Yep, it’s finally here. The long wait is over, the stadiums are finished (sort of), the fans have arrived, and everyone’s ready for the month-long carnival of football, fiestas and favela shoot-ups. We’re talking about the 2014 FIFA World Cup, of course, and by all accounts, it is shaping up to be a Brazilian bonanza of betting. £1 billion is estimated to be bet on the World Cup every four years, and with so many ways to bet on the football – Internet, mobile phones, via your TV – it’s no wonder bookmakers are licking their lips at the prospect.

2014 World Cup Brazil

Yes, it’s finally here! Join us as we bet with gusto on all aspects of 2014 World Cup in Brazil! (Image: FIFA logo)

If you’re looking for a few teams to lump your hard-earned cash on – or simply looking for a way to make Mexico v Cameroon seem a bit more interesting – we at Casino.org will be writing a regular blog over the course of the next month as we highlight some of the decent value bets we’ll be putting our money on.

Recently, we wrote a blog showing how you could turn £5 into £1 million betting on the World Cup. While we stick by our original Outright Bets and our optimistic accumulator (a brief summary of which you can find here), we’ve also taken a look at a few of the opening games to see where the smart money lies. If you decide to join us on our quest for smart sportsbetting wins, good luck, and bring on the Samba!

Our World Cup Bets For Week One

Brazil Neymar

Can host nation Brazil – and their superstar, Neymar – triumph on home soil? (Image: Clive Rose/Getty)

Brazil v Croatia
Thursday, 12 June

2pts Brazil to Win @ 2/7

The first matches of World Cup can throw up surprises (holders Argentina being beaten by Cameroon in 1990), but Brazil will want to stamp their credentials firmly on this World Cup from the outset.

Croatia are efficient, if unspectacular, and the European side may sense weaker prey in their next games with Cameroon and Mexico.

Spain v Netherlands
Friday, 13 June

2pts Netherlands to Win @ 9/2 (Coral)
2pts Under 2.5 Goals @ 8/15 (Betfred)

Netherlands probably need to come out of the blocks in their opening game against Spain if they’re to have any realistic chance of progressing.

The runners-up of this group will play the winners of Group A in the 2nd round – most likely Brazil – and that’s not a prospect any team wants so early on in the tournament.

Couple that with a Spain team who are fading from the giddy heights of being joint World and European champions plus a feeling that the ‘Spanish way’ of ‘tiki taka’ has been largely ‘worked out’.

Win this game and a cosy route, via an otherwise easy group and 2nd round and on to the quarter-finals beckons.

Reports suggest the Oranje will play five in defence in their first game to counter the Spanish attack, so perhaps a tight 1-0 wins beckons. A saver bet on Under 2.5 goals is our move.

Top stat: The Netherlands finished top of their group in qualifying for the World Cup, with 9 wins, 1 draw and no losses. They only conceded five goals.

England v Italy
Saturday, 14 June

2pts Under 2.5 goals @ 4/9 (Betfred)
1pt Daniel Sturridge 1st scorer @ 7/1 (Ladbrokes)

England kick off their campaign in the Amazon heat of Manaus on Saturday against the team who knocked them out of Euro 2012 on penalties.

That time around, Roy Hodgson’s cagey play ensured extra-time and penalties, and there’s no reason to suggest that his England team will be any less conservative in the first game of Group D, especially when you have Uruguay in your next game.

England were similarly unadventurous in their opening game of that tournament two years ago, drawing 1-1 with France. The smart money should therefore be on, rather than a 0-0 or 1-1 score bet (which we’ll probably come to rue), under 2.5 goals to avoid any slip-ups.

Daniel Sturridge 2014 World Cup

England’s Daniel Sturridge is a good bet to open the scoring against Italy on Saturday (Image: John Sibley/Action)

England striker Daniel Sturridge’s strike against Peru in England’s first World Cup warm-up game was the Liverpool man’s third goal in five starts in an England shirt, and his fourth England goal in total.

In England’s storm-interrupted final warm-up game against Honduras, Sturridge – when not being hacked to pieces by the Honduras players – managed three shots on goal and should have scored at least two of them.

