Germany vs Argentina – World Cup Final

Sunday 13th July, Maracana

Match odds: Germany @13/10, Draw @9/4, Argentina @5/2

mullermessiGermany have played the more convincing football throughout the tournament and understandably go in as favourites here. However, Argentina have been resolute in their own way. People expected Sabella’s side to score goals and concede goals – with their attacking force of Messi, Higuain, Aguero, Di Maria, Lavezzi – and their less well known defensive line. But they’ve not really done either. They’ve struggled to create attacking opportunities, particularly against organised teams, but have been reasonably solid defensively – more so than we expected – with Mascherano helping out greatly and becoming a candidate for player of the tournament.

The key to beating Germany appears to relate to two aspects – can the opposition get on top early and stop the Germans getting into a flow and controlling the game – and getting in behind their defence with pace and intent on the counter. This is why Di Maria could be crucial – if he plays, although Perez actually did a good job of moving with the ball up the pitch against Holland, Di Maria is very good at breaking with pace and injects the energy into his team’s attacks that they need. It is yet to be seen whether or not Aguero will start, but you’d have to think that Argentina would benefit from him up top for the same reasons – pace and power. Messi is the man everyone will look to, but his role of instigator might again be thwarted by the two defensive midfielders. It all depends whether he can get those pockets of space to operate in and act as playmaker behind the striker. He will at some point try and dribble through the middle, and he needs the runners there to supply before Germany can get their mids onto him.

I think people are over-hyping Germany’s dominance a bit due to their destruction of Brazil, who played 100% into the German’s hands, as well as being woeful. I expect this game to be more tightly contested, and although disappointing for the neutral – probably low scoring. I see Draw/Draw @ 7/2 in halftime/fulltime as decent value. Both teams might be slightly cagey and start slowly – this covers the 0-0 and 1-1 in a way which gets more for your money than a straight up draw after 90mins. 0-0 at halftime is @11/8, which could also be worth a shout at that price. Extra time is always difficult to predict, but I think that if it does end in a draw, Germany to win in ET @9/1 is reasonable value here.



Brazil vs Germany – Semi final 1

Tuesday 8th July, Belo Horizonte

Match odds: Brazil @13/8, Draw @11/5, Germany @19/10

bragerThe first Semi final appears to be incredibly tough to call, for different reasons. Firstly, much has been made of the absence of Neymar and Thiago Silva from the host’s line-up, and although they have the crowd on their side as the ‘twelfth man’ they will miss the leadership and defensive ability of Silva. Despite what people say, Dante (his replacement), isn’t on the same sort of level at reading danger and commanding his position as Thiago Silva. Neymar’s energy and ability to take the ball and run with it, past defenders, and almost scaring them into committing the foul is also a big loss because now they have to look elsewhere for that drive towards the opposition penalty area, and they need a new spark to instigate their attacks. This is why many people feel Germany have the edge and can cause an upset to the local fans and host nation.

However, after seeing Brazil take on Colombia in the manner they did, I think that Brazil have the team ability and passion as a collective to win the game. In such a tight game, I think this extra belief and spirit will give them that bit of extra energy to take them over the line. For all his critics and potential positional weaknesses, I think David Luiz is going to be a pretty inspirational captain on the night – he shows so much dedication and focus during the game, and this should rub off on the team. Germany will go in as a lot of people’s favourites, despite perhaps not being overwhelming in their play so far. It might be difficult for Brazil to expose Loew’s weaknesses, but one of which will be the pack of pace in behind – which the wing-backs Marcelo and Alves (or Maicon) could look to exploit down the flanks. One question to be answered is the make-up of the German defence – will Lahm be shifted back into midfield or will he stay at right-back where he looked comfortable against France, despite Loew’s unwillingness to lose him from the central midfield role.

The general consensus here is that not many goals will go in. It does seem that way from what we’ve seen so far and what the knock-out stages have provided us with up to this point. With both sides seeming quite resilient and determined, it is very easy to see this one going to extra-time. Brazil to win in extra-time @10/1 seems like good value to me because firstly, if it gets to 90mins or so with the scores level then both teams would want to risk very little and ET would probably be settled for. Brazil would then edge it as slight favourites for me because of the home advantage, but again it is very tough to call. If you want to gamble, then I would think about a goal in the first half and because of the close nature of the game, I’ll look to the half-time/full-time market. Germany/Draw @16/1 in ht/ft seems like good value here, providing there is an early goal, maybe just as plausible as Brazil/Draw as we saw in the host’s last game where they took the lead early against Colombia and conceded late – albeit winning 2-1.

