Get match tips and predictions for the FIFA World Cup 2018 and find out the outright winner odds of all the teams
Four years on from Mario Gotze’s extra-time winner against Argentina at Brazil 2014 – after Germany thumped the host nation 7-1 in the semi-finals – all eyes will be on the two nations again in the first World Cup on European soil since 2006.
With the eyes of the world on Russia, and 32 nations in action – whittled down from the original 209 who entered qualifying – there are plenty of markets to look at if you want to make some money from the 2018 World Cup.
Below are some of the leading options, and best bets currently available, but first let’s take a closer look at the draw.....
Brazil start the 2018 FIFA World Cup as favourites, having stormed through the South American qualifying section and continued their impressive form in their pre-tournament friendlies.
Priced narrowly lower than Germany, providing the two favourites win their groups they will avoid each other until the final – a mouthwatering prospect after Germany’s 7-1 semi-final win against the hosts in Brazil four years ago. Most recently, however, Gabriel Jesus scored the only goal of the game as the Selecao beat the defending world champions in a friendly.
With that in mind, plus the return to fitness of Neymar – marked in style with a goal against Croatia on his comeback – it is easy to see why Brazil are favourites, and it is hard to back against them.
Defending champions Germany cantered through their qualifying group – topping the table with ten wins from ten as they bid to become the first country since Brazil in 1962 to win back-to-back World Cups.
The Germans have already won in Russia, lifting the Confederations Cup with a young squad 12 months ago, and a sign of the strength in depth at Joachim Low’s disposal was made obvious by the fact he was able to leave in-form Leroy Sane at home.
With Timo Werner leading the line, and captain Manuel Neuer back between the sticks, Germany’s results in pre-tournament friendlies have been below-par, but with a favourable draw through to the sharp end of the tournament, it would be a surprise if they didn’t make the final.
The 2010 winners are perhaps one of the form teams in the build-up to the World Cup – a fact laid bare by their crushing 6-1 defeat of Argentina in March. The Spanish attacking threat is plain to see, with Isco, David Silva and Diego Costa all in the squad.
Their match against Portugal in Group B will be crucial to their chances, and may explain why they are not priced lower, with the winner of that clash likely to top the group and open up a more favourable run to the final.
Spain have already seen off Italy in qualifying, however, and their current unbeaten run stretches back to their Euro 2016 exit. With a vastly experienced squad, including many of their 2010 stars, they will certainly expect to feature at the sharp end in Russia.
Runners-up on home soil at Euro 2016 two years ago, France qualified top of a group that also included the Netherlands and Sweden to reach Russia 2018 – where they will start as fourth-favourites.
A favourable draw has given them a group – with Denmark, Peru and Australia – they will expect to top, followed by a prospective second-round tie against Croatia; it makes them odds-on to get to the last-eight and probably without needing to be at their best.
A blend of world class players and rising stars has resulted in a squad boasting Paul Pogba, Kyllian Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele and Antoine Griezmann among others – meanwhile. Expect exciting football, and at least a semi-final place.
Runners-up in Germany four years ago, Argentina only just qualified for Russia 2018 – needing a Lionel Messi-inspired win in the final round of South American qualifying to book their place.
A crushing 6-1 friendly defeat to Spain – sans Messi and Sergio Aguero – further hit morale, while their pre-tournament warm-up plans were thrown into chaos by the late decision to cancel a friendly against Israel.
But, this is Argentina – led by Messi, with attacking talent such as Aguero, Angel di Maria and Gonzalo Higuain all in their squad. They will need to seriously improve on recent results, which also include a defeat to Group D opponents Nigeria, but they should never be written off.
Roberto Martinez’s Belgium are once again in the mix of potential dark horses – a tag they have carried without success in recent international tournaments too. The fact is, this is definitely one of the most exciting Belgian eras with stacks of high-profile stars waiting in the wings.
Romelu Lukaku will be firing in the goals, Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne pulling the strings and the defence boasts a selection from Thomas Vermaelen, Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen and Vincent Kompany (if fit).
A potentially tricky group stage fixture against England, before a prospective quarter-final against either Germany or Brazil will count against them though. On their day, Belgium are among the world’s best – but with a poor recent record against the bigger nations, they have not yet proved it enough.
