Germany vs Argentina: the final that nobody wanted

After struggling through the knockout stages, will this be one game too far for Argentina?

After struggling through the knockout stages, will this be one game too far for Argentina?

Why do we love football? There’s the superficial answer, of course: that perfectly-timed slide tackle from Javier Mascherano, that sublime finish on the bounce from Andre Schurrle, and, yes, that entire German humiliation of Brazil, one not characterised by mere ‘efficiency’, as BBC commentators and pundits erroneously argued in the clichéd and mildly xenophobic tones to which we are accustomed, but by an intoxicating mix of the aesthetic and the ruthless.

Sometimes, that’s good enough. Sometimes, players’ individual brilliance shines through, and that’s sufficient to placate us, the demanding fans. Sometimes, teams simply put on that kind of show, or, in the case of the hosts, collapse entirely, in which case we’re drawn to the spectacle like so many passers-by to a motorway pile-up. In other cases, it isn’t. The second semi-final was a case in point: a dreadful match in which two of the best players in the world, Lionel Messi and Arjen Robben, were for the most part anonymous; an abject 0-0 after an abject 120 minutes. Football can delight like no other sport yet invented, but—let’s face it—sometimes, just sometimes, it can be crap.

 

When that happens, we need something else to sustain our interest. In fact, we need that most annoying of think-piece buzzwords: we need #NARRATIVE. Kevin Keegan wrongly (but wonderfully) framed things geographically when he said that Newcastle fans go to St James’ Park ‘like the people down South go to a theatre.’ His sentiment, however, was sound. It isn’t that ‘goals are overrated’: not since 1974 has a World Cup third-place playoff (a #NARRATIVE-less match if ever there was one) finished with less than three goals, which alone justifies its presence in the tournament. Goals are great. But when there aren’t any goals—what then?

 

Germany v Argentina Betting Odds:

Germany to win the World Cup – 1.65

Argentina to win the World Cup – 2.20

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

 

Nobody wanted this final. Spain aside, perhaps, Germany and Argentina are the strongest two teams in the world, and still nobody wanted this final. Argentina haven’t scored more than once since the group stages, relying on extra time and penalties to sneak through to their fifth World Cup Final. And Germany knocked out Rais M’Bolhi’s Algeria, which is reason enough to will for their demise. With Germany’s demolition of Brazil fresh in the memory, Argentina might well channel the playing style of their neighbours, who resorted to kicking and spoiling in their quarter-final with Colombia. There’s also the small matter of this being the single most important match in every one of these players’ careers, a scenario that inevitably leads to caution.

This would be fine if there were only a #NARRATIVE to cushion the blow, but there isn’t. The best we can come up with is a Battle of the Living Popes, which sounds more like a Syfy B-movie than it does a football match. Continuing the religious theme, there’s the fact that this is the first World Cup held during Ramadan since 1986, when Argentina and Germany also contested the final. And there’s the moral dilemma that the match will throw up for reactionary English football fans, the two countries involved being historical enemies of our Green and Pleasant Land. As one fan so stirringly tweeted (since deleted, strangely): ‘Any British person supporting Argentina should be dragged to the Cenotaph and made to read the names of those who died in the Falklands.’ Right.

 

It didn’t have to be this way. It could’ve been perfect, in fact, the semis giving life to a glorious set of possibilities for the next and final phase, the draw’s branches so nearly extending to two of the biggest rivalries in international football. Oh, for Brazil vs Argentina, at the Maracana, in a World Cup Final: a match in which the brilliant and/or bizarre is almost guaranteed, a rerun of the Italia ’90 knockout game in which the Brazilian Branco claimed to have been given water spiked with tranquilisers by the Argentinian coaching staff. Or for a Germany vs Netherlands, a wartime rivalry that continues to linger: think Gerd Muller putting the kibosh on Total Football in 1974; think Frank Rijkaard’s phlegm; think Ronald Koeman pretending to wipe his backside with the shirt of Olaf Thon, smiling as he goes.

