We reassess the outright winner, Golden Boot and Golden Ball markets ahead of the start of the knockout rounds.
Brazil head betting to win the 2018 World Cup at , but the unpredictable nature of the tournament means they are far from certainties.
The group stage saw many of the established powers struggle, with Argentina fortunate to finish second and Germany – who we tipped in our pre-tournament piece to retain their title – dumped out.
France, Spain and Portugal are all yet to impress in Russia as well.
That goes some way to explaining England’s price of , having performed well in their victories over Tunisia and Panama.
We highlighted before the tournament the importance of a favourable path to the final and, should the Three Lions pass their last-16 test against Colombia, they will face either Switzerland or Sweden in the last eight.
However, having not won a knock-out game since 2006, there is little value in backing Gareth Southgate’s side.
Belgium, meanwhile, are priced at an enticing .
Roberto Martinez’s side topped Group G with a 100 per cent record and face Japan in the first knock-out round.
The last eight World Cup winners qualified as group winners, but a potential last-eight meeting with Brazil means Belgium should be approached with caution.
Of the other group winners, Croatia offer the most value.
Ztlako Dalic’s side have been best team in Russia so far and produced the performance of the tournament so far as they beat Argentina 3-0 in their second group game.
The fact there have only been two first-time winners of the World Cup since 1966 goes some way to explaining their long price.
But they should breeze past Denmark and their performances up to now mean a quarter-final against Spain or Russia is winnable.
Neither is a semi-final against one of Sweden, Switzerland, Colombia or England.
Back them to lift the trophy at .
Harry Kane leads the Golden Boot market at heading into the first knockout round, and the England striker’s fast start in the group stage suggests he’s going to be very difficult to overhaul.
Six goals has been enough to win the Golden Boot in nine of the last 10 World Cups, and Kane sits just one strike off that tally having only appeared in two games so far.
No Premier League player has finished as the top scorer at a World Cup since Gary Lineker in 1986 – which ruled Kane out in our pre-tournament piece – but the Tottenham striker is in a great position to end that drought, thanks in part to England’s fortuitous route to the late stages.
Nevertheless, his short price means it’s worth looking elsewhere, given that the tournament has only just passed its halfway point.
Chasing Kane are Cristiano Ronaldo , both of whom scored four times in the group stage.
Ronaldo opened with a hat-trick against Spain but only found the net once in the following two matches against Morocco and Iran, and is probably one to swerve thanks to Portugal’s tricky path to the semi-finals.
Lukaku’s prospects of catching Kane are much brighter.
The Manchester United striker’s four goals have all come from open play, and it’d be a real surprise if he doesn’t add to his tally against Japan, who are the weakest side left in the competition.
Antoine Griezmann was our top choice before the tournament started, but he’s only scored once for France so far and probably has too much to do to catch the leaders.
We suggested backing an outsider in the Big Bet Manifesto, and Brazil’s Philippe Coutinho looks the best of the bunch outside of the top contenders.
The 26-year-old is still in with a chance after scoring twice in the group stage, although he is probably represents a solid each-way option at this point.
We highlighted pre-tournament that the Golden Ball winner tends to have made a big impression in the group stages, so searching outside the few favourites to have performed well already is unwise.
Joint-favourite Philippe Coutinho – who we tipped before a ball had been kicked – appears to lead the field under that criteria.
The Barcelona midfielder headed to Russia in superb form for his club – another key component of winning this award – and has not looked back. Having scored in Brazil’s opening two matches, he teed up Paulinho with a sensational assist against Serbia.
If Brazil progress as far as the semi-finals, he will take some stopping.
Joining him at the top of the betting is Cristiano Ronaldo .
The 33-year-old’s hat-trick against Spain got the tournament off to a rollicking start, but he missed a penalty in his side’s final group game and doubts remain as to Portugal’s ability to progress much further.
Croatia’s prospects look better, so Luka Modric is also worth considering at .
Our pre-tournament piece also discussed how FIFA looks favourably upon legendary players, with Zinedine Zidane and Lionel Messi previous winners.
While Andres Iniesta looks a much better bet. If Spain go all the way despite their pre-tournament managerial chaos, his leadership will have been vital.
Neymar, meanwhile, looks short at , given he has been outshone by Coutinho.
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