BETTING expert Ben Levene (@BenLevene96) has trawled through a variety of request-a-bet style markets and pinpointed four selections of varying price range.
Be against the strugglers
From what we know, the likes of Saudi Arabia, Iran, Costa Rica and Panama would need something miraculous to move out of the groups.
Iran qualified impressively, but I caught some of their 2-1 loss to Turkey recently and struggle to see how they’ll be able to cause better opposition any problems in the final third. No doubt they’ll be organised and robust, but quality in attack is a worry.
They only managed 10 goals in 10 games in what was a relatively soft qualification group. Preparation hasn’t been ideal either, with a series of cancelled friendlies.
Likewise, although friendlies aren’t the be all and end all, Costa Rica showed very little against a much-changed England. Brazil, Switzerland and Serbia won’t give away a lot, and goals could be hard to come by.
Saudi Arabia are set to struggle in Group A against an efficient Uruguay, while Russia and Egypt should prove too strong. Juan Antonio Pizzi's unit have scored one goal across four friendlies held in Europe this season. This summer’s opposition offer a sterner test than their AFC counterparts in qualification.
Finally, Panama progressed from CONCACAF qualification through a series of moments rather than consistent performance. Their campaign yielded a -1 goal difference, and they scored just nine goals in 10 games.
We can get 6/1 (Bet Victor) on the quartet to finish bottom. But perhaps the 150/1 available on the trio of Saudi Arabia, Iran and Panama all failing to score could give you a run for your money at a far bigger price.
At 25/1 (William Hill) both Saudi Arabia and Panama both to fail to score and concede five or more goals is also worth a dart. The duo are arguably the weakest two sides in the competition.
Belgium and England look set to carve open Panama, and it’s difficult to see less than five goals scored in those two games alone. Belgium scored three or more in seven of 10 qualification games.
Saudi Arabia produced a shot ratio of around 50% in qualification, and that sort of performance could see them leak goals against better opposition this month.
Stick with the strikers
At the 14/1 (Betway) quoted I see little reason to look beyond Romelu Lukaku, Harry Kane and Edinson Cavani all top-scoring for their nations this summer.
Lukaku top scored for Belgium in qualification with 11 goals. He is renowned for his ability to pin and bully defenders of inferior quality, and against Panama and Tunisia could have field days. Eden Hazard and Dries Mertens are dangerous, but the fact Lukaku is set to lead the line with a wealth of quality behind him, means he can keep to his side of the bargain.
Likewise, we can count on talisman and skipper Harry Kane to do the same for the Three Lions. Various have made a very valid case that Raheem Sterling could cause trouble in few games, but ultimately Kane is England’s best player.
He’s on penalties and can score all different types of goals. With Sterling, Dele Alli and Jesse Lingard acting as foils with their clever movement, and Kieran Trippier’s delivery from the right, there are a variety of supply-lines. Kane has accounted for eight of England’s last 18 goals, and that includes games where he hasn’t featured.
Finally, Edinson Cavani can eclipse Luis Suarez to be Uruguay’s top finisher this summer. Cavani top-scored in CONMEBOL qualification with 10 goals. In my mind Suarez is the more creative of the duo, and therefore likely to drop in to receive the ball, whilst Cavani utilises his strong running to stretch defences.
Despite this, Cavani is the outsider of the two, and can make up the final part of our 14/1 treble.
Asia's attack's unlikely to make an impact
There is a fair gulf in class between international sides these days. European and South American nations can continue their dominance, and it could occur at the expense of Asia’s finest.
Saudi Arabia, Iran, Australia, South Korea and Japan are all favourites to bottom their group, and the 11/8 (Bet Victor) about no Asian teams qualifying looks a play.
I’ve tried to talk you out of Saudi Arabia, Iran and Australia already, so I’ll begin with Japan. I’m quite happy to dismiss them, even in an open group.
Manager Vahid Halilhodzic was sacked and replaced by Akira Nishino in April after a poor showing in the 2017 East Asia Cup. They lost 2-0 to Ghana in their only game under Nishino, and I can’t see them progressing.
At last year’s East Asia Cup, South Korea saw off Japan 4-1. I’d make a strong case for the Taegeuk Warriors being the most dangerous of the Asian contingent. They have goals in them, but Mexico and Sweden look better placed to fight it out for 2nd spot in Group E behind Germany.
World Cup 2018 – Saudi Arabia, Iran and Panama all to fail to score (150/1 Bet Victor)
World Cup 2018 – Saudi Arabia and Panama to both fail to score and concede 5+ goals (25/1 William Hill)
World Cup 2018 – Romelu Lukaku, Harry Kane & Edinson Cavani to top score for their nations (14/1 Betway)
World Cup 2018 – No Asian Team to qualify for the knockout stages (11/8 Bet Victor)