Football wouldn’t be football without such moments, illogical and indefensible as they are. Football isn’t all slide tackles, or goals, or complete performances. Football is #NARRATIVE, whether we like it or not: it’s cheating, it’s fighting, it’s spitting in another man’s hair—twice. Only one avenue remains open to us, then, if we are to spare ourselves Sunday’s coming boredom: we milk the Battle of the Living Popes, and we milk it for all it’s worth.

 

Betting Instinct tip – Germany to win with less than 2.5 goals in the game is 3.37 with Intertops.eu.

Unsure about how decimal odds work? Let our free odds calculation guide do the work for you.

Kieran avatar KIERAN DODDS (kierandodds) is a history student and writer. He has written about sport, politics and  current affairs for the Guardian, the Huffington Post, Africa is a Country, When Saturday Comes, IBWM and  others. Follow Kieran on Twitter or Google+.

Advertisements

USA should have enough to make World Cup second round

The USA needs a point to guarantee back-to-back appearances in the knockout stages

The USA needs a point against Germany to guarantee back-to-back appearances in the World Cup knockout stages

We may not always be listening, but North Korea is talking, and the word from Pyongyang is “this World Cup is great stuff, guys!” And while that’s more the gist of what they’re saying rather than anyone’s actual words, it seems to sum up the mood of a nation consumed by World Cup fever pretty well. Local football nut Ryang Min Ho, a section chief of the Pyongyang Vegetable Science Institute and man for some reason quoted by the state broadcaster, the Korean Central News Agency, as a source for this story, said, “I am closely following the result of every match.”

 

Meanwhile, experts have taken a pretty dim view of the Spanish efforts at the tournament. “Even a strong team may have a bitter experience of defeat,” Yu Myong Uk, an official of the DPRK Football Association, told the KCNA, “It seems to me that Spanish “tiki-taka” is going bankrupt.”

Of all the predictions I’m about to make, I’m most sure of this one: we won’t see the North Koreans playing tiki-taka at the World Cup anytime soon. I found the North Korean update wedged between one story headlined “New Kinds of Paint Developed in DPRK” and another about a “New Species of Seedless Sweet Grape,” but I digress. The point is that the World Cup isn’t just about countries that still have a shot of winning it, and with that in mind we move onto the last few games of the group stage.

 

World Cup Group E Qualification odds:

France first and Switzerland second -333

France first and Ecuador second +200

France first and Honduras second +6600

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

 

In Group E, Switzerland will probably beat Honduras to leave Ecuador needing a win against France to progress to the round of sixteen. It’s hard to gauge just how deep France can go in the competition – their goal difference just about ensures them of their spot in the first knockout round, but Switzerland and Honduras hardly represent the same challenges as Germany and the Netherlands have faced, and hell, it’s France, the same guys who made the final in 2006, then really, really didn’t in 2010. Weirdly, this time they seem to have their act together.

The French should win their group, motivated by the likelihood of a game against Nigeria or Iran in the next round. Argentina are first in Group F, and will play Nigeria for top spot while Iran will hope to beat an already eliminated Bosnia-Herzegovina and have the South Americans knock the Africans out for them. The maths is hard, so don’t worry about it – Messi should take care of Nigeria by himself ahead of the serious part of the tournament, and Iran and Bosnia-Herzegovina seems like the kind of game that’ll be a draw because Asian teams don’t look capable of a win in Brazil.

