FIFA World Cup predictions: analyzing and targeting bets for each group winner market

Plenty of underdogs show value in first tournament round

FIFA World Cup group winner predictions
Denmark's Kasper Dolberg, second left, celebrates scoring with teammates Christian Eriksen, center right, Joachim Maehle and Andreas Skov Olsen, right, during the UEFA Nations League soccer match between Denmark and France at Parken Stadium in Copenhagen, Denmark, Sunday Sept. 25, 2022. (Liselotte Sabroe/Ritzau Scanpix via AP) The Associated Press

The World Cup continues to inch ever so closer, and we’re here to offer more futures predictions.

Yesterday, we covered our favorite longshot bets to win the entire tournament. Today, we pull back the scope to focus on the prices for each group winner market. I have plays for half of the groups — including two underdogs — but I’ll cover my thinking for each group below.

Odds come courtesy of FanDuel Sportsbook and are reflective at time of writing.

Group A Winner Market: Netherlands (-195), Senegal (+400), Ecuador (+490), Qatar (+1900)

I was really excited to bet Senegal to win Group A when the draw was initially announced, but that enthusiasm has since cooled.

The defending African Cup of Nations winners still have a good chance to get out of the group, but a potential injury to talisman Sadio Mané has left me wondering if Senegal can eclipse the Netherlands. While Senegal still has a powerful defense that comes close to measuring up with the favorites, I don’t trust their attack to keep up.

From there, we’re left with Ecuador and Qatar as group winner options, but I’m not intrigued. I’ll be surprised if either of those teams can steal points off the Netherlands, so this group becomes a pass for me.

That said, if you’re someone looking to construct a group winners parlay, I can get behind using the Netherlands.

Verdict: Pass

Group B Winner Market: England (-250), Wales (+550), USA (+550), Iran (+1900)

None of these teams arrive in Qatar in very good form, making them all incredibly disinteresting from a group winner perspective.

England is far and away the class of this group, but manager Gareth Southgate’s 0-3-3 (W-L-D) record in the past six matches gives me no confidence in laying -250. Even if you just look at two Nations League matches against Hungary, a non-World Cup side, the Three Lions have a -2.06 xGOT differential.

Granted, one of those fixtures featured a red card, but that still leaves me gravely concerned.

As for the USMNT — the only other option for this group — they’re 1-2-2 (W-L-D) in their past five against fellow World Cup sides with a +0 big scoring chances differential. That leaves a lot to be desired for a side that’s mispriced in my opinion.

Verdict: Pass

Group C Winner Market: Argentina (-220), Mexico (+490), Poland (+490), Saudi Arabia (+3200)

Finally, we’ve reached a group with a play!

I rate Argentina as a much bigger favorite in this group (-290 is my price), so I’m not opposed to laying -220 on its own. Although the squad is aging a touch, the defending Copa America champions are unbeaten dating back to October 2020.

At the Copa America, Argentina posted a +1.47 expected goal differential per 90 minutes and won every match on xG against teams not named Brazil.

Given how poor Mexico and Poland perform when playing without the ball, I expect they’ll struggle against the group favorites. For that reason, I’ll use Argentina as a leg in a group winners parlay.

Verdict: Argentina (-220) in group winner parlay

Group D Winner Market: France (-195), Denmark (+185), Australia (+3200), Tunisia (+3200)

The market has reacted somewhat from where I bought in, but how on Earth is France still this big a favorite?

France and Denmark actually met twice in the UEFA Nations League recently and Denmark won BOTH meetings. Across their past six international matches, Denmark has a +5.17 expected goals on target (xGOT) differential.

Meanwhile, in their past six international matches, France only has a +0.96 xGOT differential.

Add in that France manager Didier Deschamps arrives in Qatar with a number of key players missing — N’Golo Kanté, Paul Pogba, Raphael Varane — and I love this Denmark side even more.

I bet them at +270 to win this FIFA World Cup group but still like it at +175 or better.

Verdict: Denmark (+185)

Group E Winner Market: Spain (-105), Germany (+105), Japan (+1700), Costa Rica (+5500)

Frankly, I’m shocked at the market love for Germany as I rate Spain far and away the best team in this group.

Just in the matchup between Spain and Germany, I expect Spain will cruise. Germany needs to play with the ball in order to have success, and Spain won’t let them.

Plus, Germany has myriad defensive issues right now, leaving them prone to a potential upset at the hands of Japan. In six Nations League matches, four of which came against England and Italy, Germany finished with a -3.23 xGOT differential.

Meanwhile, Spain had a +1.67 xGOT differential in a group with Switzerland, the Czech Republic and Portugal. Yes, slightly easier, but that’s still a massive gap.

Verdict: Bet Spain (-105). Play to -120.

Group F Winner Market: Belgium (-150), Croatia (+230), Morocco (+850), Canada (+1100)

I’ll keep this short, because I have no opinion here.

I have no interest in laying a price with Belgium, an aging squad that is wholly reliant on Manchester City’s Kevin de Bruyne to make plays. At the same time, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if Belgium won the group.

The same can be said for Croatia, which arrives at this tournament with a very old age profile. But, they’re 4-1-1 (W-L-D) in their past six fixtures with a -0.05 xGOT differential.

As much as I want to believe in Morocco and Canada, I expect their lack of experience at major tournaments will show in Qatar.

If you forced me to make a bet, I’d opt for Canada at +1100, but this is an easy pass.

Verdict: Pass

Group G Winner Market: Brazil (-220), Switzerland (+490), Serbia (+600), Cameroon (+1700)

I have no idea how to sort out the latter three teams, but once again I feel as though there’s an undervalued favorite here.

Much like Argentina, I have Brazil projected much higher to win the group than the odds reflect. Personally, I make the tournament favorites -300 to win this group.

Just this calendar year, Brazil is 7-0-1 (W-L-D) and has dropped all three points only once dating back to October 2020 (the Copa America final vs. Argentina). Plus, in six Copa America matches against teams not named Argentina, Brazil created 2.83 expected goals per 90 minutes.

Given Switzerland and Serbia struggle to defend — the former allowed 1.86 xGOT per 90 in six Nations League matches, while the latter allowed only 0.79 xGOT per 90, but against teams not going to the World Cup — I expect Brazil to sail smoothly to the top spot.

Use them in a group winner parlay with Argentina.

Verdict: Argentina/Brazil Group Winner Parlay (+111)

Group H Winner Market: Portugal (-145), Uruguay (+200), Ghana (+1000), South Korea (+1100)

On paper, Portugal is the most talented squad amongst this group. However, I personally LOVE Uruguay in this pod.

New manager Diego Alonso’s squad arrives in Qatar with an outstanding defense and the ability to shut down extraordinary attacks. In five Copa America fixtures, Uruguay held opponents to only three combined expected goals.

Plus, this Portugal attack arrives in Qatar in less-than-ideal form. Just in its past four fixtures against fellow FIFA World Cup sides, Cristiano Ronaldo and company have created under 1.5 xGOT in three matches.

Against a strong Uruguay defense, expect a potential upset from the South American side. Bet Uruguay to win the group at +175 or better.

Verdict: Uruguay (+200)

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