Knack of the Bet: Spies, Salsa and Shaky Defences in the World Cup Quarter Finals

Will Brazil be celebrating again after their quarter final?

Will Brazil be celebrating again after their quarter final against Colombia?

 

Paul Watson of Back of the Net gives his not altogether serious previews of the World Cup quarter-finals. The odds are real but the logic behind the bets may be a little far fetched.

France v Germany Betting Odds:

France to qualify – 2.15

Germany to qualify – 1.67

(All odds provided by AllYouBet.ag are accurate as of today and subject to change)

France were relieved to avoid an awkward, politically charged clash with Algeria, instead they line up against Germany – a nation they have never had any problems with. Thoughts will inevitably turn to 1982 and the infamous foul from German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher on French defender Patrick Battiston, which knocked him unconscious. Fortunately there’s unlikely to be any repeat as current German ‘keeper Manuel Neuer’s standard position is on the halfway line – a position from which he could easily open the scoring.

Expect a tense, brutal encounter that may need extra time to decide, again a first for clashes between these countries.

Key Clash – Griezmann v Mertesacker

Antoine Griezmann energised France when he came on as a substitute against Nigeria and his pace could worry Per Mertesacker whose fastest recorded time over 50 metres is more than six minutes.

 

Brazil v Colombia Betting Odds:

Brazil to qualify – 1.40

Colombia to qualify – 2.90

(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)

Home advantage is a massive factor in World Cups. Brazil have already benefited from their right as hosts to win any penalty shootout and may try and make Colombia feel awkward by repeatedly mentioning how much effort they have gone to in putting on the World Cup.

Neymar is already challenging Pele’s reputation in Brazil and Luiz Felipe Scolari is likely to stick with Neymar given Pele’s poor scoring form over the last 26 years. Colombia’s danger man James Rodriguez could trouble Brazil’s back line. The press have nicknamed him James Bond, partly due to his anglicised name and partly for his tendency to survive attempts on his life before bedding glamorous yet ultimately dangerous women.

Back Rodriguez to score in 90 minutes (a goal that is), but the Colombians are unlikely to commit the faux pas of putting the hosts out.

Key Clash – Neymar v Fred

Neymar will look to continue his lethal form and looks a good bet for first scorer, but he will have to contend with Fred, who has shown he is capable of shutting down wave after wave of Brazilian attacks.

Betting Instinct tip – James Rodriguez to score at any time is 4.00 with Intertops.eu

 

Argentina v Belgium Betting Odds:

Argentina to qualify – 1.53

Belgium to qualify – 2.45

(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)

Tipped as dark horses ahead of the competition, Belgium are looking ever more equine, but they come up against a massive test in Argentina. Inspired by Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria, who averages a goal from every 100 chances, Argentina aren’t short of attacking threat, but they can look exposed at the back.

Argentina’s defence has looked shaky from set pieces, when teams run at them at pace, when teams pass it around slowly and during the national anthem, so backing both teams to score may be sensible.

The last time these two sides met at a competition was in 1986 when Argentina won 2-0 en route to glory, but very few of the players involved are expected to start, so little can be gauged from that.

Key Clash – Di Maria v Di Maria

Angel Di Maria could make all the difference for Argentina with his tireless runs from deep positions and his willingness to take defences on, but his efforts could be in vain if Angel Di Maria proves as profligate as he did for long periods against Switzerland.

 

Netherlands v Costa Rica Betting Odds:

Netherlands to qualify – 1.22

Costa Rica to qualify – 4.20

(All odds provided by AllYouBet.ag are accurate as of today and subject to change)

The Netherlands would appear to be overwhelming favourites to reach the semi-finals, but you underestimate Costa Rica at your peril unless you have an unusually high opinion of Costa Rica, in which case you’re pretty much spot on.

Despite having a population of just 42, half of whom are in the World Cup squad, Costa Rica overcame Greece on penalties when Greece were no longer able to prevent shots being had on goal. Led by Bryan Ruiz, who appears to have been transformed from the pleasantly ineffectual player Fulham fans knew to a lethal goal getter, Costa Rica will look to reach the last four and force fans to finally look up where it is on a map.

Much of the Dutch attacking threat will come from Arjen Robben and his tested tactic of running into the box and allowing a stiff breeze to knock him over could be decisive.