Both sides have looked threatening from set-pieces. Hummels showed in the last round against France that he loves a header, and without the continuity and organisation of Thiago Silva in the Brazilian centre-back pairing tonight, they could be vulnerable. Then again, Dante and David Luiz are equally adept at scoring balls into the box. However, in terms of value, I would favour David Luiz to score first @20/1, purely because of the added threat from direct free-kicks, like we saw against Colombia. If anyone is going to want to be in the box looking for a header from a corner in a game like this, then its makeshift captain David Luiz. Plus, if it is to be a low scoring game, the first goal could well be deep into the second half.


France vs Germany

Friday 4th July, Maracana

Match odds: France @19/10, Draw @21/10, Germany @17/10

benzemaIn what should be a close encounter, France will go in as many people’s pick as the in-form side, although no setting the world alight in their last round match against Nigeria, they were arguably better than Germany were against Algeria. The one thing that France should look to is pace in the attacking third. Germany looked open to counter attacks against Algeria and their lack of pace at the back in combination with their high line was often exposed. It is still unclear as to who will start, but it could be Griezmann and Valbuena occupying the flanks with Benzema through the middle, especially considering Benzema looked unhappy on the left previously. This offers a big incentive for France to soak up some pressure, with Loew expected to instruct his players to hold possession and dominate the midfield, then break from their half when they win the ball back. It will all be about France’s ability to get the transitional play from defence/deep midfield to attack quickly enough to get Mertesacker and his fellow back line on the turn around the halfway line.

Germany’s stamina and continuity into extra time against Algeria was impressive, and I would favour them to win if it went to extra-time. France may well be exhausted and unable to adapt to a different attacking game, allowing their opposition to keep the ball and pile on the attacks in the final stages. Germany are @10/1 to win in extra-time. The key to this game will be the change in approach after the first goal goes in (if a first goal goes in). If France score first, it could really open up as they can look at more space to exploit in behind Germany’s high back line. If Germany score first, in the first-half, they might decide to slow the tempo and try to dominate the midfield without forcing the ball forward at all. I really can’t see a huge amount between these two teams and betting on Win/Lose/Draw market seems like a bit of a gamble. I would favour something like France/Draw in ht/ft @16/1 with a lower stake.

I see one tempting bet which is Neuer to be sent off @ 28/1, which sounds ridiculous, but he is forever rushing out of his goal, often slide tackling and heading where possible, and if France look to counter with their pace, all it would take is for Griezmann or whoever to get through and skip past. However, more realistically, Benzema to score first @11/2 would certainly interest me, as he would likely be the one in the box (waiting for a square pass from a counter attack/going in for headers etc).

Holland vs Mexico

Sunday 29th June, Fortaleza

Match odds: Holland @21/20, Draw @ 23/10, Mexico @3/1

rvpThe Dutch side will go into this match as favourites, after impressing in the group stages by scoring 10 goals including a 5-1 win over Spain. Mexico haven’t been far off the achievements of their opponents, with an equally impressive display in the group stages but in different ways. Mexico based their success around defensive solidarity and sheer hard work, in contrast to Van Gaal’s side who’s main asset has clearly been their attacking power and threat of Van Persie and Robben. It makes for a fascinating encounter as both have their vulnerabilities. Mexico could struggle to score if they can’t grind Holland down and wear them out physically, it might just be a case of limited chances on the counter attack. However, if Mexico can close off the space and not allow the Dutch midfield & attack any time with the ball, it may not be so straight forward.

Many people have been raving about the Dutch display against Spain and their ability to score goals in abundance, but its easy to get carried away. Regardless of the reputation of Spain, Del Bosque’s side played horrifically badly in the second half of that match and at least 3 goals were scored purely because of mistakes. In their other two matches they struggled. Australia took the lead and only goals from Van Persie and a weak long shot gave them the win, but it was far from convincing against a weak Aussie side. Even in the Chile game, where on paper it looks like a good 2-0 victory, it took a late headed goal (for which Chile are notably short and relatively poor in the air) to break the deadlock in a pretty even game. Mexico will probably play in a similar style to Chile, but should be slightly more organised and prepped for crosses.

I expect a very close game, which is tough to call, and the value definitely doesn’t appear to be in a Dutch win. I would look for other options like Holland to win either 1-0, 2-0 or 2-1 @15/8, as the Mexicans should put up a strong defence but this also covers them getting a goal back in a 2-1. A good bet to cover this, and one which takes into account the heat at Fortaleza combined with Mexico’s stamina and work-rate, could be Holland/Draw in ht/ft @16/1. I would lean towards the Dutch to win, but certainly wouldn’t put all my eggs in a Holland basket, so it sometimes pays to look to other markets to cover your main bets incase of something like a late equaliser.  If you need a first half goal for your main bet, then you might want to look at covering it with something like time of first goal 81mins or later @ 18/1 when both teams might look to get a winner before extra time if they are shattered and extra-time looms in a stalemate.