 

Group G is a little bit more difficult to call. I tried a sentence-long paragraph that read, “It’s the World Cup, baby, anything can happen,” but I couldn’t be sure that my editor wanted me to be so concise (good decision – ed.). Germany stalled against Ghana but only need to avoid defeat against the English language’s last hope, the United States, to finish top of a bruising group . It’s easy to say that Germany will win purely because they’re better than the US, so let’s go with that – the Americans looked drained by their draw against Portugal, and they’re not as good at football as their opponents can be. Portugal, meanwhile, need a five goal swing and Sepp Blatter’s blessing to overtake Jurgen Klinsmann’s men in second place, while Germany and the US can decide to draw to take them both through and we won’t even need to watch Portugal’s win over Ghana. The Germans and the Portuguese should win, but the US are favourites to progress – it’s the World Cup, baby, anything can happen!

Betting Instinct tip – The Germany-Portugal double is 3.83 with Intertops.eu

 

I’ve just remembered that Group H is also going on. Russia have been underwhelming at best and need to win against Algeria for the opportunity to play tired football against whoever makes it out of Group G, while South Korea should ensure Belgium run out unbeaten by letting things happen as they usually do and losing what will almost certainly be their last match in Brazil. Belgium have two fairly unconvincing wins so far and would take a third, but the darkest horse in this World Cup’s midnight stable will still want to show that they’re capable of living up to everyone’s expectations by winning every game from here to the final by at least five goals to nil.

 

The group stage of the 2014 World Cup is almost over, but they’re throwing us Wimbledon now and the cycling in a week to ease us into the comedown. Enjoy the last of half of the field as you will – I’ll go with the North Koreans on this one, calling up my local newspaper to “express my feelings or propose creative opinions on developing the football of the nation.” Exciting times ahead.

 

Unfamiliar with American or decimal odds? Check out our handy conversion guide.

 

Max avatar MAX GRIEVE (maxjgri) is Australian, but keep reading. He likes football, rugby union and tennis, though  has  given up on his dream of being a tri-sport athlete/exciting millionaire. He supports Liverpool, and is    ashamed for doing so. Follow him on Twitter or Google+.

German Coaches’ Friendly Rivalry Sets Stage for Dramatic USA v Germany World Cup Match

German football coachs Klinsmann and Loew

Friendly rivals, German football coaches Klinsmann and Loew

The soccer World Cup brings the whole world together for 64 games of intense sports competition but no game has more potential for a dramatic finish than USA v Germany June 26th.

“The coach of the US team, Jurgen Klinsmann is German,” noted one online oddsmaker. “He’s not only a famous former German international player, but he also coached the national team at the 2006 World Cup in Germany where they lost in the semi-finals to Italy. His assistant back then, Joachim Loew, is now Germany’s head coach. The two are friends, but will be fierce rivals when it comes to securing a place in the knockout phase this time around.”

I don’t have too many friendships that could stand that kind of pressure, myself. Let’s see if they’re still buddies after World Cup Brazil.

“We could see German striker Miroslav Klose break the record for career goals in World Cup Finals,” my bookmaker friend (neither German or Brazilian by the way) continuted. “The German veteran currently has 14 goals to his name, just one shy of former Brazilian star Ronaldo’s record. Klose is the only striker nominated for the Germany squad, so he could get a few chances to break the record if he can overcome pre-tournament fitness problems.”

AllYouBet.ag World Cup odds currently have the USA at +600 and Germany -222 for that match.

“We have hundreds of World Cup bets but one that’s really getting a lot of action is Top Goal Scorer,” said the bookmaker. “People seem to think Lionel Messi (+700) might do it despite his poor performances lately. Neymar (+1000) looks very good. And never underestimate Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo (+1400).”

__________________________________________

World Cup Sportsbook Deposit Bonus
50% up to $100
Coupon Code: BRAZIL14

$100 World Cup Free Bet
Wager $1000 or more on World Cup, get a $100 free bet.

AllYouBet Sportsbook

__________________________________________

 

 

 

The Gamblogger gambling blogGAMBLOGGER (gamblogger) is one of the editors of BettingInstinct. He talks mainly about poker and casino games in his gambling blog and on his YouTube channel but can’t help but get caught up in sports betting during World Cup, Super Bowl and March Madness.