Key Clash – Proto-Surrealism v Salsa Lizano

The Dutch will look to unsettle Costa Rica with fantastical imagery illustrating religious concepts and narratives, but expect Costa Rica to fight back with liberal lashings of a rich vegetable sauce with a tangy, spicy flavour.

Betting Instinct tip The Netherlands to win in regulation time is 1.50 with AllYouBet.ag.

Unfamiliar with decimal odds? Let our odds calculation guide help you out.

Paul avatar PAUL WATSON (paolowatson) is the other half of Back of the Net, alongside fellow Betting Instinct  blogger John Foster. Paul wrote the book Up Pohnpei, and you can follow Back of the Net on FacebookTwitter or  Google+.

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The World Cup has already spoilt fans, but there is plenty more to come

Can surprise package Costa Rica keep their incredible run going against the Netherlands?

Can surprise package Costa Rica keep their incredible run going against the Netherlands?

 

For the first time in World Cup history, the last eight is compromised entirely of nations who topped their groups at the group stage.

It’s a fitting quarter-final line up for a tournament that has—for the most part—mercilessly punished mediocrity and compromise wherever it has reared up. Spain’s complacency saw them dumped out of the running early on while the cracks within England’s and Italy’s game plans were quickly exposed and exploited to send them home before the knockout rounds. The likes of Cameroon, Portugal and Russia have been outfought, outclassed and nonchalantly tossed to the wayside by better teams filled with real courage and conviction.

 

Few would deny that the World Cup has already spoilt its global audience with the action that it has produced so far, but now it’s time attention turned to the so-called “business end” of proceedings, where the names of stages are mounted with the suffix of “final” and honours are ultimately decided.

That all sounds very sobering and serious however, the fun isn’t over just yet. With the final scheduled to take place at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday July 13, the following four quarter-final fixtures look set to lay the foundations for a grandstand finale worthy of the exhilarating momentum of the early rounds.

 

Friday July 4th, 5 pm (GMT): France vs. Germany – an Old World battle for authenticity

For many, the loss of Franck Ribery to injury and the exiling of Samir Nasri after a season-long personal renaissance with Manchester City cast doubt on France’s credentials heading into the tournament. Yet Didier Deschamps’ side now stands relatively tall amongst the narrowing field of nations still in the competition as one of the few teams not carrying any obvious fatal flaw, having thrashed Honduras and Switzerland and beaten Nigeria 2-0 in normal time.

Germany on the other hand jetted off to Brazil hyped up on the recent successes of the Bundesliga and their intimidating roster of matured stars and exciting young prospects. However, Jogi Löw’s team looked less than convincing against Algeria and Ghana, with his decision to persist with Philipp Lahm in midfield amid diminished options at full-back looking rather self-consciously contrarian and stubbornly pretentious rather than brave or bold.

They struggled to assert themselves in front of goal against the USA, and their brittle back line consisting of four centre-backs looked vulnerable to the pace and determination of Algeria, who were unfortunate not to covert a stream of chances over 120 minutes of normal and extra time. Even their 4-0 win over Portugal felt more like a brutal exposé of the Iberians’ failings than a testament to the victors’ quality and intent.

Blunt in attack and pedestrian in defence, Germany may not be able to live with France’s attacking power, which could yet be enhanced further should Deschamps finally decide to start Antoine Griezmann over Olivier Giroud. The Real Sociedad forward’s movement and magic on the ball off the bench saw him put the game against Nigeria beyond doubt, and alongside Mathieu Valbuena he could be too clever and cunning for Low’s four-man central defence to handle.

Betting Instinct tip France to win in 90 minutes is +200 with AllYouBet.ag

 

Friday July 4, 9 pm (GMT): Brazil vs. Colombia – the work in progress or the accidental master plan?

Where would Brazil be without Neymar? Luiz Felipe Scolari’s team look utterly dependent on their one true star as they struggle towards what they believe to be their destiny: a chance to right the wrongs of 1950 when they lost in the final of their first home World Cup to Uruguay. If the rumours over his failing fitness prove to be true then that dream is as good as dead.

Colombia lost their own talisman before the summer even began when Radamel Falcao was cut down by injury and ruled out of the World Cup. Yet his absence has lead Jose Pekerman to create arguably a more well-rounded side who look like the team Scolari wishes he could create with Brazil.

