We are in an in-between period. That short gap between the Derby and Royal Ascot. Indeed, this time next week we will be on the eve of the start of Royal Ascot. I don’t know about you but it’s my favourite meeting of the year. Maybe it’s the summer weather, combined with the five days of the highest-class racing, but I just prefer it to Cheltenham.
This year Royal Ascot will be vying for attention with the start of the 2018 World Cup which begins on Thursday and it looks like it could be a cracker of a tournament.
Today, I am going to indulge myself by looking at the World Cup, which is going to provide a whole plethora of betting opportunities.
If football isn’t your thing you can always skip to the bottom for my Monday horse racing selection from Windsor.
World Cup 2018
The Main Contenders
Brazil – The bookies favourites and despite losing the influential Daniel Alves to injury they deserve their place as market leaders. In Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and Firmino, they have three of the best attackers in the tournament but for me their real strengths are actually in defence.
Unusually for Brazil they have arguably two of the best goalkeepers in the world in AS Roma’s Alisson and of course Manchester City’s Ederson, who would arguably get into any team in the tournament but can’t because Alisson is the best in the business. To win a World Cup these days you need a world class goalkeeper and Brazil have two.
In front of the keeper are two of the best defenders in Europe in the experienced Miranda and Thiago Silva with Real Madrid’s Casemiro in the defensive midfielder role. They have it all and can reach the final.
Germany – Are the holders, its difficult to retain the trophy and you have to go back to 1962 to find the last team to do so. They always have to be respected coming into a major tournament and did win last year’s Confederations Cup but for me they are older, not so much in terms of age, but footballing wise they don’t have that zip they had. I could easily see them not getting past the quarter final stage.
France – Have one of the most talented squads in the tournament. They have a variety of midfield and attacking options which means they will be one of the most tactically versatile teams in Russia.
They have that a nice blend of youth and experience that you need to win a World Cup. If they are to win this year’s contest they need Manchester United’s Paul Pogba to dominate in midfield and for the manager to get these talented individuals to gel into a team, which he hasn’t so far on a consistent basis.
The semi-finals beckon but I am not sure they will get further with Deschamps as manager.
Spain – Winners in 2010 are back, the team that failed so miserably in 2014 and at the Euro’s in 2016 look totally reinvented. They seem to have got their verve and enthusiasm back and even more importantly the squad has a harmonious feel about it.
They are a blend of the old and the new, the likes of Andres Iniesta, David Silva, Sergio Busquets, Sergio Ramos, Jordi Alba and David de Gea combined with up and coming talents of Isco and Marco Asensio, Koke and Saul.
The back six if you include De Gea and Busquets are the best in the business. The Atletico Madrid central midfield pairing of Koke and Saul allow the full backs to get forward and support the many talents in the final third of the field.
The use of the false number nine was once again evident in Spain’s 3-0 win over Italy in the qualifiers. The interplay between Silva, Iniesta, Isco and Asensio was a joy to behold for the neutral football fan.
The draw has been kind to them and they should reach the quarter final where they will most likely face Argentina or France. If Spain play to the level that they did in demolishing Italy. I think they can win it.
Argentina – Any team that has the world's best footballer Lionel Messi in it has to have a chance of winning. Argentina have major weaknesses in defence despite having the excellent Nicolas Otamendi at centre back.
They have the best coach in a decade in Jorge Sampaoli but his biggest task like previous coaches, is how to fit the team around Messi. He might well have found it, as he looks likely to opt for a very unorthodox 2-3-3-2 formation which of course could easily be seen as more standard 4-4-2 with a midfield diamond and two attacking full backs. In such a system Messi will play as a second striker, playing off either Sergio Aguero or more likely Gonzalo Higuain.
If it does bring out the best in Messi it could make all the difference. One thing is for certain Argentina will play a more exciting brand of football than they did in 2014. If they do meet Spain in the quarter-finals I think the winner of that match can go on to win the tournament.
Best Of The Rest
Of the rest well, Belgium with Kevin De Bryune and Eden Hazard in tandem have to have a chance. Not sure they are defensively as good as the likes of Brazil or Spain or whether the manager’s formation gets the best out of De Bryune. Probably, semi-finalists at best.
Uruguay semi-finalists in 2010 look slightly stronger than they did in 2014 and are capable of reaching the semi-finals.
Meanwhile Colombia led by a revitalised Radamel Falcao, need respecting, but will ultimately falter to deceive in the latter stages of the competition.
If there is a European dark horse it could be Serbia. As good a defence here, with plenty of skill and strength in midfield from the likes of Lazio’s Sergej Milinkovic-Savic and Manchester United ‘s Nemanja Matic. Add in the goal scoring talents of English based Aleksandar Mitrovic, who hit a hat-trick against Bolivia at the weekend, and you have team that are my idea of World Cup dark horses.
England Look to 2020!
I can’t complete this preview without a view words on England. Sadly, the years of hurt will continue for England fans. Gareth Southgate will do better than Roy Hodgson did at the last World Cup and Euro's, it would be hard not to.
A youthful squad that have plenty of pace and quality up front. There are goals in the squad and I can see them hammering a pedestrian Panama.
On the negative side there is a distinct lack of creativity in midfield which will cost them dearly in the latter stages and I am not totally convinced about the defence either.
They have a look of Germany at the 2010 World Cup. This tournament will be a great learning curve and something to build on, with 2022 in mind.
The quarter finals are well within England’s compass. Any further not for me.
Verdict: Brazil are the rightful favourites and most likely winners but at the prices I have had a nibble at Spain and Argentina. England will do better than they have done at the previous finals but just don’t have the quality to go beyond the quarters. Whilst Serbia are my idea of value to reach the qualifiers.
Spain – 13/2 @ Coral
Argentina -10/1 @ Coral
Serbia to reach the quarter finals 13/2 @ Ladbrokes
Monday Racing & Selection
Saturday’s racing wasn’t of the highest quality and in all truth this month isn’t going great on the tipping front but given my Victor Value subscribers and I have enjoyed nearly 150pts profit over the previous two months, it’s not that surprising we're experiencing a bit of a dip in form given the nature of the game.
This week is a busy one as I will be doing my Royal Ascot research, as well as enjoying my first ever visit to Nottingham racecourse on Thursday for a bit of a day out with guys at Betting School.
7:20 – Shanghai Silver, looks the likely pace angle here. In a race where most of the field like to come from off the pace it could pay dividends to go with the Charlie Hills trained runner. The 4-year-old only saw the racetrack back in January but he’s made up for lost time by winning at Chelmsford and Newcastle. In the latter race he got a great front running ride from Paul Hanagan.
He wasn’t disgraced when 5th of 13 at Kempton despite a wide trip for much of the race. Not given a hard ride when his chance was gone, he finished just 3 lengths behind recent Epsom winner Dash of Spice.
Granted this is first run on turf and good to firm going would be a bit of an unknown (was withdrawn from a Newmarket engagement on account of good to firm ground). My hope is that his jockey will get him out in front and play catch me if you can. Despite the going concerns I am happy to take a chance on him to get the race run to suit.
Shanghai Silver – 10/1 @ Bet365
In next week’s Monday column, I will be looking at two of my favourite handicaps of the summer the Royal Hunt Cup and the Wokingham.
All that’s left now is to wish you a profitable weeks punting.
You can benefit from Victor Value expertise and tips every day when you take a trial of his service for just £1 –Click Here