 

Germany’s Miroslav Klose chasing a second World Cup Golden Boot

Klose, who top-scored in 2002, is back in the Germany squad for this summer's tournament

Klose, who top-scored in 2002, is back in the Germany squad for this summer’s tournament

The sought after Golden Boot is perhaps the most prestigious and well-known of the individual awards handed out the World Cup. Current holder – Thomas Muller – will be looking to add to his 13 league goals this club season in an effort to retain the cherish Golden Boot. He won the award with a respectable but not quite emphatic 5 goal haul last time. David Villa, Wesley Sneijder and Diego Forlan all matched the German’s tally, but Muller was awarded the prize based on having a higher number of assists (3).

Top goalscorer is always difficult to gauge at major tournaments as a player is only as strong as the whole team. The opening games have a massive impact on this too; a hat-trick in the first couple of games makes you – statistically, based on the last 6 tournaments – already at least halfway to the required number of goals to top the charts.

 

World Cup top scorer betting odds:

Lionel Messi – 8.00

Neymar – 11.00

Cristiano Ronaldo – 15.00

Sergio Aguero – 15.00

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

 

So, let’s look at our favourites. Unsurprisingly, Leo Messi is most people’s tip to be the top scorer this year. Last season was widely considered to be his worst in years, yet the mercurial Argentine still bagged 41 goals in all competitions. His form at international level has been questioned, but the Argentinian team itself has a desultory rhythm in terms of form. I’m not going to waste anyone’s time by describing how he plays or what he is good at; it’s very much public knowledge. With 10 goals during the qualifying campaign, this could be Messi’s best chance of international glory at a personal and a team level.

Messi’s esteemed fellow countryman Sergio Aguero will also be looking to make his mark. Despite suffering a few injuries during the season, Aguero produced a host of fantastic displays in the Premier League and showed to the English audience that he has a lot more to his game than sheer goalscoring and dribbling. His vision and general awareness of teammates was pivotal in Manchester City’s re-capturing of the league title this year, whilst also showing that he can handle the more potent physical side that the Premier League offers.

 

Another player whom once famously showcased similar attributes and has yet to receive full recognition for his international work is, of course, everyone’s favourite personification of modesty – Cristiano Ronaldo! The Portuguese star was in fine form once again this year for Real Madrid, ending the season by netting a goal in their Champions League final victory against Ateltico Madrid. He even earned a round of applause from fellow shy person Zlatan Ibrahimovic after his hat-trick against Sweden sealed Portugal’s qualification into the world cup. At the ripe age of 29, CR7 won’t have his devastating pace come the next World Cup (though I dare say he will be no slouch) and will look to add to his ever growing catalogue of individual awards with a WC Golden Boot trophy. It’s unlikely that Portugal will progress to the latter stages of the tournament and with Ghana, USA and Germany in their group, they are far from promised a place out of the group stages at all. That being said, Ronaldo can change games on his own and will be looking to exploit any weakness shown by the two weaker sides (USA and Ghana respectively).

After a relatively expensive and somewhat unremarkable opening season for Barcelona, Neymar will be hoping to continue producing his scintillating displays for the Brazilian national team. The youngster has 31 goals in 49 games for his country already, which is impressive however you look at it. A lot of them are quite spectacular too. He will flourish playing in his homeland and with said host nation being frontrunners to win the tournament, it’s quite easy to deduce that Neymar is likely to score a lot of goals this tournament.

 

Quite often, it can be a bit of s surprise name as to who scores the most goals in a tournament. Particularly at international level. An erudite outside bet can prove very profitable, so let’s analyse some of the players who aren’t quite expected to produce a magnanimous amount of goals. I’ll start with Belgian giant Romelu Lukaku, who showed this season that he has an extremely well rounded set of skills, more so than most other 21 year old strikers. He bagged 15 league goals and orchestrated some fantastic performances for Everton. He is exceptionally strong, but – unlike most powerful strikers – is also very quick to move across the ground. His ability is only going to improve over the next decade, will this year be the year he announces himself amongst the best forwards in the world?