Regardless of how you say his name, James Rodriguez has been one of the players of the tournament, supported by a cast of diligent co-stars who look solid if not always spectacular. To call Colombia functional is not to insult them. They have produced some wonderful moments already in Brazil yet the solidity of the foundations Pekerman has put together cannot be overstated.

Their quarter-final opponents didn’t take too well to facing off against South American opponents ready and willing to outclass and outfight them in the round of 16 against Chile, with the World Cup hosts getting overly physical with Arturo Vidal & co. at times. Don’t be surprised if tempers boil over in the sweltering heat of Forteleza if things don’t go Brazil’s way and Colombia gain the upper hand.

It will take a brave referee to show the red card to a Brazilian player, but given the instability and intensity of the emotions surrounding their tournament, a dismissal is a real possibility.

Betting Instinct tip a red card to be shown in regular time is +250 with Intertops.eu

 

Saturday July 5, 5 pm (GMT): Argentina vs. Belgium – the unexpected snooze fest

Lionel Messi’s showdown with the pre-tournament dark horses would have been touted as one of the ties of the round on paper had such a game been proposed back in May, but given both teams’ struggles to match their billing and to light up  the tournament, it could well prove to be the most underwhelming quarter-final on offer.

Belgium’s lack of full-backs has led them to look all-too-staid going forwards, while injuries and uncertain form have lead to Alejandro Sabella switching up his formations and team selections to hamper the fluidity of his side.

Even with their formidable rosters of attacking talent, both nations required late, late goals to overcome their round of 16 opponents and punters could be in for another stodgy, rigid anti-spectacle as Argentina go through the motions against a group of dark horses who have so far looked more like beige donkeys.

Betting Instincct Tip: No goals in standard time is +700 with AllYouBet.ag

 

Saturday July 5, 9 pm (GMT): Netherlands vs. Costa Rica – a quarter played on the counter

He who daren’t, wins could well be the mantra by which victory is secured in Salvador as The Netherlands and Costa Rica both look to continue to succeed by catching each other out on the break with three-man defences and spontaneous attackers.

All logic and reason dictates that the Dutch should outclass their cross-Atlantic opponents, but as shown by Uruguay, Italy, England and Greece, underrating the chances of the Central Americans is a somewhat perilous exercise.

Louis van Gaal’s team will undoubtedly be the best opposition the Costa Ricans have faced yet however, and if Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben are on form, it’s hard not to assume the Oranje should progress, and with a rather handsome margin of victory.

Having said that, it’s hard to say whether it’d even be a surprise anymore if the underdogs somehow claimed the scalp of yet another Goliath to barge their way into the semi-finals.

Betting Instinct tip – Robin van Persie to score two or more goals is +275 with Intertops.eu

Unfamiliar with American-style betting odds? Check out our odds calculation guide to find out how to translate to decimal or fractional

Greg avatar GREG JOHNSON (gregianjohnson) is a freelance football writer based in London and contributor to  FourFourTwo, Squawka, Drowned In Sound and Mirror Football. He also co-edits The False Nine football  blog and podcast. Follow him on Twitter or Google+.

Brazil v Mexico – Will the hosts’ luck continue in their second game?

Many felt that Brazil had luck on their side against Croatia to win that first game, but will it continue against the Mexicans?

Many felt that Brazil had luck on their side against Croatia to win that first game, but will it continue against the Mexicans?

The first match from the second round of games at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil sees the clash of the two sides sitting first and second in Group A as Brazil and Mexico meet at Estádio Castelão in Fortaleza. Both of these sides took all three points in their first matches as Brazil claimed a 3-1 victory against Croatia and Mexico defeated Cameroon 1-0, but it was not the final results in these games that were the main talking points – it was the performances of the officials.

Brazil were deemed to have been on the lucky side of several calls from the Japanese official Yuichi Nishimura while Mexico had two perfectly legal goals ruled out in their match against Cameroon that saw them need more than an hour to score the one and only goal in that match. Brazil will be hoping for a continuation of decisions being on their side, while Mexican will be hoping for a full 180 degree turnaround in this game, but who will open a three point gap at the top of Group A at the full time whistle?

