It is a curious thing that fans, pundits and bookmakers cannot agree on an outright favourite for the World Cup. Normally there is one candidate, for example Spain in 2010 or Argentina in 2014, who seem to demand all the attention in the run up to the tournament. They may not always win, but they drive the narrative before and, sometimes, during the tournament.
That does not seem to be the case this year, even though we are mere months away from the tournament kicking off in Moscow on 14th June. A lack of a standout candidate does not mean there is a lack of quality however, because, in fact, the opposite is true this year. Perhaps seven or eight teams are regarded as having a serious chance of winning.
The current betting odds for the favourites look like this:
The above odds are supplied by William Hill and is pretty much representative of all major bookmakers at the moment. However, you can follow the link to get the latest William Hill UK betting offers for football and other sports to get even more value for your bets.
Belgium’s Golden Generation Ready to Shine
For many punters, the most eye-catching name on the list above will undoubtedly be Belgium. Why is a team, so packed with talent, available at odds of double figures to win the World Cup? Yes, Belgium have rarely succeeded in going deep in a tournament (their best finish was 4th in 1986), but they have arguably assembled one of the best squads in world football. Is 12/1 really a reflection of their chances? Should they be behind an Argentina side that limped through qualifying?
Indeed, one of the most important factors for any team going into any major tournament is to have top players in form. Can any of the teams priced lower than Belgium boast three players playing at the very top of their game like Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Dries Mertens? De Bruyne, in particular, seems to be having the season of a lifetime, demonstrating week after week that he is arguably Europe’s most complete midfielder.
Experience Key to Success in Major Tournaments
Another thing to note is that this Belgium squad is packed full of experience players, many having come through the ranks of youth football together. Courtois, Hazard, De Bruyne, Lukaku, Vertonghen and Alderweireld make up the backbone of the team: All have over 50 caps, and only Vertonghen is over 28-years-old.
To give this all a bit of balance, there are some reasons to doubt Belgium’s credentials. For example, many Everton fans would testify that their former manager, and current Belgium coach, Roberto Martinez has difficulty with defensive organisation. Conceding three goals in games recently to Mexico, Bosnia and Russia, has only served to fuel these doubts.
Still, in saying that, Belgium are unbeaten since September 2016 (a 2-0 friendly loss to Spain) and there seems to be a wonderful camaraderie and spirit surrounding the squad. Overall, you may argue that France and Spain have the deeper talent pools, whereas Germany and Brazil have the most cohesive style of play. However, it is perhaps Belgium that has the most balance in both of those factors. For that reason, that price of 12/1 seems like a bargain.