2018 World Cup Betting Guide: Comparing Our Numbers to Vegas' Odds

When lining up our models alongside oddsmakers' numbers, a few teams -- including talent-rich Spain -- stand out as superb bets to take the crown in Russia.

We are roughly three weeks away from Russia taking on Saudi Arabia to open the 2018 World Cup. Many of the teams have named at least their provisional roster, with final rosters to be set by June 4.

The roster announcements did not move the Vegas lines much as no one unveiled a shocking lineup. Some squads, like England, named several players who will likely play a bigger part in the 2022 World Cup, but it was not enough to sway the lines for this year's installment.

Our round-by-round probabilities are set and two teams -- Brazil and Spain -- have emerged as clear favorites, per our models.

Let's compare our numbers to Bovada's World Cup odds to see where we can find betting value. We'll start with the big dogs before trying to uncover some under-the-radar bets that could pay off in a big way.

Vegas Favorites

Germany (Bovada Outright Winner Odds +400 | numberFire Champion Probability 8.74%): The defending champions are the odds-on favorite, per Bovada, as it stands now. On paper, Germany is absent any glaring weakness. Die Mannschaft were among the favorites in the last World Cup, as well, and we know how that turned out. The +400 line implies a win probability of 20%, which is significantly greater than the 8.74% our models give the Germans. The difference can be attributed to our belief in Sweden to provide a competitive match for Germany in the Group Stage, and fellow Group F combatant Mexico isn't a pushover, either. Germany could also meet any of Brazil, Costa Rica, Switzerland, or Belgium before reaching the semifinal, making it that much harder for them to become the first side to win back-to-back World Cup titles since Brazil did so in 1958 and 1962. While Vegas may consider Germany favorites, it is a riskier bet than it appears on the surface.

Brazil (+450 | 38.44%): Brazil is close to Germany with an 18.2% Vegas-implied win probability. They are the top team, per our numbers, with whopping 52.19% chance to make the final and a 38.44% probability to win the title. They are the likely winners of Group E, which would, in all likelihood, result in a knockout round match with Mexico or Sweden (unless Germany got second in Group F). The biggest test may not come until the semifinals, depending on the form that France has in the tournament. With Neymar taking every measure to be fully fit for the tournament, Brazil's hopes are high. Neymar or not, Brazil have not lost in their last 14 matches and beat Germany, 1-0, on March 27th. The low odds may make Brazil less appealing to high rollers, but they are the safest bet in the tournament.

Spain (+600 | 25.12%): Spain is the other favorite, according to our models, with a 25.12% chance of taking the title. Depending on the site, they are anywhere from the third to fifth favorite for oddsmakers, but Bovada has pushed them into the third spot with a 14.3% win probability. Spain are starting to gain traction with pundits, which may be a cautionary sign for some. However, the side that Julen Lopetegui has named is full of quality, including David De Gea, possibly the world's best keeper. The back line is full of veterans who understand the grind of the World Cup and mare no stranger to big stages with club and country. With every dollar earning six, a bet on Spain is well worth it. Just don't wait too long to get these odds as the money heading toward them may shift the lines.

France (+650 | 6.93%): Oddsmakers give France a 13.3% chance of taking home the title. They have been one of the darlings of the tournament since this World Cup cycle began. The struggles of Antoine Griezmann for his national team took some of the spotlight away from Les Bleus, but he comes into the competition in great form for his club team. Kylian Mbappe, Nabil Fekir, and Florian Thauvin are among the young players who can take some of the pressure off of Griezmann and help carry France to a Group C win, and we give them a 62.00% chance of claiming their group. That could set up a quarterfinal match against Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal before a potential showdown in the semifinals. We give the French a 41.50% percent chance to make the semis, the third-best odds among all teams, and they have the talent to bring home the trophy.