Brazil v Mexico Betting Odds:

Brazil to beat Mexico – 1.30

Both sides to share the points – 5.25

Mexico to beat Brazil – 10.00

(All odds provided by AllYouBet.ag are accurate as of today and subject to change)

After two goals from Neymar and a late third from Chelsea’s Oscar, Brazil lead Group A at the second ever World Cup tournament they are hosting after 1950, but they can feel lucky that Barcelona’s Neymar was still on the pitch to score both of those goals. He elbowed Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modrić and received only a yellow card when it looked as if he should have walked. The biggest piece of luck they received from the referee on the opening night was for their second goal as Fred went down easily in the box before Neymar scored his second from the spot. They also had a goal chalked off against them from an apparent foul on Julio Cesar in goal that would have seen Croatia level at 2-2 in an impressive performance from the Europeans. Brazil were certainly the second best side in that match and Luis Felipe Scolari will have his work cut out to improve his team to the level to is expected from the Brazilian fans for this game against Mexico.

 

Mexico were on the end of some controversial refereeing decisions in their opening Group A game too as they had two goals ruled out for offside against Cameroon when both goals were legitimately netted by former Tottenham Hotspur man Giovanni dos Santos. These ‘goals’ early on showed how up for the match Mexico were and they dominated the Africans, but it did take 61 minutes for them to break the official imposed deadlock and take all three points. Unlike Brazil, Miguel Herrera’s men will be hoping for a change in their luck with the men in charge in Fortaleza as despite Brazil making an underwhelming debut on home soil this summer more goals ruled out without cause will make it very difficult for Mexico to take the points in this game.

Brazil have the better record between these two sides in recent times as they have won three of the last four meetings of the sides, including securing a 2-0 win at the Confederations Cup last summer. However, having seen both of these teams in action at the 2014 World Cup it is the Mexicans who look to be the more confident and fluid going forwards as Brazil struggled all over the pitch against Croatia. Despite this, Brazil could not play any worse than they did in their opener and they are sure to improve in this match but will they be able to improve to the level that they can beat Mexico without assistance from the officials, who will have the eyes of the world turned on them?

 

Brazil have the quality to win this match, but following last week’s performance I do not feel that they are as good as the match odds suggest and Mexico are certainly going to be a challenge to the hosts. As a result of this, I can see this being an open and exciting match that sees goals coming easily and readily and my money for this opening match of the second round of group games is on both Brazil and Mexico to find the net at the Estádio Castelão.

Betting Instinct tip – back both Brazil and Mexico to score in their Group A match at the 2014 World Cup @ 1.90 with AllYouBet.ag.

 

AntoPic

 ANTONY JORDAN has more than ten years experience in the online gaming industry and writes sports  betting content for several online gaming sites and companies. Read his work on Facebook, Twitter and  Google+.

Germany’s Miroslav Klose chasing a second World Cup Golden Boot

Klose, who top-scored in 2002, is back in the Germany squad for this summer's tournament

Klose, who top-scored in 2002, is back in the Germany squad for this summer’s tournament

The sought after Golden Boot is perhaps the most prestigious and well-known of the individual awards handed out the World Cup. Current holder – Thomas Muller – will be looking to add to his 13 league goals this club season in an effort to retain the cherish Golden Boot. He won the award with a respectable but not quite emphatic 5 goal haul last time. David Villa, Wesley Sneijder and Diego Forlan all matched the German’s tally, but Muller was awarded the prize based on having a higher number of assists (3).

Top goalscorer is always difficult to gauge at major tournaments as a player is only as strong as the whole team. The opening games have a massive impact on this too; a hat-trick in the first couple of games makes you – statistically, based on the last 6 tournaments – already at least halfway to the required number of goals to top the charts.

 

World Cup top scorer betting odds:

Lionel Messi – 8.00

Neymar – 11.00

Cristiano Ronaldo – 15.00

Sergio Aguero – 15.00

(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

So, let’s look at our favourites. Unsurprisingly, Leo Messi is most people’s tip to be the top scorer this year. Last season was widely considered to be his worst in years, yet the mercurial Argentine still bagged 41 goals in all competitions. His form at international level has been questioned, but the Argentinian team itself has a desultory rhythm in terms of form. I’m not going to waste anyone’s time by describing how he plays or what he is good at; it’s very much public knowledge. With 10 goals during the qualifying campaign, this could be Messi’s best chance of international glory at a personal and a team level.

