World Cup Group Previews & Best Bets
By Travis Gillmore
The World Cup is upon us once again and it's an exciting time as the very best players in the world get ready to take the pitch. Each team is hoping to bring the coveted world cup trophy back to their country. Here is a preview of the groups with projected group finishes and best bets for the World Cup 2022 in Qatar.
Netherlands has an underrated core with Virgil van Dijk, Matthijs de Ligt and Stefan de Vrij highlighting a formidable defense, Barcelona's Frenkie de Jong is one of the better sweepers in the world and Memphis Depay (with 21 goals in his last 21 caps) is vastly underrated up front on the attack. They are the FIFA-ranked 8th best team in the world – our projections really like the Dutch in Qatar 2022, with an 88.16% chance of getting through and a 67.22% chance of finishing in top spot. I've got Ecuador edging out Senegal for the second qualifying spot but it's really close between the two.
Best Bet: Netherlands Group Winner -210
After a great summer in 2021, where they lost out on their first-ever European championship title on penalties against Italy, and a semi-final knockout in the 2018 World Cup, many England fans have high expectations heading into the 2022 World Cup. I'm not as high on this team as others however, and in fact I think they will stub their toe early on in the knockout stage. That being said I do think they have enough to win this group. Many people are high on the US team as well, I do think they are improved and they will sneak out of this group as well but look out for a scrappy Wales team with a lot to prove.
Best Bet: USA To Qualify from Group -105
It was tempting to take Mexico to win this group as they really are group-stage veterans. El Tri have advanced to the last 16 in seven straight World Cups. They have one of the most experienced squads in the tournament and the Great Wall of Mexico Ochoa will likely be a major factor once again in goal. Argentina just has too many class players to fade them and they should be able to win this group. Dybala potentially not being available hurts them long term but they should be able to get past an experienced Mexico squad and an interesting Poland squad that will be led by Lewandowski in most likely his last World Cup appearance. I give Mexico the edge against Poland with their strength in goal juxtaposed to Poland's lack of attacking talent.
Best Bet: Argentina/Mexico Exacta +225
France opens against Australia and Denmark gets Tunisia to start. With both favorites playing major tournaments recently with plenty of difficult competition it’s difficult to see any surprises on that first matchday. France boasts an impressive roster top to bottom and could easily find their way back to the finals in 2022 but they have shown vulnerability over the past year. They nosedived out of Euro 2020 after blowing a two-goal lead to Switzerland. Then in the Nations League, this year, the French narrowly avoided relegatio and were outclassed by Denmark twice. Don't be surprised if Denmark wins this group with their fierce backline and ability to keeps teams off the score sheet. I've got France sneaking through but don't sleep on a talented Denmark side. On the flip side Australia really has no upside. They were very fortunate to even qualify for the World Cup and now add in the fact that Hrustic, one of their key playmakers, is injured and I think they finish last in this group.
Best Bet: Australia Bottom of the Group +100
It’s difficult to look past the big two in this group, it’s just a question of the order for me. I think Germany are quietly being underrated in this tournament and I wouldn't be surprised if they win the whole thing. I think Spain will slowly build toward their fluent, passing best and may be a little out of form in the group stage. Costa Rica could frustrate them in the opening fixture, and Germany will be a tricky match for them with the physicality that the Germans will bring. I think they’ll handle a pesky Japan team in their final group match to secure the second spot in this group. Japan and Costa Rica are by no means pushovers and could easily steal a few points, but overcoming Germany and Spain will prove too difficult. Given Japan’s current form, and an underrated collection of players from Bundesliga will propel them to a 3rd place finish above Costa Rica.
Best Bet: Costa Rico to Lose all Group Games +150
Belgium should be able to take care of themselves here. Their recent record in group stages is exceptional, winning each of their last seven such matches in the competition, with only Brazil ever winning eight consecutive World Cup group games. Canada is a bit of a wildcard and I wanted to bet them to get through this group. They're appearing in the World Cup for the first time since 1986, it’s difficult to predict how they will adapt to their situation. The model is not confident in their chances, given them just a 26.3% chance of getting to the knockout round. But they impressed as they won the third section of CONCACAF qualifying, scoring more goals (23) and conceding fewer (7) than anyone else. I think Croatia's overall talent and experience will help them get out of this group with Belgium winning. Morocco lacks the star power to compete and I think ultimately they finish last as I think Canada can get a result or two as they try to ride their momentum.
Best Bet: Morocco Bottom of the Group +125
The talent that Brazil possesses is undeniable. They are right there with France for the most top to bottom talent in the world. This star-studded squad will cruise through this group most likely racking up 3 wins along the way. While jockeying amongst themselves to take the lead in the Golden Boot race. I like Serbia to bounce back from a first match defeat to Brazil to win their other two group games and secure second place. The Swiss should have enough to secure third and I see Cameroon finishing at the bottom even though they aren't a terrible team by any means.
Best Bet: Brazil to Win All Group Games +160
Portugal certainly have the pedigree but their form hasn't been the best of late. The absence of Diogo Jota is a big concern, then you have Ronaldo who has still never scored in a World Cup knockout game and is now looking his age for the first time. Manager Fernando Santos will need to really think about how he's going to use him and work around his declining mobility. One team that won’t lack mobility up front in Group H are Uruguay who have the young and ultra talented Darwin Núñez. He’s surrounded by veterans with Luis Suárez scoring eight goals in qualifying and surely eagerly anticipating his rematch with Ghana in the final group game. Portugal always seem to dissapoint and with a declining Ronaldo I think Uraguay is poised to win this group and I honestly wouldn't be surprised if Portugal even slipped out of the top two.
Best Bet: Uruguay Group Winner +185
Golden Boot best bets
Neymar (Brazil) 16/1
The Brazilian will want to show out in his final World Cup appearance and this is a team that seems poised to make a run. They are my pick to win the whole tournament and I think Neymar will be the primary scorer even though they have scorers up and down their roster.
Memphis Depay (Netherlands) 25/1
Netherlands has a very good team and I also like their chances of making a deep run as you'll see in the best bets section below. Depay is an ultra talented striker who should get lots of opportunities for a Dutch team that I expect to see make a deep run.
Darwin Nunez (Uruguay) 40/1
The Liverpool frontman has nine goals in 18 games for the Premier League outfit this season and he'll want to have a similar output for his country. I think Uruguay have a great chance to win their group and also win a few games in the knockout stage. I think Nunez will be a key component of that, plus he should relish the opportunity to shine while Haaland will be watching from home.
Aleksandar Mitrović (Serbia) 60/1
In the last seven years Mitrović, the 28-year-old Fulham striker, has a remarkable 48 goals in 58 international matches. He fired Serbia past Ronaldo's Portugal and directly to Qatar with eight in qualifying, and Serbia certainly has a strong chance to come out of Group G with Brazil winning it.