Next Tier

Argentina (+1000 | 0.49%): There is a large gap to the next set of teams in Bovada's odds as Lionel Messi and Argentina are fifth with a 9.1% win probability. We aren't nearly as high on Argentina, ranking them as the field's 12th-best team and giving them very little chance to win it all. Remember, it took a hat trick from Messi in their final qualification game for the side to even make it to Russia. And Argentina scored only 19 goals in 18 qualifying matches. That is why it is confusing that Inter's Mauro Icardi was left out of the squad after he bagged 29 goals in 34 matches in Serie A. Still, manager Jorge Sampaoli has plenty of attacking talent at his disposal -- Messi, Paulo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero -- but can he make the puzzle pieces fit perfectly? An aging core and recent results make Argentina a tough bet, even with one of the best ever in their side.

Belgium (+1000 | 9.33%): The numbers match up for the Red Devils more than any other side. We have them as the third-most likely to win at 9.33% -- behind only Spain and Brazil -- making this a great possible return on investment. Belgium are in great form, with their last loss coming way back in July 2016, and they also have quality preparation matches against Portugal and Costa Rica in the next few weeks. According to our projections, they have a 72.0% chance of winning their group with only England, a nation that seems geared to make their best run at the 2022 World Cup, considered a serious challenger. They could face tough competition in the quarterfinal (unlike some of the other favorites) depending on how the groups work out. However, they will be led by the Premier League's best playmaker, Kevin De Bruyne, along with the brothers Hazard, Eden and Thorgan, who are both coming in with great form. Given what has been shared, it may be worth noting that a Belgium/Spain final is currently +3300.

England (+1600 | 2.08%): Speaking of England, new captain Harry Kane thinks that The Three Lions can win the World Cup this year, but many others are suggesting that the best target is four years from now to allow their young talent to develop. Kane, only 24 years of age, joins several other players who very well could still develop into a true golden generation for the 2022 edition of the competition. As for 2018, they will likely have to beat Belgium head to head on June 28th to win the group and have an easier road to the final. However, Vegas' 5.09% implied probability may be giving them even more of a chance than they realistically have in Russia, as we put their title odds at 2.08%. That's the sixth-highest, but it's well off the pace of the tourney's true favorites.

Rest of the Field

There are a few comparisons worth noting in the rest of the field, but many of these teams have an implied probability less than 5.0% based on the current Vegas odds. Realistically, none of these teams will challenge for the Cup, but it is interesting to look at the numbers nonetheless.

Team Vegas Odds Implied Probablitity nF Odds
Portugal +2200 4.30% 2.00%
Uruguay 3000 3.20% 0.44%
Croatia 3500 2.80% 0.60%
Colombia 4000 2.40% 0.41%
Russia 5000 2.00% 0.07%
Poland 6600 1.60% 1.24%
Denmark 8000 1.20% 1.75%
Mexico 10000 1.00% 0.04%
Switzerland 10000 1.00% 0.20%
Sweden 15000 0.70% 1.51%

Portugal's hope will rely on Ronaldo, although they would likely be favored in a knockout round match regardless of a first- or second-place finish in Group B. France or Argentina would likely be the quarterfinal opponent and end Portugal's run. Portugal is our seventh-highest favorite and eighth in Vegas.

Much like Portugal, Poland's hope will sit mainly with one player. Robert Lewandowski will be asked to lead them to a Group H win, but they will probably have to best Colombia on June 24th to win the group. Arkadiusz Milik has proven his ability on the ball for his national team, but he will need to be at his best for the squad to beat the 1.6% implied odds. Winning Group H would still mean a match against England or Belgium in the Round of 16.

According to our algorithm, five of the teams in the table above have better odds of winning than Argentina, with Sweden and Denmark the most surprising. Sweden are our eighth-best favorite with a 1.51% of being crowned champions but a much nicer 75.5% chance of reaching the Round of 16. Denmark are right behind Sweden, but they are ranked 14th in Vegas odds. Both teams could surprise in Russia, even if they fall short of the title.