The Smart Money Is On France Winning The World Cup
If you think you know who will win the World Cup, then put your money where your mouth is. World Cup futures odds are widely available, and the top value bets feature the World Cup favorites with a few surprising teams sprinkled in.
We looked at the most recent odds published by Bovada, and 17 of the World Cup's 32 teams are listed at 100 to 1 or better. We assigned a value rating of bad, fair, good or great to each of those teams.
The World Cup Favorites
Germany +450: Good Value
If you believe that Germany will defend its title, a $10 bet will win you $45.
Germany's B team won the 2017 Confederations Cup comfortably, and no manager has a tougher job of trimming his roster than Joachim Low. It's even possible that 2014 World Cup hero Mario Gotze won't make the cut.
For a team that has made the semifinals in the last four World Cups, +450 seems favorable. You're betting on a main course of Bayern Munich with a side of Barcelona (Marc-Andre ter Stegen), Real Madrid (Toni Kroos) and Man City (Ilkay Gundogan, Leroy Sane). That's good value.
Brazil +450: Fair Value
We're six weeks away from the World Cup's opening match, and Neymar is still in street clothes. Assuming his recovery continues on course and he's match fit, Brazil's attack is better than any in the world.
It's difficult to forget Brazil's collapse against Germany on home soil, but it was likely an aberration. They rolled through qualifying with one loss in 18 matches while conceding just 11 goals. Brazil's a good bet here, but we give the slight edge to Germany.
Spain +600: Fair Value
Spain comes in at a discount to the top two World Cup favorites, but it's not for a lack of talent. Teams are going to have a tough time scoring against David De Gea, Sergio Ramos, Gerard Pique and Cesar Azpilicueta.
After a disappointing club season with Chelsea, Alvaro Morata needs to find another gear for the national side. If he does, Spain could dismiss its disappointment in Brazil as a one off.
France +700: Great Value
France perhaps has the strongest roster of any of the World Cup favorites. Defense has been the question mark, but both Raphael Varane and Samuel Umtiti took big steps forward this season anchoring the back lines of Real Madrid and Barcelona, respectively.
Paul Pogba's creativity and N'Golo Kante's industry complement each other perfectly in the center of the midfield. Smart money is on France.
Argentina +900: Fair Value
Messi will turn 31 during the World Cup, and winning the one title that has eluded him would make for a fairy-tale ending to his international career.
However, Messi's supporting cast will likely not be up to the task. Argentina limped to a third-place finish in qualifying, needing to win its final match to secure its place in Russia. Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero could raise their play and deliver, but Argentina will have a difficult time replicating its defensive effort from the 2014 World Cup, in which it allowed just four goals in seven games.
Belgium +1100: Great Value
The Belgian team is loaded. The discount here is probably a result of having underperformed at the Euros in 2016. Since that quarterfinal loss to Wales, new manager Roberto Martinez has set out to maximize the talent on his roster. And he has a lot of it.
Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard attacking; Kevin De Bruyne and Radja Nainggolan pulling the strings in the midfield; teammates Jan Vertonghen and Toby Alderweireld leading the defense. Put down $10 and walk away $110 richer.
England +1600: Bad Value
Harry Kane needs to put England on his back. Jordan Henderson and Eric Dier are stalwarts in the midfield, but they lack the playmaking ability of their counterparts on France, Spain and Belgium.
The Dark Horses
Portugal +2500: Fair Value
Under manager Fernando Santos, Portugal has played a stingy brand of soccer. Their Euro 2016 title run was equal parts ugly and effective.
Perhaps all Portugal needs are a few Ronaldo and Ruben Neves screamers to make a deep run. Still, their margin for error is minimal, and their defensive quality is lacking.
Croatia +3300: Good Value
The center of the midfield features starters from Real Madrid and Barcelona. Ivan Rakitic, Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic will help Croatia keep possession, and all Mario Mandzukic needs is a half chance.
The problem, perhaps, is Dejan Lovren. Manager Zlatko Dalic would be wise to have Kovacic drop back into a deep-lying midfield role to help the defense. If Croatia can post a solid defensive performance, these odds will look like a bargain.
Uruguay +3300: Fair Value
Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez will score, and Diego Godin will make it hard for other teams to score. Uruguay is always a tough out at the World Cup, but they'll come up short in the midfield battle against any of the favorites.
Colombia +4000: Fair Value
James Rodriguez was the breakout star of Brazil 2014, and Davinson Sanchez has received valuable experience starting this season as Tottenham's centerback. Colombia feels like a team that could surprise some by making a run to the quarters. But anything beyond that would be a stretch.
Russia +4000: Bad Value
Unless the hosts unveil a defense anchored by a pair of grizzlies, this feels like an overpay. Even if the Russians have advanced to the next frontier of performance enhancement, the gulf between their talent and the favorites is too wide to consider the possibility of a string of upsets.
The Long Shots
Poland +6600: Fair Value
This all comes down to Robert Lewandowski and his penchant for scoring goals in bunches. Problem is, you're betting on a player, not a team.
Denmark +8000: Fair Value
If you like Poland's odds, you're probably a fan of Denmark's as well. Remove Lewandowski from the equation, and insert Christian Eriksen.
Mexico +8000: Good Value
It's hard to turn $1 into $80, and it will be hard for Mexico to win the World Cup. But Mexico has been on the cusp of a deep run, and if they finally get the Round of 16 monkey off their back, they could be playing with a newfound mojo.
Swiss +10,000: Bad Value
Xherdan Shaqiri might score a banger. But that's not what you're betting on. Don't waste your money here.
Sweden +10,000: Fair Value
Sweden deserves credit for knocking Italy out of the World Cup before it even started. The increasingly remote possibility of a Zlatan return makes this a difficult call for oddsmakers.
Egypt +15,000: Fair Value
This feels like the next stop on the Mo Salah Ballon d'Or campaign. Egypt has been drawn into the weakest group along with Russia and Saudi Arabia.
If they make it out of the group stage, they'll quickly become the fan favorite. Salah is capable of stealing a game or two, and Arsenal's Mohamed Elneny is no slouch in the midfield. Egypt is a definite long shot, but +15,000 is worth a flier.
Iceland +15,000: Fair Value
Iceland's upset of England in the 2016 Euros cemented its status as a giant killer. Their player development track record is unrivaled, but making it out of what is arguably the group of death will be a tall order.
Nigeria +20,000: Good Value
Victor Moses, Alex Iwobi, Kelechi Iheanacho and Wilfred Ndidi have all featured in the Premier League this season. The top-end talent on this team makes this an unusually fun 200 to 1 bet.
Costa Rica +25,000: Good Value
Keylor Navas was the hero for Real Madrid against Bayern Munich, and he was the biggest factor in helping Costa Rica navigate to the quarters in Brazil 2014. That team was a penalty shootout away from the semis.
Costa Rica has manageable games against Switzerland and Serbia in the group stage. They could draw on their experience from four years ago and make some noise.
If you're looking to bet on one of the World Cup favorites, a team with an outside shot and a lottery pick, then we suggest you put $10 down on France, Croatia and Nigeria.