Germany’s all-time leading scorer Miroslav Klose joins us for another World Cup, no doubt eliminating some poor team’s hopes with an obligatory headed goal. Klose has been prolific at international level and is truly one of the those players that can score from any situation. His World Cup experience will be crucial to the younger German players and might well prove to be the differnce in a close match against similarly top opposition. A lot of this depends on how the team is lined up, but you can be sure that Klose will be having his say at some point.

 

For the patriotic English readers, I feel obliged to include an English player. Who better than the highest scoring English player in the Premier League last year? Daniel Sturridge has been a revelation since signing for Liverpool. He’s been prolific, consistent and has scored a lot of said goals in spectacular fashion. His curling effort against Peru a reminder as to what he can produce from outside the box. England have a tough group in the shape of Uruguay, Italy and Cost Rica; they will be relying on Sturridge’s performances to help them proceed into the knockout stages. He certainly is capable of scoring against venerable opposition, if he finds his form from the first game in then he could certainly be worth an outsider’s bet.

 

Betting Instinct tip – Romelu Lukaku to top-score offers value at 26.00 with AllYouBet.ag, while Klose (33.00) and Sturridge (51.00) could also be worth a punt

Not used to decimal betting odds? Check out Betting Instinct’s brand new odds calculation guide.

 

 JAKE COLLINS (jcollins91) is passionate about literature, music and sports. He currently works in  London and lives in Essex. Read more of his work in Jake’s blog, or follow Jake on Twitter and Google+.

Home Winner: An interview with Brazil World Cup superstar Neymar

 

At the age of 22, Neymar is playing in his first ever World Cup

At the age of 22, Neymar is playing in his first ever World Cup

The World Cup is just days away, and thanks to the Red Bulletin app, Betting Instinct is able to provide you an exclusive sneak-preview of an interview with Brazil’s golden boy Neymar.

The 22-year-old is second-favourite for the Golden Boot (11.00 with AllYouBet.ag), and in this interview he speaks about his World Cup memories, and the pressure of leading his home country to a potential World Cup triumph on home soil.

 

The Red Bulletin: How do you deal with the pressure of the whole country asking you to win the World Cup?

Neymar: It’s been a dream since I was young, and today it’s right before me: I’m Brazil’s number 10, I’m going to play the World Cup, in my own country. I can’t see that as pressure. It has to give me pride and happiness to take onto the pitch. Everyone says winning the World Cup is an indescribable joy, so I’m dying to feel that myself. I can’t wait to shout “We’re champions!” They say, “You’re under pressure, being the big name in the squad.” I’m not under pressure, I’m happy. I’ve always done things my way. I’ve had press with me since I was 13, saying I’d be the new Robinho. I’m someone who doesn’t really worry. If you don’t tell me that I’m Neymar and that I play for Barcelona and Brazil, I’ll forget it. People imagine me as they see me on television, but I’m completely different because I don’t feel pressure about anything.

What are your memories of Brazil’s last victory in the World Cup, in 2002?

I was 10, so I understood football. I woke up before dawn to watch the final at home. I even had Ronaldo’s haircut. I watched with my parents and sister, everyone together. Then we went to my granny’s house, we had a barbecue, everyone shouting “We’re Champions!” like real fans. The World Cup has always been my goal in life. It’s funny that today it’s nearly come true.

Your gift is dribbling. Did you copy feints from other players?

I followed Robinho closely because when I went to Santos, he was the star there. He’s my idol, and he dribbled a lot. And I’d watch Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo; any skilful player you can think of, I’ve seen videos of them. In kickabouts or training, I’d try and do the same. When it was game time it would come naturally. All dribbles where you’re trying something different, it’s about practising them. I don’t have a trick that I’ve invented yet. I have normal dribbles like using your body to trick the opponent, or the step-over, which I train and use a lot. I’ve used Zidane’s roulette. I’ve copied a lot.

