For the first time in World Cup history, the competition will be hosted in the Middle East. Qatar will be our global host, and they’ve spent an obscene amount of capital and resources to prepare. According to this article written by Mark Ogden, Qatar spent $36 billion on a metro system in addition to building seven new stadiums, adding up to roughly $220 billion in total. Fans will travel from all corners of the globe to represent and cheer on their respective countries, and while they might have issues purchasing Ubers or carrying around alcohol, I know that’s not why you’re here.
Al Janoub Stadium
You’ve come to this article to find your best bets for the 2022 World Cup, and Andy and myself will break down some of our favorite plays below. Most of the traditional powerhouses are back, including Brazil (5x champion), Germany (4x), Argentina (2x), France (2x), Uruguay (2x), England (1x), and Spain (1x). The only former World Cup winners that did not qualify was Italy, who lost to lowly North Macedonia to be eliminated from attending.
Qatar is the only team making its debut in the World Cup and will be welcoming two teams that haven’t participated in the 21st Century in Canada (1986), and Wales (1958). Most of the top players in the world will be in attendance, with the biggest names not in attendance being Paul Pogba, N’golo Kante, Timo Werner, and potentially Sadio Mane due to injury. We should be in for an incredibly balanced field, indicated by France being the favorite at +400 odds, so let’s get into mine and Andy’s favorite bets heading into the tournament!
Backing Argentina in Qatar
One of the biggest missing pieces in the Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo debate has always been a World Cup. Although Messi is already clear of Ronaldo, his Argentina squad is positioned nicely to put him in contention for the most prestigious prize in world football. They are so well positioned in their group and a possible path to the Final that I believe there are a number of bets we can take advantage of in the futures markets to make some money on Messi’s final attempt at World Cup glory. Let’s take a look:
Argentina to Reach the Semi-Finals (+200) - 1 Unit
Making it to the final four teams remaining out of the 32 nations in the World Cup is quite the feat. However, Argentina has one of the easier paths to get there out of other World Cup betting favorites which makes this future worth backing with the full unit.
As it stands today, Argentina is -250 to win their group. Group C is made up of Argentina, Poland, Mexico, and Saudi Arabia. Poland and Mexico are two interesting teams with a number of names any European or North American soccer fan would recognize at a number of positions. The problem for these two is that they will not have anywhere near the depth that Argentina offers, nor the level of skill across several positions that should easily propel Argentina past them.
From there if Argentina wins their group, which looks very likely, they face off against the Group D Runner-Up. Group D has even less to offer than Group C, with France and Denmark headlining things and Australia and Tunisia bringing up the likely bottom half. Group D should be France’s group to lose, which is why I believe there is value in tying France and Argentina together to win their groups, but I’ll get into that later.
As long as there are no upsets, Argentina and Denmark will face off in the Round of 16 with Argentina likely the heavy betting favorite. As they head to the quarterfinals, things are not as simple but the options are much friendlier than the rest of the bracket will see. Argentina’s quarterfinals opponent will feature the winner of the Group A Winner vs. Group B Runner-Up matchup. We are looking at most likely Netherlands or Senegal facing the USA or Wales, and I would be willing to bet (and probably will… just wait!) that Senegal or the Netherlands advance with ease in that matchup.
Argentina versus the Netherlands would be a lot of fun, as would the Argentines against Senegal. Senegal you would expect to be a large dog against this Argentinian side, with the Netherlands also not being favored but at least with a better chance than the AFCON Champions. The Dutch have great midfield and defending options to keep Argentina at bay, but their attack scares me for their sake, as we are looking at Memphis Depay… and then who? I don’t think the Argentinian defenders will struggle too badly against the likes of Steven Bergwijn, Luuk De Jong, or Cody Gakpo, but I have seen crazier outcomes.
The point of walking through Argentina’s path to the semi-finals is to show the value that we are getting here at +200. Not once will Argentina be a betting dog leading up to this point unless a number of their key pieces go down to injuries. That is a risk everyone will be taking on by betting on the World Cup this year with it being in the middle of everyone’s club season, but I believe Argentina’s depth and current form having not lost an international match in over a year should send this squad to great heights.
Argentina to Reach the QuarterFinals (-140) - 1 Unit
Don’t feel as confident in Argentina against the Dutch or the Sengalese? Have no fear. You can still get great value at only -140 on them to simply defeat Denmark in the Round of 16. The only risk you are running here is that the unthinkable happens and France does not win their group, or Poland and Mexico pull off some upsets and Argentina does not win their group. Either group stage result would leave us with a Round of 16 matchup for the ages in France versus Argentina, but I feel very strongly that our only chances of these two meeting would be in the World Cup Final.
Parlay: (+102) - 1.5 Units
Argentina to win Group C (-250)
France to win Group D (-225)
Finally, as I stated above, I will be putting my money where my mouth is. I respect Denmark after their performance in the 2021 Euros and rallying behind the unfortunate events that happened to Christian Eriksen. But this team is not France and is levels below them. France should walk with ease through Group D, with Denmark as their only real opposition that poses a small threat.