Messi’s esteemed fellow countryman Sergio Aguero will also be looking to make his mark. Despite suffering a few injuries during the season, Aguero produced a host of fantastic displays in the Premier League and showed to the English audience that he has a lot more to his game than sheer goalscoring and dribbling. His vision and general awareness of teammates was pivotal in Manchester City’s re-capturing of the league title this year, whilst also showing that he can handle the more potent physical side that the Premier League offers.

 

Another player whom once famously showcased similar attributes and has yet to receive full recognition for his international work is, of course, everyone’s favourite personification of modesty – Cristiano Ronaldo! The Portuguese star was in fine form once again this year for Real Madrid, ending the season by netting a goal in their Champions League final victory against Ateltico Madrid. He even earned a round of applause from fellow shy person Zlatan Ibrahimovic after his hat-trick against Sweden sealed Portugal’s qualification into the world cup. At the ripe age of 29, CR7 won’t have his devastating pace come the next World Cup (though I dare say he will be no slouch) and will look to add to his ever growing catalogue of individual awards with a WC Golden Boot trophy. It’s unlikely that Portugal will progress to the latter stages of the tournament and with Ghana, USA and Germany in their group, they are far from promised a place out of the group stages at all. That being said, Ronaldo can change games on his own and will be looking to exploit any weakness shown by the two weaker sides (USA and Ghana respectively).

After a relatively expensive and somewhat unremarkable opening season for Barcelona, Neymar will be hoping to continue producing his scintillating displays for the Brazilian national team. The youngster has 31 goals in 49 games for his country already, which is impressive however you look at it. A lot of them are quite spectacular too. He will flourish playing in his homeland and with said host nation being frontrunners to win the tournament, it’s quite easy to deduce that Neymar is likely to score a lot of goals this tournament.

 

Quite often, it can be a bit of s surprise name as to who scores the most goals in a tournament. Particularly at international level. An erudite outside bet can prove very profitable, so let’s analyse some of the players who aren’t quite expected to produce a magnanimous amount of goals. I’ll start with Belgian giant Romelu Lukaku, who showed this season that he has an extremely well rounded set of skills, more so than most other 21 year old strikers. He bagged 15 league goals and orchestrated some fantastic performances for Everton. He is exceptionally strong, but – unlike most powerful strikers – is also very quick to move across the ground. His ability is only going to improve over the next decade, will this year be the year he announces himself amongst the best forwards in the world?

Germany’s all-time leading scorer Miroslav Klose joins us for another World Cup, no doubt eliminating some poor team’s hopes with an obligatory headed goal. Klose has been prolific at international level and is truly one of the those players that can score from any situation. His World Cup experience will be crucial to the younger German players and might well prove to be the differnce in a close match against similarly top opposition. A lot of this depends on how the team is lined up, but you can be sure that Klose will be having his say at some point.

 

For the patriotic English readers, I feel obliged to include an English player. Who better than the highest scoring English player in the Premier League last year? Daniel Sturridge has been a revelation since signing for Liverpool. He’s been prolific, consistent and has scored a lot of said goals in spectacular fashion. His curling effort against Peru a reminder as to what he can produce from outside the box. England have a tough group in the shape of Uruguay, Italy and Cost Rica; they will be relying on Sturridge’s performances to help them proceed into the knockout stages. He certainly is capable of scoring against venerable opposition, if he finds his form from the first game in then he could certainly be worth an outsider’s bet.

 

Betting Instinct tip – Romelu Lukaku to top-score offers value at 26.00 with AllYouBet.ag, while Klose (33.00) and Sturridge (51.00) could also be worth a punt

Not used to decimal betting odds? Check out Betting Instinct’s brand new odds calculation guide.

 

 JAKE COLLINS (jcollins91) is passionate about literature, music and sports. He currently works in  London and lives in Essex. Read more of his work in Jake’s blog, or follow Jake on Twitter and Google+.

World Cup 2014: Ones to Watch

The World Cup often sees lesser-known players steal the spotlight

The World Cup often sees lesser-known players steal the spotlight

With this year’s World Cup now under a week away, Betting Instinct has the lowdown on some players to look out for in Brazil.

 

Admir Mehmedi – Switzerland

The Swiss national side are regarded by many to be the weakest of the eight seeds, but they have some top talent in their squad, including a number of players of Albanian descent.