Sturridge was the top English scorer in the Premier League in 2013/14 (with 21 goals) and with the 24-year-old now finding himself on the biggest stage, he needs to find the back of the net against an Italy to show the world what he can do.

Outright Bets

In our previous preview, we outlined a few outright bets we fancied, possibly as an accumulator. Here’s a Cliff’s Notes of what we’ve picked. We shall be betting 1 point on each bet individually.

Lowest Scoring Group: Group D
7/1 (888sport)

Some World Cups have a group of death; Group D is the surely the Group of Dearth. With the cautious Italians and English in the group, and with games being played in the heat of Manaus, don’t expect too many goals.

Highest Scoring Group: Group F
7/1 (Betway)

Argentina, a Bosnian side who scored 30 goals in qualifying and who have the excellent Edin Dzeko up front, plus two potential whipping boys in the shape of Iran and Nigeria? Expect lots of goals.

Golden Boot: Edin Dzeko (Bosnia-Hercogovina)
66/1 Each-Way (general)

The Manchester City man was 100/1 not long ago, but smart money has moved his price in a little. It’s no wonder – he scored for fun in qualifying and faces Nigeria and Iran in the group stages. A not insurmountable route – Bosnia will face probably either Switzerland or France in the 2nd Round – means Bosnia could go far. One snag – the Golden Boot winner has always come from a team reaching the semi-finals at least. That could prove to be too far.

England to Reach the Quarter-Finals
9/2 (SportingBet)

If England can negotiate their way out of Group D, they will face either likely Colombia or the Ivory Coast – both beatable matches. It’s then that things get a little trickier, with a quarter-final against Brazil or Spain/Netherlands. That will be the end of the Three Lions’ journey. England are rightly talked up as a top 8 world team, so reaching the quarter-final would be seen as a success.

Other Outright Bets to Watch

And a few extra bets to throw into the mix…

Argentina to Win Tournament
5pts @ 17/4 (bwin)

Could this year be Argentina’s year? They’re on ‘home turf’, they boast attacking flair in the shape of Barcelona’s Lionel Messi, Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero, and Angel di Maria of Real Madrid.

Argentina find themselves in a straightforward group against the newcomers of Bosnia, who should present with them with their sternest test in the opening game, Nigeria, and Iran. A route to a potential final against Brazil beckons – and is surely written in the stars.

No European team has ever won a World Cup in South America, and we think – barring any monumental implosions – Argentina will keep it that way.

Gonzalo Higuain Argentina 2014 World Cup

Argentina’s Gonzalo Higuain is the value bet for Top Scorer at 20/1. (Image: Daniel Roland/AP)

Golden Boot
2pts Each-Way Gonzalo Higuain @ 22/1 (Coral)

Argentina seem to find a way of messing things up at the World Cup, but if they falter again in a relatively easy group, there will be no excuses.

Win Group F and the route is set all the way to the Semi-Finals for a team full of attacking flair. Superstar Lionel Messi has to shine finally on a world stage, but the value money is on striker, Gonzalo Higuain. He has flown under the radar somewhat but he scored 9 goals in qualifying and at 22/1 is a decent each-way bet for Top Scorer in the World Cup.

England Top Scorer
0.5pt Each-Way Raheem Sterling @ 20/1 (888sport)

The Liverpool attacker is England’s not-so-secret weapon, and the teenager has the potential to make the biggest impact on this tournament of all the England players. He will likely start against Italy and may operate in a front four of Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Liverpool team-mate, Daniel Sturridge. If Rooney misfires on the biggest stage (yet again), this exciting player could step in. At 20/1 it’s worth a speculative punt.

Netherlands to Win Group B
1pt @ 31/10 (SportingBet)

There is a sense the Netherlands will be out for revenge for their WC final defeat against Spain in 2010, and although the Netherlands were notoriously dirty that day in Johannesburg when they lost to the Spaniards, there’s no doubt the team has got better.

The team cruised through qualification, finishing joint scorers with 28 goals and dropping just two points.

Robin van Persie is still the class striker he’s always (at times) been for Manchester United, Arjen Robben can still turn it on, and the team have some good youngsters coming through. Also bear in mind this will be manager Louis van Gaal’s swansong before bidding the national team farewell to take up his new role as Manchester United manager. He will expect a proper send-off.