WORLD CUP GROUP STAGE PREVIEW: THE ULTRA looks ahead to the FIFA World Cup from Qatar which starts on the 20th November. He starts off by looking at the Group stage on the lookout for some good BETDAQ bets …..


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Tournament Overview:

The FIFA World Cup is nearly upon us, and we’re going to have an action packed November and December on BETDAQ Betting Exchange. There’s been a huge debate about hosting the World Cup in Qatar, and whether or not it is a good idea. The answer to that is probably no, it interferes with the domestic season and it won’t be ideal for the travelling fans but the reality is once the tournament gets going every football fan will be consumed by every game and the pre-tournament debate will be forgotten about. That’s what FIFA are hoping for anyway, because money talks!

The tournament gets underway on the 20th of November with Qatar playing Ecuador, which in fairness isn’t a blockbuster start to the tournament, however the games will be at an ideal time for UK and European viewers and once we get going we’ll have four games a day. It will be wall-to-wall action, and it’s going to be a fantastic few weeks for football fans. This will actually be the last World Cup with 32 teams because it’s getting even bigger – FIFA have a whopping 48 team tournament planned for 2026. With that amount of teams, it won’t take much qualifying for!

I’m going to go through each Group individually with work out who I think will finish in the top two to progress, then we’ll look at who slots into the Last 16 and go from there. If you’re wondering what happens if teams finish level on points in the Groups, it’s goal difference followed by goals scored.

As you would expect, we have all the top footballing nations at the head of the market. Brazil come into the tournament as favourites – currently trading 5.4 at the time of writing. They are followed by the likes of France, Argentina, England and Spain. Then we have a little gap in the market to Germany who trade 12.0 and they are followed by the likes of Netherlands, Portugal and Belgium. Obviously the draw is going to have a huge impact, so it’s important to look at each Group in detail.

This World Cup will also be fascinating because it arrives at an unprecedented time. We’ve never had a winter World Cup, slap bang in the middle of a domestic season – surely injuries and fatigue will be an issue at some point. The domestic leagues have basically crammed in a huge amount of fixtures in the run up to this tournament, plus we’ve had Champions League and Europa League action for the top players. It’s perhaps no surprise that Brazil and France are the two favourites given the strength in depth they have.


Group A:

Qatar, Ecuador, Senegal and Netherlands

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Netherlands will be fully expected to top this Group. After missing some major tournament in recent years, they have an exciting young side now. They are very attacking and we could easily see fireworks in their games. They topped their recent Nations League Group with five wins and a draw which included Belgium, and they topped their World Cup Qualifying Group too. I would suggest they’ll top this Group, so it’s all about who finishes second and that will be between Ecuador and Senegal because Qatar are a little out of their depth here. Ecuador might be at a little disadvantage because they have to play the opening game which will bring its own nerves so Senegal might have a slight advantage there. They both meet in the final Group game which will have a very open market you’d imagine. It’s basically close to a coin flip, but I’m going to opt for Senegal to take second behind the Netherlands.

VERDICT: SENEGAL


Group B:

England, Iran, USA and Wales

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England are going to be heavy favourites to top this Group – anything bar top will see a huge negative reaction in England. Indeed, even a draw against any side in this Group will be greeted with huge negativity. That’s a lot of pressure for this side to carry, however their class should easily get them through this Group. They come into the tournament with massive issues though, and even Southgate had to deal with questions of whether or not he should be in charge here. They were a complete flop in the Nations League recently, and you have to admit that even though they have had an excellent record in recent major tournament, they have had very easy draws. I wouldn’t put money on England topping this Group, but I expect it to happen. Iran will be outclassed here, so it will be very interesting to see who gets second between USA and Wales. That fixture comes up very quickly – indeed only the second day of the tournament! Obviously there is a lot of huge about the USA side but they did finish third behind Canada and Mexico in qualifying. Wales have been poor in the Nations League, but they are out of their depth in an A Group in fairness. I feel that they can sneak into second here – a last hurrah for Gareth Bale if you like!

VERDICT: ENGLAND


Group C:

Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Mexico and Poland

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Group C features one of the tournament favourites in Argentina, and they will be expected to top this Group without any issues. Saudi Arabia should be well off the pace here – they topped their Group but you have to consider the level that qualifying is played at. Mexico v Argentina will be an interesting game, because Mexico might be able to sneak a draw but it’s likely the second place will be decided quite quickly here. Mexico play Poland on the third day of the tournament – we’re going to have a very open market for that game which shows how close second will be here but I expect Mexico to come through it. Although Poland have Robert Lewandowski they have been quite poor for a while now. They have had so many disappointing results lately it’s getting to the stage where they are overrated by the markets now. It could easily come down to goal difference if Mexico and Poland draw, but I’m backing Mexico for second behind Argentina.

