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Host country France is biggest threat to U.S. World Cup repeat

Updated June 5, 2019 - 3:32 pm

A quick glance at a Las Vegas sportsbook odds board reveals the U.S. as the favorites to repeat as champions at the Women’s World Cup in France.

It’s not quite as clear after further inspection.

“The USA may be a false favorite in this thing and maybe France should be favored, especially considering they have home field,” Westgate sportsbook executive director John Murray said. “But the money is all on the USA team. That’s why you see them at such low odds.”

At least one American player agrees.

Veteran midfielder Megan Rapinoe, who used to play professionally in Lyon, where the final will be held on July 7, believes the host nation is the team to beat when action kicks off Friday at noon with France taking on South Korea.

“I think they are, in my opinion, the favorite, for sure,” Rapinoe told ESPN. “I don’t say that to play mind games. They’re a fantastic team. They’re home. They’re going to have, obviously, a home crowd with them every time. We felt that in the last World Cup, even though it was in Canada, it felt like a home World Cup for us. In some of those tighter games, that was definitely a big boost for us.”

France is the No. 4 team in the FIFA rankings entering the tournament. The U.S. sits atop that chart.

Bettors at the Westgate, whether it be through analysis or patriotism, have sided with the Americans.

A $10,000 bet on the U.S. to win the event at 5-2 odds is by far the biggest single wager the property has accepted as of Wednesday afternoon and helped push the number down to the current level of plus-175.

France is the second choice at plus 350.

“There’s just a lot more bets on them than any other team,” Murray said of the U.S. “They’re really our only liability in the pool, along with a little bit on Australia.”

Bettors will probably be looking to play the U.S. in their individual matchups as well, though those new to wagering on women’s soccer may do a double-take when they see some of the lopsided numbers on the board.

The U.S. is a 4½-goal favorite over Thailand in their first match Tuesday.

Tom Viola, a producer at VSiN who closely follows soccer markets, cautions bettors not to be scared to lay numbers in the tournament.

“I would probably say the first thing to look at is the favorites,” he said. “This isn’t like the men’s World Cup where you have a really big field in the middle of the pack with a lot of decently strong teams. This is very top heavy. There’s more value in the favorites even though you’re laying the big prices. It’s a little harder to get those Cinderella stories you sometimes see in the men’s tournament.”

He agrees there is also value on France to win the whole thing, particularly because of the difficulty in repeating as champions as the U.S. is trying to do. Viola also noted the question marks the U.S. has defensively.

A final between the U.S. and France seems an ideal way to decide the tournament, but it’s almost certainly not going to happen.

Both teams are massive favorites to win their respective groups during pool play and the bracket is set up for them to meet in a quarterfinal match should that scenario materialize.

That opens the door for another team to make a run and at least make the final, rewarding backers with a chance to cash a longshot ticket or at least take advantage of a hedging opportunity.

Viola cites Germany and Spain as possible spoilers, along with Netherlands.

“There’s not exactly parity, but there’s definitely a lot more good teams worldwide than there was when (the U.S.) won in 1999 when it was really just them and China taking women’s soccer seriously,” Murray said. “I think there’s more good teams now than there were then.”

France is a minus 2 favorite over South Korea in Friday’s lone match.

More betting: Follow at reviewjournal.com/betting and @RJ_Sports on Twitter.

Contact Adam Hill at ahill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @AdamHillLVRJ on Twitter.

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