One wouldn’t even need to consult online sportsbook sites in Russia to guess the identity of the two favorites of the Group G betting specials. Belgium and England have a significantly richer football history than Tunisia and Panama, which is reflected in their respective betting odds. Gamblers, then, have to decide whether to go for the safe bet or take some risks in the hopes of winning enormous returns.
Don’t think that you’d be the first to make the latter choice. Upsets happen more frequently in football than in most sports. The reason for this might be the low number of scores in a typical match or it might be something else; at any rate, researchers of the Los Alamos National Laboratory have confirmed the intuition of those following different kinds of sports: football has the biggest “upset frequency”.
The biggest football tournament is no exception to that rule: there are many World Cup underdog stories fans still remember. With that in mind, let’s assess whether it is worth putting your faith in the underdogs in this specific case.
The favorites of the Group G betting specials: Belgium and England
The two European teams definitely have the advantage over Tunisia and Panama in a number of respects. Belgium in particular looks strong. Attacking geniuses like Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard make up for what the team lacks in defense. Online betting sites in Russia are offering 1.85 if they finish first in Group G and only 1.07 if they secure either the first or the second place.
England is also expected to get to the knockout stage (also 1.07 for a top 2 performance and 2.20 if they will be the best of group G) but they look a bit less convincing. The team has been receiving criticism for underperforming at recent major tournaments, failing to get past the group stage at the 2014 World Cup and immediately losing to Iceland after advancing to the knockout stage at the 2016 European Championship.
Their coach, Gareth Southgate, who has often been criticized by journalists, decided to omit some big names (an underperforming Joe Hart, for instance) in favor of young players. He hopes he got the balance right between experienced members and young, athletic players.
Gamblers who want to go with the favorites might want to bet on the exact finishing order, as that offers a bit higher returns. 2.20 is given if the results will be 1. Belgium 2. England and 2.60 if we will see a 1. England 2. Belgium.
Should you give the underdogs a chance?
What if one of the upsets of this year’s tournament is to happen in Group G? Could an underdog get the upper hand with, for instance, a win and two draws? If yes, which underdog?
Panama’s long throws may decide games
As their appearance in the World Cup is a first in football history, Panama will be arguably the hungriest team in the entire tournament. To illustrate the stakes: President Juan Carlos Varela declared a public holiday after the squad qualified for the World Cup.
Unibet Sportsbook offers 10.50 even for a mere advancement to the next stage, not to mention the 41.00 if they become the winners. But even if they are the biggest underdogs of the Group G betting specials, Panama still has a chance. The Guardian highlights Adolfo Machado, whose long throws could lead to very dangerous situations for the opponents. England in particular has a lot to fear from that: one of the goals in their humiliating defeat to Iceland in the 2016 European Championship came exactly from such a long throw.
If Panama doesn’t let their 3-4-3 formation get disarranged, they have the chance to surprise the bookies. There’s only one thing they should be cautious about: their relying on a physical playing style. A friendly meeting with Denmark two months ago has shown that they could easily increase the number of red cards to be shown in the World Cup if they go overboard.
Tunisia: unfortunate injury could put them in the bottom place
A few international players have recently been added to Tunisia’s squad, a move that has proven beneficial. One of them, Anice Badri, played in the Belgian league before transferring to the North African country and his experience will certainly come in handy against the Eden Hazard-led team.
As efficient as Badri is, the key player of the Tunisian squad was expected to be someone else: Youssef Msakni, whose hat trick against Guinea played a major role in Tunisia’s World Cup qualification. However, Msakni suffered a knee injury that ruined his chances of participating in the World Cup.
Tunisia was already an underdog and they have just lost their best player. It would be sensible to bet on their finishing fourth, a relatively safe bet that nevertheless promises decent profit (2.75). That, joined by a bet on the team to finish second (England or, if you feel bold, Panama), is a great package for those who plan to place money on the Group G betting specials.