Has dancing helped develop your football?

I think every Brazilian likes to dance a little. Put on some music that gets you in the mood, and a Brazilian might be sitting down, but he’ll always dance a little. I come from a family that loves samba and pagode. I think I have a little Brazilian ginga, something in the hips. I love to mess around with friends, to dance. It even got into my goal celebrations at Santos: that‘s how we’d have fun, scoring and doing dances in tribute to a singer friend or to the song.

Your football looks joyful. Do you still feel joy playing or is it more a job now?

It’s fun that has to be managed. You must be serious with it. But I’m always happy when I play. When you’re happy, things naturally work out; when you’re sad, things never work out.

How do you look back on your first season at Barcelona?

It wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t bad. It’s my first time living outside my country. I miss my friends and family. It was hard at first. I’ve learned a lot, professionally, but also in my personal life. I study my teammates, what they talk about, how they act with other people. I take a little from many players and adapt it to my style. Some people are good on the pitch, others off it, some show good behaviour in training. I pick attributes from each one.

What’s surprised you about Lionel Messi, seeing him every day here?

He surprised me in every way. Before coming here, I heard all the horrible things people say: that he’s very reserved and doesn’t talk to anyone. Now I see it completely differently. Aside from being the genius, off the pitch he’s always great with me – not just me, but when I see him with other people too. There’s nothing bad I can say about him.

Will Brazil win the World Cup?

It’s what I want more than anything.

 

Betting Instinct tip – Neymar to score first in the opening World Cup game against Croatia this Thursday is 3.75 with Intertops.eu. Read Greg Johnson’s lowdown on Brazil’s opponents here.

 

Q&A courtesy of The Red Bulletin, Red Bull’s tablet app for all things sport and culture. Image  ©David Clerihew/The Red Bulletin. You can read the full article by downloading July’s issue of the Red Bulletin app.

—-

Not used to decimal betting odds? Check out Betting Instinct’s brand new odds calculation guide.

 

tv TOM VICTOR (editor) is the editor and co-founder of Betting Instinct. He has written for a variety of    sports sites in the past, including JustFootball, Footy Matters and BeNeFoot. You can follow him  on Twitter or Google+.

Could we see the first ever African World Cup winner in 2014?

Côte d’Ivoire are one of two African teams in the top 25 of the FIFA World Rankings

Much of the build-up to this year’s World Cup has seen the African challenge dismissed. But pride often comes before the fall: Cameroon defeated reigning champions Argentina and rocked England in 1990, Senegal were written off as no-hopers in 2002 before their remarkable run, and Ghana came within a hand’s width of the semi-finals four years ago. This group of African teams is arguably the strongest in years, and any of the continent’s five representatives could cause shocks.

 

Cameroon (401.00 to win the tournament with AllYouBet.ag)

Of all the African teams, Cameroon have been given the weakest hand. The Indomitable Lions were given the unenviable task of sitting alongside three good sides in Group A: they face Mexico first, followed by Croatia and the small matter of hosts Brazil in Brasilia’s National Stadium. Their current crop of players has not been blessed with creativity, instead relying on solid defensive midfielders like former Arsenal star Alex Song and Aston Villa outcast Jean Makoun.

And yet that may work to their advantage – great World Cup sides are often built from the back and are very difficult to beat, a mould Cameroon fit. They also have a strong group of forwards, spearheaded as ever by the legendary Samuel Eto’o, hoping to finally lead his team out of the group in his fourth and likely final World Cup appearance. Qualification seems doubtful, but they will certainly influence the result of the group.

