As the leagues around the world grind to a halt, all eyes are beginning to turn towards the Middle East, and in particular, Qatar which will host the World Cup. The timing may be strange, the location even stranger, but the one thing we do know is that it features 32 of the best teams drawn from all corners of the globe and at least half of those will be going in with a belief that they can reach the final eight, if not further.

Betting on games, before and during has added a new level to the global interest in the tournament. It being a World Cup, there are some games that are almost a foregone conclusion, where the only value for punters is using a bet builder to add additional layers of complexity such as first scorer, margin of victory etc. But there are also some matches which are upset waiting to happen. And not just individual matches, there are teams who could very well shock the world by winning the greatest sporting competition there is.

Who Are the Favourites?

Almost every bookmaker has the winner coming from one of Brazil, Argentina, France and England. Spain and Germany come next. Since and including 1954, the champions have come from that group of six, with the exception of Italy who failed to qualify for the second time in succession.

Switzerland

Switzerland can hardly be called a force in World Cup football. In fact they have failed to make much of an impact on the tournament since hosting it in 1954 when they reached the quarter-finals. Since then they have failed to qualify for the finals nine times, and in the times they did, only made it to the round of sixteen three times and never beyond. This year may very well be different, however. In qualification, they topped the group, finishing ahead of Italy. In 2022 they recorded victories over Portugal, the Czech Republic and Spain. They face Brazil in the group stage, but will be confident of seeing off both Ghana and Serbia. They are a hard side to break down, are well organized and could cause a problem for any side that faces them.

Denmark

Who are the World Cup's Dark Horses?
Could Denmark cause an upset in Qatar?

As long as 33/1 with many bookmakers, Denmark really do look like the best-value side in the tournament. Kasper Hjulmand’s team may not have had the toughest qualifying group, but they could not have done much better, winning nine out of ten and notching up eight clean sheets in the process. They are also a team with pedigree in the tournament, only failing to progress to the knockout stages once in their last six World Cups.

Ecuador

If you are looking for a South American team outside the big two that could make waves in the desert, then Ecuador may very well be that team. Their young side (the average age of their starting eleven was less than 26 years) raised eyebrows and heart rates, scoring an impressive 27 goals to get to Qatar. Brighton and EPL fans in general know just how good a player MoisésCaicedo is, and he will be pivotal to keeping this young, dynamic side on course for what could be their best-ever tournament.

The Other Contenders

There are a number of other teams who will fancy themselves as having a genuine chance in Qatar. It will very likely be Ronaldo’s last tournament, and though his Portugal team have flattered to deceive before, there is no doubt they have enough talent on the pitch to go very deep into the competition if they click. The Netherlands, often touted as the greatest side never to have won the World Cup, are going into the tournament in good form. They will be hoping that Liverpool’s Virgil Van Dijk rediscovers his form of previous seasons, and if so, they could be in the conversation for the last eight at the very least.

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