Yahoo Sports' predictions and favorite bets for the 2022 World Cup

With the World Cup just days away, there's still time to make your bets at BetMGM. Here are some of our picks and predictions ahead of the 2022 tournament that starts on Sunday when Ecuador takes on host Qatar.

Favorite Group Winner bet

Nick Bromberg: There are a lot of significant favorites for a reason. I’m not going to sit here and say Brazil or Argentina because their odds aren’t worth a bet. So why not go with a bit of a long shot and say Senegal over the Netherlands in Group A? The Africa Cup of Nations champions have a strong team, even if Sadio Mane is sidelined to start the tournament. And +425 to win Group A is a bet worth taking, especially if you hedge with a little easy money on Brazil and Argentina.

Henry Bushnell: I love Denmark over France in Group D. Even if you set aside the whole “Defending Champs Often Flop” thing, you could argue that the Danes should be favored here, rather than a +275 underdog. They’ve beaten the injury-riddled French twice already this year. They also play a far more adventurous brand of soccer, which could have goal-differential benefits if the European nations draw their Matchday 2 showdown.

Armando Botello II: Picking Germany at +110 to win Group E, aka the Group of Death, over the favorite Spain and a Japan team set on stirring things up. Die Mannschaft will be looking to make a statement in Qatar after missing out on the Round of 16 in 2018 as defending champions. The 2022 squad features a healthy combination of youth and experience and includes four players on Yahoo Sports’ Top 30 players at the World Cup (Leroy Sané, Jamal Musiala, Antonio Rüdiger and Joshua Kimmich).

Andy Deossa: Uruguay winning Group H over Portugal is easy money. Traditionally, teams that do well at the World Cup have a solid mix of veterans and new blood. While Portugal embodies that, Uruguay has the mix down to perfection. And when those experienced players are the likes of Luis Suarez, Diego Godin and Edinson Cavani, you’re in damn good shape to make some noise. They convincingly finished third in the toughest qualifying region (CONMEBOL) and should be able to win this group, perhaps with 9 out of 9 points.

Joey Gulino: Give me Croatia to win Group F over Belgium at +225. Their Luka Modric-Mateo Kovacic-Marcelo Brozovic midfield is the envy of most of the rest of the field, and while they’re no threat to win the World Cup, a group victory feels like a sensible last gasp for the 2018 finalists. No, there isn’t a goal-hoarding striker in the squad … just like there wasn’t four years ago, and injury-threatened Belgium is suspect on defense even when healthy. Eke out a win in that match, then let the experience boss four or six points off Morocco and Canada.

Cody Brunner: I’m going to cheat here and say Denmark over France as well. The rest of the group is Charmin soft and, as Henry mentioned above, the Danes have been able to topple France twice this year already. Even if you don’t put too much stock in UEFA Nations League results, Denmark would be in solid shape with a draw against France. This team should pile up goals against Tunisia and Australia.

Our picks for the 2022 World Cup.
Our picks for the 2022 World Cup.

The most surprising team knocked out in the group stage

Nick Bromberg: Luka Modric doesn’t deserve to end his final World Cup in the group stage, but I’m not sure Croatia gets out of the group. Group F may be the deepest group top to bottom in the tournament and you can make a strong case for any of the four teams to advance. After all, Canada is the underdog of the group and scored the most points in CONCACAF qualifying. Sorry Croatia, but you may be three and done.

Henry Bushnell: Either of the Group E superpowers, Spain or Germany, could crumble. But I’m looking at F as the Chaos Group. I don’t quite know whether the fallen giant will be Belgium or Croatia (or both), but at least one will fall — and if I had to pick, I’d go with Croatia.

Armando Botello II: I’ll go bold(?) here and say the U.S. doesn’t make it out of the group stage. Their uninspired friendlies versus Japan and Saudi Arabia in September left much to be desired in their final tune-ups before heading to Qatar. A loss or draw to Wales in Monday’s opener will put the USMNT in a likely do-or-die game against England before facing a dangerous Iranian team that has the potential to upset them. Hopefully, I’m wrong as I’d love to see them do well. In any event, the foundation of this USMNT is all set to make a deep run on home soil in four years, as Henry wrote earlier this week.