Betting Instinct tip – Cameroon to score more than 2.5 goals in the group stages is 2.20 with AllYouBet.ag

 

Côte d’Ivoire (151.00 with Intertops.eu)

Côte d’Ivoire, on the other hand, have a more straightforward task in progressing from the group stage. After two difficult draws in 2006 and 2010, they have been set the task of finding a way through a group that contains Japan, Colombia and Greece, all eminently beatable teams. Didier Drogba is no longer the centre-point of this team, with Swansea’s Wilfried Bony likely to start up front, but Yaya Toure is now an enormous influence. Where the other remaining members of the”Golden Generation” have already begun to decline, the Manchester City midfielder is operating at the peak of his powers and is capable of winning games on his own.

Yaya’s presence may be enough to guide The Elephants into the second round for the first time, but his supporting cast is also impressive. Alongside him in midfield will be Newcastle’s Cheick Tiote, with the width provided by Roma’s Gervinho and former Leeds winger Max Gradel. They look shaky defensively, with a centre-back partnership of the ageing Didier Zokora and former Leicester defender Sol Bamba, but can also call on rising star Serge Aurier at full-back. If the Golden Generation want a Golden Opportunity to qualify for the next round, this is it.

Betting Instinct tip Côte d’Ivoire to reach the quarter-finals is 5.50 with Intertops.eu

 

Nigeria (201.00 with AllYouBet.ag)

As in three of their last four appearances at the World Cup, Nigeria have been drawn against Argentina. The Super Eagles fans must be sick of the sound of the Argentine national anthem, as they lost all three of those meetings by a solitary goal. But Nigeria enter the World Cup as strong as they have ever been, with a young, talented group of players who have already proven they can perform on the big occasion by winning the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations.

The player that scored the winning goal in the final, Sunday Mba, was a shock omission from the squad, but the other leading Nigerian talents were included: Emmanuel Emenike, John Obi Mikel, Ogenyi Onazi, and of course Shola Ameobi. There was also a surprise recall for in-form Stoke striker Peter Odemwingie. Captained by experienced goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, this is a well-balanced squad, superior to Iran and capable of ousting Bosnia & Herzegovina from second place.

Betting Instinct tip – With the other African sides facing challenging groups, Nigeria to go the furthest of all the African sides could be worth a punt at 4.00 with AllYouBet.ag

 

Ghana (126.00 with Intertops.eu)

Ghana have a much tougher task, but do at least have the experience of qualifying for the second round in the last two World Cups. Much of the side remains the same from that famous run of four years ago: Kevin-Prince Boateng has once again come out of international retirement just in time for the tournament, while Asamoah Gyan no doubt has some demons to banish after his extra-time penalty miss, though has pledged not to take another penalty in his career. In addition, Michael Essien returns after missing the 2010 tournament due to injury, but he is now a faded force and not even guaranteed to start in a midfield which also includes Sulley Muntari, Kwadwo Asamoah and Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu.

Perhaps the player to watch, though, is striker Majeed Waris. The 22-year-old Spartak Moscow forward has scored four times in his first nine appearances for the Black Stars, and has forced his way into a starting berth alongside Gyan. One of these came in the dramatic 6-1 play-off first leg win at home to Egypt which ultimately secured Ghana’s place at the World Cup, a display that demonstrated that when on song they are a formidable attacking force. Though they face a strong group in Germany, Portugal and old foes the USA, don’t count them out just yet.

Betting Instinct tip Majeed Waris to top-score for Ghana is 7.00 with Intertops.eu

 

Algeria (751.00 with AllYouBet.ag)

Algeria are also being given little hope, as pundits have already slotted them into the discussion for the weakest team in the tournament. But you could be forgiven for thinking that this is much the same team that slogged its way through three narrow, scrappy games in 2010. Coach Vahid Halilhodzic has overseen a transition to a new generation of talented youngsters, with an attack-minded team which includes Inter’s Saphir Taider, Napoli’s Faouzi Ghoulam, Valencia’s Sofiane Feghouli, and Sporting Club’s Islam Slimani. Added to this, Tottenham’s teenage midfielder Nabil Bentaleb has worked his way into the squad after previously playing for France’s U19 side, while Leicester winger Riyad Mahrez has also been picked after a fine season.

