World Cup 2018: Why Backing Underdogs Is A Foolish Strategy
When Betting The World Cup, Don't Fish For Minnows
Lately, it's been good to be the underdog. The first-year Vegas Golden Knights nearly won the Stanley Cup. Leicester City took the Premier League title in 2015-16. Wales reached the semifinal stage of Euro 2016. But there are occasions when backing the long shot is simply an exercise in futility, when a bet is more donation than wager. Just ask the countless number of people who foolishly put their money on UFC scrapper Conor McGregor to outbox multiple world champion Floyd Mayweather.
The World Cup is another sporting event where backing an underdog is truly foolhardy. The 20 World Cup titles have been divided up among just eight nations and none of them could ever be construed as surprise winners. Brazil leads the way with five titles, while Germany and Italy have claimed four apiece. Uruguay and Argentina won twice, with England, France and Spain owning one crown each.
First World Cup victory record:
- 1930: Uruguay
- 1934: Italy
- 1954: West Germany
- 1958: Brazil
- 1966: England
- 1978: Argentina
- 1998: France
- 2010: Spain
Minnows may swim upstream and make some headway for a time in World Cup play, as Cameroon did in 1990, North Korea in 1966 and South Korea in 2002, but ultimately all were eaten by sharks before getting to the final. Here's a breakdown of some of the underdogs you may have your eye on in Russia 2018 with their Bovada odds to win it all, and reasons why you'll be much wiser to keep your money in your wallet, or better yet, wager it on one of the tried and true soccer powers.
After their surprising victory over England and run to the quarter-final stage at Euro 2016, tiny Iceland, with a population of just 334,000 proved they weren't done shocking the soccer world by qualifying for their first World Cup. The smallest nation to qualify for a World Cup, the David vs. Goliath storyline ramped up further when Iceland was grouped with Argentina and Lionel Messi. But Iceland is winless in its last four matches and the fitness of captain Aron Gunnarsson remains a question mark.
In weak Group A along with Uruguay, Saudi Arabia and host Russia, there is a realistic chance for the Egyptians to reach the knockout stage of the tournament. And in Liverpool's Mo Salah, they suit up a world-class clinical finisher, although he's still nursing a shoulder injury from the Champions Cup final. They are a solid side from top to bottom and will give any team they face a run for their money, but The Pharaohs simply don't have the depth to stick around long in Russia.
Senegal comes into the World Cup situated 23rd in the FIFA world rankings, the highest-rated team from Africa. One of three African nationals to have reached the World Cup quarter-finals, Alou Cisse, captain of that 2002 Senegal squad, is manager of the current club. Like Egpyt, their star player, Sadio Mane, plays for Liverpool. Grouped with Colombia, Poland and Japan, there's a realistic chance to move to the round of 16. Anything beyond that will be a tough ask. No African nation has ever moved past the quarter-finals.
Remember in 1992 when after war broke out in the Balkans and Yugoslavia was unable to participate in the European Championship? The Danes came in as replacements and won the whole darn thing. Well, don't bet on history repeating itself. They do have Kasper Schmeichel, who knows a thing or two about shocking the soccer world, considering he is Leicester City's goalkeeper. And the Danes will prove a tough out for any nation. They will get to the knockout stage, and be knocked out quickly.
At those odds, it might be difficult to view the Belgians as underdogs but if you say that then you don't know their World Cup history. Belgium has played in 12 World Cups and never finished better than fourth. The only Belgian to participate in a World Cup final was John Langenus, who refereed the first World Cup final in 1930. In a very weak group with England, Panama and Tunisia, the Belgians will most certainly reach the knockout stage, but it will be a shock result to see them move past the quarter-finals.
Instead of throwing away your wager on one of these no hopers, here's where the smart money will be played on Russia 2018:
The moneyline favorites to take it all, the Brazilians will be seeking redemption after embarrassing themselves four years ago on home soil in Rio, losing 7-1 to Germany in the semifinals. Brazil does have Neymar Jr., and even he labels himself the best player in the world, before adding that Argentina's Messi and Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo are from another realm. The flair and flow of their game always make Brazil a contender, but note that no South American team has won a World Cup played in Europe.
There's an old joke that the World Cup is held every four years and when it's over, Germany wins, but that punchline isn't always funny to the rest of the teams. Yes, the defending champs come into this World Cup with one victory in 2018, 2-1 over Saudi Arabia, but does anyone doubt that manager Joachim Loew will have his lads ready to go? Germany won the Confederation Cup a year ago in Russia and goalkeeper Manuel Neuer is back to fitness, but the last defending champ to win the World Cup was Brazil in 1962.
If you are looking for crazy talk, you might suggest this right here is it. On the eve of the World Cup, the Spaniards fired manager Julen Lopetegui when he revealed he'd accepted the Real Madrid job. Still, this is a veteran Spanish club that shouldn't be rattled by such shenanigans. It's the last hurrah for veterans of the 2010 World Cup team like defenders Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos, and midfielders Sergio Busquets and Andreas Iniesta. You know they'll want to go out in a blaze of glory.
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