Brazil (+400 to win; bet $100 to win $400)
The five-time World Cup winner hasn’t lifted the trophy in 20 years and died in the quarter-finals in three of the last four tournaments, but an impressive South American qualifying run (14 wins and three draws without defeat) has a return to glory on the table. The Seleção have perhaps the best goalkeeper in the world (Alisson) and a host of attacking options, including Neymar, who will be fully fit for a World Cup for the first time.
It’s the last shot at World Cup glory for 35-year-old legend Lionel Messi, who has only gone past the World Cup quarter-finals once in four attempts with Argentina. The two-time champion hasn’t lost in 35 appearances, a streak that includes a triumph over Brazil in the 2021 Copa América final. This time around, Messi is surrounded by talent and playing in a passing system that suits at his game.
As noted below, the defending champions have had a messy four years since their 2018 triumph in Russia, and no team has managed to defend their World Cup title since Brazil in 1962. But any team with Karim Benzema (the most recent winner of the Ballon d’Or, awarded to the best player in the world on a European club), Kylian Mbappé (only 23 years old and one of the most dangerous scorers in the world) and Antoine Griezmann (the savvy veteran) will be hard to stop. France’s greatest enemy is France itself.
Coach Luis Enrique demands full adherence to his attack first and attack always system: “We always want to be in our opponent’s half and take risks,” he said. But that system isn’t worth much without effective finishers, and Spain could fall short in this area. (A lot of expectations are placed on the light shoulders of Pedri, who is 19.) Moreover, Enrique’s methods can leave the Spanish defense vulnerable to counterattacks.
Expectations haven’t been this high for the Three Lions for some time, but it seems fitting for a side that reached the World Cup semi-finals four years ago and lost to Italy in the final. from the Euro 2020 final to penalties. Recent form has not been great, however: England have gone winless in six UEFA Nations League matches this year, losing three and drawing three, although a 3-3 draw with Germany on September 26 was encouraging. Harry Kane is the kingpin, and if he can’t go, England could struggle.
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There are a host of compelling options to win the Golden Boot, awarded to the World Cup’s top scorer. Here are the top contenders, again, according to DraftKings.
Harry Kane (England) +700
Kane is the reigning Golden Boot winner, having scored six goals four years ago in Russia. He needs three goals to overtake Wayne Rooney as England’s all-time top scorer.
Kylian Mbappe (France) +800
Mbappé scored four times in Russia as a 19-year-old, and he and Pelé are the only teenagers to score in a World Cup final. He scored 190 goals in over five seasons for Paris Saint-Germain, including 19 in 20 appearances in all competitions this term.
Lionel Messi (Argentina) +1000
Despite all his achievements, Messi has only scored six times in the World Cup, including four in Argentina’s run to the final in 2014. He never scored in the round of 16.
Neymar has six goals in two World Cup appearances and 15 goals in all competitions for Paris Saint-Germain this season.
Here are the top 12 options on DraftKings, as of November 15.
It can be fun to throw a few bucks at which team you think will win or the top scorer, but there are countless other options to bet on. Here are some bets that I think might be worth it.
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Costa Rica scores the fewest goals, +800 (FanDuel)
Of the four Concacaf teams to qualify for the World Cup, the defensive-minded Ticos have scored the fewest goals in the qualifying finals (13 in 14 matches), and they are the only team to this guy to not have a player with at least three qualifying goals. Instead, Costa Rica are content to let their opponents rush the attack and hope the defense and goalkeeper Keylor Navas (Paris Saint-Germain) come out big.
You want to pick a team with little hope of advancing to the knockout stages when you consider this bet, and Costa Rica must face the European titans of Spain and Germany plus Japan in Group E. FanDuel, the odds for a bet on Costa Rica being eliminated in the group stage is a staggering -2000, which far exceeds the odds of any other team on the same bet.
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Spain under 8.5 goals, -110 (DraftKings)
Spain have scored just 15 goals in qualifying, tying Switzerland for the lowest-rated UEFA qualifying group winner, and seven of those goals have come in four matches against Georgia and Kosovo, the worst teams in the Spanish group. La Roja last topped two goals in a March 29 game against Iceland, and their last three World Cup teams – including the 2010 side that won it all – have not finished with more than eight goals. Since David Villa retired in 2019 after scoring a career-best nine World Cup goals in Spain, La Roja have lacked a finisher, and that – combined with their presence in perhaps the toughest group of the World Cup – could reduce his score.
France eliminated in Round of 16, +400 (DraftKings)
The last three defending World Cup champions were knocked out of the tournament in the group stage. In Intermediate Group D with Denmark, Australia and Tunisia, France should avoid that fate, but Les Bleus are a mess on and off the pitch at this year’s tournament, and a start in the round of 16 won’t is not so unlikely.
France enter the tournament with only one victory in their last six matches. Nine players believed to be candidates for the World Cup roster have battled injuries, and star Kylian Mbappé has battled with the national federation over image rights. There have been instances of sex tape blackmail and accusations of witchcraft-themed threats among players, and the head of the national federation has been accused of sexual harassment. It’s ugly.
Denmark will certainly not be intimidated by France, having beaten the Blues twice in the last five months. A second-place finish in the group likely means a game with likely Group C winners and tournament second seed Argentina in the Round of 16, and that won’t be an easy task.
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Canada advances to Knockout Round, +280 (FanDuel)
The Canadians are back at the World Cup for only the second time (and the first time in 36 years), but that doesn’t mean their players don’t have experience in the spotlight. Jonathan David (Lille), Cyle Larin (Brugge), Stephen Eustáquio (Porto) and Alphonso Davies (Bayern Munich) have played in the Champions League, and this experience against the best in the world will continue in the Group F matches against Belgium, Croatia and Morocco.
Finishing ahead of Belgium is probably asking too much, but finishing second is not. Croatia, runners-up four years ago, are stuck between eras, a combination of age and inexperience that shouldn’t do them any good, and Morocco are way off. Canada finished top of the table in Concacaf qualifying, ahead of continental big brothers USA and Mexico, and will not be intimidated here.
Odds of winning the World Cup (according to DraftKings as of November 15)