Another market to look at here is corners. Holland have only had 5 corners in the whole competition so far – incredibly low. Mexico have had 14, 9 of which were against Croatia when the chips were down. They may well be in a similar situation here, and if they need goals at the end of the match then they will be look to set pieces and piling men forward. Both teams are at scratch for corner handicap, and I would go with Mexico most corners @evens. In what should be a pretty close game, as always it often pays off to wait until 10-15mins into the match to place your bets – just so you can get a feel of the intentions of both sides and gauge a possible outcome.






Brazil vs Chile – 1st Knockout Round

Saturday 28th June, Belo Horizonte

Match odds: Brazil @1/2, Draw @7/2, Chile @11/2

neymarHosts Brazil take on fellow South Americans Chile in a game that should command an immense atmosphere, with fantastic support for both sides so far. Brazil go in @1/2 favourites, after a relatively comfortable group performance. However, Chile will fancy their chances after overcoming Spain in their group and showing they can be a real force in the tournament. The hosts struggled against Mexico, and Chile may offer a similar threat. They will work extremely hard to press and close off the threat of the opposition runners and space in midfield, trying to stop Brazil’s transition between midfield and attack. Vidal will play, and will be crucial in the centre of the pitch – he will look to get forward and cover off space in the middle third – his quality is a necessity for his side to have a good chance here. In contrast, Fernandinho will probably replace Paulinho and attempt to do the same thing – holding the midfield alongside Luiz Gustavo, but pushing forward where possible.

Its difficult to see both sides keeping a clean sheet here. Brazil’s attack is threatening and they have the individual talent of Neymar, on 4 goals already, who can cut in and score at any time. However, their defence hasn’t been the best in the tournament so far and Chile will look to exploit them on the break and use Sanchez and Vargas to trouble Scolari and think about how to adapt in certain defensive situations. Chile will not change their attacking style. They have the potential to get caught out hugely on the counter-attack, where their wing-backs go wandering up the pitch meaning that the key match-up will possibly be Neymar and Marcelo vs Isla and whoever else occupies the space on the right to ‘help’ him. This is a worry for Sampaoli because he has said he ‘Doesn’t want to follow Neymar where ever he goes’, but does ‘respect him deeply’. However it doesn’t look like he will do to much to change their shape or protect that side of the pitch. Neymar to score first @3/1 seems like a solid bet, although the lack of height in the La Roja defence could point towards aerial opportunities for Fred. Fred to score a header anytime is @5/1 on SkyBet.

Taking into account Brazil’s unspectacular defensive performance so far, and the fact that Mexico will throw the kitchen sink at them if they need a goal (its a knockout game after all), it seems likely that both teams will score. I’d fancy going for Brazil to win and over 2.5 goals @11/10. Not only does this cover the possibility that Brazil will go through the gears and play Chile of the park here, but also both teams scoring. However, due to Chile’s apparent resilience and strength in the tournament so far, they could well make it to extra-time. I think if they do, Brazil will still be strong favourites with the home crowd behind them and the individual talent they have, thus I think Brazil to win in extra-time @17/2 could be a good outside bet, or Draw/Brazil in ht/ft @7/2.

Croatia vs Mexico

Crunch time in group A as Croatia go into a Mexican standoff to qualify, presumably alongside Brazil. A draw is good enough for Mexico, so you would expect them to be reasonably cautious, and the opposite with Croatia. Both teams have performed well, with Mexico basing their success on defending – with two clean sheets, and Kovac’s side relying more on their attacking prowess in their 4-0 thumping of Cameroon. The Mexicans will rely on work-rate and discipline to close off the space the Modric and Rakitic need to operate in midfield, but they are two of the best at operating in tight spaces and working the ball around. Although set up to be a close encounter, you would expect Croatia with the talent of their squad to be able to break the deadlock at some point. I would back Draw/Croatia in ht/ft @11/2, purely because I think it will take a while for Croatia to build up enough chances and break down their opponents. Mandzukic should have the ability to get goals from crosses and set pieces if necessary, and they have some world class deliverers in the side.

In what should be a close game, I would either gamble on a draw or a Croatia win – in this instance I think Croatia will have slightly more quality – therefore Croatia to win 1-0,2-0, or 2-1 is @5/2 on SkyBet, which seems the way to go. Under 2.5 goals @ 8/11 would be another option to consider, but this doesn’t offer great value – if there is an early goal, both teams could start chasing the game quickly. Due to Croatia’s ability to create opportunities, their aerial threat of Mandzukic and their need to win the game, I’m going with Croatia most corners @evens. They had 7 corners in their game vs Cameroon and Mexico only had 3 against Brazil and only 2 in their win over Cameroon. I can’t understand why the corner handicap is at scratch – seems like very good value on Croatia.

