England are a best priced 25/1 to win the World Cup and you can back all the European sides at combined odds of 8/11 to lift the trophy next July after the summer festival of football. Those prices could shift significantly after two events, one that will happen and the other that would be the biggest global story in the history of sport.
The draw for the group stages of the 2014 World Cup will begin at 4pm GMT in the Brazilian state of Bahia on Friday afternoon. However, at some point FIFA may have to make the incredibly controversial and tough decision that the country of Brazil is not fit for purpose to stage the World Cup.
Given a favourable draw England could see more than patriotic backers if they appear to have been given a relatively easy route to the knockout stages. Conversely if being involved in one of those Grupos de Muertas (Groups of Death) 40/1 might then represent a more accurate reflection of the nation’s chances of winning the World Cup for the second time.
On many levels Brazil is a wonderful host for a sporting event that is only matched in terms of global interest by the Olympics. The fact that Rio now picks up the baton and Olympic flag from Boris Johnson adds a further strand to a debate which questions the economic and social legacy of hosting such massive sporting events.
Brazil have won the World Cup five times and is the only country to win the tournament outside their own continent, other than Spain last time in South Africa. They first hosted the competition in 1950 and have earned the right to stage the tournament for the second time.
Mexico, Germany and Italy are the only other multiple host countries, the former due to Colombia being seen as not ready in 1986 and Germany and Italy getting a second chance due to investment in infrastructure and excellence in the competition. It seems fitting that three of the four dual hosts have the best records and have each won the World Cup more than once.
Romario de Souza Faria (Romario) scored 364 goals for PSV, Barcelona and Brazil and was the player of the tournament when his country won the World Cup in 1994. It might seem distasteful to be betting on a development that could come nearest to a sporting disaster other than the genuine horrors that occurred at Heysel, Hillsborough and going back further, Ibrox but Romario makes a case for detractors of a World Cup in Brazil.
Brazil is seen as a confident and emerging economy and clearly is doing something right in the context of global exposure and hosting the World Cup and Olympics in just over two years. It is fair to say that these watershed events have not been met with universal approval in the favelas (slums) of Rio. However, if the worst case scenario became reality many millions of residents of that vast country would be devastated.
In the context of betting the implications would be significant. No European nation has won the World Cup in South America but if the 2014 tournament was moved to Europe Germany, Italy, Spain and others would trade at much shorter odds than are currently available.
Even England’s odds would tumble if the World Cup was moved to Europe. The impact would be even more considerable if FIFA decided to take the World Cup away from South America next February and turned to the Great Britain and Ireland to put on a show with short notice. Romario doesn’t want the World Cup in his own country and possibly the only realistic alternative would be matches in the ready made stadia across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern and the Republic of Ireland.
Romario is now a 47 year old Brazilian Socialist politician. He expects the World Cup to provide the background to mass protests and riots as the ordinary people of Brazil take to the streets not to celebrate the matches but to protest at the £7.6 billion being spent on a sports event when millions of their countrymen are suffering economic hardship.
Romario believes too much money is being spent on next summer’s tournament at the expense of much needed public services. He thinks there will be no structural legacy for most of the population who are faced with underfunded schools and hospitals and huge social divisions. Betting might seem trite in this context but I am a betting analyst and not a social commentator.
However, I do believe the everyday folk of Brazil should be heard and whether that means sacrificing the World Cup and the effect on the betting markets really is a complex issue. Preparing the grounds for the World Cup is a massive construction project with inherent risks. An accident that saw two workers killed on a project that is running behind schedule could be seen as a freak or a symptom of falling standards in order to get the work done on time.
The opening match of the 2014 World Cup is scheduled to take place at the unfinished ground in Sao Paulo where the accident took place. I really believe FIFA and Brazil cannot now afford another incident that costs lives and if something similar or worse was to happen before next February Great Britain and Ireland could get the call.
We all know that England have only ever won the World Cup at home. In 1966 England played all six matches at Wembley while other nations had to move around the country. Euro 96 to some extent and the Olympics proved that there is the infrastructure in place in terms of transport and stadia to put on a World Cup given four months notice.
By the time any decision to relocate has been made the 32 nations that have qualified for the 2014 World Cup Finals will know their group opponents. Once the draw has been made it will be interesting to see how long it takes for bookmakers to issue prices for England to win their group, qualify for the knockout stages and even win each of the three matches in the first phase.
Before we retire on Friday evening or settle down to watch the Second Ashes Test from Adelaide it might be worth having a look at Oddschecker for early prices. As a former employee of bwin and knowing how they operate my money would be on that company to be first out. Of the UK based operators I would expect Bet365 to be significant players in the early post-draw business.
Romario’s concerns and the feelings inside Brazil hopefully will not ruin the occasion on Friday and the subsequent matches. But at what point are our betting interests superseded by the decision to take the World Cup away from Brazil because the country is not ready and the debate surrounding the issue? However, England would have a much better chance of winning a World Cup in Europe rather than South America.