The FIFA World Cup is drawing ever closer, with excitement really starting to build for the first game (Russia vs Saudi Arabia) on 14th June at the Luzhniki Sadium, Moscow. While there will be no end of discussion about the favorites for World Cup glory, there are also inevitably going to be those teams that spring a surprise in Russia.
There are always ‘dark horses’ at the World Cup: think back to the performance of Bulgaria led by the legendary Hristo Stoichkov in 1994; Turkey and South Korea’s amazing run to the semi-finals in 2002; Costa Rica taking Netherlands to a penalty shootout in the quarter-finals in 2014.
Below are three teams who may confound the odds at Russia 2014. Their current odds will be displayed, along with a, hopefully, shrewd betting prediction for each team. There will be lots of bookmakers’ offers for the World Cup, including 2018 no deposit free bets, so there are plenty of ways to get extra value.
Outright Odds: 40/1
Croatia are a much better side than these odds reflect, and many observers feel they should be priced around the same as England at 20/1. The likes of Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, Mario Mandzukic and Ivan Perisic will form an integral part of a very strong starting XI.
Betting Prediction: Croatia to win Group D at 9/4
While lots of fans will back Lionel Messi to shine at the World Cup, there is a very good chance that Argentina will struggle in Russia – just as they did in qualifying. That could open the door for Croatia to win the group, providing they don’t underestimate the other Group A members Nigeria and Iceland.
Outright Odds: 500/1
It would be the biggest shock in World Cup history if Morocco made it to the Final on 15th July, but they may just have a better tournament than expected. They have a tough set of opponents in Spain, Iran and Portugal in Group B.
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However, the North African side should have a decent shot at earning qualification to the knockout phases.
Betting Prediction: Morocco to qualify from Group B at 9/2
Much will depend on their opening game against Iran. If they can bag three points, then a very good defence – led by Juventus’ Medhi Benatia – can keep it tight against Spain and Portugal in the following games. If you doubt Morocco’s credentials, then check out their 6-0 demolition of Mali in an African qualifier in September.
Outright Odds: 16/1
While Belgium may not fit the traditional dark horse tag, they nevertheless should not be priced so high with British bookmaker Stan James. Any team that fields a midfield containing Eden Hazard and Kevin DeBruyne should be considered among the top favourites. Is there a better midfield pairing in world football?
Betting Prediction: Belgium to win the World Cup
France, Germany, Spain and Brazil will take most of the backing from punters in the lead up to the Finals, but this golden generation of Belgium players is ready to do something special. They have a nice route to the quarter-finals, after that, watch them grow into confidence.