• Mon 5 Dec, 2016
  • 04:45 GMT
  • 00:45 ET (GMT-4)
  • 06:45 CET (GMT+2)

Charlie’s World Cup countdown

BetVictor’s former Talksport man Charlie McCann casts an eye over the main contenders and their odds ahead of the 2014 World Cup.

England is the only nation that will contest next month’s World Cup made up entirely of players from its own domestic league(s). We know everything there is to know about Wayne Rooney et al but BetVictor’s Charlie McCann looked at a number of the other nations and key players who we should be looking out for in the next six weeks?

Argentina:

After a poor start to their qualifying campaign Argentina were unbeaten in their last 14 games in the Group stages and comfortably topped the South American table. Both their previous World Cup wins, on home soil in 1978 and in Mexico eight years later, have been gained in South America and they are major players in Brazil.

Lionel Messi has not had the best of seasons by his own extraordinary standards for Barcelona, but the four-time World Player of the Year remains key to La Albiceleste’s chances of a third World Cup especially when you consider coach Alejandro Sabella did not include the “people’s player” Carlos Tevez in his provisional 26-man squad. Tevez has been magnificent for Juventus in Serie A this season and Sabella looks to be gambling on the fitness of another Manchester City striker Sergio Aguerro who had an injury-hit, but ultimately successful, PL campaign.

Selected odds: prices from BetVictor
To win the World Cup: 5/1
Messi to be WC top goalscorer 8/1
Argentina/Messi 14/1
Not to qualify for KO stages 9/1

Australia:

The lowest ranked nation in the 2014 World Cup Finals at 59 and they have been drawn in one of the tougher Groups alongside holders Spain, the Netherlands and Chile. Chelsea keeper Mark Schwarzer, former captain Lucas Neill and other veteran Socceroos Harry Kewall, Brett Emerton and Brett Holman have either been dropped or retired from international football and their recent 1-1 draw with South Africa suggested they will find it very tough to make it through to the knock out stages.

Former Everton star Tim Cahill has long been their talisman and the 34 year old, who is the all-time top scorer for the national side, is 4/1 at BetVictor to be leading scorer for the Socceroos in Brazil although it should be noted that no goalscorer is the 3/1 favourite with Crystal Palace’s midfielder Mile Jedinak at 12/1.

Selected odds: prices from BetVictor
To win the World Cup: 750/1
To win Group B: 66/1
To qualify from Group B: 12/1
To get NO points in Group B 11/8

Belgium:

An already exciting young side was given a further boost when Manchester United’s Adnan Januzaj committed to play for the country of his birth last month and he goes straight into Marc Wilmot’s squad. Twelve of the 23 ply their trade in the Premier League (if you include Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtois) and they would be desperately disappointed if they didn’t make it past a Group that is made up of Russia, South Korea and Algeria.

Romelu Lukaku of Chelsea/Everton scored a hat-trick in their recent 5-1 defeat of Luxembourg and he is likely to replace the injured Villa striker Christian Benteke as the focal point of their attack.

Selected odds: prices from BetVictor
To win the World Cup 20/1
Romelu Lukaku top Belgium goalscorer 2/1
To get over six points in the Group Stages Evens
To win all three games 4/1

Brazil:

Hosts Brazil are the most successful nation in the history of the World Cup lifting the Trophy five times but can this current squad cope with the burden of favouritism and a nation that expects nothing less than a sixth triumph?

Only six of the squad have previous World Cup experience but Brazil did win last summer’s Confederations Cup and the central defensive pairing of David Luis and Thiago Silva looks likely to be duplicated at Club level next season with PSG on the brink of bringing Luis to Paris from London for a reported £50m. Barcelona’s Neymar is 8/11 to be the hosts’ top scorer but Fred was the competitions leading scorer (tied with Fernando Torres) in the Confederations Cup 12 months ago and he might be the value.

