Knack of the Bet: Spies, Salsa and Shaky Defences in the World Cup Quarter Finals

Will Brazil be celebrating again after their quarter final?

Will Brazil be celebrating again after their quarter final against Colombia?

 

Paul Watson of Back of the Net gives his not altogether serious previews of the World Cup quarter-finals. The odds are real but the logic behind the bets may be a little far fetched.

France v Germany Betting Odds:

France to qualify – 2.15

Germany to qualify – 1.67

(All odds provided by AllYouBet.ag are accurate as of today and subject to change)

France were relieved to avoid an awkward, politically charged clash with Algeria, instead they line up against Germany – a nation they have never had any problems with. Thoughts will inevitably turn to 1982 and the infamous foul from German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher on French defender Patrick Battiston, which knocked him unconscious. Fortunately there’s unlikely to be any repeat as current German ‘keeper Manuel Neuer’s standard position is on the halfway line – a position from which he could easily open the scoring.

Expect a tense, brutal encounter that may need extra time to decide, again a first for clashes between these countries.

Key Clash – Griezmann v Mertesacker

Antoine Griezmann energised France when he came on as a substitute against Nigeria and his pace could worry Per Mertesacker whose fastest recorded time over 50 metres is more than six minutes.

 

Brazil v Colombia Betting Odds:

Brazil to qualify – 1.40

Colombia to qualify – 2.90

(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)

Home advantage is a massive factor in World Cups. Brazil have already benefited from their right as hosts to win any penalty shootout and may try and make Colombia feel awkward by repeatedly mentioning how much effort they have gone to in putting on the World Cup.

Neymar is already challenging Pele’s reputation in Brazil and Luiz Felipe Scolari is likely to stick with Neymar given Pele’s poor scoring form over the last 26 years. Colombia’s danger man James Rodriguez could trouble Brazil’s back line. The press have nicknamed him James Bond, partly due to his anglicised name and partly for his tendency to survive attempts on his life before bedding glamorous yet ultimately dangerous women.

Back Rodriguez to score in 90 minutes (a goal that is), but the Colombians are unlikely to commit the faux pas of putting the hosts out.

Key Clash – Neymar v Fred

Neymar will look to continue his lethal form and looks a good bet for first scorer, but he will have to contend with Fred, who has shown he is capable of shutting down wave after wave of Brazilian attacks.

Betting Instinct tip – James Rodriguez to score at any time is 4.00 with Intertops.eu

 

Argentina v Belgium Betting Odds:

Argentina to qualify – 1.53

Belgium to qualify – 2.45

(All odds provided by Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)

Tipped as dark horses ahead of the competition, Belgium are looking ever more equine, but they come up against a massive test in Argentina. Inspired by Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria, who averages a goal from every 100 chances, Argentina aren’t short of attacking threat, but they can look exposed at the back.

Argentina’s defence has looked shaky from set pieces, when teams run at them at pace, when teams pass it around slowly and during the national anthem, so backing both teams to score may be sensible.

The last time these two sides met at a competition was in 1986 when Argentina won 2-0 en route to glory, but very few of the players involved are expected to start, so little can be gauged from that.

Key Clash – Di Maria v Di Maria

Angel Di Maria could make all the difference for Argentina with his tireless runs from deep positions and his willingness to take defences on, but his efforts could be in vain if Angel Di Maria proves as profligate as he did for long periods against Switzerland.

 

Netherlands v Costa Rica Betting Odds:

Netherlands to qualify – 1.22

Costa Rica to qualify – 4.20

(All odds provided by AllYouBet.ag are accurate as of today and subject to change)

The Netherlands would appear to be overwhelming favourites to reach the semi-finals, but you underestimate Costa Rica at your peril unless you have an unusually high opinion of Costa Rica, in which case you’re pretty much spot on.

Despite having a population of just 42, half of whom are in the World Cup squad, Costa Rica overcame Greece on penalties when Greece were no longer able to prevent shots being had on goal. Led by Bryan Ruiz, who appears to have been transformed from the pleasantly ineffectual player Fulham fans knew to a lethal goal getter, Costa Rica will look to reach the last four and force fans to finally look up where it is on a map.

