Who Will Win the World Cup? There’s Really Only One Place to Ask.

Everyone from coaches to fans has an opinion on who will win the World Cup, but the bookmakers know best. And even then, nothing is a sure thing.

A fan displays a replica trophy in the stands before the match.
Credit...Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters

Who’s going to win the World Cup? To get an answer, you could seek the opinion of coaches, players, pundits or fans.

Or you could ask the people who have a great financial stake in the outcome: bookmakers.

With every team having played one game, the most likely team to win the World Cup this year is, as almost every year, Brazil, according to oddsmakers around the world. But it is far from a sure thing. The team’s odds are roughly 3-1, meaning at best it has about a 25 percent chance of lifting the trophy at this point.

Also considered strong contenders are France (6-1) and England and Spain (both 7-1). The next leading contender is, somewhat surprisingly, Argentina at 8-1, even though it lost its opening game to Saudi Arabia. The consensus seems to be that it will bounce back against Mexico and Poland and make it to the knockout rounds. On the other hand, Argentina was originally the second favorite at 5-1, so it certainly has slipped.

As you might have noticed, the favorites are the usual suspects.

The truth is, long shots just don’t win the World Cup very often. Oh, they sometimes make a surprise run to the semifinals (South Korea in 2002) or even the final (Croatia in 2018) but they just don’t win it.

So if you truly believe in, say, the United States (150-1) or even Costa Rica (as much as 3,000-1 after losing to Spain, 7-0), you could be richly rewarded if they defy the odds come the final on Dec. 18.

There are odds available on the individual awards as well, giving a clue as to who bettors and bookies think will perform well the rest of the way at the tournament.

Before the World Cup began, who else but Lionel Messi (7-1) was the favorite for the Golden Ball as player of the tournament, an award he won eight years ago. But after Argentina’s stutter, he has slipped behind Kylian Mbappé of France (6-1).

That prize almost always goes to a player on a successful team, but not necessarily the winning one. The last two Golden Balls went to players on the runner-up (Luka Modrić of Croatia and Messi), and the winner before that, Diego Forlán of Uruguay, made only the semifinal.

The final game on Thursday significantly shook up the betting for the Golden Boot for the top goal-scorer of the tournament. Richarlíson of Brazil had been a 25-1 shot before the tournament started, but his two goals against Serbia has made him a favorite at 8-1. The other top contenders are Mbappé (9-1, with one goal so far), Olivier Giroud of France (11-1, two goals) and Messi (13-1, one goal).

The other players with two goals so far aren’t attracting as much interest from bettors: Ferran Torres of Spain (20-1), Bukayo Saka of England (20-1), Enner Valencia of Ecuador (50-1) and Mehdi Taremi of Iran (such a long shot that few bookies have even posted a price on him yet).

Fancy an American to get a bootload of goals? Timothy Weah, who had the Americans’ only goal in their first game, is 300-1 or more to finish as the tournament’s top scorer.