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World Cup odds (As of June 29):
When it comes to the World Cup, it seems England's fans have become used to disappointment.
The drought has continued since 1966, when they were last champions of the world. Not since 1990 has England finished in the top four and they're not far removed from a most embarrassing finish when, four years ago, they didn't even make it out of the group stage.
The misery of Brazil, 2014, didn't repeat itself this year in Russia.
With a 2-0-1 record through three games - victories coming against Tunisia and Panama, two nations that would've never been considered contenders at this event - England is off to the knockout stage after finishing second in Group G. They lost out for top spot in the group after a loss against Belgium on Thursday, leaving their best player, Harry Kane, on the bench for the duration. (By the way, what a snoozer that was for the opening 45 minutes?)
World Cup Betting Breakdown:
A second-place finish in that group, however, isn't terrible news.
Belgium, with their 3-0-0 record, will play Japan in the Round of 16. Japan advanced by way of the fair play rule, in which they had identical records, point totals and goal differential but fewer yellow cards than Senegal in Group H. When it comes to that specific game, Japan presents what would be, on paper at least, an easier opponent for Belgium.
After that is when it will get really interesting. Belgium - assuming they make it through against Japan - would have to face the winner of Brazil versus Mexico in the quarter-finals, followed by another difficult opponent, with Uruguay, Portugal, France and Argentina all advancing to that side of the bracket for this next round.
England has a difficult Round of 16 opponent in Colombia. Beyond that, however, the only team on that side of the bracket listed as favourites ahead of them in the outright odds is Spain. By no means is that to suggest this will be an easy road for England at the World Cup. There is no benefit of the doubt when a nation goes more than 50 years without a world title.
But since the start of the tournament, England has moved up the board among the favourites to win outright in Russia.
They started on June 14 with odds of 15.00 to win outright, but those odds have moved, sitting at 7.25 by Thursday afternoon, even after their loss to Belgium.
If the group stage at this year's World Cup taught us anything, it's that the unexpected can happen. Germany, the reigning champion, was one of the favourites to win it all once again. They had the highest percentage of money bet on them for the outright market at the beginning of the tournament - and they faltered, never making it out of the group stage. Argentina nearly joined them, but moved on with a clutch victory, thanks to a late winning goal, against Nigeria in their final group stage game.
Strange things have occurred this year. Is England's World Cup drought about to end? That would be an unexpected finish to the event. You couldn't blame their fans for perhaps having a slightly more pessimistic outlook. Soccer fans with allegiances to other nations may also sneer at such a thought.