The biggest betting event on the planet kicks off in less than two weeks when soccer’s finest come to Russia for the 2018 World Cup.
Not only does the top prize in soccer offer daily betting odds on matches through group and knockout play, but there are a ton of alternative futures and prop markets on the board that sports bettors and choose from.
Here’s a look at some of the most popular options for soccer bettors during Russia 2018, sizing up the favorites and live long shots:
Golden Ball Winner
The Golden Ball is given the Most Valuable Player of the tournament final. In 2014, Lionel Messi got the Golden Ball nod despite his team, Argentina, losing to Germany in the championship game. This time, Messi is once again among the favorites to win top individual honors, but may not have the complementing team to get him deep enough in the World Cup tournament to warrant the award.
That has him priced at +900, just behind Brazil superstar and former Barcelona teammate Neymar, who is set as a +800 frontrunner to win the Golden Ball. The Brazilians are loaded with talent and are also the tournament favorite at +400 odds to win outright.
If you’re shopping for value, then take a swing with Neymar’s teammate Gabrial Jesus, who is sitting at +2,500 to win the Golden Boot. He’s an incredible talent and should be lifted to new levels by having such amazing players around him. He’s an elite goal-scoring threat and, considering Brazi’s projected success, should feature in a deep run for the country.
Golden Boot Winner
This is the award for the tournament’s top goal scorer, and doesn’t always go hand-in-hand with the Golden Ball either. The 2014 World Cup handed the Golden Ball to Messi but the top goal scorer was Columbia’s James Rodriguez, who score six goals in his rise to fame on the global stage.
Heading into the 2018 World Cup, Messi is a +900 favorite but as we mentioned may not have the support to get Argentina to the semifinals. Neymar comes in at +1,000, followed by France’s Antoine Griezmann at +1,200, Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo at +1,400, and England’s Harry Kane at +1,600.
A great value play is Manchester United standout Romelu Lukaku, who headlines a Belgium team with great expectations. Belgium is among the live long shots to win the World Cup, at +1,100, and he’s sitting at +1,800 to top the tournament in goals. He netted 11 goals in the European qualifiers – tied for third most – and ranked sixth in the English Premier League with 16 goals in 34 games.
The World Cup tournament is chunked into eight groups of four, with the top two teams from round-robin group play advancing to the Round of 16 knockout stage. Some groups are headlined by sure-fire champs, while other groups offer some betting value as to which team will top the group standings at the end of the stage.
Bettors looking for value should turn their attention to Group B, which features soccer powers Spain and Portugal. Spain is a -200 favorite to top the group with Portugal at +200. The Spanish put together a great record in qualifying but the quality of their competition is in question.
Portugal, on the other hand, is the 2016 European champs and has ridden that momentum through the lead-up to Russia 2018. They scored 32 goals in qualifying against just four, and have one of the best players in the world on the pitch, in Ronaldo.
In fact, looking deeper into Portugal’s futures odds, bookmakers have them set at +137 to reach the quarterfinals, +450 to reach the semifinals, and +1,200 to make it to the championship game. A Portugal World Cup victory pays out at +2,500.