VERDICT: ARGENTINA


Group D:

France, Australia, Denmark and Tunisia

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This is the first Group where we have two big favourites to go through. However, as we have seen in the Champions League this season it doesn’t always work out that way! To be honest though, it’s hard to see past France and Denmark going through here in that order. Australia needed a playoff from a low level of qualifying to get here and Tunisia won’t be even close to the levels of France and Denmark. It’ll be interesting to see do we have any early upsets with France and Denmark clashed on the second Matchday but even though France were very poor in the Nations League recently they should come through this Group quite easily. Perhaps this Group could actually throw the Last 16 draw amiss because Denmark could sneak into top spot on goal difference if they can draw with France.

VERDICT: DENMARK


Group E:

Spain, Costa Rica, Germany and Japan

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Another Group here where we have two clear favourites. I think the only debate here is who tops the Group, Spain or Germany. There isn’t a debate about whether or not they get through. Costa Rica and Japan aren’t even close to the level required to get a result against either nation. There’s shocks, and then there’s massive shocks! Spain and Germany meet in the second Matchday like France and Denmark in Group D, and that fixture will decide who tops the Group. Germany had a pretty poor Nations League leading into this tournament, I know they are a “team in transition” but it was still poor to finish behind Hungary while Spain topped their Group with Portugal in it. I can see Spain taking top spot, with Germany second.

VERDICT: SPAIN


Group F:

Belgium, Canada, Morocco and Croatia

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Group F isn’t as “cut and dry” as the above two Groups, but Belgium and Croatia will be expected to progress here. It would be a shock to see anything else, however Canada did top their qualifying Group with Mexico and the USA behind them. Possibly more interestingly than the above two Groups too; Belgium and Croatia clash on the final Matchday. This could actually be one of those fascinating times where a side might not want to win based on how the draw is looking which is always a dramatic and interesting situation! We all know how good this Belgium squad is, but they just haven’t put it together on the big stage. Croatia aren’t the force of old either so we could see a mild shock here to be honest. You wouldn’t have both sides heavily odds on to qualify, but they should get through nevertheless. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Morocco or Canada pick up a draw against one of the top two at some stage which will add a bit of spice to the Group. I still see it being Belgium on top with Croatia grinding through for second.

VERDICT: BELGIUM


Group G:

Brazil, Serbia, Switzerland and Cameroon

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Tournament favourites Brazil will be expected to top this Group, but you have to say it won’t be very easy. Serbia and Switzerland are very decent opposition and they could easily pick up a result. That would definitely make this Group very interesting, but you’d expect Brazil to come through. They have a lot of talent, but we all know they can lose their heads too and lack discipline at the back; as most former Brazilian sides have. You’d expect Cameroon to be off the pace here, and Brazil actually meet them last so they’re going to have to start the tournament on fire. It will be interesting to see what version of Neymar turns up – the world superstar or the one who sulks! Brazil comfortably topped qualifying which is always intense; finishing six points ahead of Argentina. I think I’ll book them in for top spot, and then second will be between Serbia and Switzerland. Serbia topped their Nations League Group, but they are playing at B level whereas Switzerland played well in an A Group with Spain and Portugal. They finished that Group very strongly with wins over Portugal and Spain, and I’m leaning towards them for second. It’s going to be very close though.

VERDICT: BRAZIL


Group H:

Portugal, Ghana, Uruguay and South Korea

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We finish the Group stage with Portugal and Uruguay expected to come through. I have to say this Group looks tricky to call and I wouldn’t be lumping on anything here. Portugal have shown that they can really struggle to score at times over the last few years, and then what version of Ronaldo are we going to get? We’re definitely getting the angriest ever version of Ronaldo there is, but he has missed a lot of game time and is getting older – he might be a negative on the squad with his mental state. I’m fascinated to see how he plays – no doubt he will be the focus point of the Portugal plans. Uruguay are a solid side too, and they will be expected to beat Ghana and South Korea. I’m going to go with a slight surprise in this Group with Uruguay topping it and Portugal getting into second. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Portugal held to a draw against Ghana or South Korea.

VERDICT: URUGUAY

The Ultra Says (outright bets):
Two points win France at 7.4 to win the World Cup with BETDAQ BETTING EXCHANGE.
Two points win Argentina at 7.6 to win the World Cup with BETDAQ BETTING EXCHANGE.

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