I highlighted Argentina’s road above, and believe that the price on these is great for pairing together. It is not always the prettiest result when you pair two of the largest favorites to win their groups together, but when you look at how the other six groups are priced it makes a lot of sense. If this parlay does not pan out, it almost certainly means that these two teams will be facing off in the Round of 16 on either side of the bracket.
Poland and Mexico facing off in the first matchday for Group C will have big implications for which one of them advances. I have gone back and forth on favoring Poland or Mexico here, and believe it is really your choice. However, make sure to check their futures as well as the odds on their game as you could find a bargain on one market or the other based on your sportsbook. Besides that, Argentina and France should roll through the Group Stage and we should see a nice profit here after a week and a half of games.
Backing Portugal in Qatar
Portugal to make the Quarter-Finals -110 (1.5u)
When people hear Portugal they think of Cristiano Ronaldo. They might think of Pepe for his theatrics and red cards and if you’re over the age of 30 maybe Deco, Rui Costa, or Luis Figo. While Ronaldo and Pepe will be staples in this team, they’re converting over to a new guard. Gone are the days of Quaresma being Ronaldo’s ‘yang’. Now Portugal boasts one of the most well-balanced and technical teams in all of football.
Headlined by Manchester City world talents in Bernardo Silva, Joao Cancelo, and Ruben Dias, Portugal wields a core that plays fluid football and are familiar with each other. Bruno Fernandes and Joao Mario will be staples in a midfield that should connect defense to attack seamlessly, and Joao Felix, Rafael Leao, Andre Silva, and more should provide Ronaldo with enough goal support to finish balls created by the aforementioned Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes, and Joao Cancelo.
Portugal is joined by Ghana, South Korea, and Uruguay in their group. While all three of those teams have the quality to beat Portugal or any other top-level team on a given day, they will all struggle to compete with Portugal at all three levels. Uruguay has finishers with Darwin Nunez, Luis Suarez, and Edinson Cavani, but lacks a world-class engine in the midfield that can create for them and dominate possession. South Korea have Son Heung-Min and breakout CB Kim Min-Jae but should be outclassed aside from those two even though they have decent personnel. Ghana has quality players in former Spaniard and track star Inaki Williams, Ajax creative midfielder Mohammed Kudus, and English Premier League center-backs Mohammed Salisu and Daniel Amartey. Their issue is that aside from that, they lack quality and depth.
Portugal might drop points in their group, but there is little-to-no chance they do not advance. They are heavy favorites to win their group and assuming they do just that they’ll likely get a date with Serbia or Switzerland, a matchup they should be heavily favored in. Given the likelihood, they will advance and win their group, nearly even odds for them to win that first knockout game are very favorable. I’ll take that happily.
Portugal to make the Semi-Finals +240 (.5u)
Tacking onto that Portugal future, if they are to beat either Serbia or Switzerland, they’ll likely have a date with either Belgium, Germany, or Spain. No matter the opponent, the odds will be close to even both ways, with Belgium being the biggest potential favorite. I’ll take Portugal to pull out a win behind the reasons I’ve given above, and try to give Ronaldo one last chance at international silverware before his inevitable retirement.
Additional Best Bets in Qatar
Andy’s Favorite Sleeper Pick: Senegal
- Senegal to Advance from Group Stage (-110) - 1 Unit
- Top African Team: Senegal (+150) - 1 Unit
- Senegal to Win Group A (+450) - 0.5 Units
The odds for Senegal to pull off the upset in Group A dropped dramatically following the unfortunate knock that Sadio Mane took with Bayern Munich last week. However, Sadio has been included in the squad, and I believe the African Cup of Nations winners could pull another amazing story and win their group outright.
Qatar at +1600 shows the lack of respect people have for the host squad. If you can name one Qatari player you are probably a much more dedicated football fan than I am, and I’d love to learn more about any of their guys. Ecuador is another interesting groupmate at +525, with some books having them slightly favored over Senegal following the Mane news. Ecuador is no joke in the CONCACAF competitions, and could definitely sneak a point or three away from Netherlands or Senegal. I just do not see this team doing more than that.
The real case for Senegal here is fading the Dutch. The Netherlands will be without key midfielder Geni Wijnaldum who was not in the best form of his life the last couple of seasons but has always looked much more improved and lethal in the advanced midfield role for his home country. Their offensive options are lacking with Memphis Depay leading the way and nobody else to help out behind him. If you trust Steven Bergwijn, Luuk De Jong, or Cody Gakpo feel free to drop a comment below, but for the sake of the value Senegal brings I really do not feel too threatened by the Dutch attack.