Germany vs Ghana

Germany had an extremely good opener against Portugal, and they will be expected to beat a Ghana side who suffered a 2-1 defeat to USA in theirs. Ghana will go in as underdogs and will be keen to attack and try and muster up a fight to get through the group, but ultimately Germany have a stronger side and have the confidence to score goals. The Germans have options from the bench, and will maybe want the opportunity to rest players in their final game in the group. I would back Germany -1 handicap @8/11, as Loew has proven his side’s ability to get goals and this market offers better value than the over 2.5 goals bet.

Ghana will probably put up a fight, and with Gyan up front, there is always the pace and possibility of a breakaway. I would say that Germany win and both teams to score @6/4 is a decent bet, considering Ghana might as well risk throwing men forward towards the end if they are behind. This, combined with the fact with Ghana having the most corners (7 – 3) in their first match and Germany having the least (4-6), I would bet on Ghana +3 corner handicap @10/11.

England vs Uruguay

This should be crunch game for both sides, after losses in the opening game. After the South American side’s shock loss to Costa Rica, they will go in as underdogs with the bookies, but they should have Suarez back after he has been training fully and looks fit to play. England fill fancy their chances of 3 points after playing reasonably well against Italy. They look like they have the creativity and pace in the final third to cause their opposition problems. Both teams to score @4/6 looks like a good bet, although not so favourably priced. Over 2.5 goals @10/11 might be a better bet, with both teams realistically looking for a win and neither team being overly impressive defensively.

With Suarez expected to play, it opens up a few more opportunities for his side, for example Uruguay are 7/1 to be awarded a penalty in the match, which could be a good shout. For England, it looks like Sturridge will be the main man, and Sturridge is 5/1 to score first, which seems good but Uruguay could be looking to get out of the blocks quickly and get the first goal. I expect Uruguay to be strong and committed in the tackle, if not slightly reckless. They top the charts so far for poor discipline with a red and 3 yellows in their opening game, with England only picking up one booking so far in theirs. Uruguay to get the most booking points @4/5 looks like a sensible bet, particularly with Sterling and Sturridge running at the as the main outlet for England and the slight lack of pace in the South American side’s defence. It squares up to be a competitive and potentially exciting game.

Spain vs Chile

After much being made of Spain’s embarrassing defeat to Holland in their opening game, they will want to bounce back. Chile looked relatively decent against Australia, but never excelled against a weaker side, opening themselves up to a comeback. I think Spain have too good a squad and too good a coach to let this happen again. They have time now to look back and adjust their approach, make changes and get their heads back together. Chile will be optimistic, but their attacking game is probably not best suited to playing Spain. I think Spain to win and both teams to score @15/8 is a sensible bet. They will have opportunities to counter attack and use their pace, a bit like Holland did, but they made leave themselves exposed in midfield and struggle when Spain try to dominate possession and be precise in the opposition third.

Its difficult to predict Spain’s starting lineup, with the poor performances against Holland. Diego Costa may well be dropped and the likes of Pedro and Fabregas will both be looking for starts. For this reason, I would avoid goalscorer markets in this game. They looked dangerous at times against Holland in the first half – it was after the break where it started to fall apart, but they will be move nervous and potentially more open to the counter-attack in this game. A decent shout is over 1.5 goals in 1st half @11/8.  Due to the potential fast start, with Spain needing goals and Chile having no intention of going defensive on previous record, Chile/Spain in ht/ft @22/1 also seems like a plausible option.

Australia vs Netherlands

Should be a relatively straight forward match for the Dutch side, despite Australia showing some fight in their first match vs Chile. Naturally, we’ll be looking around for some value as a Holland win is priced at around 2/9, even Holland -1 is 8/13. I would avoid the corners market, purely because Holland only had one corner in their opening game 5-1 win against Spain – its difficult to tell whether this is because of Spain’s higher possession and playing style or that Holland just aren’t going to get many corners in general.

I’ve picked out Holland to win to nil @11/10 as one to go for, mainly because of the strength of van Gaal’s defence in the opener. They looked like they could be susceptible to balls through the middle to Costa at times, but Australia’s main threat will probably come from different avenues towards Cahill. I’d back Indi, Vlaar and de Vrij to cope with the Aussie’s threat. Holland & over 2.5 goals in the match @4/6 appears to be a good bet – its better value than straight Holland to win and it can cover a goal from Australia in case of a 2-1 or 3-1 or something similar.

In terms of goalscorer markets, I’d be looking at van Persie and Robben again after their excellent performance in the opening game and the fact that they were the main threats going forward. However, as you’d expect, the odds on these to score or to score first aren’t the best. Both Robben and RVP are worse than evens to score anytime. One bet I did find on SkyBet was Robben to score from outside the area @5/1 which might be worth a shout, considering the amount he likes to cut inside and shoot from the right. I’d be slightly worried about the amount of game time van Persie and maybe Robben will get, particularly if Holland go 2 or 3 up inside 60mins.