2014 World Cup – Your Indispensable Guide To Group A & Group B
World Cup Group A Betting
If there’s a third life certainty after death and taxes, it’s that Brazil will win Group A – and they will probably do so without dropping a single point.
Luiz Felipe Scolari’s men impressed when emerging victorious in the Confederations Cup last summer, particularly when beating current World Cup holders Spain 3-0 in the final.
The current Seleção squad still needs to prove that it’s a vintage one, though. Indeed, they will need to raise their collective game another notch in order to emulate the Brazilian class of 2002 when the nation won this tournament for a record fifth time.
It’s probably fair to say that there is a greater reliance on one individual player – namely Neymar – compared to 12 years ago when the likes of Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Rivaldo were all capable of producing a magical moment which could alter the trajectory of a game.
However, while that is true, the current Brazil side does have a solid look to it. Of course, Neymar is the star of the show – and he’s a genuine match-winner when at his best – but the South Americans also have Bernard, Fred, Hulk and Jo within their strike-force.
Meanwhile, Chelsea trio Oscar, Ramires and Willian feature in a talent-rich midfield; and in defence Brazil look very strong. Though there’s no Roberto Carlos, Cafu or Lúcio nowadays, Daniel Alves, David Luiz and Marcelo, among others, have emerged as top-class defenders.
The Race For Second Place
Commensurate with Brazil’s superiority in Group A, Scolari’s charges are as short as 1/6 in places to top the group. But who will finish second: Cameroon, Croatia or Mexico?
The Croats are, according to bookmakers, the most likely side to progress as group runners-up behind the host’s. Niko Kovav’s side are generally 11/10 to qualify, ahead of Mexico at a top-priced 7/5 with Sky Bet and outsiders Cameroon at 9/2 with Bet Victor and Coral.
The main concern for the Vatreni is their leaky backline. However, the Cameroon squad doesn’t look strong enough to mount a serious challenge, despite the presence of Samuel Eto’o, while Mexico’s qualification campaign – during which four different managers and 47 different players were used – was hardly inspiring.
Consequently, despite their defensive frailties, Croatia are confidently expected to claim second place in Group A. Indeed, with the likes of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic in the middle of the park, and an attack spearheaded by Bayern Munich’s Mario Mandzukic, the European outfit should outclass Cameroon and Mexico.
Croatia to qualify – 11/10 (BetVictor)
World Cup Group B Betting
La Roja To Paint The Town Red?
In Brazil this summer there will be 236 players in total across the 32 nations that have taken part in a previous World Cup. Current holders Spain possess more tournament veterans than any other squad, with 16 of their 23 selected players boasting previous World Cup experience.
Among them will be the redoubtable Andres Iniesta who became a national hero when scoring La Roja’s injury-time winner against Holland in South Africa four years ago. Vicente del Bosque’s side are as short as 1/8 to qualify from, and a top-priced 8/11 with several firms to win, Group B.
The Spanish opted for just two warm-up friendlies ahead of this tournament. In the latest of those games against El Salvador, rated 68th in FIFA’s World Rankings, they predictably dominated possession and, though they scored just twice, with 32-year-old David Villa netting both goals, it was no more than a routine workout for Del Bosque’s men.
One of the biggest positives to take from that match was the participation of Diego Costa. When the striker limped off in the early stages of Atletico Madrid’s Champions League final last month, his chances of being fit in time for the World Cup looked remote at best.
However, the 25-year-old, who looks set to join Chelsea in a £32m deal within the next few days, has made a speedy recovery and played 73 minutes against El Salvador in Washington. Costa’s presence is a big boost to Spain’s prospects of retaining their title this summer.
The Spanish will bring more experience than youthful exuberance to the table in Brazil, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing by any means. Whether they are quite as strong as they were in South Africa four years ago remains to be seen, but they are still a force to be reckoned with, of that there is no doubt.
Can The Dutch Show Courage?
Group B will not be a walk in the park for Spain by any means, though. Australia are rank outsiders at a massive 100/1 in places to win the group, but both Chile the Netherlands will offer stern resistance.
Chile will have the advantage of not needing to acclimatise with the tournament being held in South America, and in Barcelona striker Alexis Sanchez and midfield playmaker Jorge Valdivia, they possesses two players capable of mixing it on the biggest stage.
However, the Netherlands are the biggest threat to Spain in Group B. The Oranje went agonisingly close to finally breaking their World Cup duck in South Africa four years ago, only to lose out in the final against La Roja following Iniesta’s injury-time match-winner.
Needless to say, the Dutch are not the easiest to predict – the talent is there but, for one reason or another, they have come up short when it comes to the crunch in previous World Cups. And the loss of midfield fulcrum Kevin Strootman to injury is a big blow to Louis van Gaal’s side.
Conversely, with the likes of Arjen Robben and Robin van Persie, who scored 11 times in nine qualifiers, in the squad, it would be extremely churlish to underestimate Holland. If Spain take time to come to the boil, the Dutch could capitalise and, at 3/1 with 888sport, they rate a value bet to top the group.
World Cup Group B Betting Advice:
Netherlands to win Group B – 3/1 (888sport)