NZME's award winning* football blog Goalmouth Scramble is back. Our rotating stable of football writers will offer daily hot takes on all the action from the World Cup in Russia. Today, Steven Holloway walks us through the best way to make money from the tournament.

The last time I published a 'tipping' column was in June, 2012.

It was the eve of the European Championships in Poland and while most punters had questions, I proclaimed to have answers. These were my 'best bets':

Golden Boot:
Robert Lewandowski (Poland) Odds: $25 (1 goal)
Robin Van Persie (Holland) Odds: $10 (1 goal)
Karim Benzema (France) Odds: $16 (0 goals)


Pick the finalists: Spain/Netherlands @12/1
(Netherlands eliminated in group stages)

Group with most goals:
Group A (Poland, Greece, Russia, Czech Republic) - Odds $5.25
(Group A did not score the most goals)

To clarify; five tips, no winners, heavy losses.

To the layman, my published betting record appears horrendous. They would be correct.

I could try and justify the fact they weren't necessarily bad bets with terms like 'expected value' and 'variance' and 'DAMN YOU DUTCHIES', but I know that's not what you're here for. You want to hear me say my punting has improved with age and experience and I've got some hot new World Cup tips for you. Well, good news guys, I'm back! Since that dark summer in Poland six years ago, my sport punting resume has seen some sun:

* Turned $40 into $1280 by backing Stan Wawrinka to win the 2015 French Open
*Turned $80 into $1330 backing Antoine Greizmann to win golden boot at Euro 2016
* Enjoy a healthy return on investment betting on local football
* To counter these cherry picked wins I must concede I also frequently indulge in silly, undisciplined rugby bets, where I lose a good portion of my profits.

So, obviously I'm no expert. If I was, I wouldn't be giving advice for free. But I have been both a long-term bettor and one who has constantly been fascinated by the industry and driven by the quest to find an edge.

And the World Cup is a month jammed full of edges, if you know where to look. So now that we've established my questionable pedigree, lets get on with it. It's time to find out where the value is in Russia.


(Note: I always bet on my own tips. To give an idea of how much value I will be placing on these bets, I will use the term 'units'. You could substitute one unit for one dollar or one unit for $100 depending on how rich/drunk/foolish you are)

I'll mostly quote TAB and Bet365 lines as they're the books that the vast majority of Kiwis bet with.

Outright winner
10 units on Spain @$6.50 (TAB), @$7 (Bet365)
Spain have looked back to their brilliant best, winning nine of their 10 qualifying matches, only dropping points away to Italy. Iniesta is still pulling the strings in midfield, Isco has hit goal-scoring form and centre-backs Sergio Ramos and Pique remain in front of de Gea, probably the best goalkeeper in the world. The main question mark has been who will play up front. Diego Costa will come into the tournament fresh and is playing well and if he can fire, Spain can win this thing. With Aspas, Moreno or Vazquez behind him they should have enough variation and ability up front, especially given their strength in midfield.

Spain's players celebrate a goal during a friendly soccer match between against Tunisia in Krasnodar, Russia, Saturday, June 9, 2018. (AP Photo)
Spain's players celebrate a goal during a friendly soccer match between against Tunisia in Krasnodar, Russia, Saturday, June 9, 2018. (AP Photo)

Group bets

20 units on Uruguay to win Group A @$1.80 (TAB), @$2 (Bet365)

Probably the weakest group in the tournament with the hosts Russia automatically seeded as A1 and the lowest ranked of the eight top seeds. Uruguay are favourites to qualify from Group A under very experienced manager Tabarez. Fourth in 2010, last sixteen last time and the striking combination of Cavani and Suárez is still amongst the best in world football. The Atletico Madrid defensive partnership of Godín and Giménez has always meant they are solid defensively but the biggest change compared to teams of the recent past is more flair in midfield. Federico Valverde (Real Madrid, on loan at Deportivo La Coruña), Matías Vecino (Inter), Nahitan Nández (Boca Juniors) and Rodrigo Bentancur (Juventus) are young and attack-minded players who will help Uruguay win this group.

Uruguay's Luis Suarez celebrates his penalty shot against Uzbekistan during a friendly soccer match in preparation for the 2018 Russia World Cup. Photo / AP
Uruguay's Luis Suarez celebrates his penalty shot against Uzbekistan during a friendly soccer match in preparation for the 2018 Russia World Cup. Photo / AP

10 units on Egypt to qualify @$2.40 (TAB), @$2.50 (Bet365)

A lot here hinges on Mohammad Salah's fitness but the signs are he will be ok. Egypt are known for their defensive record. Only once (in 30 games) have they conceded more than one goal under Hector Cúper. Salah scored five goals in qualifying and of course is the great hope to support that defensive record but there is also quality around him. They are expected to finish third in the group but I think they will get up over Russia.

10 units Peru to qualify @$2.70 (TAB), @2.75 (Bet365)
Kiwis may remember Peru as the side the All Whites managed zero shots on goal against in their World Cup playoff matches in November. They were the surprise qualifiers from South America and drew twice with Argentina in qualifying. Peru are 11th in the world rankings and have made the quarter finals of every Copa America since 1997. In the qualifiers, they scored 27 and conceded 26 in 18 matches so it doesn't look like they are going to die wondering. In attack they have welcomed back top striker Paolo Guerrero (who was suspended for the NZ games after failing a dope test in December) and are a side with excellent team spirit and fight. I like them to upset Denmark for second place in Group C, behind France and ahead of Australia.

Golden Boot
4 units Gabriel Jesus @$15.00 (TAB), @$17.00 (Bet365)
Brazil gaffer Tite has made it clear that Gabriel Jesus is his first choice centre forward. He's been selected in Brazil's last nine matches (ahead of Roberto Firmino) and is surrounded by like quality like Coutinho, Neymar and Douglas Costa. With group games against Switzerland, Serbia and Costa Rica, Brazil will score goals. And Jesus has a great chance of getting them.

4 units Timo Werner @$15 (TAB), @$15 (Bet365)
In Werner, who has scored seven goals in 12 caps, Germany finally have the proper striker they missed in their Euro 2016 semi-final run. Germany have every right to be favourites and the cliché of the winners being whoever beats Germany is probably still a true one. Germany will be their at the end and Werner will be their top scorer.

4 units Antoine Griezmann @$11 (TAB), @$13 (Bet365)
France have a tougher group with Denmark, Peru and Australia but I'm also expecting them to go far in the tournament and Griezmann is the man for the big occasion.

Golden Ball
3 units Andres Iniesta @$41 (Bet365)
This award is given to the best player of the tournament and if Spain go far, like I'm predicting, it could easily go to Andres Iniesta. One of the greatest players OF ALL TIME has never won a Ballon D'Or and you just know FIFA will be trying to find a way to give this award to a legend of the game in the year that he leaves Barcelona.

Denmark top scorer
10 units Christian Eriksen @$3 (Bet365)
Eriksen scored 11 goals in qualifying and plays a more attacking role than he does for Spurs. He is going to be taking all of the Denmark set pieces and is their usual penalty taker. The danger of course is that Denmark are eliminated without scoring many goals but with Thomas Delaney the next highest scorer in qualifying with 4 goals there's a clear case for Eriksen.

Total penalty shootouts
10 units 4-5 games @$4.00 (TAB)
There were four shootouts in 2006, two shootouts in 2010 and four in 2014. With many modern teams favouring sitting deep and counter attacking, I'm predicting a lot of close, low scoring knockout rounds. At $4 there is value in punting on four or five of the 16 going to death kicks.

*Goalmouth Scramble's 'award' was more of an inter-company acknowledgement in an email from 2012.