Andy Deossa: Mexico. The opening game against Poland will dictate what happens with El Tri. The way they’re kind of stumbling into Qatar, I could see them losing that first game. The following match is a date versus Argentina, which Tata Martino basically already chalked up as a loss. That would put them in a dire situation facing the final group stage game. Look on the bright side: the faster they get eliminated, the quicker Tata could put an end to this toxic relationship, right?

Joey Gulino: France. Their remarkable midfield pivot of N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba will miss the tournament through injury. So will reigning Bundesliga Player of the Season Christopher Nkunku. Didier Deschamps is going to shackle the attacking firepower through pragmatism. And the two previous times they reached the World Cup final (1998 and 2006), they were knocked out in the group stage at the next edition (2002 and 2010). After raising the trophy four years ago, France is going to flame out in Qatar. Oui! Ha ha ha … OUI!!

Cody Brunner: I waffled between the U.S. or Mexico, but those teams failing to advance doesn’t feel that bold. I’ll say Germany. Die Mannschaft vacillates between clinical and confusing; the team could be fire or flame out. It lost to Hungary a couple months ago and is just young enough to crumble under pressure in a tricky group.

Favorite Golden Boot bet

Nick Bromberg: Do not get blinded by Cristiano Ronaldo at +1400. It’s not a bet worth taking. I also wouldn’t suggest either Kylian Mbappe at +700 or Karim Benzema at +1000 for France. I’m not sold on the French prospects of a lengthy tournament run and it’s not clear who is going to take penalties. Antoine Griezmann scored three penalties as France won the World Cup in 2018. The best bet among the favorites at the moment seems to be Lionel Messi at +1200. Or a flier on his Argentina teammate Lautaro Martinez at +2500 would be worth it as well.

Henry Bushnell: Um … is Lionel Messi at +1200 not a great price?!? He’s the best player on arguably the best team. He’ll take free kicks and penalties. He’s been in sparkling form, albeit against less-than-stellar competition in Ligue 1, but his competition in Group C won’t be much better. He could hang four goals on Saudi Arabia alone. The “never won a major trophy” burden that once shackled him is gone. He’s my pick.

Armando Botello II: Rolling with Neymar to win the Golden Boot as he’s still the most dynamic player on a stacked Brazilian team that I’ve got going all the way to the final before lifting the trophy. As Andy outlines below, Neymar is set to become Brazil’s all-time leading goal-scorer with just three more goals during this World Cup and will look to put that record out of reach for decades to come. I'd also take a flier on Uruguay’s Darwin Nuñez to win the award since he’s +2500 and could be the breakout star of the tournament.

Andy Deossa: Neymar da Silva Santos Junior. This Brazilian side is flat out absurd. Coaches don’t typically have a problem of having too much talent to choose from, but Tite for sure has an abundance. Players will likely cycle through but Neymar will remain a constant. He’s also only three goals away from passing the legendary Pele as the country’s all-time top goalscorer. If you don’t think he’s going to be gunning for that badly, you probably haven’t been following him throughout his career. He might try to do it with a hat trick in the first game, and it’s not even that far-fetched with the way this squad could score. He’ll likely be taking penalties, too, and they’re sure to get at least a few. This is Brazil’s tournament, meaning Neymar is about to run it up. Joga bonito.

Joey Gulino: I love Brazil's Richarlison at +2500. Golden Boot winners are almost exclusively on teams that reach the semifinals and thus guarantee sixth and seventh games. Moreover, as much as Vinicius Jr. has emerged at Real Madrid, I feel confident Richarlison will have a more consistent place in Tite’s lineups, which are loaded anyway. Plus, while Richarlison might have to knock off rust after missing a handful of games due to a calf injury suffered during club duty this fall, it might buoy his stamina without the extra mileage so close to the tournament.

