Player versus team markets are one of the highlights of the pre-World Cup betting. Comparing an individual with an entire nation is entertaining on a childish level, but equally intriguing ahead of a competition.
The odds are good, and it provokes debate. That’s exactly what we’re here to do with the World Cup beginning tomorrow (yes, it’s finally here!).
Harry Kane vs Germany
A lot of people have tipped Germany to win back-to-back World Cups. The experience of success in 2014 and another clutch of gifted youngsters including Timo Werner and Julian Brandt helps their cause. Group F has no real threat, but this is about who scores more goals.
Germany face Mexico, Sweden and South Korea. The chances they roll over one or more of these sides are remote and could easily finish the group stage with five or six goals total.
After that, it’s admittedly a bit of a lottery, but this team is far from invincible, and could exit the tournament prematurely.
Jogi Low’s side had their worst run in 30 years during tournament build-up. It probably means nothing, of course, but this isn’t the well-oiled winning machine of 2014.
Their opponent in this unorthodox duel, Harry Kane, plays for a less fancied team. England’s chances of winning the World Cup may be remote, but a run to the latter stages is far from impossible.
Having fewer matches doesn’t rule Kane out of this one. He also has the benefit of group stage matches with Panama and Tunisia, and a tendency to hit purple patches.
If Kane finds the sort of form that helped him snatch the golden boot at the end of the 2016/17 season, outscoring Germany for the tournament is definitely possible. Maybe the 18/1 price isn’t so bad…
Romelu Lukaku vs Sweden
Sweden don’t have Zlatan Ibrahimovic anymore. Okay, that’s hardly breaking news, but it’s certainly relevant in this one. Sweden are not expected to make it out of Group F, and if they do, it won’t be from a barrage of goal scoring.
Romelu Lukaku, meanwhile, has the same advantage as Kane; he faces Panama and Tunisia in his first two matches. There’s the small matter of Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne creating for Lukaku, too, which is a decent supporting cast.
The Manchester United man netted 21 goals across the Premier League and Champions League last season, while carrying the burden of expectation in Jose Mourinho’s frontline.
Belgium are – partly down to reputation – still dark horses, despite the array of talent at Roberto Martinez’s disposal. A run to the last four or beyond would hardly be a surprise.
So, Lukaku will likely have more matches than Sweden to score goals and has more favourable group stage opponents.
The former Everton forward is the nailed on starting centre forward for the Belgians in Russia and could bag two or three in the first two matches alone. The 6/4 on Lukaku to outscore Sweden is great value.
Lionel Messi vs Colombia
Colombia are favourites to win Group H. Japan, Senegal and Poland make for a competitive quartet, but the starpower of James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao just nudges the South Americans ahead.
With that balance in the group, comes a lack of predictability. Judging how many Colombia will score is tricky.
Lionel Messi is easier to predict. He will be great and might just carry Argentina all the way to the World Cup. Messi has a challenging group, just like Colombia, but that doesn’t mean any of Nigeria, Croatia or Iceland will be able to stop him.
Arguably the greatest player ever is a good bet for the Golden Boot at 11/1. We know he is good enough to find the net three or four times against any opponent.
Whether it’s in the group phase or later in the tournament, a match like that combined with his inevitable scoring throughout the rest of the competition could easily see the Argentinian superstar score 10 or more.
Messi is at 2/1 to outscore Colombia for the tournament. That is a bargain, particularly given that Colombia will probably have to negotiate either Belgium or England in the last 16.
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*