England have held Brazil and Germany to Wembley draws this season, and head to Russia on the back of a good sequence of results – albeit a sequence containing very few goals until their final warm-up friendlies.
Gareth Southgate has been keen to take the pressure of his squad, refusing to predict what will happen in Russia, but the players have confessed they are going to Russia with the ambition to win the World Cup.
A young squad is led by in-form Harry Kane – an England win is a long shot, particularly with a likely quarter-final against either Germany or Brazil, but it is not beyond the realms of possibility.
Portugal are one of only two continental champions heading to Russia 2018 (Australia are the others) and the Euro 2016 winners will be keen to pick up where they left off in major international tournament football.
Captained by Cristiano Ronaldo, their star player will also have a point to prove after getting injured in the Euro 2016 final two years ago.
He was in blistering goalscoring form in qualifying and has enjoyed another fine Real Madrid season, but Portugal’s price is so high because the draw has been unkind to them. Spain are in their group, while potential quarter-final opponents include Argentina (for a Messi vs Ronaldo showdown). Nevertheless, they showed at Euro 2016 they should never be written off.
Bet365 and Ladbrokes are offering 4/1 on Germany’s group, Group F, as favourites, while Brazil’s Group E is also 4/1 with Ladbrokes. Should Germany not win, however, that leaves Mexico, Sweden or South Korea to carry the flag for Group F; likewise, with Brazil’s group, Switzerland, Costa Rica or Serbia are the other teams.
Of those, both Mexico and Switzerland impressed in qualifying – the Swiss won their first nine games, including a win against Portugal, before finishing second and having to go through the play-offs. Mexico, meanwhile, also lost just one of their ten games in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying – and that was after they had already sealed their World Cup place. With both priced at 100/1 to win the tournament, however, it is clear a bet on either Group E or Group F is, realistically, solely dependent on Brazil and Germany respectively.
Therefore, the winners group bet may better going on the groups with more than one big team – the most notable being Group B with Spain and Portugal.
Neither Morocco nor Iran are expected to halt the progress of the two Iberian nations and, as mentioned, one possible route out of the group includes unfancied hosts Russia in the last-16 and out-of-form Argentina – who Spain pumped 6-1 in March – in the quarter-finals. Group B has a decent chance of providing at least a semi-finalist, therefore – regardless of which of Spain or Portugal top the group.
Germany (Group F) and Brazil (Group E) might be favourites for the tournament, but a best on Group B providing the winner is effectively a double chance bet on Spain or Portugal winning the tournament, and could provide a decent chance of a return at 5/1 with Bet365.
Alongside the winning group, you can also back the continent the winner comes from – or at least whether they will be European, South American or from the Rest of the World.
Bet365 are offering the winning continent market, but the value in it is low – only two continents have ever provided a World Cup winner (Europe and South America) and the last three tournaments have been won by European nations.
Bet365, and William Hill are offering 4/11 on a European winner, 2/1 on the winner coming from South America and 33/1 on either North America, Asia (including Australia) or Africa celebrating their first ever World Cup winners.
No other continent has even provided a finalist in the 20 previous World Cups, however, and the 33/1 price on the Rest of the World is not very generous when you consider the lowest-priced individual team in that category is Mexico, at 100/1 to win the World Cup.
Egypt (150/1), Senegal and Nigeria (200/1) are the best-priced African teams while Asia’s top representative are Japan at 300/1 to win the tournament. Ladbrokes and Betfair are offering prices on an African winner, with the latter offering the best price of 75/1 but with none of the teams even favoured to get out of their groups they are very unfavourable odds.
The 14 European teams in action include 2014 winners Germany, 2010 winners Spain, European champions Portugal and European runners-up France, alongside hosts Russia and potential dark horses Belgium.
Of the South American contingent, Brazil are, of course, the favourites, while the other four nations are Argentina (priced individually at 10/1), Uruguay (33/1), Colombia (40/1) and Peru (200/1).
Brazil are favourites for the tournament, and Argentina – despite their poor form – are a good back-up option for a 2/1 bet on South America, but with three European winners (and five of the six finalists having been European) at the last three World Cups, it is easy to see why Europe has been priced as the favourite.
