It’s rarely a bad idea to look at the bookmakers’ odds when trying to determine a favorite, and the bookmakers sure like European teams for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
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Three of the four top dogs are from UEFA, and it becomes seven of nine and 10 of 14 before you find a team outside UEFA and CONMEBOL (That’s No. 15 Mexico).
Since 1990, five of seven World Cup winners have come from outside UEFA (Brazil in 1994 and 2002). That includes the three most recent winners in Germany, Spain, and Italy.
Betting against Europe in Europe means foiling overall favorites Brazil and fifth-favored side Argentina.
And so it follows that avoiding those teams for as long as possible is a nice idea. Given the draw, four sides won’t see either of the CONMEBOL powers until the semifinals.
That means, assuming Brazil and Argentina win their groups, it pays big to win groups A, C, F, H. That’s good news for two front-runners in France and Germany.
And perhaps it makes sense to lead with those teams, the latter being the reigning World Cup champions who missed out on EURO glory when they lost to the former via an Antoine Griezmann brace in the semifinals.
The third European team in the top five is Spain, whose loaded squad omitted several massive names. Advancing from Group B means a decent match-up with the winner or runner-up of a weaker Group A. In theory, that leaves less battle scars than other routes to the quarterfinals.
So many things will happen over the month-long cup that it feels silly to hang an expectation on a team, let alone a continent, but Europe’s chances are mighty good. Plus I want to be correct.