Selected odds; prices from BetVictor
To win the World Cup 3/1
Fred to be Brazil’s top scorer 3/1
To get maximum points in Group 5/4
Not to win a game 66/1

France:

We know that Manchester City’s Samir Nasri was, controversially, left out of Didier Deschamps young squad and you wonder if Les Bleus will have one eye in Brazil on Euro 2016 when they will host the tournament. Another nation with a strong Premier League presence and it would be a huge disappointment if they didn’t get out of a Group that also includes Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras. A recent 4-0 defeat of Norway in Paris gave further cause for optimism.

Winners on home soil in 1998 France were a disorganised rabble in South Africa four years ago but Deschamps has brought harmony to the squad and in Juve’s Paul Pogba and Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane they have two of the world’s most exciting young players.

Selected odds: prices from BetVictor
To win the World Cup 25/1
Olivier Giroud top French goalscorer 5/1
To win Group E 4/5
Stage of elimination last 16 2/1

Colombia

Striker Radamel Falcao was originally ruled out of the tournament after suffering knee ligament damage playing for Monaco back in January but he met up with the squad in Argentina recently and it looks likely that coach Jose Pekerman will confirm his place in Brazil when he submits his 23 names on June 2nd.

The winners of the group involving Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan will meet the runners up of England’s group and the South Americans are odds on favourites to succeed. There is a suggestion that Falcao will be used sparingly in the Group stages but surely he needs playing time and his popularity is such that only heavenly pop princess, and Spanish international footballer Gerard Pique’s partner, Shakira is considered a bigger star back home in Colombia. Praise indeed. Porto’s Jackson Martinez might well be plying his trade in the Premier League next season with Liverpool and Spurs among a host of top Clubs reported to be keen on his signature.

Selected odds: prices from BetVictor
Colombia to win the World Cup 33/1
Top South American side 9/1
To be eliminated in the last 16 6/4
Falcao top Colombian goalscorer 7/2-

Germany

Joachim Low was dealt a blow when Leverkusen’s defensive midfielder Lars Bender was ruled out with a thigh injury and the coach must be keeping his fingers crossed that both Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira regain full fitness sooner rather than later. Khedira looked as rusty as an old gate in Lisbon in the Champions League Final for Real and was substituted inside an hour by Carlo Ancelotti as the Whites chased an equaliser.

Germany won nine of ten games in qualification and have long been one of the favourites for the tournament with a mix of youth and experience. Miroslav Klose has the opportunity to break Ronaldo’s record of fifteen goals in World Cup Finals with the striker just one shy of the legendary Brazilian. Champions in 1954, 1974 and 1990 as West Germany Die Mannschaft look sure to go deep into the competition but will those injuries come back to haunt them?

Selected odds: prices from BetVictor
To win the World Cup 11/2
Klose to break Ronaldo’s Finals record 4/6
Thomas Muller to be top German goalscorer 4/1
To get nine points in the Group 3/1

Italy

The four-time World Cup winners start their campaign against England on June 14th in Manaus and coach Cesare Prandelli knows his side were far superior to Roy Hodgson’s Three Lions in Kiev two years ago in a Euro 2012 Quarter Final although the tie was, ultimately, decided on penalties. There is no John Terry at the heart of the England defence two years on and England will also have to find a way of stopping midfield genius Andrea Pirlo pulling the strings for the Azzurri.

Despite blowing out in South Africa four years ago Italy have a habit of peaking at just the right time and there is certainly a mood of optimism in the camp. Three points against the Three Lions would be a great start and, with Uruguay also in the Group, you feel the nation who loses that opening fixture will find it a long way back in the battle to qualify. That said Spain lost their opening game in South Africa four years ago and the rest is history!