You can also bet on which nation will progress furthest from each continent, with Betfair offering 3/1 on Germany outperforming France (9/2), Spain (4/1) and the rest of their European rivals.
Brazil, meanwhile, are 5/4 with Betfair and evens with Bet365 and Ladbrokes to be South America’s best-performing nation, some way ahead of Argentina (best price of 11/5 with Betfair).
Of the other continents, Mexico – who have reached the last-16 in each of the last six World Cups – are 1/2 with William Hill to be the best-performing North American team. They fell one round earlier than surprise quarter-finalists Costa Rica in 2014, but Los Ticos are not expected to progress from the group stage this year – and are a best price of 7/2 with Ladbrokes to be North America’s best. You can get as high as 5/1 on debutants Panama being the top North American team, meanwhile.
Of the African teams, Egypt suffered a big blow with Mo Salah getting injured in the Champions League final, but with a favourable group they are still among the continent’s favourites to progress furthest. Out-of-form hosts Russia are their biggest rivals for second place in Group A behind Uruguay, and they are 5/2 with William Hill to be Africa’s best. Senegal – who face Poland, Colombia and Japan in the group stage, and reached the quarter-finals in their only previous World Cup – are 9/4 favourites with William Hill, while Nigeria are 11/4, Morocco are 7/1 and Tunisia, who would have to beat at least one of Belgium and England to progress beyond the group stage, are outsiders at 9/1.
Finally, the Asian teams (including Australia). None are expected to get out of the group stage, but William Hill have made Japan – who are in the aforementioned group with Colombia, Poland and Senegal – favourites to be the top Asian team at 7/4. Australia are 3/1, meanwhile, and having beaten the Czech Republic 4-0 in the first of their pre-World Cup friendlies might be worth a punt as they gear up to face Denmark, Peru and group favourites France in Group C.
Finally, Bet365 are also offering odds on whether we will see a first-time winner at this year’s World Cup – offering 7/2 for yes, and 1/5 for no.
In 20 previous tournaments, there have been eight winners – seven of whom will be at Russia 2018 (Italy are the absentees). Of those seven, England’s only win was on home soil in 1966 and Uruguay’s most recent of their two victories was in 1950. They have never won outside of South America.
Realistically then, you are looking at Germany, Brazil, France, Spain and Argentina for a ‘no’ bet – incidentally, the five favourites for the tournament this year. It is easy to see then, why it has been priced at 1/4 for a previous winner to win again this year.
Of the other nations, Belgium (11/1 individually with Bet365) and European champions Portugal (25/1) are probably the most realistic bets. At 7/2 for a 1st Time Winner bet, you will get far more value out of backing one of them individually. Away from those two, while there are 25 potential first time winners at the World Cup, only Croatia, Colombia, Poland and hosts Russia are individually priced in double figures by Bet365.
Colombia’s James Rodriguez won the Golden Boot in Brazil four years ago, scoring one more goal than Germany’s 2010 winner Thomas Muller. Rodriguez is as high as 66/1 to win it again this time out, while Muller – who has scored five goals in each of his last two World Cups – can be backed at 33/1 with Bet365.
Most of the leading bookmakers will pay out four places on an each-way bet, so there is plenty of chance to profit on a top goalscorer bet. So, who are the favourites this time out?
Lionel Messi scored a hat-trick to fire Argentina to the World Cup with victory in the final round of South American qualifying, and he scored another hat-trick in the win against Haiti before the Albiceleste travelled to Russia.
Messi also goes into the tournament on the back of another brilliant goalscoring season for Barcelona – firing them to the La Liga title with 34 goals in 36 games. Even in a team as blessed with attacking talent as Argentina are, his importance can not be understated.
He is joint-favourite to win the golden boot, and with Argentina facing Nigeria, Iceland and Croatia in the group stages, he will have opportunities to add to his World Cup tally. The only thing that could hinder him is Argentina’s status as outsiders after some poor recent form for the national team.
After months of sweating over his fitness, Neymar returned to the Brazil set-up in style – scoring a brilliant goal on his comeback against Croatia. With their star man fit and firing, Brazil will be confident of living up to their tag as tournament favourites.
