BETTING expert Ben Levene (@BenLevene96) has done the research and makes the case for five bets from the continental markets.
Top African Team
Since the format change in 1986, no African side has been beyond the quarter-final stage.
At six of the last eight World Cups this market has been won with a Last 16 appearance. On the other two occasions a run to the last eight bagged a winner.
Brazil 2014 saw two African nations move beyond the group stage. In seven consecutive tournaments prior to that, just one African team progressed to the knockout stage.
Therefore, it makes sense to begin with the African side most likely to get out their group. As is brilliantly outlined by both Mark O’Haire and Gabriel Sutton in the WLB 2018 World Cup: Ultimate Betting Guide (worth getting hold of if you haven’t already), Egypt have a live chance of progressing.
The African Cup of Nations runners-up are robust and organised, and with Russia seemingly unconvincing, it’s a real possibility we see Hector Cuper’s outfit in the knockout phase.
Egypt are tied at the top of the market with Senegal and Nigeria. However, both of those sides have been dealt tricky groups, and although boasting undoubted talent, will find it tough to progress.
Morocco and Tunisia make up the market, and it’s the former at 7/1 who are of most appeal. Herve Renard’s Morocco impressed in CAF qualification, coming through a tough group without conceding a goal. They are nine games unbeaten and are a tough nut to crack.
Renard is the only manager to have won two AFCON titles with different countries. 2012 success with Zambia means we cannot rule him getting the best out of this talented crop of Moroccans.
They don’t exactly come without pedigree. Skipper Medhi Benatia will lead the steady backline, but it’s the X-Factor and unpredictability at the top end of the pitch that could see them surprise a few. Namely Ajax-man Hakim Ziyech who has the ability to glide past players and unlock doors.
The fact that in six of the last eight tournaments a Last 16 appearance has won this market means that Morocco represent big value. They are fancied by may to trouble an ageing Portugal.
At 7/1 they can give you a run for your money alongside a wager on Egypt.
Top Asian Team
Sides from the AFC and OFC regions have historically been enigmas at World Cup tournaments. In fact, at five of the last eight World Cups, no such side has moved beyond the group stage. Yet every so often, Asia will produce a surprise a package.
Nonetheless, just five Asian nation’s have moved beyond the groups since 1986, and two of those were host nations. It’s very possible this market is settled by the outfit who achieves the most points in the group stage.
Japan are 7/4 favourites here, and it makes sense given their pedigree and the openness of their group. But a recent managerial change and an underwhelming couple of years means we can pose questions.
At 7/2 South Korea could attract the shrewd money. They did finish behind Iran in qualification, but they have goals in them, and it would not be a surprise to see them trouble the likes of Mexico and Sweden.
South Korea have scored in 14-consecutive matches, beating the likes of Japan and Colombia, and avoiding defeat against Serbia in that period. Spurs forward Son Heung-Min will spearhead the attack, while midfield duo Ki Sung-yueng and Koo Ja-cheol ply their trade amongst Europe’s elite.
Top North American Team
Mexico are odds-on favourites here and that’s fully justified given they’ve progressed beyond the groups in six consecutive World Cups. They were by some distance CONCACAF’s best side during qualification, where their only loss came in the final game against Honduras after they’d already topped the group.
At the Confederation’s Cup last summer, Mexico avoided defeat against Portugal before beating hosts Russia.
Costa Rica and Panama make up this market. While Costa Rica are capable of sparking a surprise, as was the case in 2014, it is difficult to see past Mexico accumulating the most points at the very minimum.
There is some 8/11 crawling about with Spreadex, and we can take advantage of it whilst it’s available.
Top South American Team
South American nations have a phenomenal World Cup record. In six of the last eight World Cups it’s taken at least a final appearance to clinch this market. Since 1986, 29/37 (78%) South American sides have progressed from the group.
On a personal note, I think Uruguay and Colombia could well have decent runs in this tournament. In recent days. Peru have begun to grow on me too.
However, Brazil were far and away the best CONMEBOL side in qualification. They are favourites for the tournament and upsets aside, the market implies they’re likely to meet Mexico and then Belgium in the knockout phase.
From then on they are in the semi’s, and barring any Lionel Messi magic, that could be enough to take the top South American crown this time around. Brazil are still available at 13/10.
Top European Team
Of the five continental markets, the Top European is possibly the most difficult to unravel. Fourteen European nations will take to Russia this summer, but in reality, few are capable of notching this.
Since 1956, 16 consecutive World Cup final’s have featured a European nation. Seven of those 16 finals have seen two European outfits compete.
Germany are 11/4 favourites here, with France and Spain both available at 9/2. The latter two are probably of most appeal, but this is not a market I’m jumping to get involved with.
We can expect two or three European teams to be in the final four, and from there the stakes get higher and the margins get finer.
World Cup 2018 – Egypt to be the Top African Team (14/5 Spreadex)
World Cup 2018 – Morocco to be the Top African Team (7/1 188BET)
World Cup 2018 – South Korea to be the Top Asian Team (7/2 William Hill)
World Cup 2018 – Mexico to be the Top North American Team (8/11 Spreadex)
World Cup 2018 – Brazil to be the Top South American Team (13/10 Spreadex)