World Cup 2018 betting guide

Fifa World Cup 2018

Welcome to the big show. The biggest stand-alone sporting event in the world.

Not to mention far and away the biggest sports betting event. Tens of billions of dollars turned over, through legal and illegal means, in the space of a month on 64 matches in host nation Russia involving the 32 qualified teams (no Italy this time around, believe it or not).

The previous World Cup in Brazil in 2014 was a smash hit, with Germany emerging as the champions. They are again among the favourites for World Cup 2018, along with the samba superstars of Brazil, France and Spain.

Many believe a star-studded Belgium will prove the dark horses this time around.

Our football experts at the World Gambling List aim to keep you abreast of important events and news that will affect the odds and chances of each team in the lead-up to the tournament, which starts in Moscow in mid-June.

Quick guide to World Cup 2018

First match: Russia v Saudi Arabia (Group A), Thursday, June 14, Moscow (Luzhniki Stadium).

World Cup final: Sunday, July 15, Moscow (Luzhniki Stadium).

Defending champions: Germany (defeated Argentina 1-0 in the 2014 World Cup final at the Maracana Stadium, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil).

The draw: The 32 qualifiers are were split into eight groups when the draw was conducted in Moscow on December 2, 2017. Each team plays its group rivals once. The top two teams from each group qualify for the knockout stages. There are 48 group matches in total, and another 16 matches in the knockout stages.

  • Group A: Russia, Uruguay, Egypt, Saudi Arabia
  • Group B: Portugal, Spain, Iran, Morocco
  • Group C: France, Peru, Denmark, Australia
  • Group D: Argentina, Croatia, Iceland, Nigeria
  • Group E: Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia
  • Group F: Germany, Mexico, Sweden, Korea Republic
  • Group G: Belgium, England, Tunisia, Panama
  • Group H: Poland, Colombia, Senegal, Japan

Result of past World Cups

Year Winners Runners-up Score Host nation/s Top scorer/s
2018 France Croatia 4-2 Russia Harry Kane (England) 6
2014 Germany Argentina 1-0 Brazil James Rodríguez (Colombia) 6
2010 Spain Netherlands 1-0 South Africa Diego Forlán (Uruguay), Thomas Müller (Germany), Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands), David Villa (Spain) 5
2006 Italy France 1-1, then Italy d France 5-3 on penalties Germany Miroslav Klose (Germany) 5
2002 Brazil Germany 2-0 Japan / S. Korea Ronaldo (Brazil) 8
1998 France Brazil 3-0 France Davor Šuker (Croatia) 6
1994 Brazil Italy 0-0, then Brazil d Italy 3-2 on penalties US Oleg Salenko (Russia), Hristo Stoichkov (Bulgaria) 6
1990 Germany Argentina 1-0 Italy Salvatore Schillaci (Italy) 6
1986 Argentina Germany 3-2 Mexico Gary Lineker (England) 6
1982 Italy Germany 3-1 Spain Paolo Rossi (Italy) 6
1978 Argentina Holland 3-1 Argentina Mario Kempes (Argentina) 6
1974 Germany Holland 2-1 Germany Grzegorz Lato (Poland) 7
1970 Brazil Italy 4-1 Mexico Gerd Müller (West Germany) 10
1966 England Germany 4-2 England Eusébio (Portugal) 9
1962 Brazil Czechoslovakia 3-1 Chile Flórián Albert (Hungary), Garrincha (Brazil), Valentin Ivanov (Soviet Union), Dražan Jerković (Yugoslavia), Leonel Sánchez (Chile), Vavá (Brazil) 4
1958 Brazil Sweden 5-2 Sweden Just Fontaine (France) 13
1954 Germany Hungary 3-2 Switzerland Sándor Kocsis (Hungary) 11
1950 Uruguay Brazil 2-1 Brazil Ademir (Brazil) 8
1946 not held

1942 not held

1938 Italy Hungary 4-2 France Leônidas (Brazil) 7
1934 Italy Czechoslovakia 2-1 Italy Oldřich Nejedlý (Czechoslovakia) 5
1930 Uruguay Argentina 4-2 Uruguay Guillermo Stábile (Argentina) 8

World rankings for Russia 2018 teams

(As at April 13, 2018)

