How Canada Can Get Into the Knockout Rounds of the World Cup Against the Odds

How Canada Can Get Into the Knockout Rounds of the World Cup Against the Odds
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After 36 years of waiting, Canada is back at the World Cup as it sits as the underdog in almost every single market with the sportsbooks. 
The Maple Leafs meet with Belgium, Croatia and Morocco in Group F, and we look at their likeliest route into the knockout rounds with the sportsbooks expecting them to finish bottom of their four-way battle.

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What Odds Do Canadians Have to Make the Knockout Rounds?

Ahead of the winter showdown, Canada is +260 to qualify for knockout rounds. 

At the same time, it is also priced at +1100 to win Group F, and if you want to go one further and dream as big as possible, Canada is also +18000 to win the entire tournament.

To beat Croatia and Belgium, Canada is +350 and +800, respectively. 

Odds are currently not out for the final game against Morocco, as they are likely to change drastically after the first two games.

Is There a Chance Canada Gets it Done?

Belgium is likely to finish top of Group F and it could make easy work of it. 

Morocco and Canada have nowhere near the talent of Belgium, and Croatia is not what it was four years ago when it reached the final.

Croatia still has Champions League-winning players like Luka Modric, but it has lost considerable talent as Mario Mandzukic and Ivan Rakitic have retired. This plays heavily in Canada’s favor.

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Canada’s Likely Route and What Needs to Happen

For a team like Canada to qualify, many things need to happen, but it must hope that other results go in its favor. This likely means Croatia — the second-favorites to win the group —- needs to have a bad tournament and pick up no more than five points.

Across a four-way battle, it’s possible to progress with one win, but it’s unlikely. Canada probably will need at least four points, given how Croatia and Belgium should beat Morocco and rack up an easy three points there.

With one win needed at least, Canada’s best route to getting into the knockout rounds will mean it needs to beat Croatia. Then it will need Croatia to lose to Belgium and either draw or lose against Morocco. This could put Croatia on one point, and should Morocco expectedly lose to Belgium; this could then set up a winner-take-all battle against Morocco in the last game for Canada.

What doesn’t play in Canada’s favor is how it meets with Belgium and Croatia before Morocco. Because this means Belgium and Croatia don’t play each other until the final group game, there’s a chance the last set of group fixtures turn meaningless with Canada already out if it hasn’t got enough points on the board.

Canada’s most likely route is to beat Croatia and Morocco, and hope Croatia racks up only one win (possibly against Morocco). The Maple Leafs can qualify with one win, one loss and one draw from the three games, but Canada has to hope at least two other results go in its favor.

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Previous Attempts of Nations Qualifying Against the Odds

Canada is far from the first and will not be the last nation attempting to overturn odds so significantly against it. There were no major upsets at the previous World Cup, although Mexico finished ahead of defending champions Germany in Group F, which was a shock.

In 2010, Mexico also knocked out hosts South Africa and previous winners France, while Slovakia stunningly managed to finish ahead of defending champions Italy in Group F.

One of the biggest upsets in the group stages of the past 20 years came in the chaos of 2002. Sweden miraculously finished top of a group containing the star-studded squads of England and Argentina, while Canada's North American rivals, the United States, also finished second in Group D to knock out Portugal.

All of this will give Canada great hope, and if it can beat either Belgium or Croatia in one of the first two games, the odds of +1100 to win Group F will look a lot more promising.