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World Cup 2018 Sleeper Picks

Aleksandar Mitrovic Serbia World Cup 2018

Upsets, sleepers, long shots, underdogs; whatever you want to call them, there are a plethora of bets on the board that could help you cash big at World Cup 2018 in Russia. Whether you’re looking at a surprise team to go the distance, escape a difficult group, or for some profitable opening lines, we’ve got a few tempting punts to consider.

Senegal to win Group H +500

The Lions of Teranga make their return to the World Cup after a 16-year absence since their debut in 2002. That maiden World Cup appearance saw them finish second in a group with France, Uruguay and Denmark and subsequently reach the quarterfinals.

Over 62,000 packed the Seoul World Cup stadium to witness Senegal’s improbable win over defending champs Les Bleus and the world suddenly became very familiar with this dangerous African representative.

Aliou Cisse, captain of the 2002 side, now handles managerial duties for this young, exciting squad. He’ll look to key players like Liverpool’s Sadio Mane, Napoli’s Kalidou Koulibaly and Monaco’s Keita Balde to lead his side out of a difficult group.

Colombia, Poland and Japan each pose a certain challenge to Cisse’s team but their no-pressure approach to the tournament is what makes this play so attractive to me. When asked to compare the 2002 side, Cisse was quoted as saying, “We would also love to reach the quarterfinals, but even if we didn’t make it out of our group we could still have a good World Cup. … We’ll have to go there without an insecurity complex, play our natural game and stick to our African identity, which defines our football.”

A team with a relaxed approach and a lot of skill has all the ingredients to turn this group upside down.

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Serbia to beat Brazil +700

I understand if +700 odds make you uneasy, but stay with me here.

Serbia won their qualification group ahead of Ireland, Wales – who were Euro 2016 semifinalists – and Austria. In their 10 contests, they saw nine different players hit the back of the net, led by Aleksandar Mitrović (six) and Dušan Tadić (four).

They also feature a potential midfield of Luka Milivojević (Crystal Palace), Nemanja Matić (Man United) and Sergej Milinković-Savić (Lazio), which will most certainly cause major disruptions in the Brazilian flow for this fixture. All three of these players were instrumental for their respective European clubs this season.

The Eagles will likely carry two veterans of their World Cup 2010 side that beat eventual third-place squad Germany 1-0 in Branislav Ivanović and Aleksandar Kolarov. This leadership and experience should prove crucial in what will be their biggest test in the group stage.

What can’t be overlooked is that this clash occurs on the last matchday of group play. In all likelihood, Brazil will have taken the full six points in their matches with Costa Rica and Switzerland, putting them in a position to rest their stars and start a rotated side.

If Serbia drops points to either or both of those teams, they could enter this match against the Brazilians playing for their tournament lives.

Portugal to win the World Cup: +2500

I have a very difficult time calling Cristiano Ronaldo and his Iberian countrymen sleepers, but at +2500 they sit as the eighth team on the oddsboard. Although they did it in less than spectacular fashion, this is the side that won the Euro just two years ago.

Any side that features CR7 at its core has a chance to win. For club or for country, this man gets it done, and usually does so in big games in a big way. Even the Juventus faithful had to stand and applaud his bicycle kick that crushed their Champions League dreams in their own barn.

The Portuguese had a very impressive qualification run, winning nine straight after an opening-game loss to the Swiss. In that run, Ronaldo found the net 15 times.

Their path beyond the group stage will be extremely difficult, but as they proved two years ago in France, this side can defend and sneak their way through with some “first goal wins” type games.

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