Much of the Dutch attacking threat will come from Arjen Robben and his tested tactic of running into the box and allowing a stiff breeze to knock him over could be decisive.

Key Clash – Proto-Surrealism v Salsa Lizano

The Dutch will look to unsettle Costa Rica with fantastical imagery illustrating religious concepts and narratives, but expect Costa Rica to fight back with liberal lashings of a rich vegetable sauce with a tangy, spicy flavour.

Betting Instinct tip The Netherlands to win in regulation time is 1.50 with AllYouBet.ag.

Unfamiliar with decimal odds? Let our odds calculation guide help you out.

Paul avatar PAUL WATSON (paolowatson) is the other half of Back of the Net, alongside fellow Betting Instinct  blogger John Foster. Paul wrote the book Up Pohnpei, and you can follow Back of the Net on FacebookTwitter or  Google+.

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The World Cup has already spoilt fans, but there is plenty more to come

Can surprise package Costa Rica keep their incredible run going against the Netherlands?

Can surprise package Costa Rica keep their incredible run going against the Netherlands?

 

For the first time in World Cup history, the last eight is compromised entirely of nations who topped their groups at the group stage.

It’s a fitting quarter-final line up for a tournament that has—for the most part—mercilessly punished mediocrity and compromise wherever it has reared up. Spain’s complacency saw them dumped out of the running early on while the cracks within England’s and Italy’s game plans were quickly exposed and exploited to send them home before the knockout rounds. The likes of Cameroon, Portugal and Russia have been outfought, outclassed and nonchalantly tossed to the wayside by better teams filled with real courage and conviction.

 

Few would deny that the World Cup has already spoilt its global audience with the action that it has produced so far, but now it’s time attention turned to the so-called “business end” of proceedings, where the names of stages are mounted with the suffix of “final” and honours are ultimately decided.

That all sounds very sobering and serious however, the fun isn’t over just yet. With the final scheduled to take place at the Maracana in Rio de Janeiro on Saturday July 13, the following four quarter-final fixtures look set to lay the foundations for a grandstand finale worthy of the exhilarating momentum of the early rounds.

 

Friday July 4th, 5 pm (GMT): France vs. Germany – an Old World battle for authenticity

For many, the loss of Franck Ribery to injury and the exiling of Samir Nasri after a season-long personal renaissance with Manchester City cast doubt on France’s credentials heading into the tournament. Yet Didier Deschamps’ side now stands relatively tall amongst the narrowing field of nations still in the competition as one of the few teams not carrying any obvious fatal flaw, having thrashed Honduras and Switzerland and beaten Nigeria 2-0 in normal time.

Germany on the other hand jetted off to Brazil hyped up on the recent successes of the Bundesliga and their intimidating roster of matured stars and exciting young prospects. However, Jogi Löw’s team looked less than convincing against Algeria and Ghana, with his decision to persist with Philipp Lahm in midfield amid diminished options at full-back looking rather self-consciously contrarian and stubbornly pretentious rather than brave or bold.

They struggled to assert themselves in front of goal against the USA, and their brittle back line consisting of four centre-backs looked vulnerable to the pace and determination of Algeria, who were unfortunate not to covert a stream of chances over 120 minutes of normal and extra time. Even their 4-0 win over Portugal felt more like a brutal exposé of the Iberians’ failings than a testament to the victors’ quality and intent.

Blunt in attack and pedestrian in defence, Germany may not be able to live with France’s attacking power, which could yet be enhanced further should Deschamps finally decide to start Antoine Griezmann over Olivier Giroud. The Real Sociedad forward’s movement and magic on the ball off the bench saw him put the game against Nigeria beyond doubt, and alongside Mathieu Valbuena he could be too clever and cunning for Low’s four-man central defence to handle.

Betting Instinct tip France to win in 90 minutes is +200 with AllYouBet.ag

 

Friday July 4, 9 pm (GMT): Brazil vs. Colombia – the work in progress or the accidental master plan?

Where would Brazil be without Neymar? Luiz Felipe Scolari’s team look utterly dependent on their one true star as they struggle towards what they believe to be their destiny: a chance to right the wrongs of 1950 when they lost in the final of their first home World Cup to Uruguay. If the rumours over his failing fitness prove to be true then that dream is as good as dead.

