World Cup betting guide
In the history of the World Cup, one thing remains true -- European nations don't win the tournament when it's held in South America -- or Central America, for that matter. Six times the competition has been held in South America or Central America and six times, a South American team has won it. And what's more, two of the hosts won the tournament and eight of the 12 finalists were from that part of the world too.
So that partly explains why you'll find Brazil and Argentina at the head of the betting, with Bet365 making them 3/1 and 4/1 respectively. Brazil have the honour of favouritism thanks mostly to the fact they are hosting the tournament. Knowledge of the conditions and physically being used to them is crucial. The winner will be one or the other. Had the tournament been held four years earlier, Spain might have had a big chance and though they're still to be respected -- as are Germany and a few other dangerous floaters -- it's hard to see any of them actually winning it.
All 32 team previews and predictions
Brazil | Cameroon | Croatia | Mexico
Australia | Netherlands | Chile | Spain
Colombia | Greece | Ivory Coast | Japan
Costa Rica | England | Italy | Uruguay
Ecuador | France | Honduras | Switzerland
Argentina | Bosnia | Iran | Nigeria
Germany | Ghana | Portugal | USA
Algeria | Belgium | Russia | South Korea
For me, this World Cup is about whether Lionel Messi can put the crown on his career by leading Argentina to victory. Brazil are solid but don't have the flair of some teams down the years, while Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo are the world's outstanding players and deserve to have a good World Cup. The difference between Argentina and Brazil is the depth that Argentina have and the number of goal scorers in their side.
Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain are world class, which means Argentina don't have to rely on Messi completely and other teams can't focus only on him. Brazil will win their group but then could play Netherlands or Spain, the 2010 finalists, and then probably either Italy, Uruguay or England.
They have enormous pressure on them and I can see them getting tripped up somewhere along the way. Argentina have an easy group, then they'd play the runner-up in France's group -- probably Ecuador -- followed by perhaps Portugal or Russia. It's much easier, on paper. At 4/1, with each-way for making the final, it's Argentina's time.
But if you want to hedge your bets, then take the very generous 10/11 on a South American side winning it, which gives you Uruguay, Chile and the others as well.
There are some big prices around for each-way bets, including Uruguay, who have Luis Suarez, at 28/1, while Netherlands and a free-scoring Chile side are at 40/1. But I like the look of France to do something. Blessed with an easy group of Honduras, Switzerland and Ecuador, they could easily find themselves in the last eight before anyone really takes notice. Didier Deschamps seems to have finally got a squad of united players and at 22/1, they're not bad value.
Belgium have an exciting crop of players and although this tournament might be a little too early for them, they should see off Russia, South Korea and Algeria in their group. Likewise, France should be too good for the rest of Group E at 3/4 and they are also value to finish as top European team at 8/1.
If -- and it's a big if -- England manager Roy Hodgson lets loose and plays Raheem Sterling from the start, as well as Daniel Sturridge, England will have pace to threaten anyone and I can see them going through their group (even though Italy and Uruguay are strong), with an advantage to be had -- perhaps -- from finishing runner-up. That would see them through to a last 16 clash against the winner of Group C, which will come from Ivory Coast, Colombia, Japan and Greece. They should not be feared and suddenly Bet365's 11/4 England to lose in the quarterfinals looks generous.
Now to the Golden Boot and I'm going for two players in this market. It usually pays to go with someone who takes their side's penalties, so the likes of Ronaldo, Miroslav Klose (if he plays enough) and even Diego Forlan come into the equation.
Sergio Aguero looks a strong bet at 14/1 in a market headed by Messi at 15/2. Luis Suarez, after a great season with Liverpool, is 20/1 but is recovering from injury, as is Ronaldo. The key to this market is picking one player from a team you think will go a long way and another from a team you think might hammer one of the so-called lesser sides. On that basis, Aguero is a good price at 14/1.