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Goal's betting contributors have come together to explain their best bets and long-shots for the World Cup ahead of Thursday's tournament opener

For punters the World Cup is an opportunity like no other. The sheer amount of outright markets on offer combined with 64 games featuring the best teams on the planet in such a short period of time can often throw up plenty of opportunities to turn a profit.

Before Thursday's opening match in Sao Paulo each of Goal's betting writers will give their best bet and a longshot for the tournament. Here's what each of them is tipping.

Jim Knight

Best Bet - Argentina to win the World Cup at 4/1 (5.00) with Paddy Power
Get a £5 free bet when placing £10 on the outright market with Paddy Power

I'm siding with Argentina in the outright market and at 4/1 (5.00) I think they're a great bet. Defence is probably a weak spot but with the likes of Pablo Zabaleta, Ezequiel Garay and Federico Fernandez there's enough there to convince me to side with the South Americans being the best bet on offer.

In my opinion they boast the best front three in international football who should be capable of firing them past any other side in the competition and in Angel Di Maria they have a midfielder in the form of his life after a fantastic Champions League-winning campaign with Real Madrid. A relatively straighforward draw combined with minimal travel time in the early stages means I'm happy to back them to claim a first World Cup since 1986.

Longshot - Fabian Schar to be top Switzerland scorer at 20/1 with bet365

Switzerland have a good chance of progressing to the knockout stages courtesy of a favourable group draw and centre-back Fabian Schar looks overpriced to be amongst the goals in Brazil.

The talented 22-year-old plies his trade at Basel and may only have broken into the Swiss side a matter of months ago, but he's had a big impact since making his debut as a substitute in a 1-0 win over Brazil in August 2013.

Despite making just four appearances in the World Cup qualifying campaign Schar scored three times, making him the top Swiss scorer as they cruised through Group E and he should be a starter at the World Cup.

I can see Ottmar Hitzfeld setting his side up to be very tough to break down and nicking games by the odd goal. As a result of that two goals from one player could be enough to win this market. With Schar posing a big threat at set-pieces, I'll take a chance on leaving Brazil as the top scorer for his country at a big price. 

Al Hain-Cole

Best Bet - England to lose in the quarter-finals at 7/2 (4.50) with bet365
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For once, England go into a World Cup where crashing out in the quarter-finals would actually be seen as a decent result. However, despite the low expectations surrounding Roy Hodgson’s men, reaching the last eight is a more than reasonable target.

With neither Italy nor Uruguay entering the tournament in fantastic condition, the Three Lions are definitely capable of escaping the so-called ‘Group of Death’, while any one of Colombia, Ivory Coast, Japan or Greece seem eminently beatable in the last 16.

However, with Spain or Brazil potentially lurking in the quarters, those 7/2 (4.50) quotes look like excellent value on the journey ending there for the third time in four tournaments.


Longshot - Spain to concede the least goals at 16/1 (17.0) with Paddy Power

While the temptation in this market is to back a team that look likely to be knocked out at the earliest stage possible, the fine margins make investing in a probable group stage casualty rather risky.

With three goals conceded potentially enough to rule a side out of the running, it makes sense to instead put your money on a team with a proven track record of defensive excellence.


Having let in just three goals on their way to lifting the trophy in South Africa, Spain look like excellent value at 16/1 (17.00) to run the tightest ship once again in Brazil. Vicente Del Bosque’s men boasted the best defensive record of any nation in qualifying, conceding a measly 0.38 goals per match, and were only breached once during their victorious Euro 2012 campaign.

With La Roja set to monopolise possession against all comers this summer, they are surely well worth a punt at such a generous price to rack up one clean sheet after another over the coming weeks.

Phil Kitromilides

Best Bet - Argentina to be the highest scoring team at 11/4 (3.75) with bet365

When you have the most staggeringly talented attacking team in seemingly one of the easiest groups at the tournament then there really can be only one bet.

Argentina's goalscoring ability is prodigious and their opponents in Group F (Bosnia-Herzegovina, Iran and Nigeria) will be rightly wondering if they can be stopped.

bet365 offer the South Americans at 11/4 (3.25) to be the top scoring team in the tournament, and given their star-studded forward line, coupled with the relative weakness of their opponents in the early stages, it looks like a nailed on selection and a price worthy of serious consideration when putting together a portfolio of bets for the tournament.