If they go deep in the tournament – and they have a favourable run to at least the quarter-finals, including a group they are expected to top with ease – Neymar will surely be among the goals. He had scored 27 in 28 games for Paris Saint-Germain before his injury, and netted six times in World Cup qualifying for Brazil.
He is joint-favourite for the golden boot for a reason, though team-mate Gabriel Jesus – who scored one more in qualifying, and netted the winner as Brazil beat Germany in March – is another good bet at 16/1 with Bet365 and Ladbrokes.
Antoine Griezmann will lead the line for France at the World Cup, and the Atletico Madrid striker will do so as joint-favourite to win the Golden Boot. He has scored 20 times in 53 games for France, and netted in their friendly win against Italy at the start of the month.
Griezmann’s price is so short, because France are expected to get far in Russia. Their group contains three teams – Peru, Denmark and Australia – who need play-offs to reach the World Cup, and their second round opponents could be Croatia, who also needed a play-off to get through.
If France are scoring goals, Griezmann will surely be in the thick of it – even with a team packed with upcoming attacking talents like Ousmane Dembele (125/1) and Kyllian Mbappe (33/1).
Only one man, Robert Lewandowski, scored more goals in European World Cup qualifying than Cristiano Ronaldo and the Portuguese captain and World Player of the Year heads to the World Cup on the back of 50 goals for club and country in 2017/18.
He scored twice in stoppage time as Portugal beat Egypt in March, and if the European champions are to go far in Russia they will need their star man to be firing. He has scored 81 goals in his first 150 games for Portugal, and having won the European Championships in 2016 he now wants the World Cup to add to his glistening CV.
Portugal may be outsiders for the tournament, but Ronaldo’s goalscoring record speaks for itself – he will expect to be in the goals in Russia, and if he is, even if Portugal do not go deep into the knock-out stages he will expect to be in with a chance of the Golden Boot.
Germany have provided the top European goalscorer at the last four World Cups, with Thomas Muller winning the Golden Boot in 2010 and Miroslav Klose having done likewise four years earlier.
Now the German line is led by Timo Werner, RB Leipzing’s 22-year-old star who has taken to international football in style with seven goals in his first 13 Germany appearances. Werner won the Golden Boot in Russia at the Confederations Cup last summer and will now hope to pick up where he left off.
Germany always score goals at the World Cup, and the defending champions are tipped to reach the final again this year. If they do, Werner will surely have been in the goals.
Another thing to look out for when selecting potential golden boot winners, are teams who could rack up the goals in the group stages. Klose won the Golden Boot after scoring a hat-trick in an 8-0 defeat of Saudi Arabia, for example.
This time out, Belgium could be that team – with Tunisia and Panama awaiting in Group G, alongside England. Belgium scored 43 goals in ten matches in qualifying, with Romelu Lukaku scoring 11 of those – only Ronaldo and Lewandowski scored more.
For all his critics, meanwhile, with 27 goals in 51 games for Manchester United this year, he has scored more than any other season in his career. If Belgium only got as far as the quarter-finals, he would still have five goals to stake his Golden Boot claim – that’s all James Rodriguez needed four years ago.
The Uruguay striker was top scorer in South American qualifying, and will hope to fill his boots in the group stage when Uruguay face out-of-form Russia alongside Egypt and Saudi Arabia in Group A.
Scored 16 goals in qualifying, which was more than any other European player.
With all the focus on Lionel Messi, it is easy to forget Argentina boast another world class striker alongside him. Aguero is due some World Cup goals – and marked his comeback from injury by netting against Haiti.
Colombia provided the Golden Boot winner four years ago, and this time they will have their star striker, who missed Brazil 2014 through injury, back leading their line.
Isco was one of four Spaniards to score five goals in qualifying, and then fired in a hat-trick in the 6-1 win against Argentina. As an each-way bet, it is certainly tempting with such high odds.
Romelu Lukaku to win the Golden Boot at 18/1 with William Hill.
Alongside betting on the tournament winners, you can also bet on each individual group with markets for the teams to reach the last-16, group forecasts and who will finish bottom of each group.
