Since 1970 only six nations have won the World Cup. Indeed, the same six nations are among only seven to have appeared in a final during the same period and if I was to stake a bet this year, I’d put good money on the final of Brazil 2014 being contested by either Brazil, Argentina, Italy, France, Germany, Spain or the Netherlands.
But we love an outsider, and this year the World Cup is awash with nations that have just enough potential to cause havoc in the group stage and even progress to the semis or final. Keep in mind that although the World Cup final is an exclusive club, the penultimate round has been contested by no less than seventeen different teams since 1970, and even England were in touching distance of the final once upon a time.
Here are five outside bets for the World Cup, with winner odds and odds to qualify from their group provided by Paddy Power.
– Croatia (150/1 to win, evens to get out of group)
Croatia open the World Cup against Brazil in São Paulo and are 10/1 outsiders to win the game, but with the weight of the nation on the shoulders of the host side it is not inconceivable that Niko Kovac’s men could pull off a shock.
Despite Mario Mandzukic (scorer of 33 per cent of Croatia’s goals in qualifying) being suspended for the opening game, Luka Modric and the promising Marcelo Brozovic could cause the Brazilian defence all sorts of trouble. The team play attacking football based on keeping possession which helped them hold Belgium in qualifying and mount an impressive run of results towards the finishing stages of the group. They’ve also won both their pre-world cup friendlies against Mali (2-1) and Australia (1-0).
Keep in mind that Costa Rica gave Germany a run for their money in the opening game of the 2006 World Cup and Austria almost held Italy in 1990, not to mention Senegal beating holders France in South Korea.
– Belgium (20/1 to win, 1/6 to get out of group)
Probably the worst kept secret of this year’s World Cup, on paper Belgium are a formidable force. The youthful team stormed through the qualifying groups drawing two and winning eight of their ten games and many pundits believe the country’s ‘golden generation’ could shine in Brazil.
Coach Marc Wilmots is young and dynamic to suit the team, with enough squad experience in the shape of Vincent Kompany and Moussa Dembélé to contain this youthful vigour. Atletico Madrid owe a lot of their La Liga success this year to Belgians, namely Thibaut Courtois. The addition of Adnan Januzaj will bolster the already potent force of Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Thomas Vermaelen.
According to Oxfam Belgium have already won the World Cup in terms of equality, having the smallest gap between rich and poor out of all qualifying nations.
– Bosnia and Herzegovina (175/1 to win, 8/11 to get out of group)
Bosnia-Herzegovina sailed through qualification with eight wins from ten matches and find themselves in a group with Argentina, Nigeria and Iran, which explains why they’re 8/11 to get out of the group but 175/1 to win the World Cup.
The ‘Golden Lilies’ are ranked 25th in the current FIFA rankings after a solid run of form and have the likes of Miralem Pjanic (Roma), Sead Kolasinac (Schalke 04) and Asmir Begovic (Stoke City) in their ranks to deliver their attack-minded style of football. The key to their success will be a man the Bosnians refer to as ‘The Diamond’, Edin Dzeko, who scored most of their goals in qualifying and is lethal in front of goal.
Bosnia are the only national team making their World Cup debut this summer, so who knows how they’ll perform on the big stage?
– Colombia (33/1 to win, 2/7 to get out of group)
There’s an expectation that this year’s World Cup will be won by a South American side accustomed to the hot and diverse climate showcased on the continent. With technical ability, creativity, power, speed and defensive structure, ‘The Coffee Growers’ could be in with a pretty good chance.
Coach Jose Pekerman uses the stacked 4-2-2-2 formation to support the rapid counterattacks for which the country is famed. This freedom allows them to progress with pace up the field using the flanks or the central corridor, with aerial ability and skill in abundance to suite both. Jackson Martinez (29 goals for Porto this season) and Carlos Bacca (21 for Sevilla) could cause real problems, and the team, ranked eighth in the world by FIFA, will fancy their chances against Ivory Coast, Greece and Japan.
Striker Teófilo Gutiérrez once pulled a gun on his club team-mates, but has mellowed since and could be decisive.
– Chile (40/1 to win, 5/6 to get out of group)
Chile have gone from 350-1 outsiders to 40-1 dark horses to win the World Cup with some bookmakers and should be familiar to England fans after they cruised to an impressive 2‑0 victory at Wembley in November.
They face the Netherlands and Spain in qualifying which will be tricky games, but they’ve shown that they can perform against the best and have heaps of world class talent to give it a go. Alexis Sanchez (Barcelona) is an outsider for Golden Boot this year and after amassing 21 goals in all competitions last season the Chileans will hope their attacking style of play may leave him with a fair shout for the award.
Countdown’s Rachel Riley has predicted that Chile will triumph at the World Cup after number-crunching the data of previous winners from the past three decades.