Xherdan Shaqiri has blown hot and cold since moving to Bayern Munich last summer, while another former FC Basel youngster, Granit Xhaka, has also laid down a marker in the German Bundesliga. In central midfield, captain Gökhan Inler will be flanked by Napoli duo Valon Behrami and Blerim Džemaili, but much of the talk going into the tournament surrounds Mehmedi.

After an unremarkable spell with Dinamo Kyiv, the former FC Zurich man has top-scored for SC Freiburg this season with 12 goals, earning a permanent move to the German club last month. He will face competition for a starting place with the likes of Josip Drmić, but there is no doubt that the 23-year-old comes into the tournament in high spirits.

Betting Instinct tip – Switzerland to win their opener against Ecuador is 2.28 with GR88.com

 

 

Shinji Okazaki – Japan

Another German-based player, Okazaki has more international goals than any other player in Group C with the exception of Côte d’Ivoire captain Didier Drogba.

The experienced forward stood out at last year’s Confederations Cup, scoring the third goal in an agonising 4-3 defeat against Italy and also finding the net against Mexico, and he will hope to flourish in Brazil for the second summer running.

Japan are in one of the more open groups in this year’s World Cup, but will need Okazaki and team-mates such as Shinji Kagawa to fire on all cylinders if they are to make it to the knockout stages.

Betting Instinct tip – More than 2.5 goals in Japan’s opener against the Ivorians is 2.34 with GR88.com

 

 

Keylor Navas – Costa Rica

On paper the rank outsiders in Group D, Jorge Luis Pinto’s side were dealt a huge blow when their squad’s top scorer Álvaro Saborio suffered a metatarsal injury that will rule him out of the entire World Cup.

This puts even more pressure on the Central Americans’ defence, and goalkeeper Navas is expected to be in the thick of the action as Los Ticos take on three formidable opponents in England, Italy and Uruguay.

However the 27-year-old shot-stopper has relished his underdog status at Levante, helping the minnows to a top-half finish in La Liga for only the second time in the last 50-years. After helping his country to a second-place finish in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying – with the best defensive record in the confederation – Navas and his team-mates will hope to spring a surprise or two.

Betting Instinct tip Costa Rica to hold Uruguay to a 0-0 draw is 8.60 with GR88.com

 

 

GR88.com is holding a $1m prediction challenge for the World Cup. Anyone who wants to give themselves a chance of scooping the seven-figure jackpot, or the very generous $100,000 consolation prize, needs to head to worldcup.gr88.com/picks and make their selections for the 48 group games. Terms and conditions apply.

 

tv TOM VICTOR (editor) is the editor and co-founder of Betting Instinct. He has written for a variety of    sports sites in the past, including JustFootball, Footy Matters and BeNeFoot. You can follow him  on Twitter or Google+.

World Cup Dark Horses Croatia Can Stun Brazil in Sao Paulo

Young talent Mateo Kovacic could surprise a few people in Brazil

Young talent Mateo Kovacic could surprise a few people in Brazil

The World Cup is almost here, and as intrigue explodes around the obvious betting markets of which nations could win in Brazil and who could grab the Golden Boot, it’s time to look at some less obvious yet intriguing tips to sink your teeth into this summer.

Who are the six most backable dark horses to surprise the globe at the 2014 World Cup?

 

Group A: Croatia

After Spain, Croatia will arguably be the team bristling with the most magical midfielders in Brazil this summer. Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, Mateo Kovacic and the even more directly attack-minded Ivan Perisic would each be worthy of playing as the sole creative fulcrums of many other sides. Together, if their coach Niko Kovac can get the balance right, they could be witheringly potent, pulling enough strings to fill a harp behind Mario Mandzukic and Ivica Olic. That may be a big “if” should they remain as discordant as they were at times in qualifying, but if Croatia click, watch out Cameroon and Mexico. Brazil can’t afford to rest on their laurels in the group opener either.

Betting Instinct tip – Croatia to win or draw against Brazil is 3.22 with Intertops.eu

 

Group C: Japan

Having famously put together a 100 year plan to turn Japan into a World Cup-winning football superpower in 1992, the 2014 tournament in Brazil may  have too soon for the Blue Samurai to push for the title, but they will be a genuine left-field threat to the other teams in Group C, with all the qualities needed to top the group. After all, everything seems to be going for them. Colombia have lost Radamel Falcao, Ivory Coast have a long history of fluffing their lines on the big stage and Greece are solid yet not exactly spectacular. By contrast, Japan are a team full of pacey, technical footballers who thrive as a collective. With the right draw, the quarter finals aren’t out of the question.

