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The rain for Spain is mainly just insane.

Bookies around the world are seeing a lot of money come in for Spain to win the World Cup at odds between 4/1 and 9/2. I'd like to see the defending European champions do the business, but the price is so short, I'm opposing Spain whenever I get the chance right now, and I'll start supporting Spain later.

The argument is less about soccer, and more about math. Spain has to do five things to win the World Cup: come out of its group, and win four sudden death games.

Let's assume Spain is 100|PERCENT| to emerge from a relatively easy preliminary group. Nothing is 100|PERCENT|, but let's pretend. (If you assign some chance of failure at this step, it makes Spain's odds of winning the whole thing even longer.)

Let's then say Spain is 60|PERCENT| in each of its knockout games. Whacking "60|PERCENT|" together four times to create a four-team parlay yields a 12.96|PERCENT| chance that Spain wins the World Cup. That's slightly more than 6.7-to-1 as a fair price. 4/1 or even 5/1 is unreasonably short.

So is 60|PERCENT| for each of the knockout rounds a decent number? I think so, especially with Brazil, Portugal, or the Ivory Coast looming as the first opponent. Spain would be higher than 60|PERCENT| in the betting markets against the Ivory Coast based on pedigree alone, but would be roughly 60|PERCENT| against Portugal and closer to 50|PERCENT| against Brazil. From the quarterfinals onward, barring a huge piece of luck, Spain will not go off as more than 60|PERCENT| against Argentina, Holland, Germany, Italy, England, etc.

So, it's a grinder's business, but I'm letting people have Spain at 4/1 or 9/2 with me right now, and I'll start by pouring their money on Spain to come out of the group, netting a measly 5|PERCENT|. Then I'll bet Spain in the knockouts, round by round. The tougher the opposition, the more options I'll have for hedging.

One final note: defending European champions do not run well at the World Cup. That doesn't bode well for Spain. Here's the breakdown since the Euros expanded to an 8-team format in 1980:

  • West Germany won Europa 80 and lost in the World Cup final in 1982.
  • France hosted and won Euro 84 and lost in the World Cup semis in 1986.
  • Holland won Euro 88 and lost in the World Cup round-of-16 in 1990.
  • Denmark won Euro 92 and did not qualify for the World Cup in 1994.
  • Germany won Euro 96 and lost in the World Cup quarters in 1998.
  • France won Euro 2000 and fell in the group stage in World Cup 2002.
  • Greece won Euro 2004 and did not qualify for World Cup 2006.

One final appearance, one loss in the semis–and five major disappointments in the post-Hair Rock era.