You’ve seen the commercials with Santa Claus, the stories about the questionable ways the stadiums in Qatar were built and the hype about the United States returning to the FIFA World Cup.
The world’s most famous sporting event returns Sunday, and for the first time ever the World Cup will be held in November and December.
The first match is Sunday when host Qatar plays Ecuador, the USA gets underway the next day against Wales, and the final is Dec. 18 outside Doha.
Let’s take a look at what the odds say is the outlook for each of the 32 teams, the tournament’s championship, the top scorer and more, according to Caesars Sportsbook:
The overall favorite is Brazil at +375, and that’s no surprise considering South American teams have won eight of the 10 World Cup trophies contested outside of Europe (though the two exceptions were the last two — Germany won at Brazil 2014 and Spain were champions of South Africa 2010.
The Brazilians are led by the exciting Neymar, who is still just 30 years old while competing in his third World Cup. They reached the semifinals as the hosts in 2014 and the quarterfinals last time in Russia. Brazil has gone at least that far in every World Cup since 1990.
Next is Argentina at +500. If the Albicelestes go all the way, it’ll be a storybook ending for Lionel Messi’s international career. Of course, the Atomic Flea has several talented teammates, but he’ll be the focus of every opponent. Argentina has won two World Cups, in 1978 and 1986, but they’ve only reached the semifinals once in the past six World Cups — in 2014 when they lost the final to Germany.
The reigning champions are France (+650), and Les Bleus are expected to make another run behind high-powered scoring threats Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema. But the French also have had a number of injuries in the lead-up to the World Cup, chipping away at their depth, and also have a history of flopping: They failed to advance past the group stage each of the past two times after reaching the final.
Three more European teams round out those with 10-to-1 odds or better: Spain (+850), which has grown past its golden generation that brought it the 2010 championship but remains dangerous; England (+1000), who boasts tremendous depth but a torturous World Cup history since its only title in 1966; and omnipresent Germany (+1000), which reached the semifinals or better in seven out of nine World Cups before crashing out in the group stage four years ago.
Venturing a little further down the odds board is risky, as only eight countries have ever won the World Cup, and the six favorites are six of those.
But perhaps it’s time for new blood to break through. If it does, the most likely candidates start with the Netherlands (+1400), who have three times been world runners-up, most recently in 2010. This year’s team has stars like defender Virgil van Dijk and forward Memphis Depay.
At the same odds, you’ll find Portugal (+1400), which won Euro 2016 but has never reached a world final. Much like Argentina with Messi, this is likely the World Cup swan song for Cristiano Ronaldo.
The other top contenders don’t have the history of those listed above but certainly have the talent to make a deep run. Belgium (+1600) reached the quarterfinals in 2014 and finished third in 2018 behind a star cast that includes Kevin de Bruyne, who is perhaps the world’s best midfielder. But his supporting cast is struggling in club season, so expectations aren’t as high for the Red Devils as they were four years ago.
Denmark (+2800) has only reached the quarterfinals once, but the Red and White are in strong form, having reached the Euro 2021 semifinals and dominating their qualifying group. The Danes lack a world-class goal-scorer but are tactically strong and have an emotional leader in Christian Eriksen, who nearly died on the pitch during the Euros but is back as a top midfielder.
Besides the six favorites listed above, only two countries have won the World Cup: One is Italy, which failed to qualify, and the other is Uruguay (+4000). Still, both of those trophies came more than 70 years ago, and this team isn’t at the level of the top teams.
Croatia (+5000) won two knockout matches in penalties and then stunned England in extra time in the semifinals to reach the finals in Russia. But the Vatreni are aging — this will be the final tournament for Luka Modric, and it also might be for Ivan Perisic.
Finally, could a team from another continent finally break the Europe-South America dominance? It’s not likely. The top candidates according to the odds are all 100-to-1 or worse: Mexico (+10000) has emerged from the group stage seven straight times but lost its first knockout match every time; the United States (+10000) has a young team that is looking for experience before hosting in 2026; and top African contender Senegal (+10000) will be missing star Sadio Mané for at least the first couple of games.
The top Asian contenders are Japan and South Korea (both +25000), the latter of which got news when top scorer Son Heung-Min returned to practice with a protective mask after fracturing facial bones last month.
