The World Cup is about to begin and bookmakers are offering a host of enticing opportunities for those who like a flutter.
So what are some of the best bets available for the tournament in Russia?
Brazil (4/1 with various bookmakers), Germany (9/2), France (6/1) and Spain (6/1) are rated as the favourites, with little between them, and with good reason. Brazil breezed through qualifying as they look to exorcise the demons of their own tournament four years ago, when they were humiliated in the semi-finals by eventual winners Germany, who look similarly formidable. Spain have a good blend of youth and experience and France have unearthed a new generation of world-class talent. Belgium (10/1) are again a decent outside bet but despite some phenomenal players and a strong qualifying campaign, they are still to prove they can be an effective team at the top level.
Some people will not look past the likes of Neymar (9/1) and Lionel Messi (10/1) when it comes to the Golden Boot betting. Yet Neymar’s recent fitness problems leave a question mark over the Brazilian’s value in this market while Messi needs the defence of attack-heavy Argentina to hold strong to bolster his chances of going deep into the tournament. It could be the moment when Manchester City’s Brazilian talent Gabriel Jesus (16/1) comes of age or, for longer odds, when France’s Kylian Mbappe (33/1) truly delivers.
For those focused mainly on England, there could be easy money in trying to predict how far Gareth Southgate’s team progress. Many pundits think reaching the quarter-finals would be a reasonable achievement and the odds-on prices for them to do so would suggest that is a safe bet. England are priced at around 4/5 to at least reach the quarters. The draw suggests money can be almost doubled here. After that there is a good chance England could get drawn into a penalty shoot-out, though, and given their history, the odds for them going on to reach the last four (3/1) or even the final (7/1) do not seem rewarding enough.
Player of the tournament
Again, Messi (7/1) and Neymar (8/1) cannot be ignored but those other factors of team strength and fitness respectively mean neither can be a shoo-in for the Golden Ball. Better value could come further down the market. If Belgium can get it together, Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard (both around 20/1) have the ability to excel on this stage although familiar complaints about the rigours of the Premier League season could undermine them. Perhaps Brazil’s Philippe Coutinho (33/1) can show why Barcelona paid £142million for him.
The subjective nature of the Golden Glove, awarded to the best keeper as judged by a FIFA panel, evens this field out a bit. Still, it is hard to look beyond Spain’s David de Gea (4/1). The Manchester United stopper has been remarkably consistent for club and country. Manuel Neuer (7/2) could challenge him if confirmed as Germany’s number one, as could Brazil’s Alisson (9/2) and France’s Hugo Lloris (7/1). If England perform, their goalkeeper will need to deliver. Jordan Pickford (16/1) looks like he could be first choice but backing him may not be for the faint-hearted.