When you say the word football to an American, they think of the sport involving the oblong pigskin and the Dallas Cowboys or Tom Brady or Nick Saban, etc. However, to almost the entire rest of the planet, football means soccer and it’s truly the world’s game.
Thus, the biggest sporting event worldwide is the quadrennial FIFA World Cup. The 2018 tournament, featuring 32 countries – but not the United States, Italy or the Netherlands to name three shocking absences – begins Thursday in Russia.
This could one of the last World Cups with 32 countries as FIFA has decided to expand to 48 for the 2026 edition (which will be hosted by the USA, Canada and Mexico). This year’s World Cup will be the last held in the United States summer until 2026 because the 2022 Cup will be held in the American autumn due to unsafe weather conditions in Qatar that time of year.
While every country on the planet plays soccer, just eight have won the World Cup: Brazil (five times), Germany (four), Italy (four), Argentina (two), Uruguay (two), England, France and Spain. So, only South American or European teams have hoisted the World Cup.
That’s not likely to change in Russia, with the final on July 15 in Moscow. It’s the first time that country has hosted, and the Russians are +5000 on the 2018 World Cup odds at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com to win the tournament for the first time. Host teams generally have a huge advantage and more than a few have won it, but Russia isn’t a true threat.
The Brazilians are +450 favorites to win their first World Cup since 2002. Led by Neymar, Brazil likely has the most talented roster not to mention plenty of motivation. In 2014 when Brazil hosted the World Cup, it suffered the most embarrassing loss in the nation’s history, a 7-1 semifinal loss to Germany. The Germans are +475 to become the first repeat World Cup winners since Brazil in 1958 and 1962.
Spain (+600), which shockingly fired its manager on Tuesday, France (+650) and Argentina (+950) round out the favorites. The Argentines lost the 2014 final to Germany 1-0 in extra time. Argentina has arguably the world’s best player in Lionel Messi – who sits atop the 2018 Golden Boot odds – and the World Cup is the only thing missing from his resume.
The other candidate for world’s best is Cristiano Ronaldo; he plays for Portugal (+2800), which beat France in the final of the 2016 European Championships.
The only North American team in the field is Mexico (+10000), which unfortunately was placed in Group F with Germany. That means if Mexico does advance to the knockout round as the second-place team in that group, it’s likely looking at a matchup with Brazil. The Mexicans have made it out of the group stage in the past six World Cups but lost in all six in the Round of 16.
For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top World Cup betting news check out the OddsShark FC podcast with Andrew Avery, Rob Trites, and Craig Cormier. Listen to it at OddsSharkFC.libsyn.com.