GROUP B is arguably more competitive than even England’s so-called group of death with Spain, Chile and Holland all classy teams on their day.
CHILE play a fearless game and I expect them to be gung-ho no matter who they are playing. Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal is one of the most complete players in the game and his five strikes in qualifying helped his country to a goal haul only bettered by Argentina.
Defensively they were poor – with only Peru and bottom-placed Paraguay conceding more – but Jorge Sampaoli has had time to sort that out and the signs are encouraging.
They outclassed England 2-0 in a friendly last October before narrowly going down 2-1 to Brazil. The 14th ranked country in the world then earned rave reviews for a dominant performance over Germany in which they were desperately unlucky to lose via an early goal.
Playing on their own continent will be a massive advantage and, with Vidal and Barcelona’s Alexis Sanchez, they have been under-estimated by the market. Far from Group B being a nightmare, they will feel no pressure and that’s always dangerous.
The concern is a potential second-round tie with Brazil but I actually fancy them to win the Group – the 4/1 available is too big – and spread bettors can buy them on the Outright 100 Index at just 13. Losing in the quarter-finals would make up 25.
Spain‘s demise has been exaggerated, particularly when you consider 11 of the 14 players involved in the 2010 final are in the squad. Diego Costa is also a welcome addition to what was a faltering front-line.
They should qualify meaning HOLLAND will miss out. I want to oppose the Dutch and will be selling them at 16 on the Outright 100 Index.
They are flattered by their 35 goals in qualifying as they had the weakest pool of all. Conditions won’t be in their favour and a young, inexperienced defence might struggle to keep tabs on both Spain and Chile’s attack.
The last two winners of the Golden Boot scooped the award with just five goals. Punters want to be looking at players whose teams are in weak groups and it doesn’t get much easier than Group F if you’re an Argentinian.
Predictably Lionel Messi heads the 100 Index at 26-28 (winner: 100pts, runner-up: 75pts, third: 50pts, fourth: 33pts, fifth: 25pts, sixth: 20pts, seventh: 10pts, eighth: 5pts).
He’ll be popular but it may pay to chance GONZALO HIGUAIN at 17 instead. The Napoli man has 20 goals in 36 appearances for his country and hit four in South Africa at the last World Cup. Messi and Sergio Aguero are likely to be the first-choice pair but surely won’t be risked for all the group games.
KARIM BENZEMA went over a year without a goal for France but now has six in as many games for Les Bleus and was sparkling in their recent 8-0 demolition job over Jamaica.
France have an easy group and at 33/1 with Star Sports, or at just 10 on Sporting Index’s index, the Real Madrid striker is value.
So too is Colombia’s JACKSON MARTINEZ. Prolific for Porto, he’ll be the main man after Radamel Falcao was ruled out.
Japan, Greece and Ivory Coast are all limited and at just 6 on the Index, the 27-year-old may be able to make a mockery of that quote.
Buy Chile at 13 on the Outright Index with Sporting Index
Sell Netherlands at 16 on the Outright Index with Sporting Index
Karim Benzema at 33/1 each-way with Star Sports
Buy Gonzalo Higuain at 17 on the Golden Boot Index with Sporting Index
Buy Jackson Martinez at 6 on the Golden Boot Index with Sporting Index