World Cup hosts and emphatic pre-tournament favourites Brazil predictably find themselves in the last eight but their path to the quarter-finals has been less than straightforward.
Unconvincing at times in the group phase, Luis Felipe Scolari’s side required a dramatic penalty shoot-out to get past Chile in the second round as a nation held its collective breath and the Selecao have plenty to find if they are go on to lift the trophy
Nevertheless, they’re odds-on favourites to reach the semi-finals at the expense of the exciting Colombians in Fortaleza tomorrow (Friday), Winner.com pricing the home side at 5/6 to get through in normal time.
In addition, Brazil are just 2/5 via Stan James to eliminate their South American neighbours by any means but given the respective performances of both teams so far, it would be a bold move to back Scolari’s men at such a slender price.
Indeed, bet365’s 15/4 about a victory for Los Cafeteros isn’t without appeal given that Jose Pekerman’s charges have a 100 per cent record in the tournament so far and have looked as impressive as anyone.
Naturally, after the Brazilians drew with a similarly attack-minded Chile outfit, BetVictor’s 11/4 for a stalemate after 90 minutes will attract market support while a score draw at 7/2 (Paddy Power) is also set to prove popular but a more tempting alternative is Skybet’s 5/2 marked against the Colombians in the ‘Draw No Bet’ market.
The mouth-watering showdown will undoubtedly be billed as a battle between two of the competition’s form players in Neymar and current top scorer James Rodriguez.
The former is 4/1 with Ladbrokes to break the deadlock and, at the other end, Rodriguez is an 8/1 shot at bet365 to put Pekerman’s troops 1-0 in front.
Earlier tomorrow, there’s a contest between two European heavyweights in Rio’s Maracana Stadium as France lock horns with Germany and it’s the latter that get the nod from bookies at 6/4 courtesy of BetVictor to prevail in 90 minutes.
Bet365 quote Les Bleus at 11/5 but again, there’s likely to be a significant amount of money for an inconclusive affair, available here at 23/10 (Stan James) and it’s 21/2 with BetVictor to be goalless, just like the Germans’ last 16 match with Algeria, which was later resolved in extra-time.
Joachim Low’s will need to improve if they are to overcome the formidable French but, having been given a wake up call last time out, they can do just that and bet365 go 3/1 about them shading it by a one-goal margin.
More accurately, Ladbrokes post 9/1 against a 2-1 victory for Die Mannschaft in a fixture that should see both teams find the net (10/11, William Hill) and BetVictor fancy Thomas Muller to set them on their way, offering the Bayern Munich man at 11/2 to fire the opener. Stan James price France front man Karim Benzema identically.
On Saturday, surprise package Costa Rica are tipped to finally bow out, Skybet rating them at 1/2 to lose to the Netherlands in Salvador.
Los Ticos are 7/1 with Paddy Power to stun Louis van Gaal’s team and 10/3 at BetVictor to force extra-time but this one could be a step too far for the Central Americans.
William Hill quote the Europeans at 11/8 in the handicaps, when starting a goal in arrears, Winner.com chalk 12/1 against the Dutch running out 3-1 winners and Arjen Robben can be backed at 9/2, this time courtesy of bet365, to net first.
Neither Argentina nor Belgium appeared convincing as they struggled to overcome spirited opponents en route to Saturday’s quarter-final showdown.
Yet with one Lionel Messi in their ranks, it’s the South Americans who kick off as bet365’s even money favourites to progress to the last four.
The pair have met twice before at the World Cup, each recording a victory, although if the round of 16 offers punters a guide, taking Stan James’s 12/5 for it to finish all-square at 90 minutes makes enormous sense – a 1-1 result is priced at 6/1 by Skybet.
Not surprisingly, punters have also given plenty of attention to Paddy Power’s 7/1 for Argentina to win in extra-time, while BetVictor’s 12/1 for them to win on penalties has attracted steady support, as has Ladbrokes’ 4/1 for it to finish as a score draw at 90 minutes.
Second-placed Leeds can climb to the Super League summit temporarily at least, as they head to neighbours Wakefield tomorrow evening.
The Rhinos are just 1/5 (bet365) to claim maximum points at the expense of the Wildcats (15/4, betway) and the visitors are 10/11 at BetVictor to overhaul a 14-point advantage in the handicaps.
Staying with Leeds and the city is bracing itself for the Grand Depart of the Tour de France, which will weave its way through the non-Gallic surroundings of Yorkshire for a couple of stages this weekend.
BetVictor make Chris Froome an even money favourite to win the event outright but the best bet early on is for Mark Cavendish to win the first stage on Saturday.
The 191km, Leeds to Harrogate leg is ideal for specialist sprinters and, on home soil, Cavendish appeals at 3/1 (Skybet) to be the race’s first wearer of the yellow jersey.
Bet of the week: Mark Cavendish to win the first stage of the Tour de France – 3/1 (Skybet).
Odds supplied by www.betrescue.com