This group is probably a dream start for Brazil who always inherently start slow, but being on home turf and the force they showed in the Confederations Cup would make this an easy odds on favourite for the home nation. Second spot would be between Mexico and Croatia, with the conditions favouring Mexico. Second place is likely to be decided by goal difference with Mexico edging it with their attacking threat and Croatia lacklustre results of late.
Backing Spain in this group would be brave as one of the toughest groups to win. However, they are by far the best team and it would be hard to bet against them winning it. Second place is a far tougher one to call with Holland not on their best form whilst Chile put more of a fight last time around against Spain, losing out to Brazil in the next round, which unfortunately awaits their fate this time around if they make it.
This is a tricky group and could provide a few surprises. One of the weaker groups, with current favourites Columbia given the edge to win this. However, I do fancy an upset here with possibly the Ivory Coast firepower winning through and Japan edging second spot, if Columbia are not on form..
The big one, and this is seen as a three way tie between Italy, Uruguay and England. Uruguay have something to prove after a poor Confederations Cup and having to face the play-offs to qualify for this World Cup. So it would seem a two way tie between Italy and England for the Group win and easy odds on for both to qualify. Costa Rica don't look much of a threat but thats what worries me in these conditions with England, they could provide the upset we all don't want to see.
Ecuador on paper look the strongest, having won all their home games at high altitude, they haven't won a single away game. France are just unpredictable and with no Ribery its a guess as to where the flair will come from. Maybe it will be Schneiderlin's chance to shine if he gets chosen to play. Honduras showed their physical prowess against England in a game England should have won by a fair margin, so I don't fancy them to qualify despite this, which leaves Switzerland and France easy for the qualification.
The obvious banker in this group is Argentina and you could get some great odds in them NOT qualifying. They would have to go some to achieve this in a Group where they face Nigeria, Iran and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Nigeria have not qualified for the knock out rounds since 1998, and the new kids have a new striker in the name of Edin Dzeko. With this in mind most bookies have gone for the Argentina/Bosni-Herzegovina qualification and seems little sense in ignoring this.
One of the other tough groups so to speak between Germany, Portugal, USA, and Ghana, it would seem the obvious qualifiers are Germany and Portugal. Germany being the strongest team here will certainly drop points somewhere. They won their group in Euro 2012 which contained Portugal, and have faced Ghana before. Ghana and USA are probably on equal footing and will be up to them to create some upset and picking vital points up against each other. Points could be won against Portugal if Ronaldo doesn't play, and although Portugal struggled to qualify they certainly perform well in the big tournaments. This is one of my toughest groups to call but I would still have to back Germany/Portugal to qualify but an outside bet on either Ghana or USA to qualify is not out of the question leaving us to guess which one out of the other two won't qualify!
Belgium, South Korea, Russia and Algeira make up the last group, with Belgium clear favourites to win this one. Deciding the second qualification spot is trickier with the bookies favouring Russia who always start well but never seem to do anything with it. South Korea are my favourites here and the bookies seem to be honing in on this recently but still favouring the Russians. I fancy this upset and so my two here are Belgium to win and South Korea to qualify.
Lets make this interesting into an accumulator:
To win their groups: Brazil, Spain, Ivory Coast, Italy, France, Argentina, Portugal, Belgium.
£10 here would get you approx £2800
To qualify: Mexico, Chile, Japan, England, Switzerland, Bosni-Herzegovina, Germany, South Korea.
£10 here could get you £3500
If you unsure about all the selections you could also go for a typical 7 from 8 which would be 8 bets and make you feel a bit more comfortable £5 per line should be £40 for the bet and you could do very well if they all selections came in but secured yourself a decent result if one of our selections failed to come up.
Best XIs Not Going To The World Cup
The World Cup in Brazil will be a star-studded event - it will be an unmissable occasion for all the football fans all over the world. The time is fast approaching until we see the first kick of the much anticipated Fifa World Cup and I'm sure it will be a tournament living up to all the media hype of an entertaining, atmospherically incredible event with no shortage of drama and controversy. Nevertheless, like every major football event, some major household footballing names have to agonisingly sit at home and merely watch what might have been because their teams failed to qualify for the World Cup. Some of the most famous players in world football, perhaps even more soul-destroying and cruel, have to miss out on football's greatest tournament due to serious injuries whilst others have to swallow their pride and put a leash on their egos because they were not selected in the final 23 World Cup squad for their country.
Here is what I perceive to be the best XI who are not going to be on the plane to Brazil due to their national teams not qualifying for the World Cup.
(3-5-2 formation - so I can accommodate the players as best to their preferred positions)
Alaba Ivanovic Benatia
Turan Hamsik Matic Bale
(Subs: Mkhitarayan, Coleman, Farfan, Salah, Aubameyang, Ramsey)
That team if it were to participate definitely would have the potential to win the World Cup if not make the final - incredible team. Just goes to show how many quality players play for the unfancied "lesser" sides who don't consistently make it to major international tournaments.
I also feel pity for those missing out through injury and those who were overlooked and didn't make the 23-man squad cut for their national teams hence I also made a team on those aforementioned factors. (4-2-2-2)
Carvajal Marquinhos Miranda F. Luis
Reus El Shaarawy
(Subs: Bruno Alves, Moreno, Negredo, Totti, Vela, Montolivo, Rossi, Llorente, Van der Vaart, Nasri)
This team isn't anywhere as invincible-looking as the first, but nevertheless it is a very strong team with a more than capable bench. If this team competed in the World Cup in my view, it would have the potential to make at least the last 8 or the Semi finals. Most of the players in this team are world class players who are highly regarded in world football - hence it is incredible that some of the players weren't selected which epitomises the ultra-impressive squad depth in teams such as Spain as Brazil or alternately illustrates the naivety and perhaps stupidity on the coaches' behalf by snubbing them i.e. Scolari by not selecting the in-form Athletico players.
Both these world XI teams show that the World Cup will be sorely missing massive star names who are some of the best entertainers in World Football i.e. the legendary Zlatan Ibrahimovic and it sad that they will be absent from such a massive occasion for one reason or another because they always light up the footballing pitch with their presence regardless of their form. However the World Cup will still have most of the world class players we all watch and admire every year with the likes of Aguero, Messi and Ronaldo and I'm sure that despite notable absentees, the tournament will be an unrivalled success which will entertain the masses and create memories that will last the ages.
By Hesham Bilal - Hafiz (@hesham786)