As for the hosts, Qatar (+30000) is in the tournament for the first time and will prove to be a tough out in the group stage — only one host has never made the knockout stage (South Africa in 2010) — but isn’t a threat to make a deep run.
Golden Boot odds analysis
The Golden Boot is given to the tournament’s top scorer, so it’s important to remember the favorites are always going to come from teams expected to go deep into the tournament and play more games.
Teams typically also have a designated player who takes penalty kicks, which can inflate goal totals. So it’s natural that the Golden Boot favorites are two penalty-takers from teams expected to advance deep into the tournament and also score plenty from the run of play: England’s Harry Kane (+800) and France’s Kylian Mbappe (+900). If you like Les Bleus to score plenty of goals, you might also consider Karim Benzema (+1100), who’s the third favorite.
Three legendary names are next: Lionel Messi for Argentina (+1200), and who wouldn’t love that storyline?; along with Brazil’s Neymar (+1200) — the top scorer for the tournament favorite; and Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo (+1400), who’s known to score goals in bunches but whose team is a riskier proposition to advance as far as the others.
Looking for a pivot? Consider Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku (+2500) or the Netherlands’ Memphis Depay (+2800), the leading scorers for two teams that have weak groups and could rack up a lot of goals early.
Complete World Cup championship odds
(Odds from Caesars Sportsbook as of Thursday, Nov. 17)
United States +10000
South Korea +25000
Costa Rica +50000
Saudi Arabia +75000
Complete World Cup Golden Boot odds
(Odds for tournament top scorer via Caesars Sportsbook)
Harry Kane, England +800
Kylian Mbappe, France +900
Karim Benzema, France +1100
Neymar, Brazil +1200
Lionel Messi, Argentina +1200
Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal +1400
Vinicius Junior, Brazil +2500
Romelu Lukaku, Belgium +2500
Lautaro Martinez, Argentina +2800
Memphis Depay, Netherlands +2800
Gabriel Jesus, Brazil +3000
Richarlison, Brazil +3000
Kai Havertz, Germany +3500
Aleksandar Mitrovic, Serbia +4000
Dusan Vlahovic, Serbia +4000
Serge Gnabry, Germany +4000
Ferran Torres, Spain +4000
Antoine Griezmann, France +4000
Alvaro Morata, Spain +4000
Raheem Sterling, England +5000
Steven Bergwijn, Netherlands +5000
Raphinha, Brazil +5000
Darwin Nunez, Uruguay +5000
Andre Silva, Portugal +5000
Robert Lewandowski, Poland +5000
Phil Foden, England +5000
Julian Alvarez, Argentina +6000
Thomas Muller, Germany +6000
Olivier Giroud, France +6000
Sadio Mané, Senegal +6500
Edinson Cavani, Uruguay +7000
Kevin De Bruyne, Belgium +7000
Jack Grealish, England +7500
Karim Adeyemi, Germany +7500
Leroy Sané, Germany +8000
Bukayo Saka, England +10000
Mehdi Taremi, Iran +10000
Jonathan David, Canada +10000
Heung-Min Son, South Korea +10000
Kasper Dolberg, Denmark +10000
Raul Jimenez, Mexico +10000
Christian Pulisic, USA +12500
Andrej Kramaric, Croatia +12500
Dani Olmo, Spain +12500
Youssef En-Nesyri, Morocco +12500
Takumi Minamino, Japan +15000
Gio Reyna, USA +15000
Vincent Aboubakar, Cameroon +15000
Hakim Ziyech, Morocco +15000
Luka Jovic, Serbia +15000
Callum Wilson, England +15000
Sardar Azmoun, Iran +15000
Mason Mount, England +15000
Ante Rebic, Croatia +15000
Christian Eriksen, Denmark +15000
Boulaye Dia, Senegal +15000
Jordan Ayew, Ghana +20000
Timothy Weah, USA +20000
Xherdan Shaqiri, Switzerland +25000
Ismaila Sarr, Senegal +25000
Hirving Lozano, Mexico +25000
Enner Valencia, Ecuador +25000
Kamaldeen Sulemana, Ghana +25000
Haris Seferovic, Switzerland +25000
Wahbi Khazri, Tunisia +25000
Karim Ansarifard, Iran +50000