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FIFA World Cup: Group A Futures Odds and Betting Preview

South America(1 team) @ Eurasia(3 teams)

  • Where: Luzhniki Stadium, Various. Moscow, Various
  • When: June 14, 2018 11:00 am EST
  • Moneyline: Uruguay (EVEN), Russia (+125), Egypt (+550), Saudi Arabia (+3300)

The locations can be chilling, a turn-off for many viewers or would-be spectators from the West. Corruption is rampant. Cheaters and divers are rife. Many of the matches are slow, boring walk-a-thons on the pitch as one side attempts to preserve a draw or rest its better players. Fans invent new ways to be annoying.

Yep. That’s the FIFA World Cup for you. Oh, and it’s the most popular sporting event in the world.

Make that “most popular betting event” as well. Odds-makers from both sides of the pond are already busy puzzling-out lines for the first day’s matches in Russia this June. Punters from penthouses and plantations alike will cast their picks hoping for a long-shot winner or a brilliant futures bet.

Futures odds are set for winner of each group of 4 nations, short round-robin races that make betting a pleasure. There aren’t too many rosters to evaluate, too many coaches to psychoanalyze. At least not when you are wagering on just the one group.

Let’s begin by looking at Group A at the FIFA Men’s World Cup, featuring the Sbornaya of host-nation Russia.

Russia (+125 at Bovada Sportsbook)

The hosts are not nearly as accomplished a football program as Uruguay, which has finished 4th in the World Cup as recently as 2010. Russia’s record is more comparable to a unit like Egypt. They must play a corker of a tourney to make any kind of noise, let alone advance to the knockout phase. Therefore it is strange that home advantage should place the squad at just over-even futures odds to win the group of 4.

Handicappers are expecting 2 things – a deafening host crowd and goals from Alan Dzagoev. The slender 27-year-old is a veteran of FIFA football and has led the Russian Premier League in assists this season. However, the defending responsibilities at midfield could limit his ability to take over matches, especially with a dodgy supporting cast at this level.

Maybe it’s the draw? Russia will begin group play against Saudi Arabia. But all matches will count the same in the end. The Sbornaya is a ridiculous bet at 5/4 and we strongly recommend not taking it.

Uruguay (EVEN)

At first glance, punters may conclude that Uruguay is another upstart South American side, lacking in staying power. 2010’s inspiring run at a medal placement followed a did-not-qualify in 2006, and 2014’s effort wound up in a 2-nil loss to Colombia in the Round of 16.

But look deeper and La Celeste appears to be an improving unit with talent to spare. Unlike many youthful sides from the Americas, the Uruguayans are not long on beauty and short on grit. They’re built from the goal-out with GK Fernando Muslera a vet of 96 international caps.

Muslera kept a clean sheet against the Czech Republic during the China Cup in March. Diego Godín and José María Giménez of Atletico Madrid fortify the back-line, and striker Luis Suarez is still in his prime at age 31. Russia could be a shambles trying to deal with that lineup.

Uruguay is our recommended pick to win Group A, but there’s one other interesting bet on the board.

Saudi Arabia (+3300)

In the World Championships of Ice Hockey, small countries occasionally send players who don’t belong to club teams or who play in tiny leagues in a forgotten land. Over time, some prove themselves worthy against tough competition. But how to analyze? One method is to simply look at each athlete’s stats with their national team. If they compete enough against professionals from elsewhere, patterns begin to form.

By that standard, the Saudi Arabians are bringing pukka talent to the World Cup. Striker Mohammad Al Sahlawi ran to the front of the top goal scorer race during 2018 WC qualifying, with 16 tallies in 10 caps.

Consider the level of competition, however.

Most of Al Sahlawi’s goals have come against countries ranked below the top 100 in the world. He was held without a goal in 6 halves in 2017 qualifying matches against Japan, UAE and Iraq. The Saudis do not have the talent to press for a lead in any first 45:00 in Russia. Instead, they will do what 33-to-1 underdogs do and spend their time defending, hoping for a miracle performance from keeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf.

Egypt (+550)

The wonky nature of group futures betting is that a pair of countries advance while only one can win. Over time, it puts value on the favorites and underdogs and takes it away from second-best sides. Punters must choose between wagering on a squad that will naturally win without any trouble, or taking a chance on a program with real motivation to finish 1st.

Yanks like to say, “make hay while the sun shines.” Egypt could be the ’18 entry which has little or no chance in the knockout stage, but still an opportunity to finish atop its group. If there’s a chance to make noise on the way to the final bracket of 16, the 31st-ranked squad in the world will take it.

The draw involves an opening-day match with Uruguay, the best time to catch the South Americans by surprise. After that, it gets progressively easier with pairings vs the over-valued Russians in Game 2 and the Saudis to follow. Furthermore, the talent is there for a surprise bid. Muhammad Salah is a world-class playmaker and midfielder Mohamed Elneny is coming into his own at age 25.

Compare the odds with the real chances. Would The Pharoahs win or draw with both Uruguay and Russia if they had 2 tries? Maybe. 3 tries? It’s very possible. 5 tries? Now you’re talking.

At odds of (+550) the Egyptians are an excellent high-payout wager to win Group A. If they manage to upset Uruguay, it’s all downhill.

Until the knockout stage commences, anyway.

Kurt BoyerThis article was written by Kurt Boyer

A freelance sportswriter from Missouri, Kurt has covered court, gridiron, rink and ring for 10+ years. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.

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