FIFA might believe that defending World Cup Champion Germany is No. 1, but sportsbooks have their doubts.

Gabriel Jesus
Brazil’s Gabriel Jesus heads in a shot to in a friendly match against Germany on March 26. (Image: AFP/Getty)

Oddsmakers have tightened up the line for Germany and at most places they are now tied with Brazil to win. Most internet sportsbooks have both sides at 9/2 to win the 2018 World Cup, which begins June 14 and runs until July 15. Two places, Bet365 and BetStars, have Brazil as the favorite at 4/1.

One place that still has Germany on top is the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, which installed them at 5/1 immediately after they won the 2014 competition. Brazil was second, but they have been closing the gap. They began at 8/1, but in February were 5/1, while Germany moved to 4/1. Germany has stayed at those odds, but Brazil is now +450.

Epic Loss Haunts Brazil

Brazil was humiliated four years ago as the host country when they were pounded, 7-1, by Germany in the semifinals. When it occurred the nation mourned as if they had lost a cherished movie star or political figure.

The coach, Luiz Felipe Scolari, called the defeat, “catastrophic and terrible.” His team was also beaten 3-0 by the Netherlands in the third-place game, and the federation declined to renew his contract.

“I’ll be remembered probably because I lost 7-1, the worst defeat Brazil has ever had, but that was a risk I knew I was running when I accepted this position,” Scolari said. “Life goes on. That’s what I’ll do.”

Brazil has been trying to overcome that tragedy ever since it happened and it was on their minds when they faced Germany in a friendly match on March 26 in Berlin. It was one of the last matches for both teams before they finalize their squads and begin to prepare for the World Cup.

Gabriel Jesus scored the lone goal seven minutes before the end of the first half. His header got past goalie Kevin Trapp, and made up for a missed scoring opportunity minutes earlier.

Winning 1-0 gave the team a measure of satisfaction, but Brazilian defenseman and former captain Thiago Silva told the loss four years ago can’t consume them.

“We don’t think it will erase what happened in 2014, but football gives as a chance to revert the situation a bit,” Silva said.

Neymar Ready for Russia

The country was given a scare when its best player Neymar suffered a broken bone in his right foot in February. At the time medical officials were not sure the 26 year old would be ready by the World Cup.

But the soccer superstar assured he would be ready to compete, and now it looks like he may return earlier than expected. Speaking at a sponsor’s event in Sao Paulo on Tuesday Neymar was optimistic about his rehabilitation.

“It all depends on the evolution of the treatment and the next exams I go through so I have more details, but if I have to set a date where I have full clearance, will probably be close to May 17,” Neymar said. “I intend to arrive [in Russia] better than I was before,” Neymar said. “Of course, there were doubts — even I had doubts, but that is normal after such an injury. It was the first surgery of my career. I had never been through this before.”

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