

But the Selecao have not been the dominant force they once were on the world stage in recent history. They have reached the semi-finals just once in their last three major tournaments. (The Olympics don’t really count since it was largely a U23 team.) Their embarrassing loss 7-1 to Germany in the semis of Brazil 2014 still leaves an unpleasant odor around the team. The only way to cleanse it for good is to win another tournament.

Brazil are currently second in the South American qualifiers with 15 points in eight games and look to be trending up under new coach Tite

4. France: 12/1

5. Spain: 14/1

6. Belgium: 16/1

7. England: 16/1

8. Italy: 16/1

9. Netherlands: 25/1

Keep an eye on the Netherlands. The Dutch side reached the final in 2010, losing in extra time. They were sensational team in 2014, but lost in penalties at the semifinals.

Admittedly, the last couple years have been disastrous for the national team – they failed to qualify for the Euro – but this is a country with a strong and proud soccer history and a new crop of talent eager to right the ship.

The health of Arjen Robben will be key. When he’s intact, the Netherlands attack is terrifying. When he’s not, they struggle to pressure the opposing goal.

The team’s odds are decently long, however, given their tough qualifying group (Group A), which includes France, Sweden, Bulgaria, Belarus, and Luxembourg. Only one team qualifies directly while second-place goes to a playoff.

10. Portugal: 25/1

11. Russia: 33/1

12. Colombia: 33/1

13. Uruguay: 40/1

14. Chile: 50/1

15. Croatia: 50/1

16. USA: 50/1

17. Switzerland: 66/1

18. Poland: 66/1

19. Sweden: 100/1

20. Ghana: 100/1

21. Ivory Coast: 150/1

22. Japan: 175/1

No Asian team has ever won the World Cup. The Japanese side is the best bet for the continent at the moment. They reached the knockout stage back when they were co-hosts in 2002 and again in 2010. They’re ranked just 56th in the current FIFA rankings, but have  Keisuke Honda and Shinji Okazaki’s veteran presence to lead them.

23. South Korea: 200/1

South Korea are right there with Japan in terms of Asian nations, and they look to be trending up. They scored impressive wins over the Czech Republic (2-1 away) and China (3-2 home) in two of their last three and are now 4-1-1 in their last six, climbing into FIFA’s top-50. They fared even better than their World Cup co-hosts in 2002, claiming fourth place back in 2002.

Photo credit: Marcello Casal Jr/Agência Brasil, CC BY 3.0 [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/br/deed.en], via Wikimedia Commons.

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