Colombia lost their own talisman before the summer even began when Radamel Falcao was cut down by injury and ruled out of the World Cup. Yet his absence has lead Jose Pekerman to create arguably a more well-rounded side who look like the team Scolari wishes he could create with Brazil.

Regardless of how you say his name, James Rodriguez has been one of the players of the tournament, supported by a cast of diligent co-stars who look solid if not always spectacular. To call Colombia functional is not to insult them. They have produced some wonderful moments already in Brazil yet the solidity of the foundations Pekerman has put together cannot be overstated.

Their quarter-final opponents didn’t take too well to facing off against South American opponents ready and willing to outclass and outfight them in the round of 16 against Chile, with the World Cup hosts getting overly physical with Arturo Vidal & co. at times. Don’t be surprised if tempers boil over in the sweltering heat of Forteleza if things don’t go Brazil’s way and Colombia gain the upper hand.

It will take a brave referee to show the red card to a Brazilian player, but given the instability and intensity of the emotions surrounding their tournament, a dismissal is a real possibility.

Betting Instinct tip a red card to be shown in regular time is +250 with Intertops.eu

 

Saturday July 5, 5 pm (GMT): Argentina vs. Belgium – the unexpected snooze fest

Lionel Messi’s showdown with the pre-tournament dark horses would have been touted as one of the ties of the round on paper had such a game been proposed back in May, but given both teams’ struggles to match their billing and to light up  the tournament, it could well prove to be the most underwhelming quarter-final on offer.

Belgium’s lack of full-backs has led them to look all-too-staid going forwards, while injuries and uncertain form have lead to Alejandro Sabella switching up his formations and team selections to hamper the fluidity of his side.

Even with their formidable rosters of attacking talent, both nations required late, late goals to overcome their round of 16 opponents and punters could be in for another stodgy, rigid anti-spectacle as Argentina go through the motions against a group of dark horses who have so far looked more like beige donkeys.

Betting Instincct Tip: No goals in standard time is +700 with AllYouBet.ag

 

Saturday July 5, 9 pm (GMT): Netherlands vs. Costa Rica – a quarter played on the counter

He who daren’t, wins could well be the mantra by which victory is secured in Salvador as The Netherlands and Costa Rica both look to continue to succeed by catching each other out on the break with three-man defences and spontaneous attackers.

All logic and reason dictates that the Dutch should outclass their cross-Atlantic opponents, but as shown by Uruguay, Italy, England and Greece, underrating the chances of the Central Americans is a somewhat perilous exercise.

Louis van Gaal’s team will undoubtedly be the best opposition the Costa Ricans have faced yet however, and if Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben are on form, it’s hard not to assume the Oranje should progress, and with a rather handsome margin of victory.

Having said that, it’s hard to say whether it’d even be a surprise anymore if the underdogs somehow claimed the scalp of yet another Goliath to barge their way into the semi-finals.

Betting Instinct tip – Robin van Persie to score two or more goals is +275 with Intertops.eu

Unfamiliar with American-style betting odds? Check out our odds calculation guide to find out how to translate to decimal or fractional

Greg avatar GREG JOHNSON (gregianjohnson) is a freelance football writer based in London and contributor to  FourFourTwo, Squawka, Drowned In Sound and Mirror Football. He also co-edits The False Nine football  blog and podcast. Follow him on Twitter or Google+.

Swiss set for World Cup surprise!

Are the Swiss a team to watch in Brazil?

Ottmar Hitzfeld could make a splash with Switzerland at the World Cup!

“Been there, done that”, would be an appropriate phrase to sum up Ottmar Hitzfeld’s glittering coaching career, but the veteran still has one major goal before he retires in just a few weeks’ time – to make a World Cup splash with the Swiss national team.

