As Europe prepares to begin the qualifying process of qualification for the 2014 World Cup, Adam Bate looks at three countries who are odds-against to finish top of the pile
|Tip: Belgium to win the group at 21/10 with Paddy Power
Many have predicted Belgium will be the next big thing in international football for some time and it's easy to see why. The list of players is staggering and more are coming to the fore all the time. With Vincent Kompany, Thomas Vermaelen and Jan Vertonghen in defence and then Marouane Fellaini, Eden Hazard and Axel Witsel further forward, there are options all over the park.
But the results have been largely disappointing and that has hampered their seeding – Belgium have been handed a tough draw for World Cup qualifying alongside Croatia, Serbia, Scotland, Wales and Macedonia. It's arguably the group with the best 'second-tier' teams, and that means Marc Wilmots' side must be on their game right from the outset.
There's every reason to expect that to be the case. Euro 2012 qualifying came too soon for some of these players but with Kompany leading the way there is an awareness that this is their big opportunity and it would be a surprise if they blow it. They're the most talented team in Group A and if their stars show the sort of determination they have done at club level they’re a good bet to top the table.
|Tip: Switzerland to win the group at 6/4 with Paddy Power
After appearing at four major tournaments in a row, Switzerland missed out on Euro 2012 as coach Ottmar Hitzfeld sets about rebuilding a reliable but ageing squad with a talented group of youngsters. Switzerland won the Under-17 World Cup in 2009 and reached the final of the Under-21 European championship in 2011 and with Xherdan Shaqiri in their midst, there is quality at Hitzfeld’s disposal.
A group that includes Norway, Slovenia, Cyprus, Albania and Iceland looks very manageable for the Swiss and with this squad of players only likely to get better, it would be something of a surprise if they fail to at least qualify. With an odds-against price available for them to win the group, that should be very tempting when their biggest threat is a far more limited Norwegian outfit.
|Tip: Russia to win the group at 7/4 with Paddy Power
Fabio Capello's spell in charge of England may have ended farcically and the Italian won few plaudits for his handling of the team at the 2010 World Cup but it’s worth remembering the Three Lions qualified for that tournament in style. Capello is now in charge of a Russia side that showed real promise at Euro 2012 before being dumped out in a major upset at the hands of Greece in the final group game.
Capello has a good blend of youth and experience in the Russia squad with Alan Dzagoev likely to be a prominent figure capable of going from strength. The only real threat in a fairly straightforward group is Portugal and while they enjoyed a better Euros and count Cristiano Ronaldo amongst their ranks, it should be noted that the Iberian side have struggled in qualifying before. Russia will fancy their chances of winning this group.
|World Cup Treble
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Adam Bate is a professional freelance journalist who specialises in football and betting. He is editor of GhostGoal which can be found here - you can also follow Adam on