What could be the biggest party the world has ever seen kicks off this June. With the UK’s hopes for the World Cup resting solely on England’s shoulders, and the tournament just five months away, here’s a look at their chances in the competition.
Betting fans should be aware that odds on individual matches are already available. Bookies will do everything possible to attract market share between now and June; promotions including William Hill bonus offers are widely available.
England have been drawn in Group D for the finals, with Uruguay, Costa Rica and Italy.
It’s a potentially tricky group to progress from, with three previous World Cup holders. Although Uruguay haven’t won since 1950, they finished fourth in South Africa four years ago.
As well as lifting the trophy twice, they’ve reached the semi-finals three times, including Mexico 1970 and Switzerland 1954. Given that they failed to qualify in 1958, 1978, 1982, 1994, 1998 and 2006, Uruguay’s record could be described as patchy. They’ll meet England on 19th June, and are currently slight favourites to take three points at around 8/5, with England at 2/1.
Italy have been world champions on four occasions, most recently in 2006.
However in 2010 they failed to progress from their group and finished 26th overall. Results in 2013 were reasonable, with more draws than wins, though the side performed well enough to qualify top of their group.
Losses at home to both Brazil and Argentina may be of note to fans who want to back them to win in July. England meet Italy on 14th June in Manaus; again, the bookies favour the Italians at about 8/5, while odds on England are 11/5.
Costa Rica did well to finish second in their qualifying group, having beaten the USA 3-1 and Mexico 2-1 in home games. Italia ’90 was Costa Rica’s first, and so far best, World Cup campaign, with a 13th place finish.
England will travel to Belo Horizonte on 24th June for their final group match against the Central American side.
A lunchtime kickoff may give Costa Rica an advantage in terms of heat and humidity; however the bookies are predicting an England victory at 8/15. The current best price on Costa Rica is 13/2.
What about Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland?
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have sadly failed to qualify for the finals. Scotland and Wales were both drawn in UEFA Group A with Belgium and Croatia, finishing fourth and fifth, both with three wins from ten.
Scotland’s highlight was a 2-0 win over Croatia, while Wales beat Macedonia – and Scotland, twice. Northern Ireland can look back with pride on a 1-0 victory over Russia; it was to be their only win.