After winning all that there is to win in club football with Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich, Hitzfeld took over the reins of the “Nati” in 2008. He led his young side to the World Cup finals in South Africa in 2010, where they became the only team to defeat the future champions from Spain. The campaign ended, however, in a frustrating exit after the group phase following a loss to Chile and a disappointing draw with Honduras. Four years on, Hitzfeld has a squad that has gained plenty of international experience playing in some of Europe’s top leagues and could well be ready to spring a surprise or two in Brazil. The likes of Gökhan Inler, Blerim Dzemali and Valon Behrami (Napoli), Stephan Lichtsteiner (Juventus), Diego Benaglio (Wolfsburg) and Granit Xhaka (Monchengladbach) all play major roles at their clubs and know that they have the class to succeed at the top level.

Drawn to face France, Ecuador and Honduras (again) in Group E, there is every reason to believe that Hitzfeld’s team can progress to the knockout phase this time around. The German coach will have the perfect match-plan for each opponent and his quality players have both the skill and the will to go far and so present their boss with the perfect retirement present!

Switzerland to win Group E: Odds 3.75

Switzerland to beat France: Odds 3.5

Switzerland to reach the World Cup quarterfinals: Odds 4.0

All odds provided by www.allyoubet.ag are correct as of today but subject to change.

CHRIS I. (tipsterchris) is a European sports blogger who’s hooked on football — both NFL American football and European football.  Chris discusses betting tips and trends and includes betting odds in his regular posts at BI.

North moves to centre to set up big battle with Bastareaud

Things don't get easier for Warren Gatland's Wales after the 26-3 defeat to Ireland last time out

Things don’t get easier for Warren Gatland’s Wales after the 26-3 defeat to Ireland last time out

Wales will be hoping to bounce back from their crushing 26-3 defeat against Ireland when France come to the Millenium Stadium.

 

Wales v France Betting Odds

Wales to win – 1.62

France to win – 2.30

Draw – 19.00

(All odds provided by AllYouBet.ag are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

Warren Gatland has made three changes for the Friday night fixture, with Mike Phillips dropping to the bench. George North moves to centre due to injury problems and Luke Charteris returns from injury. Mathieu Bastareaud returns for France, with injured Bernard Le Roux replaced by Wenceslas Lauret.

Lions and Racing Metro scrum-half Phillips will be replaced by Osprey Rhys Webb after a disappointing game against Ireland. Wales coach Warren Gatland isn’t one to sugar-coat his criticisms of his own players, and the fact that Phillips has been first choice Lions scrum-half in five out of the last six tests cuts no ice with the Kiwi, who brings in 5-cap Rhys Webb.

 

“We weren’t happy with Mike’s performance against Ireland… He was probably a little confrontational one-on-one with Conor Murray and was yellow-carded towards the end of the game,” the coach said.

“By putting him on the bench and giving Rhys Webb a chance, we’ve given him an opportunity to reflect. At the moment, we feel Rhys will give us a different dimension.”

 

George North moves into the centre due to injuries to Jonathan Davies and Scott Williams. “Wing is ideally where I have been playing for the past few years,” said North. “To put on the Welsh jersey, any position, is happy days. So for me it’s another challenge.”

The Northampton and Lions star will be replaced on the wing by Scarlets full-back Liam Williams.

 

It’s easy to forget that George North is still only 21. The young Lion will face a huge test in the middle with the colossal Mathieu Bastareaud returning from injury. Toulon centre Bastareaud has been struggling with a shoulder injury, but has been cleared to start on Friday.

Flanker Bernard Le Roux suffered a nasty blow in the 30-10 win against Italy. After struggling with concussion, he’ll be replaced by fellow Racing Metro flanker Lauret.

 

Wales have struggled for form in 2014’s 6 Nations campaign. They opened their account with an unconvincing, though admittedly comfortable, win against Italy in the Millennium Stadium. The 2013 campaign started slowly, with defeat against Ireland, however the Welsh went onto win the tournament.

No such bounce back this year, however. Wales suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the Irish, losing 26-3. Up next is France, who are favourites to win the tournament after edging past England in the opening weekend, then cruising past Italy with a 30-10 victory.

 

It’s going to be a tough night for Wales. A repeat of last weekend’s performance will surely see a hammering from Les Bleus.

 

Betting Instinct Tip – While Wales have home advantage, they will have to make a big improvement on their last performance. France seem good value to win at 2.30 with Intertops.eu.

