Brazil (+400 to win; $100 bet to win $400)
The five-time World Cup winner has not lifted the trophy in 20 years and has flamed out at the quarter-finals in three of the last four tournaments, but the South American’s impressive qualifying run (14 wins and three draws without any loss) returns. to glory on the table. The Seleção may have the best goalkeeper in the world (Alisson) and a host of attacking options, including Neymar, who will be fully fit for the World Cup for the first time.
This is the last chance of the World Cup for the 35-year-old hero Lionel Messi, who has passed the quarter-finals of the World Cup just once in four attempts with Argentina. The two-time champions are unbeaten in 35 games, a run that includes victory over Brazil in the final of Copa América 2021. This time, Messi is surrounded by talent and plays within a passing-heavy system that n suit his game.
As noted below, the defending champions have had a messy four years since their 2018 victory in Russia, and no team has successfully defended their World Cup title since Brazil in 1962. But any team that includes Karim Benzema (the most recent Ballon d’Or winner, given to the best player in the world at a European club), Kylian Mbappé (only 23 and one of the world’s most dangerous scorers) and Antoine Griezmann (the smart veteran) in going to be hard to stop. France’s greatest enemy is France itself.
Manager Luis Enrique insists on total adherence to his attack-first-and-always-attack system: “We always want to be in our opponents’ half and take chances,” he said. But that system doesn’t amount to much without effective finishers, and Spain may be lacking in that department. (A lot of expectations are placed on the small shoulders of Pedri, who is 19.) Also, Enrique’s methods can leave the Spanish defense open to counterattacks.
Expectations haven’t been this high for the Three Lions in quite some time, but that seems appropriate for a team that reached the semi-finals of the World Cup four years ago and lost to Italy in the Euro final 2020 on penalties. Recent form has not been great, however: England have gone winless in six UEFA Nations League games this year, losing three and drawing three, although a 3-3 draw with Germany on September 26 was encouraging. Harry Kane is the linchpin, and if he can’t get going, England could struggle.
How to run a World Cup pool
There are a host of compelling options to win the Golden Boot, awarded to the World Cup’s top goalscorer. Here are the top contenders, once again, according to DraftKings.
Harry Kane (England) +700
Kane is the winner of the defensive Golden Boot, having scored six goals four years ago in Russia. He needs three goals to overtake Wayne Rooney as England’s all-time leading goalscorer.
Kylian Mbappé (France) +800
Mbappé scored four times in Russia as a 19-year-old, and he and Pelé are the only teenagers to score in a World Cup final. He has 190 goals in five-plus seasons for French powerhouse Paris Saint-Germain, including 19 in 20 games across all competitions this season.
Lionel Messi (Argentina) +1000
For all his success, Messi has only scored six times in the World Cup, with four of them coming in Argentina’s run to the final in 2014. He has never scored in the final.
Neymar has six goals in two World Cup games and 15 goals across all competitions for Paris Saint-Germain this season.
Here are the top 12 options on DraftKings, as of November 15th.
It can be fun to throw some money down on the team you think will win or the top goalscorer, but there are many other options to bet on. Here are a few bets that I think could be worth it.
50 players to watch at the 2022 World Cup
Costa Rica scores the fewest goals, +800 (FanDuel)
Of the four Concacaf teams to qualify for the World Cup, the defensive Ticos scored the fewest goals in the final stage of qualifying (13 in 14 games), and are the only such team not to have a player with at least three goals in qualifying. Instead, Costa Rica are content to let their opponents press the attack and hope that the defense and goalkeeper Keylor Navas (Paris Saint-Germain) will come up big.
You want to pick a team with little chance of progressing to the final when considering this bet, and Costa Rica have to contend with European titans Spain and Germany along with Japan in Group E. In FanDuel, the odds of a bet on Costa Rica being eliminated in the group stage are staggering -2000, which tops all other teams for the same bet by far.
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Spain under 8.5 goals, -110 (DraftKings)
Spain managed just 15 goals in qualifying, tying Switzerland for the lowest-scoring UEFA qualifying group winner, and seven of those goals came in four games against Georgia and Kosovo, the worst teams in Spain’s group. La Roja last scored two goals in a match against Iceland on March 29, and its last three World Cup teams – including the squad that won it all in 2010 – did not finish with more than eight goals. Since David Villa retired in 2019 after scoring a career-high nine World Cup goals in Spain, La Roja have been without a finisher, and that – combined with his presence in perhaps the World Cup’s toughest group – could keep his scoring down .
France eliminated in round of 16, +400 (DraftKings)
The last three defending World Cup champions exited the tournament in the group stage. In the middle of Group D with Denmark, Australia and Tunisia, France should avoid that fate, but Les Bleus are a mess on and off the pitch going into this year’s tournament, and are no exception in the early knockout stages as unlikely as that.
France enter the competition with just one win in their last six matches. Nine players believed to be candidates for the World Cup roster have been battling injuries, and star Kylian Mbappé has been fighting with the national federation over image rights. There are cases of sex tape blackmail and accusations of witchcraft-themed threats among the players, and the head of the national federation has been accused of sexual harassment. It’s ugly.
Denmark will certainly not be intimidated by France, having beaten Les Bleus twice in the last five months. A runners-up group finish will likely mean a match with likely Group C winner and tournament second-favourite Argentina in the round of 16, and that will not be an easy task.
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Canada qualifies for knockout round, +280 (FanDuel)
The Canadians are back in the World Cup for only the second time (and the first time in 36 years), but that doesn’t mean their players don’t have experience in the spotlight. Jonathan David (Lille), Cyle Larin (Brugge), Stephen Eustáquio (Porto) and Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich) have played in the Champions League, and that experience against the world’s best will carry over to Group F games in against Belgium, Croatia and Morocco.
Finishing ahead of Belgium is probably too much to ask, but finishing second is not too much. Croatia, runners-up four years ago, are stuck between stages, a combination of age and inexperience that should do them no favours, and Morocco are a long shot. Canada finished top of the table in Concacaf qualifying, ahead of big continental brothers the United States and Mexico, and will not be intimidated here.
Odds to win the World Cup (per DraftKings on November 15)