Cody Brunner: Messi at +1100 seems like the smart bet, but I’m going to go with his much more selfish counterpart in Cristiano Ronaldo at +1400. I realize it’s a risky wager considering he could be riding the bench. But in a group with Ghana, Uruguay and South Korea, Ronaldo will score plenty for Portugal if he does play. If you want a down-ticket option to consider, Memphis Depay at +2200 is a fun one. The Dutch should beat the hell out of their group opponents, and Depay could finish somewhere in the 6-7 goal range if they do.

Our bold predictions for the 2022 World Cup.
Our bold predictions for the 2022 World Cup.

Favorite prop bet

Nick Bromberg: Bruno Fernandes to be Portugal’s top scorer at +800. He’s behind both Ronaldo and Rafael Leao on the board and could establish himself as the new linchpin for a Portuguese side well-positioned to move on from CR7.

Henry Bushnell: The under on goals scored for each of the four teams in Group A.

Armando Botello II: Let’s have some fun on the opening day: I’ll take the over on 1.5 for Qatar’s total goals at +240 versus Ecuador on Sunday.

Andy Deossa: Costa Rica as the lowest scoring team in the tournament at +700. CONCACAF qualifying, or really nothing, could prepare you for landing in a group with Germany, Spain and Japan. Los Ticos are unfortunately going just to get a stamp on some passports, but it’s hard to see them having any success against those teams that are clearly superior.

Joey Gulino: There will be a new winner of the World Cup at +240. The top six teams in the odds have all won before, but the next five haven’t, and that’s a pretty sizable field for an awkwardly timed World Cup that’s going to be missing several stars due to injury. And selfishly, few things in sports have brought me greater joy as a neutral than the two times in my life a country won the World Cup for the first time (France 1998, Spain 2010).

Cody Brunner: The odds aren’t that long, but I’ll take the U.S. getting knocked out in the Round of 16 at +180. That or the next round would appear to be the team’s ceiling. I think the team makes it out of group and then gets rolled by the Dutch.

Who wins the World Cup?

Nick Bromberg: Argentina and Brazil enter the tournament on winning runs that are no fluke. They seem to be the best two teams in the world, but they haven’t played many European teams in recent years because of the Nations League. Are they really the two best? But if they aren’t, who is? There looks to be a lot of quality across Europe, but England as the team with the best odds from the continent is a tad scary. I’ll go chalk and take Brazil with Argentina as my No. 2 pick. It's just a shame that we likely won't get a Brazil vs. Argentina final. If they both win their groups as expected they will face off in the semifinals.

Henry Bushnell: In general, this is going to be a topsy-turvy, unpredictable World Cup. But if you have to pick one winner? I don’t see how there’s any argument for anybody beyond the top two, Brazil and Argentina. And if I’m placing a bet, I’ll take Argentina’s slightly longer odds.

Armando Botello II: Brazil’s national football team, led by world-class All-Stars, dances all the way to the final and becomes a six-time World Cup champion.

Andy Deossa: As I said above, this is Brazil’s World Cup. It has been exactly 20 years since they last lifted the trophy back in Yokohama, Japan. This roster is somewhat reminiscent of that Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Ronaldiñho squad when it comes to individual talent. The pressure and scrutiny of not winning it on home soil in 2014 has finally faded. La Seleçao will play freely and captivate us as they’ve traditionally done, this time finishing the job.

Joey Gulino: Argentina +500. Lionel Messi has broken the contextualization of world soccer for over a decade now. The only number you can use to repress his GOATness is the zero next to “World Cup titles.” That changes in Qatar, with a setup that allows him to move freely and pick out dangerous teammates, operating enthusiastically under a manager in Lionel Scaloni whose Albiceleste side hasn’t lost since July of 2019.

Cody Brunner: Again, Messi and Co. seem like a great pick, but I’ll go with their South American rivals next door (+400). Brazil’s track record of flaming out in World Cups of late has been well-documented, but this team feels like it’s finally balanced and ready to reach its potential. Scoring 40 goals and allowing only 5 in CONMEBOL qualifying just doesn’t even seem like a real stat.