The FIFA World Cup moved into its third round of group matches on Monday, which means this free-scoring tournament is now just past the halfway mark.
The group stage of World Cups can often be cagey affairs, throwing up games between plodding, ponderous nations too wracked with nerves to take any risks. There’s been little of that in Russia, though – and that’s been great for the fans, and for the World Cup betting.
Thirty-two games in, we have yet to see a 0-0 draw — an unprecedented run. It’s true the 1954 edition — a tournament fondly remembered as a goal-fest — managed not a single 0-0, but back then there were only 16 teams in the competition and just 26 games.
On Sunday there were 14 goals, the most in a single day of a World Cup since 1990. In fact, the six matches over the weekend produced 27 goals in all, more than half of which came from one group and were largely thanks to England and Belgium.
Kane on Target for Golden Boot
England’s 6-1 demolition of Panama sent Gareth Southgate’s men through to the round of 16 with a game to spare. It also sent a message to the world that this England team has more backbone than those that have continually disappointed in previous years.
On paper, apart from the world class Harry Kane, this team is not as good as the one that failed to set the world alight in the 2000s, despite its formidable midfield of Paul Scholes, David Beckham, Steven Gerrard, and Frank Lampard.
But the current England team is young, organized, fit, fizzing with energy and self-belief, and apparently bereft of the stage fright and paralyzing burden of responsibility that infected its predecessors.
It’s been a long time since anyone has said this, but England is now a decent bet to win the World Cup, at 9/1 — an eventuality that would surely be the UK betting industry’s worst nightmare.
Meanwhile, Harry Kane is now favorite, at 7/4, with the bookies to win the Golden Boot, the trophy awarded to the top scorer for the whole tournament. He already has five goals in just two games, but breathing down his neck is the great Cristiano Ronaldo, with four goals, a 10/3 bet with the bookies.
Could This Be Belgium’s Year?
England’s next match will be against Belgium — which has also already qualified and is another team that has been accused of failing to play to its potential in past years. But its 5-2 victory against Tunisia on Saturday suggests manager Roberto Martinez is getting the best out of his terrifying squad of players.
With a roster that includes Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, and Romelu Lukaku — to name a few — there’s no reason Belgium can’t win this world Cup blindfolded and is a good bet at 8/1. Just keep an eye on the prognosis of Lukaku’s ankle ligament injury.
And finally, don’t right off the Germans. The current holder was on the receiving end of the biggest shock of the World Cup so far when it lost to Mexico in the first game, but it bounced back over the weekend with a last-gasp winner against Sweden and remains in a position to qualify for the next round.
The bookies aren’t righting off Germany either. It’s still among the favorites but now you can back it at better odds than at the start of the tournament, with some bookmakers offering 15/2.