BETTING expert Ben Levene (@BenLevene96) discusses five plays in the Total Group Points markets.
The 1998 World Cup was the first World Cup to take the exact modern format. In 1994, third-placed teams progressed, so naturally that could affect the way teams approach games.
Saudi Arabia to struggle
Group A offers us a range of points-based possibilities. Uruguay are many judges’ dark horse, and that value carries over to the points market. Over 6 Points is 13/10 and is more than achievable in a group where they are clearly the best team.
Hosts Russia’s fate could hinge on their crunch game with Egypt. Both nations are expected to see off Saudi Arabia who lost three of five away matches in the final phase of Asian qualification.
At the last four World Cups, 10 of 16 sides from the AFC and OFC regions finished bottom of their groups, including all four in 2014. And since 1998, 8% of teams propping up the pool have walked away with a point to their name, with at least two teams achieving the feat in every World Cup since.
The Green Falcons are 7/4 (Bet365) to exit without a point.
Morocco can cause an upset
Morocco impressively qualified without a conceding a goal and have the tools to act as a thorn this summer.
The defence led by Medhi Benatia are more than capable of holding out, and a victory against Iran would give them momentum going into their second-match with a vulnerable Portugal, who drew all three group games at Euro 2016.
Herve Renard’s unit are 10 matches unbeaten since the start of the 2017/18 campaign, and that run includes victories over World Cup attendees Serbia and South Korea.
The Atlas Lions are 7/4 (Bet365) to achieve over 3 points.
Serbia to show their quality
Serbia take to Group E with Brazil, Switzerland, and Costa Rica and have the talent to make an impression in the groups.
Mladen Krstajic took over the team after their reasonable serene qualification and Serbia could find themselves ahead of the game should they open up with an expected win v Costa Rica.
Switzerland are next up and could struggle to cope with the imposing Serbian midfield trio of Luka Milivojevic, Nemanja Matic and Sergej Milinkovic-Savic.
Putting the ball in the back of the net has been an issue for the Swiss. They performed in a relatively simple qualification group but prior to that scored only three goals in four matches at Euro 2016. In the play-off to get to Russia they scored just once over 180 minutes against a physical and negative Northern Ireland.
Brazil may well have qualified by the time they meet Serbia on 27th June, and so rotation is possible.
Serbia could have already made a fool of the 5/2 (Bet365) about Over 5 Points before then anyway.
Germany to have no issues
Joachim Low’s Germans are fancied by some to retain their title. It’s understandable when you consider the efficiency and relentlessness with which they perform. Germany qualified with 10 wins from 10, scoring 43 and conceding just four.
Mexico, Sweden and South Korea are tasked with stopping a deep squad for which Leroy Sane was viewed surplus to requirements.
Since 1998, 14 of 160 (9%) teams have progressed through the groups with maximum points.
Perceived Group G weak links South Korea are up last for Low’s squad, who are capable of winning even when much-changed. They won last year’s Confederations Cup and such is their depth, 11 of that squad missed the cut here.
The defending champions are 15/8 (BetVictor) to qualify with maximum points.
Japan are no juggernaut this time around
Finally, there is value in opposing Asian giants Japan.
A late managerial change means we can pose questions. Since Akira Nishino took charge Japan have lost 2-0 to both Ghana and Switzerland.
Group G counterparts Colombia, Poland and Senegal all possess more gears, and 2/1 (Bet365) about Japan earning Under 2 Points is worth chancing.
World Cup 2018 – Saudi Arabia Exactly 0 points (7/4 Bet365)
World Cup 2018 – Morocco Over 3 points (7/4 Bet365)
World Cup 2018 – Serbia Over 5 points (5/2 Bet365)
World Cup 2018 – Germany Exactly 9 points (15/8 Bet Victor)
World Cup 2018 – Japan Under 2 points (2/1 Bet365)