France is the favorite in the World Cup Futures markets but could this tournament have a few more twists in its narrative before the trophy is awarded?
Who do Bettors Favor?
According to the best-rated online sportsbooks France is the favorite with bettors to become the first team since Brazil in 1962 to retain a World Cup title. Didier Deschamps’ team is +115 to win the tournament, while Argentina is available at +175. Croatia and Morocco are regarded as the underdogs at this stage, and can be backed at +700 and +1000 respectively
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France on Brink of History
Only two teams have retained the World Cup, and neither did so in the modern era of 32-team tournaments. Italy won back-to-back tournaments in 1934 and 1938, but both of those were 16-team knock-out competitions. Brazil’s wins in 1958 and 1962 were more impressive, but given the level of modern global competition, a World Cup win for France in 2022 would eclipse those achievements.
That France now stands on the brink of history is all the more remarkable given that the team was weakened by critical injuries to key players ahead of the competition. Yet Deschamps has molded a team that is resilient and well-balanced, found the perfect combination up front in Olivier Giroud supported by Kylian Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann and Ousmane Dembele, and has steered them through a tricky Group and a difficult quarter-final game.
You can be sure that Deschamps will not be underestimating Morocco in the semi-finals, but having already recommended France at +600, its current odds make little appeal.
Two Hurdles Remaining for Messi
Despite his many personal and team honors, lifting the World Cup would almost certainly be the crowning achievement of Lionel Messi’s career and he now has only two hurdles left to clear.
Argentina began the tournament with a shock defeat to Saudi Arabia, but it actually dominated that game and went on to show its true form by beating Mexico, Poland and Australia in efficient form and then was just seconds from beating the Netherlands in the quarter-final. The way that the Argentine players recovered from their opponents’ late equaliser to ultimately win the game on penalties was another example of how resolute and together this group of players is.
Still, from a betting perspective, there isn’t a lot to be said for Argentina’s current price in the World Cup Winners’ market. Croatia is a tough opponent and there isn’t much value in backing Argentina at +165.
Croatia Still Underestimated
This Croatian team is arguably stronger than the lineup that reached the final of 2018 yet is consistently underrated in the betting markets.
On paper, some of its results have not been eye-catching, and its only big win came against Canada in the Group stage. But drawing with Morocco looks a lot better now than it did at the time, and the resolution shown by the Croatian players in coming through successive penalty shootouts to get to the last four has been impressive.
The relative lack of cutting edge that Croatia has shown so far is down to the lack of high-quality goalscorers in the front line, but the dominant midfield trio of Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic is able to control games completely and if Croatia is not able to find a way to score, it can shut down opponents, even teams of the caliber of Brazil.
This is a tough, hard-to-beat team, with some world-class players in its ranks. It might once again prove just beyond them to win the whole thing, but right now, Croatia is too big a price in the tournament winners’ market, given that it only needs to win one game to be in the final.
Morocco’s Journey to End Against France
This has been a remarkable journey for Morocco, reaching the quarter-finals of the World Cup for the first time in its history and then becoming the first African nation to reach the World Cup semi-final, but that journey is set to come to an end against France.
Walid Regragui deserves enormous credit for producing a resolute and effective football unit, despite having got the job just three months before the tournament began.
Morocco’s tactics have been focused on energetic pressing, all-action defense and fast, sharp breaks when an opportunity arises. This has proven an extremely successful approach, and the fact that there are players of genuine world-class in the team, and that there are thousands of Morocco fans in Qatar, has enabled it to progress deep into the competition.
Against a less resilient team, they would have a chance of getting to the final, but France represents a formidable obstacle that even Morocco will not be able to get past.