Betting Instinct tip Japan to reach the quarter-finals is 7.50 with AllYouBet.ag

 

Group E: Ecuador

France will be favourites to top Group E, but Ecuador cannot be overlooked as a potential source of upsets and heroic narratives with La Tri well-adapted to any potential issues with the Brazilian climate, and boasting some highly effective players, not least Manchester United’s Antonio Valencia. Pace, as we’re forever being told, is a deadly weapon in international football, and the winger could shred many a full-back on his mission to heave his nation into the knock out stages. To do that, they will have to hold back Switzerland and Honduras—the former being a more challenging proposition, but far from unbeatable. After all, this Ecuador team did finish fourth in South American qualifying, finishing above Uruguay, with striker Felipe Caicedo finishing fifth-highest scorer with seven goals. With the element of surprise and low expectations, they could thrive.

Betting Instinct tip – Ecuador to finish top of Group E is 5.00 with Intertops.eu

 

Group F: Bosnia and Herzegovina

Even before the tragic flooding of their country in May, World Cup debutants Bosnia were all set to take the most inspiring narrative with them to Brazil, entering their first international tournament after a troubled recent past of war and sectarian in-fighting. Yet the Dragons will not be heading to South America hoping to best sides with a sympathetic story. With Asmir Begovic in goal, Emir Spahic in central defence, Miralem Pjanic in midfield and Edin Dzeko leading the line, they have an exceptionally strong and surprisingly experienced spine of proven, top class players. The presence of Iran, another potential dark horse team, and Nigeria in Group F has tempered the enthusiasm of some for hailing Bosnia’s chances, but if those four key players fit—especially Dzeko, who finished as second-highest top scorer in European qualifying—then they could be more than worthy runners-up to Argentina.

Betting Instinct tip Edin Dzeko to win the Golden Boot is 51.00 with AllYouBet.ag

 

Group G: Ghana

With a well-constructed squad that blends together some of their most exciting young talents such as Christian Atsu, and the experience of Michael Essien, Kevin Prince-Boatang and Kwadwo Asamoah, Ghana could be the strongest African contender at Brazil 2014. The Black Stars have some impressive depth, with other well-regarded names such as Sully Muntari and Andre Ayew swelling the midfield ranks behind captain Asamoah Gyan, who will lead from the front four years after emerging as one of the big stars of South Africa 2010. On first glance, Group G may look like a fiefdom to be fought over by Germany and Portugal, but the high-energy football of die Mannschaft could well wilt in Brazil, and with Cristiano Ronaldo struggling for fitness, Paul Bento’s men may struggle to make the knock outs, especially with Ghana on their tails.

Betting Instinct tip Ghana to make it out of Group G is 3.75 with Intertops.eu

 

Group H: Algeria

Most will remember Algeria as England’s anti-football antagonists in South Africa, whose negative approach also failed them in the 2010 African Cup of Nations. Yet these disasters eventually lead to a rethink and refreshing of the national team under Vahid Halihodzic, who has replaced the turgid time-wasting of the past with a high-press and a refocus on passing. Never mind Adnan Januzaj’s Belgium call up. Tottenham Hotspur’s 19-year-old passing conduit Nabil Bentalab is heading to the World Cup with just two caps to his name; a one-man reinforcement of the ideological shift that has taken place within this Algerian team. The youthful midfielder joins an already exciting cast of players featuring Valencia’s Sofiane Feghouli—a hero of many a player on Football Manager 2014—Granada’s Yacine Brahimi and Islam Slimini of Sporting. A hardened touch of the previous regime remains too to add some physical backbone in captain Madjid Bougherra, which will be needed in a tough and well-balanced group featuring Belgium, Russia and South Korea. However, even if foreign perceptions don’t yet realise it, Algeria have the quality to crash the party in Group H.

Betting Instinct tip – Algeria to make the last 16 is 5.50 with AllYouBet.ag

 

Greg avatar GREG JOHNSON (gregianjohnson) is a freelance football writer based in London and contributor to  FourFourTwo, Squawka, Drowned In Sound and Mirror Football. He also co-edits The False Nine football  blog and podcast. Follow him on Twitter or Google+.