 

Wales: Leigh Halfpenny, Alex Cuthbert, George North, Jamie Roberts, Liam Williams, Rhys Priestland, Rhys Webb, Gethin Jenkins, Richard Hibbard, Adam Jones, Luke Charteris, Alun Wyn Jones, Dan Lydiate, Sam Warburton (Captain), Taulupe Faletau.

Replacements: Ken Owens, Paul James, Rhodri Jones, Jake Ball, Justin Tipuric, Mike Phillips, Dan Biggar, James Hook.

France: Brice Dulin, Yoann Huget, Mathieu Bastereaud, Wesley Fofana, Hugo Bonneval, Jules Plisson, Jean-Marc Doussain, Thomas Domingo, Dimitri Szarzewski, Nicolas Mas, Pascal Pape (captain), Yoann Maestri, Yannick Nyanga, Wenceslas Lauret, Louis Picamoles.

Replacements: Brice Mach, Yannick Forestier, Vincent Debaty, Sebastien Vahaamahina, Damien Chouly, Maxime Machenaud, Remi Tales, Gael Fickou

Referee: Alain Rolland (IRFU)
Assistants: John Lacey, Dudley Phillips (IRFU)
TMO: Graham Hughes (RFU)

AntonyPAUL STOLLERY (paulstollery) is a Cardiff City fan and Ron Swanson enthusiast. He writes about football and rugby for Betting Instinct

Can PSG put daylight between them and the chasing pack in Ligue 1?

Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates opening the scoring in the 1-1 draw earlier this season

Zlatan Ibrahimovic celebrates opening the scoring in the 1-1 draw earlier this season

Tonight’s clash between the top two sides in the top division of French football – Ligue 1 – will see one of two things; PSG storming off into the distance with an eight point lead at the top of the table or Monaco recording a home win to close the gap to just two points.

I, and I’m sure all of the neutrals watching the action at the Stade Louis II this evening, will be desperate for the hosts to claim all three points to keep the battle for the Ligue 1 title going and for it being closer than ever. However, GR88.com do not see it happening this way as they favour victory for the current league leaders and their Monaco v Paris Saint-Germain match odds are as follows.

Monaco v Paris Saint-Germain Odds:

Monaco – 3.15

Draw – 2.98

PSG – 2.14

(All odds provided by GR88.com are accurate as of today and subject to change)

Monaco bring a fine record at the Stade Louis II into tonight’s must win, or at least must not lose, match with PSG as they have claimed eight wins and two draws in 11 matches. Their only defeat on home soil came in their final match of the 2013 as they hosted 18th placed Valenciennes and were beaten 2-1. They have done much better in 2014 with a six game unbeaten run and they eased past fifth placed Marseille 2-0 in their only home match this year. However, they are missing top striker Falcao due to the Columbian player suffering an severe injury in a cup match that will keep him out until next season. Can they overcome this to continue their exceptional home form?

The odds do not suggest so, but Monaco do have a fine home record this season and with ten of the last 11 meetings between these two sides seeing either a draw or a one goal winning margin then I feel that the odds may have overpriced the hosts this evening. The only time in these 11 meetings that these two teams have been separated by more than a goal was in 2009 when Monaco claimed a 2-0 home victory, I see this match being as close as the other ten games in this run.

However, PSG are unbeaten in six on the road, winning five and drawing only with 16th placed Guingamp, where they needed a late leveller to claim a point and avoid defeat. The visitors to the Stade Louis II this evening will be confident thanks to this away form, but with them not having kept a clean sheet since November will Monaco be able to take advantage this evening?

As I already mentioned, I feel that the home side are overpriced this evening and with PSG struggling to keep clean sheets, Monaco offer the best value for me in tonight’s match. As a result, I am taking a chance on the outsiders and backing them on the handicap market at +0.25 (half on +0 – stake returned if drawn – and half on +0.25 – winner if home win or draw).

Back Monaco +0.25 goals @ 1.87 with GR88.com in this evening’s top of the table Ligue 1 clash of Monaco v Paris Saint-Germain.

AntonyANTONY JORDAN (antonygr88) is an avid football and cricket fan who loves to play his favourite sports as much as write about them and bet on them.  Read his daily sports betting blog at GR88.com.