Selected odds: prices from BetVictor
To win the World Cup 25/1
Mario Balotelli top Italy goalscorer 13/8
To win Group D 13/8
Italy to finish 1st & England 2nd in Group D 9/2

Netherlands

Only Germany scored more goals (34) in qualification than the fluent Dutch whose only minor blip was a 2-2 draw against Estonia. Three-time World Cup runners up, including to Spain in South Africa four years ago, so the World Cup pedigree is there but you just wonder if this present Oranje had their chance in Soccer City when Arjen Robben missed a glorious second half opportunity in an ill-tempered affair.

Once again the fitness and form of Manchester United’s Robin van Persie and Bayern’s Arjen Robben will be pivotal to Louis van Gaal’s team with the coach Old Trafford bound at the end of the competition. Their first game on June 13th is a repeat of the 2010 Final and any Dutch supporter would surely bite your hand off for a point now. Australia and an excellent Chile side, who comfortably beat England at Wembley back in November, are the other nations in Group B and it is no guarantee this Netherlands side will make it into the knock out stages.

Selected odds: prices from BetVictor
To win the World Cup 33/1
Robin van Persie top WC g/scorer 33/1
Netherlands NOT to qualify for Gp stages 11/8
Netherlands total Group points 4 or 5 2/1

Portugal:

Cristiano Ronaldo scored all four goals in the 4-2 aggregate play-off defeat of Sweden which enabled the Portugese to qualify for their sixth World Cup Finals. Semi-finalists in Germany eight years ago they are drawn in a Group with Germany, USA and Ghana with first-up a mouth-watering clash with Die Mannschaft on June 16th.

The current FIFA World ranking of 3 might just be a shade flattering to Paulo Bento’s side although they are a long way from being just a one-man team of course with Pepe and Bruno Alvez forming a formidable central defensive partnership. They do not strike me as being potential winners.

Selected odds: prices from BetVictor
To win the Trophy 25/1
Ronaldo top WC goalscorer 14/1
Portugal to win/Ronaldo top scorer 50/1
Not to qualify from the Group Stages 13/8

Spain

Coach Vicente Del Bosque looks to be giving Atletico striker Diego Costa as much time as possible to prove his fitness for Brazil but his ignominious, premature exit from the Champions League Final in Lisbon would suggest his inclusion would be very much a gamble. Such is the strength in depth of the holders’ squad that strikers of the calibre of Alvaro Negredo and Fernando Llorente have not made the initial cull and Costa faces an anxious wait to see if his name will be confirmed in the 23-man squad that Del Bosque will announce on June 2nd.

After winning successive European Titles and a World Cup one could ask will Spain still have the hunger and drive especially after an arduous domestic and Champions League season for many. They lost in the Confederations Cup Final to Brazil 12-months ago and have a difficult group with both the Netherlands and Chile in opposition but this La Roja side deliver on the big occasion and should never be underestimated.

Selected odds: prices from BetVictor
To win the World Cup 6/1
To get maximum points in their Group 7/2
Iniesta to be named player of the tournament 25/1
Sergio Ramos top Spain goalscorer 40/1

Uruguay

At the time of writing it looks as if Liverpool striker and Premier League Player of the Year Luis Suarez will be fit for Brazil if not for Uruguay’s opening fixture with Costa Rica on June 15th. Winners on home soil in 1930 and in Brazil in 1950 La Celeste finished fourth in South Africa in 2010 when Diego Forlan picked up the Golden Ball award as the player of the tournament.

Edinson Cavani is the other superstar in Oscar Tabarez’s squad although Atletico Madrid’s centre-back Diego Godin was two minutes away from scoring the goal that won the Champions League in Lisbon to go with his equaliser in the Camp Nou the previous week, a goal that won the La Liga Title for his Club. Other Premier League names likely to feature are veteran West Brom defender Diego Lugano and the talented Gaston Ramirez who struggled to make much of an impact at St Mary’s last season.

Selected odds: prices from BetVictor
To win the World Cup 33/1
Luis Suarez top WC goalscorer 20/1
NOT to qualify for the knock out stages 6/4
Suarez to be top Liverpool goalscorer in WC 5/4

Be lucky

Charlie

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