  • Country Flag 1. Germany
  • Country Flag 2. Brazil
  • Country Flag 3. Belgium
  • Country Flag 4. Portugal
  • Country Flag 5. Argentina
  • Country Flag6. Switzerland
  • Country Flag 7. France
  • Country Flag 8. Spain
  • Country Flag 10. Poland
  • Country Flag 11. Peru
  • Country Flag 12. Denmark
  • Country Flag 13. England
  • Country Flag 14. Tunisia
  • Country Flag 15. Mexico
  • Country Flag 16. Colombia
  • Country Flag 17. Uruguay
  • Country Flag 18. Croatia
  • Country Flag 22. Iceland
  • Country Flag 23. Sweden
  • Country Flag 25. Costa Rica
  • Country Flag 28. Senegal
  • Country Flag 35. Serbia
  • Country Flag 36. Iran
  • Country Flag 40. Australia
  • Country Flag 42. Morocco
  • Country Flag 46. Egypt
  • Country Flag 47. Nigeria
  • Country Flag 55. Panama
  • Country Flag 60. Japan
  • Country Flag 61. South Korea
  • Country Flag 66. Russia
  • Country Flag 70. Saudi Arabia

Who will win the 2018 World Cup?

Country Flag
Argentina

The two-time champions were not overly impressive in South American qualifying, with seven wins, seven draws and four losses in their 18 matches, but when it mattered Lionel Messi banged in a hat-trick to seal the deal.
Odds: $11.
What we say:
What could be finer than watching a master such as Messi, who won the 2014 Golden Ball, strut his stuff on the biggest stage? Quarter-finals at least.

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Australia

Advanced after winning a two-legged play-off against Honduras 3-1. Earlier they were upstaged in Asian qualifying by Japan and Saudi Arabia.
Odds: $301.
What we say:
Made it out of the group stage in 2006 and matching that would be a big achievement.

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Belgium

Highly rated and knocked in goals for fun in qualifying, scoring 43 in 10 matches, which included nine wins and a draw.
Odds: $12.
What we say:
Dark horses this time but we are not yet convinced given they were in one of the weaker qualifying groups in Europe. One to watch.

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Brazil

The five-time champions will be desperate to erase the bitter memory of their 7-1 semi-final humiliation on home soil against Germany in 2014. Cruised through qualifying and are due for something special.
Odds: $5.
What we say: Have a point to prove and loom as the team to beat.

Country Flag
Colombia

Quarter-finalists in 2014 and were solid through qualifying without setting the world on fire. Fared well in the draw.
Odds: $41.
What we say: With players of the ilk of Radamel Falcao and James Rodriguez, one of the rising stars of the 2014 Cup, they are a dangerous proposition. Quarter-finals again.

Country Flag
Costa Rica

Put up a great display in the 2014 finals where they beat the likes of Italy and Uruguay before losing on penalties in the quarter-finals.
Odds: $501.
What we say: Emerged from a tough group four years ago and it does not get easier this time around drawn in a group with Brazil, Switzerland and Serbia.

Country Flag
Croatia

Put Greece to the sword in a two-legged play-off to qualify for these finals. The team that beat them to automatic qualification, Iceland, again stands in their path, along with Argentina and Nigeria.
Odds: $34.
What we say:
Powerhouse midfield led by Ivan Rakitic and Luka Modric can propel them through to the top 16.

Country Flag
Denmark

Too good for Ireland in second-round Euro qualifying after a solid campaign in the group stages. Fifth appearance at the finals, with a best result of reaching the quarter-finals in 1998.
Odds: $101.
What we say:
Good chance of getting out of their group, but would be a major surprise if they went further.

Country Flag
Egypt

Qualified top of their group in Africa to reach the finals for the first time since 1990. This is their third time on football’s biggest stage.
Odds: $151.
What we say:
Not drawn in the toughest group and could surprise by making it out of their group.

Country Flag
England

Ultra-impressive in qualifying with eight wins and two draws in their 10 matches, conceding only three goals while scoring 18.
Odds: $19.
What we say:
Have a history of disappointment on the big stage but Gareth Southgate’s men have a great chance of reaching the quarters here.

Country Flag
France

Powered through European qualifying and look a top-notch outfit. Suffered the disappointment of finishing runner-up to Portugal in Euro 2016 on home soil.
Odds: $7.50.
What we say:
A star-studded line-up and all the signs point to a big tournament from the French, who were champions in 1998.

Country Flag
Germany

A perfect 10 wins from 10 games to qualify top of their group, knocking in 43 goals for good measure. The defending champions were spectacular four years ago and despite their stars starting to age deserve their place among the favourites.
Odds: $5.50.
What we say:
The ultimate professionals and just know how to perform on the big stage. Brazil will be hoping to avoid them, that’s for sure.

Country Flag
Iceland

Cinderella team making their first appearance in the World Cup finals. They may be smallest nation by population to qualify but it was certainly no fluke as they qualified top of a group that contained Croatia, Ukraine and Turkey.
Odds: $201.
What we say:
Iceland were also impressive in Euro 2016 but it would surprise if they made it out of a tough group.

