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World Cup Group Odds Roundup: Powerhouses set as betting favorites

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Only three countries won their group in each of the previous two World Cup tournaments, one of which did not even make it this time, which suggests that pool play can offer some pleasant payoffs for bettors.

With the World Cup in Russia set to begin next month, Uruguay is an even-money favorite on the World Cup group odds for Group A at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Host Russia (+125) is the second favorite in the group, which is rounded out by Egypt (+550) and Saudi Arabia (+3300).

Russia’s defense has struggled in pre-tournament friendlies, so laying chalk with Uruguay might be prudent. Egypt, with Liverpool winger Mohamed Salah, could be a darkhorse, or a possible threat to advance into the Round of 16.

The Group B lines on Spain (-200) and Portugal (+185) have been steady for months, with Spain stacking up well in the middle with Andres Iniesta playing in his final World Cup. Morocco (+1600) and Iran (+2500) might be sacrificial lambs.

France (-350) has stars such as Paul Pogba, but has played down to the level of competition. Denmark (+450), led by Christian Eriksen of Tottenham fame, could be a darkhorse in Group C.

Struggles in qualifying has helped Argentina (-180) and Lionel Messi keep some value in Group D. However, Luka Modric-led Croatia (+225) has an outside chance of winning the group, which also includes Nigeria (+1000) and Iceland (+1200).

In Group E, Brazil (-400) is a lock who could help accentuate the value of parlay, since it has a big edge in scoring punch over Switzerland (+600), Serbia (+800) and Costa Rica (+1800). Brazil is also the co-favorite on the overall 2018 World Cup odds, with Germany.

And the Germans (-310) have a chance to take all nine points in Group F, where the defending champions are up against Mexico (+500), Sweden (+600) and South Korea (+2000). Sweden, pending the health of goalkeeper Robin Olsen (shoulder), has a chance to qualify out of the group.

In Group G, Belgium (-125), led by erstwhile star Eden Hazard, has an outside shot at winning it all; its value might be depressed by having to contend with England (+120). For what it might be worth, England won eight of 10 qualifying matches, just as it did in the qualifying for the 2006 World Cup, the last time that it won its group.

Last but not least, Group H has the lone plus-money favorite on the World Cup group betting lines with Colombia (+120) rating a slim edge over Poland (+175), with Senegal (+500) and Japan (+700) filling out the foursome. Poland is a stout defensive side that might be able to upset the order and go through first.

Defending champion Germany, Brazil and the Netherlands (which did not qualify) were the only teams to win their groups in both 2010 and 2014.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com.

Euro 2016 final: Griezmann, France favored to beat Ronaldo, Portugal

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While it often pays to be counter-intuitive before a championship matchup that has a heavy favorite, France is the chalk pick for the Euro 2016 final at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com for a reason.

France, which has pumped in nine goals in their last three matches, are listed at +110 to defeat Portugal on Sunday at Stade de France in Saint-Denis and become a three-time European champion. Portugal, led  by Real Madrid superstar Cristiano Ronaldo but also bearing the baggage from having been a bridesmaid four times in major tournaments since 2000, is the longshot at +350. The draw is at +210.

Many observers labeled the France-Germany semifinal, which Les Bleus won 2-0, to be the real final. France has been lethal at finishing during the knockout stages, with Atletico Madrid star Antoine Griezmann now up to a tournament-leading six goals. Their win against Germany illustrated how they can still get on the scoreboard without being ahead in possession time.

Skeptics who are still fixated on the fact France’s opening goal of the semifinal came on a penalty kick would also do well to remember they probably would have broken through sooner if they were facing any goalkeeper other than Germany’s Manuel Neuer.

France manager Didier Deschamps has a healthy lineup. France has also won 10 consecutive matchups against Portugal since 1975. It is also notable that the goal total has been two or more in 12 of the 14 Euro finals.

The best-case scenario for Portugal and Ronaldo might involve poking in an early goal and winning ugly through tough-minded marking. It’s decided role reversal from the days when Portugal often fell victim to that style of play, most notably at Euro 2004 when Greece pulled off a 1-0 upset in the final.

Portugal seems to have made the attitude adjustment required to win with defense. Left back Raphael Guerreiro should return to bolster their back line after being held out of the semifinal against Wales on Wednesday. The effect of his return could be negated if Pepe, who trained apart from his teammates on Friday, is less than 100% healthy.

It might be tempting to think that Portugal might act out the underdog story. However, the cost of their emphasis on falling back defensively is that it reduces the number of touches for Ronaldo and Nani, their second striker

In a Euro 2016 matchup featuring La Liga rivals Ronaldo and Griezmann, it might be best to back the superstar whose team keeps him engaged in the game.

Underdog Iceland seeks another payout as Euro 2016 hits quarterfinals

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Iceland will be looking to extend their improbable Cinderella run at this year’s European Championship when they hit the pitch on Sunday for a quarterfinal matchup with France as a huge +848 underdog in three-way betting at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The first-time tournament participants captured the imagination of soccer fans around the world with their shocking 2-1 victory over England in the Round of 16, leaving them undefeated in four tournament contests heading into Sunday’s Iceland vs. France betting matchup at Stade de France.

But neither the odds nor history appear to favor Iceland’s chances of advancing any further at this year’s tournament.

Les Bleus are coming off a narrow 2-1 Round of 16 victory over Ireland, lifting them to 6-1-0 in their past seven, and they sit as enormous -225 chalk against Iceland for this weekend.

France is also unbeaten in 11 all-time meetings with Iceland, but has seen their dominance over the Nordics erode since recording an 8-0 rout in their first encounter, a 1957 FIFA World Cup qualifier, settling for a 3-2 win in their most recent clash in a 2012 international friendly.

The quarterfinals get underway on Thursday with Portugal taking on Poland as a +132 favorite. Semifinal finishers at Euro 2012, Portugal backed into the knockout stage after settling for three draws in group stage action before earning a Round of 16 win on penalties over Croatia in perhaps the ugliest game to date at this year’s tournament.

With Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo in the lineup, Portugal remains a constant offensive threat. Ronaldo has found the net just twice so far at the tournament, but remains a strong +600 bet to emerge as the top goalscorer on the Euro 2016 player props.

However, Portugal faces a stingy Polish squad that has surrendered just one total goal in four Euro 2016 contests, and is pegged as an interesting +295 underdog in three-way betting.

Led by Jakub Błaszczykowski’s two goals, the White Eagles powered to a seven-point finish in the group stage before outlasting Switzerland in a Round of 16 shootout, and can draw confidence from a solid 2-2-1 record in their past five games against Portugal.

In other Euro 2016 quarterfinal betting action, Wales has a mountain to climb when they hit the pitch on Friday as a huge +450 underdog in their clash with Belgium, -137 favorites.

And Saturday’s action sees tournament betting favorites Germany perched as +125 chalk as they take on a surprising Italian squad sporting attractive +303 odds for the contest.