With the World Cup right around the corner, it’s about time to start priming one of the World Cup’s strongest (and VERY top-heavy) groups, Group G. With Belgium, England, Tunisia, and Panama, who’s the heavy favorite? We’ll rank them top to bottom and give you the tournament odds, starting now!
Belgium. Four years ago, they were the “up-and-coming, dark horse” team. Now, they’re one of the favorites. Back in 2014, Belgium’s odds were about 16-to-1, but now, up to 11-to-1 as one of the favorites to potentially make noise and go all the way. What makes Belgium so special? Well, that’s a question that’s pretty, pretty easy to answer.
This Belgium side has been named the “golden generation” by many analysts, with incredible talent from top-to-bottom. In net, one of the world’s most talented goaltenders in Chelsea’s Thibaut Courtois on top of a defensive core lead by Man City’s Vincent Kompany. Elsewhere? Just world class talent in Kevin De Bruyne (Man City), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Romelu Lukaku (Man U), need I go on? This Belgium team may be the most talented side in the tournament. Expect Belgium to run through the competition and play England very strong, likely winning their group.
Pre-Tournament Group Stage Odds (via CBSSports): -140
This England roster is stocked with speed and skill, but can they get over the hump and get deep in a tournament for the first time in over a decade? At this point, from what we’ve seen, there’s potential. Definitely potential. If we know one thing about England football, it’s almost always “potential”, but will that potential finally get put to good use? Let’s find out.
Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Dele Alli, and the gang are looking for vengeance. English football in general has been disappointing recently, and with this influx of tremendous youth, things are looking up. Who’s going to get the nod in net? Between 24 year old Jordan Pickford, 25 year old Jack Butland, or 26 year old Nick Pope, international experience will be a bit lacking. The English team’s decided to go with the youth rather than 75-cap Joe Hart, a semi surprising move to some. This shows the direction that the English squad’s looking to go in, with 2018 being the start of what is hopefully a long-term dynasty. With all the talent on this roster, plan for England to waltz into the Knockout Stage and prepare themselves for some real fun.
Pre-Tournament Group Stage Odds (via CBSSports): +120
We go from Belgium and England, two of the contenders of the World Cup… to Tunisia. Tunisia’s ranked 21st in FIFA’s rankings thus far, and with a 12-year absence since their last appearance in the World Cup, the Tunisians are looking to make some noise and shock the world.
A large amount of Tunisia’s roster plays in France currently, lead by players such as Vice-Captain Wahbi Khazri of Rennes/Sunderland. Tunisia’s been in good form recently, dropping just one game in a recent friendly against Spain, otherwise defeating teams like Costa Rica, Iran, Egypt in the past year to show that they’re not just a Group G pushover. This Tunisia team’s one of the dark horses of the tournament, and while they’ve got some brutal odds, there’s certainly potential that Tunisia makes it interesting and puts up a few points to keep the English on their toes. With only one win in the World Cup since 1978, every game will likely be tough, but we’ve seen crazier things happen.
Pre-Tournament Group Stage Odds (via CBSSports): +2200
If we’re talking absolute dark horses, Panama’s the darkest horse you can find. For fans of the MLS, Panama’s one of the few teams stocked with players playing in the MLS right now, with recognizable names such as Anibal Godoy (San Jose Earthquakes) and Román Torres (Seattle Sounders) leading the way with dozens of caps.
Panama’s got one of the oldest squads at the World Cup and in their first World Cup appearance in the history of their national team, this is more about “the experience” than anything for the Panamanians. Will Gabriel Torres, Blas Pérez, and Luis Tejada be able to break up and score at all? With a known “defense first, offense second” scheme, chances are there’s going to be a ton of bus parking and a lot of attempts to counter attack up the field. All in all, expect Panama to get handled by Belgium and England and potentially compete with Tunisia in what could potentially decide who the bottom-feeder of the World Cup is.
Pre-Tournament Group Stage Odds (via CBSSports): +4000