The World Cup is the biggest sporting event in the world. So you know what that means. It's the biggest gambling opportunity in the world!
We're going to assume you don't belong to a massive Asian match-fixing syndicate, so you could probably use some advice if you are looking to lay down a few bucks (recreationally, of course) on the World Cup before it gets underway June 12.
Metro is giving you a guide to not only the outright winners, but also some of the fun prop bets where you can make some money.
Outright winner ...
Brazil (3/1), Argentina (9/2) Germany (11/2) and Spain (6-1) are your clear top 4 in the favorites category. Most experts are picking the host country — that would be Brazil — to claim their first Cup since 2002. They have the home-field advantage, and maybe the most-exciting young star of the competition, Neymar. But there isn't much money to be made in picking the clear favorite. In fact, none of the favorites are usually worth betting on if you're actually looking to make money. Put money on Spain — the defending World Cup and Euro Cup champs — if you must pick a favorite.
England (20/1) hasn't won a World Cup since 1966, a piece of information every child in the country is taught at birth. They don't have one of their strongest teams entering the tournament, but plenty of money will still be wagered on them in the pubs (and websites) of the sports gambling capital of the world. It can only end in the usual heartbreak — and more drinking. We are going with the Netherlands (25/1) as a great choice to make some money. They sit perfectly between favorite and longshot. The Dutch have never won a Cup, but were runners up last time out in 2010. They have a balanced team and some true stars in Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben. They breezed through qualifications at 9-0-1. They have Spain in their group, but the Dutch should advance with Chile (40/1) and Australia (500/1) the other two group mates. Few teams can match their firepower on the frontline, but their defense is young. The seven defenders on their World Cup squad average just 24 years old and six have 15 caps or fewer.
The dark horses
Yep, we're putting the United States (100/1) firmly in this category. The Americans drew the proverbial Group of Death, stuck with Germany, Portugal (25/1) and Ghana (200/1). The best chance the U.S. has to get out of the group stage is to beat Ghana comfortably and draw with either Portugal or Germany and pray they advance on goal differential (or total goals if that fails). It is going to be very tough, but it's not impossible. If Jozy Altidore finds his form from last year's qualifying, the duo of him and Clint Dempsey is impressive. They'll just need a weak defense to step up against studs like Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo and Germany's Lukas Podolski. Another really deep dark horse to put some money on is Nigeria (250/1). The Super Eagles are the defending Africa Cup champions. They are in a very friendly group too. Besides Argentina, at the top of Group F, they should advance with wins over Bosnia and Herzegovina (200/1) and Iran (1500/1).
The props ...
Top goalscorer: The obvious choice is Lionel Messi (15/2) or Neymar (10/1), but we like Uruguay's Luis Suarez (15/1) or the aforementioned Robin van Persie (25/1) as better chances to make some money. Lukas Podolski (66/1) is a really enticing choice as well. Podolski has 14 goals in 20 games for Arsenal this season split between the English Premier League and FA Cup games. He also has two goals in three international appearances for Germany this season.
Top Barcelona goalscorer: This is a fun prop bet, because it's basically choosing between Messi (1/1) and Neymar (3/2). It also shows you just how absurdly stacked the La Liga side is. We go with Neymar, even though Messi is the better player right now, because you know he will be charged up to play in his home country. He's been disgusting in league play this season with 13 goals in 28 La Liga and Champions League games. Yes, we know Messi has 36 goals in 36 La Liga and Champions League games this season. Messi is Messi.
England top goalscorer: Wayne Rooney (5/2) and Daniel Sturridge (5/2) are tied atop the rankings in this prop bet. We'd lean toward Sturridge, the physical 24-year-old with 21 goals in 26 EPL games this season. Rooney brings bigger international name recognition but his best days are behind him. He has just two goals in eight international exhibitions this season. Of course, if you were a true Englishman you'd go with "No England goalscorer" at a solid 25/1.
USA top goal scorer: Finally we get a chance to have some fun with the U.S. national team. Are you a believer in Jozy Altidore (9/2) returning to form? Or do you stick with the favorite, Clint Dempsey (9/4)? The U.S. likely won't score many goals, so you might have a chance to make some money here with just a couple goals scored. We like Michael Bradley, who scored a goal against Slovenia in the 2010 World Cup, at 12/1.
All odds courtesy bovada.lv.
Follow Metro New York Sports Editor Mark Osborne on Twitter @MetroNYSports.