International competitions tend to go low in scoring, and Senegal takes that to the extreme with their performances in AFCON being more than enough evidence. Yes, the conditions there were not the greatest at the time, but will Qatar’s conditions be any better? I believe the low scoring and lack of risk-taking format that international play brings, along with the lack of offensive weapons on the Netherlands, Ecuador, and Qatar will play into Senegal’s favor here.
Senegal may not be able to pull it off, and Mane may not recover during the group stages. But the value here is too good to pass up in a group that is prime for an upset. Not every favorite is going to win every group, and Group A is one of my favorite candidates for chaos to ensue. Give me the AFCON Champions here with a big-time payout!
Rick: France to make the Semi-Finals +150 (1u)
The reigning World Cup champions are looking to be the first repeat champions since Brazil in 1962. It’ll be tough without their staples from that run in N’golo Kante and Paul Pogba, but even without their center-midfielders they still have talent and depth at every level of the squad. Their midfield will now boast young talents Eduardo Camavinga and Aurelien Tchouameni to complement now-veterans Matteo Guendouzi and Adrien Rabiot.
The attack of France is still led by international sensations Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema, two strikers that skillsets complement each other phenomenally. It doesn’t stop there though. Antoine Griezmann, Kingsley Coman, Ousmane Dembele, and Christopher Nkunku each provide a different world-class skillset that can be utilized to break down opponents in different ways.
Matthias Hangst - Getty Images
The defense hasn’t been performing phenomenally at the club level, but they still boast the most athletic defensive line in the tournament and should be able to hold their own while their attackers give them cushion often.
Why I like France in particular to reach the semi-finals is because of their likely opponents. The biggest competitor to win their group is Denmark, which they should dispatch with relative ease. After winning their group they’ll have a date with Group C runner-ups Poland or Mexico, two teams they should easily win against as well. This brings them to their quarter-final matchup with likely opponents England if not the Netherlands.
I don’t trust England’s defense of Eric Dier and Harry Maguire to be able to stop the athleticism of France’s attack. Too often mistakes are made by that defense, and the France midfield should be able to run the game against an admittedly solid Declan Rice. Regardless, we will get France to win that game at +150, odds that will likely be close to -200 before the game kicks off. Give me one of the tournament’s favorites to make the Semi-Final behind a relatively easy run.
Rick: Belgium and Canada to advance from Group F +400 (.5u)
@CanadaSoccerEN on Twitter
For my longshot bet of the day, I’m taking Canada to advance from their group with a slight wrinkle. If you were to take Canada alone to advance it’s just +250, but if you add the overwhelming favorite to win the group in Belgium it boosts the odds to +400. Safe to say that if Canada is going to be advancing, so will Belgium.
Canada’s direct opponent to advance here will be an aging Croatia side. While they have very technical and experienced players like Marcelo Brozovic, Mateo Kovacic, and Luka Modric, much of their squad is on the wrong side of 30 and is losing a step. Welcome Canada’s national team who boasts only 5 players over the age of 29.
Led by unbelievably fast and talented youngsters Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David, Canada attends their first World Cup since 1986 with realistic aspirations to make it to the knockout stages and cause some damage. Canada was admittedly behind USA and Mexico going into World Cup Qualification but ended up winning the group going 8-4-2 with wins over both the United States and Mexico in the process. Cyle Larin (13) and Jonathan Davis (9) led the way with 22 goals combined as the Canadians cruised with the best defensive record in the competition as well, allowing just 7 goals in 14 games.
The Canadians are an athletic and organized bunch under John Herdman that could run Croatia ragged in their matchup come November 27th. Even with a draw in that matchup, they could advance, and I’ll take the Canadians to do that at +400.
Andy: Under 164.5 Total Goals in the World Cup (-115) - 1 Unit
This play is one that your classic “Take the Over!” boys will roll their eyes at, but any Sharpen the Public podcast listener will not be surprised at. This is not just a blind under though. There are a few factors I am accounting for going into this play.
The conditions in Qatar for one are looking to be pretty good with a number of brand-new stadiums along with sunny and 75-degree weather. However, these players are coming in during their normally scheduled club football season. We all know how special the World Cup is to football as a game, but this year it feels a bit tainted with the story behind Qatar getting the World Cup, how they've gone about building their facilities, and interrupting club play. These players are going to be tired and there is a lot going on outside of the games that will be tiresome too.
International play also tends to play a tad bit slower than club play. These players do not play with one another that often, despite how often it feels like we have to take a weekend off during the fall and spring for an international break. Along with this, players are going to be less likely to take risks due to the nature of there still being such a long season ahead and playing on tired legs.
Historical stats do suggest that this number will go over, and especially as football as continued to evolve more and more, you can see how the number of goals have continued to skyrocket over the last two decades. There were 169 goals in Russia 2018, and 171 in Brazil 2014. Before that, this number had only gone over once at France 1998. I am going to go under here due to the circumstances instead of the historical trend, and expect to see some low game totals as the tournament progresses.