So where can the best value be found? Clearly backing the big nations to qualify from their groups returns very little, but Groups E and F are expected to be close for qualification between the other three nations.
Switzerland are generously priced at evens in Group E considering they won nine of their ten qualifying matches – albeit they then had to scrape through the play-offs to reach the World Cup finals. Their most likely rivals for a place behind Brazil in the last 16 are Serbia, who have not reached the last-16 of a World Cup as an independent nation. Their recent friendly results include a draw with South Korea and defeat to Morocco too. Alongside backing Switzerland to qualify at evens, you can back Serbia not to qualify at 4/6.
In Group F, meanwhile, it is likely to be a shoot-out between Mexico and Sweden for the final qualifying spot behind Germany.
Mexico have advanced to the last 16 at each of their last six World Cup finals and, since qualifying for Russia 2018, they have beaten Poland and drawn with Belgium in international friendlies.
They have also already been to Russia for the Confederations Cup, where they beat the hosts in the group stage and drew with Portugal before eventually finishing fourth.
Sweden, by contrast, qualified for the play-offs ahead of the Netherlands, where they then beat Italy over two legs (having already beaten France in the group stage, and toppled European champions Portugal in a friendly). Their recent results have been less impressive, however, with friendly defeats to Chile and Romania. You can back Mexico at 11/10 to qualify, and Sweden are 8/13 not to make it through the group stage.
Another area to look is at the African teams – while none are fancied among the top two in their respective groups, you have to go back to 1982 for the last time no African nation advanced to the second round.
Of the African nations involved this time around, Egypt are the only one of the four 2017 Africa Cup of Nations semi-finalists to have qualified for Russia 2018.
Spearheaded by in-form Mohamed Salah, however, they would have beaten Portugal in their recent international friendly were it not for Cristiano Ronaldo’s two stoppage-time goals, and they appear to have the more favourable group of all the African teams – even with Salah facing a fight to be fit after his injury in the Champions League final.
Hosts Russia are expected to advance to the last 16 along with Uruguay in Group A, but their recent results have not been good – one win and six defeats in their last nine matches. That record includes defeats to Portugal and Mexico as they failed to qualify from their Confederations Cup group too, on home soil. Egypt are 13/8 to reach the last 16, and continue the African tradition of always having at least one team in that round, and Russia are 9/4 not to qualify from the groups. How Russia handle the pressure of hosting the World Cup could be crucial.
Back Mexico to qualify from the group stage for the seventh successive World Cup at 11/10 with Bet365.
For each group, you can also bet on the two to qualify and the order in which they will finish – which, of course, offers a lot more value than the straight qualification odds in many cases.
Using the Group A example above, rather than 1/6 on Uruguay to qualify and 13/8 for Egypt, you can get 7/1 on Uruguay topping the group and Egypt finishing second. Uruguay first and Russia second returns 2/1.
If Mexico book their place in the second round behind Germany in Group F, you can get 15/8 from Bet365, while even the groups with less generous odds on the teams reaching the last-16 offer decent returns on a group forecast.
Take Group B, for example, where in-form Spain finishing first and European champions Portugal taking second will return 6/5. In Group C, France first and Denmark second returns 6/4, while Belgium topping Group G ahead of England will return 11/8. Colombia first and Poland second in Group H is 7/2.
France to finish first in Group C with Denmark second at 6/4 with Bet365.
At the other end of the scale, you can also bet on the team who will finish bottom in each group, with Panama (1/2 in Group G) and Saudi Arabia (2/5 in Group A) among the favourites to finish bottom of their respective piles.
Panama were surprise qualifiers for their debut World Cup, and with Belgium and England expected to qualify it is realistically a shoot-out between themselves and Tunisia to avoid Group G’s wooden spoon. Their 6-0 defeat to Switzerland in their recent international friendly will not have helped morale, however. Tunisia and Panama have never previously met, but Tunisia did beat Costa Rica – who qualified ahead of Panama – in a recent international friendly.
Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, are in a group with hosts Russia, Uruguay and Africa Cup of Nations semi-finalists Egypt. As already discussed, it could well be between Russia and Egypt for a place in the last 16, which leaves Saudi Arabia facing up to another group stage elimination.
