Scotland V England Saturday 24th February. 4:45PM. BBC One Scotland v England renew their rivalry…
The weight of expectation behind host nation Brazil ahead of this summer’s extravaganza is growing fast. Looking at the 2014 World Cup betting odds the Selecao are now a top-priced 3/1 (11/4 in places) to lift the trophy for a record sixth time.
Luiz Felipe Scolari’s men will raise the curtain on the World Cup when they face Croatia on June 12, and the importance of this match should not be underestimated. Indeed, it’s crucial that Brazil make a positive start to the tournament and create a feel-good factor amongst their fans.
Momentum is key for the host nation
If they are quick off the blocks and win their opening Group A match in authoritative fashion, confidence will be high in Big Phil’s camp, a mood which will transcend to the terraces.
Momentum is particularly key where the host nation are concerned – they have the benefit of a metaphorical ‘twelfth man’, but he will only be to their advantage if they bring him into play by lighting up the pitch.
To an extent, the same is true of Argentina and the other South American nations – they will benefit from strong local support but will need to get their fans tuned-up by making a bright start to the tournament.
France – the potential surprise package
According to the 2014 World Cup betting, the consensus amongst bookmakers is that Brazil, Argentina, Germany or Spain will be triumphant this summer. That doesn’t come as much of a surprise, but at 25/1 with SkyBet I reckon the French have been underestimated.
Les Bleus were disappointing in South Africa four years ago, of that there is no doubt. They essentially imploded as a row ensued between striker Nicolas Anelka and then manager Raymond Domenech, but they are a more harmonious outfit this time round.
Indeed, Didier Deschamps has created unity with the ranks and, looking at his 23-man squad for Brazil, I strongly believe that France, winners of the World Cup in 1998 and runners-up in 2006, have a much better chance of glory this summer than their odds suggest.
Firstly, France have been treated kindly by the draw. While Ecuador, Honduras and Switzerland, the last-named in particular, are all capable footballing nations Group E appears to be very much Les Bleus’ for the taking.
Deschamps men will have the opportunity to build confidence and momentum against, with all due respect, three lesser sides in the group stage. If they avoid any slip-ups they will progress with ease and ought to still be relatively fresh when the knockout phase commences.
Les Bleus solid throughout the park
The French boast a rock-solid defence, at the heart of which is Laurent Koscielny who has developed into one if the best centre-halves in the business with Arsenal this season.
They look strong in midfield with the likes of the up-and-coming Paul Pogba, PSG playmaker Johan Cabaye and Newcastle fulcrum Moussa Sissoko among the six middle-of-the-park men selected by Deschamps.
Up front, France will be represented by Karim Benzema, Olivier Giroud, Antoine Griezmann, Loic Remy and the irrepressible Franck Ribery of Bayern Munich. An impressive line-up, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Whether or not France go all the way depends, to a large extend, on the mind-set within the camp. If they make a good start and Deschamps can keep them fully focused, I see no reason why Les Bleus won’t make a good fist of things in Brazil this summer.
World Cup 2014 betting advice:
France (each-way) at 25/1 – SkyBet