Longshot - Yaya Toure to be top goalscorer (each way) at 100/1 (101.0) with bet365


There are value bets and then there are serious value bets and Yaya Toure to be the tournament's top scorer at 100/1 (101.00) with bet365 falls into the latter category. The Ivorian was utterly supreme with Manchester City ending the season with 24 goals.

His marauding runs, powerful long-range shooting and aerial threat mean he can score all different types of goals and he has shown his ability to perform in the biggest games.

Ivory Coast have been given a relatively kind draw and will fancy their chances of getting through their group against Colombia, Greece and Japan, scoring a few goals in the process. For some loose change, this is probably one of the best each way bets around.


Hugh Wilson


Best Bet - France to pick up over 6.5 points in Group E at 11/10 (2.10) with Paddy Power

Despite the influential Franck Ribery being ruled out of the World Cup due to injury, I think France have a extremely strong squad who can make some waves in Brazil.

Didier Deschamps' men had to come back from a 2-0 deficit against Ukraine in the play-offs to make it to the tournament, but with Spain in their original qualifying group, I wouldn't read too much into the fact they came through via the play-offs.

With an unbelievable front line including Karim Benzema, Oliver Giroud, Loic Remy and Antoine Greizmann, Les Bleus should cruise their group which includes Honduras, the homesick Ecuador and Switzerland.

Paddy Power price Deschamps' side at 11/10 (2.10) to pick up over 6.5 points in Group E. They look very capable of picking up victories against the two South American sides, with Switzerland likely to prove a tougher outfit, but a draw would be good enough for this bet to land.

Longshot - Ciro Immobile to be Italy's top goalscorer at 7/1 (8.00) with William Hill

I fancy Borussia Dortmund's newest recruit Ciro Immobile to top the Italian scoring charts at a sizeable quote of 7/1 (8.00) with William Hill.

All focus seems to be on the unique Mario Balotelli as we enter the finals, but with only one goal scored in his last 10 competitive matches consisting of no goals scored in the last four friendlies since qualification for the World Cup was achieved in October for Italy, it's worth backing against him at a short 13/8 (2.63).

Immobile was sensational for Torino in Serie A, netting 22 goals to finish as the divsion's top scorer.

Not only has he scored 12 times in his last 10 competitive matches, he also signed off in Italy's final friendly match before the opener with England with a hat-trick against Fluminense.

With his place in the starting line-up not a given, this may go some way to explaining why he is 7/1 (8.00) to be Italy's top scorer, but with the ability to change the game from the bench and work his way into the starting line-up for other matches in the finals, it's certainly worth investing in this price as a longshot bet.

Willie
Duncan

Best Bet - Argentina to win the World Cup at 4/1 (5.00) with Paddy Power
Get a £5 free bet when placing £10 on the outright market with Paddy Power


No European side has ever won the World Cup when it has been staged in South America and I can see that trend continuing this year with Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay all expected to put up a strong showing.

Brazil deserve to be warm favourites to lift the trophy on home soil but it is their bitter rivals Argentina that I am backing to go all the way in this tournament at a hugely appealing 4/1 (5.00).

Argentina’s strength, undoubtedly, lies in the final third of the pitch and their forward line will be the envy of every other nation competing. The strength in depth available at Alejandro Sabella’s disposal is highlighted by the fact that Carlos Tevez, who scored 19 goals for Juventus in Serie A this season, didn’t even make the provisional 26 man Argentina squad – never mind the final 23!

The mercurial Lionel Messi will have plenty of support from his talented team-mates and I believe that Argentina can grab the glory by snatching World Cup 2014 from under the noses of Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side.

LongshotGonzalo Higuain to be top scorer at 20/1 (21.0) with Paddy Power
Place £/€20 (or £/€10 each way) on a top goalscorer and get a £/€5 free bet every time he
scores


Much will be made of the importance of Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero as Argentina bid to lift the World Cup for the first time in 28 years, but I feel that the role of former Real Madrid striker Gonzalo Higuain cannot be underestimated.

The bold, attacking style of the South American side should see Higuain command a regular starting berth alongside Messi and Aguero and I think that Napoli man can outshine his fellow forwards in Brazil.

Higuain found the net no fewer than nine times in 11 qualifiers on the road to Rio de Janeiro and, having notched 17 goals in his debut season in Serie A, the 26-year-old could well prove to be a key man for Alejandro Sabella’s side.

Argentina have a favourable draw at the group stages and Higuain can certainly get amongst the goals against Bosnia-Herzegovina, Nigeria and Iran to put himself in prime contention to be the tournament’s top scorer at a juicy 20/1 (21.0).


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