Panama to finish bottom of Group G at 1/2 with Bet365 and Saudi Arabia to finish bottom of Group A at 2/5 with Bet365.
Of course, there are a number of other markets available on the World Cup, away from the groups and the overall winners – most notably, what stage various teams will reach.
You can back the two teams you think will contest the FIFA World Cup 2018 final, but be sensible with who you are picking if you want to maximise your chance of profiting.
Pay attention to each team’s potential route to the final, to avoid a wasted bet. For example, Belgium and Brazil are among the shorter-priced teams for the tournament, and a bet of 40/1 on them competing in the final with Bet365 might be tempting as a result. But for them to play each other in the final, one of them would have to fail to win their group – otherwise they are set for a quarter-final date instead. The same is true of France, who will end up in Belgium and Brazil’s half of the knockout draw should they all win their groups as expected – France vs Belgium/Brazil is a likely semi-final, rather than a final.
On the other hand, the two favourites for the tournament – Brazil and Germany – only have to win their groups to avoid each other until the final. A Brazil vs Germany final returns 12/1 with Bet365.
If every group is won by the respective favourites, Uruguay, France, Brazil and Belgium will be in the top half of the knockout draw, and Spain, Argentina, Germany and Colombia will be in the other half – one from each set of four, therefore, makes up the most likely teams to contest the final according to the bookmakers. Potential outside bets could therefore be Spain vs France (20/1 with Bet365) or Brazil vs Argentina (22/1 with Bet365).
Brazil & Germany to be World Cup 2018 finalists at 12/1 with Bet365
Having studied the likely route to the final for each team/group, you are also well armed to back the likely stage of elimination for every team.
We have already looked at how Russia (9/4 to be eliminated in the group stage) could struggle to get out of their group despite home advantage, while the knockout draw means the key to finding the best value is to find the trickiest potential ties.
If Uruguay were to win Russia’s group, as expected, for example, it would set up a potential last-16 tie with whichever of Portugal and Spain finish second in their group. Uruguay are 5/4 to be knocked out in the last-16, Portugal are 13/8 and Spain are 11/4.
Mexico, meanwhile, have reached the last-16 in each of the last 16 tournaments and with Brazil potential opponents should they reach that stage this year, their odds of 2/1 on a last-16 exit are quite generous.
Looking further ahead, Argentina have been in poor form and though they are expected to win their group and advance past Denmark, their likely second-round opponents, in the last-16, they could then face whichever of Spain or Portugal won Group C in the quarter-finals.
Given Spain’s recent 6-1 win against Argentina, Bet365’s odds of 11/4 on Argentina to be eliminated in the quarter-finals looks a good bet.
As for England, meanwhile, they are expected to face either Poland or Colombia in the last-16, and then will likely have to play Brazil or Germany in the quarter-finals – whether or not they win their group.
They are 11/5 to be eliminated in the second round, and the same for the quarter-finals too.
Argentina to be eliminated in the quarter-finals at 11/4 with Bet365 and Betfair.
The above also gives you a potential semi-final line-up of France vs Brazil and Germany vs Spain. Germany are 21/20 to reach the semi-finals with William Hill, as are Brazil, France are 6/5 with William Hill and Bet365 and Spain are 11/8 with Bet365.
You can also select which teams you think will reach the quarter-finals, though there is little value in the four predicted semi-finalists above (all are odds-on, as are Belgium, Argentina and England).
That means the value is in selecting the ‘other’ last-eight team, or any who upset the odds. We have already seen Colombia could face England in the last-16, and they are 21/10 to reach the quarter-finals with Betfair.
Should Uruguay top Group A and Portugal finish second in Group B, meanwhile, you also have the winners of that potential tie to make up the quarter-final line-up. Uruguay are 13/8 to advance, while the European champions are 11/8.
Given how frequently there is a surprise package who reach the quarter-finals too, it is worth looking at the higher-priced teams. Costa Rica were that team in 2014, and are a best price of 18/1 with Ladbrokes to repeat the feat, but they will realistically have to beat at least one of Brazil or Germany to do so.
A better bet, therefore, might be Poland at 11/4 with William Hill – they would need to beat either Belgium or England in the last-16, if all goes as expected in the group stages.