Country Flag
Iran

Unbeaten in Asian qualifying, winning six and drawing four of their 10 matches. Conceded only two goals, but the draw has not been kind, putting them in a group with Portugal and Spain.
Odds: $501.
What we say:
Fifth time in the World Cup finals. Have never made it past the group stage and that’s unlikely to change this time.

Country Flag
Japan

Topped a competitive group in Asian qualifying to be one of the first teams through to the finals, the sixth successive time they have made it through.
Odds: $301.
What we say:
Draw gives them a decent chance of equalling their best result of making the second round.

Country Flag
Mexico

Have an impressive record of qualifying (this is their 16th overall appearance in the World Cup finals), but it’s been a long time since they made any impact once they get there.
Odds: $101.
What we say:
First-up assignment against Germany may knock the stuffing out of them.

Country Flag
Morocco

Did not concede a goal in their six qualifying matches, but the draw has not been kind here with Spain and Portugal in their group.
Odds: $501.
What we say:
Hard to see them surviving the group stage.

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Nigeria

They were great in qualifying with four wins and two draws in six matches and will fancy their chances of making it out of a group including Argentina, Croatia and Iceland.
Odds: $201.
What we say:
Super Eagles can soar into the last 16 with a couple of upsets.

Country Flag
Panama

A mighty effort to qualify for the finals for the first time, sealing a spot with a thrilling 2-1 win against neighbours Costa Rica.
Odds: $1001.
What we say:
Congratulations but group looks too tough.

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Peru

The last team to book their place in Russia, surviving a two-legged play-off against Oceania champions New Zealand. Used to mixing it with the big teams in South America.
Odds: $201.
What we say:
Realistic chances against Australia and Denmark means they could advance.

Country Flag
Poland

Ace marksman Robert Lewandowski knocked in 16 goals in 10 matches as Poland romped through qualifying with just one loss, against Denmark in Copenhagen.
Odds: $51.
What we say:
Even group gives them a real chance of reaching the knockout rounds.

Country Flag
Portugal

Have carried on from their memorable Euro 2016 triumph to qualify in style. Dropped their first match 2-0 to Switzerland but then won nine straight to pip the Swiss for top spot in their qualifying group.
Odds: $26.
What we say:
Cristiano Ronaldo on the biggest stage? What’s not to love.

Country Flag
Russia

Qualify as host nation but it’s been a long time since they made a real impact, even in the Soviet Union days.
Odds: $41.
What we say:
Fanatical home support will help and they should be able to get off to a winning start against Saudi Arabia. Second round.

Country Flag
Saudi Arabia

Scraped through their group in Asia to qualify for the fifth time. Best previous result is making the round of 16.
Odds: $1001.
What we say:
Tough group and look like a likely early casualty.

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Senegal

Undefeated in Africa qualifying and at their only previous appearance at a World Cup finals they made the quarter-finals in 2002.
Odds: $201.
What we say:
Offer something different to a lot of the teams and could prove hard to contain. Second round.

Country Flag
Serbia

Finished top of their group ahead of Ireland to automatically qualify after missing out on Brazil 2014.
Odds: $201.
What we say:
Looks a tough group but they are a professional outfit and could surprise.

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South Korea

Troubling times in the country and qualified despite an indifferent campaign with only four wins in 10 games.
Odds: $751.
What we say:
Finished fourth in 2002 but hard to see them getting anywhere near that this time.

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Spain

Back on song to qualify in emphatic fashion with nine wins and a draw in 10 games and plenty of goals. Disappointing showings in 2014 and at Euro 2016.
Odds: $7.
What we say:
Time for the next generation to put the Spanish back on top.

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Sweden

Broke Italian hearts with a 1-0 aggregate in their two-legged play-off to qualify for the first time since 2006.
Odds: $151.
What we say:
Will at least go in a battle-hardened outfit and are always a difficult team to get past.

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Switzerland

Were unlucky not to qualify directly with nine wins in 10 games in their group but then were fortunate to get past Northern Ireland over two legs.
Odds: $101.
What we say:
About a 50-50 chance of emerging from the group stages.

Country Flag
Tunisia

Not too many players widely known on the world stage but were solid in qualifying.
Odds: $751.
What we say:
Have not made it out of their group in four previous World Cup finals and that is not likely to change.

Country Flag
Uruguay

Qualified in second place behind Brazil after the marathon South American qualifying campaign.
Odds: $34.
What we say:
Two-time winners and can do serious damage if superstar Luis Suarez can keep his teeth to himself this time around.