Captained by former Rangers defender Madjid Bougherra, the oldest player in the squad at 31, this is a young side being built for the future, and we may not see Algeria become a force in African football for another two or three years. But if they are dismissed as routinely by Belgium, Russia and South Korea as they are by observers, they are certainly capable of picking up some points in this group. As with Cameroon, progression seems unlikely, but they can certainly be influential. The spirit of 1982, when Algeria defeated West Germany, is with them; their controversial elimination from that tournament will inspire them. Like all the African teams heading to Brazil, they will not be pushovers.

Betting Instinct tip Algeria to pick up three points in their group is 4.50 with Intertops.eu

 

Sports blogger JamesJAMES BENNETT (James) is a History MPhil/PhD student, who writes about soccer, Formula 1 and the NFL in his spare time to pay for his studies. He is also a Torquay United fan. He publishes articles in his sports blog, and you can follow him on Twitter and Google+.

World Cup Dark Horses Croatia Can Stun Brazil in Sao Paulo

Young talent Mateo Kovacic could surprise a few people in Brazil

Young talent Mateo Kovacic could surprise a few people in Brazil

The World Cup is almost here, and as intrigue explodes around the obvious betting markets of which nations could win in Brazil and who could grab the Golden Boot, it’s time to look at some less obvious yet intriguing tips to sink your teeth into this summer.

Who are the six most backable dark horses to surprise the globe at the 2014 World Cup?

 

Group A: Croatia

After Spain, Croatia will arguably be the team bristling with the most magical midfielders in Brazil this summer. Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, Mateo Kovacic and the even more directly attack-minded Ivan Perisic would each be worthy of playing as the sole creative fulcrums of many other sides. Together, if their coach Niko Kovac can get the balance right, they could be witheringly potent, pulling enough strings to fill a harp behind Mario Mandzukic and Ivica Olic. That may be a big “if” should they remain as discordant as they were at times in qualifying, but if Croatia click, watch out Cameroon and Mexico. Brazil can’t afford to rest on their laurels in the group opener either.

Betting Instinct tip – Croatia to win or draw against Brazil is 3.22 with Intertops.eu

 

Group C: Japan

Having famously put together a 100 year plan to turn Japan into a World Cup-winning football superpower in 1992, the 2014 tournament in Brazil may  have too soon for the Blue Samurai to push for the title, but they will be a genuine left-field threat to the other teams in Group C, with all the qualities needed to top the group. After all, everything seems to be going for them. Colombia have lost Radamel Falcao, Ivory Coast have a long history of fluffing their lines on the big stage and Greece are solid yet not exactly spectacular. By contrast, Japan are a team full of pacey, technical footballers who thrive as a collective. With the right draw, the quarter finals aren’t out of the question.

Betting Instinct tip Japan to reach the quarter-finals is 7.50 with AllYouBet.ag

 

Group E: Ecuador

France will be favourites to top Group E, but Ecuador cannot be overlooked as a potential source of upsets and heroic narratives with La Tri well-adapted to any potential issues with the Brazilian climate, and boasting some highly effective players, not least Manchester United’s Antonio Valencia. Pace, as we’re forever being told, is a deadly weapon in international football, and the winger could shred many a full-back on his mission to heave his nation into the knock out stages. To do that, they will have to hold back Switzerland and Honduras—the former being a more challenging proposition, but far from unbeatable. After all, this Ecuador team did finish fourth in South American qualifying, finishing above Uruguay, with striker Felipe Caicedo finishing fifth-highest scorer with seven goals. With the element of surprise and low expectations, they could thrive.

Betting Instinct tip – Ecuador to finish top of Group E is 5.00 with Intertops.eu

 

Group F: Bosnia and Herzegovina

Even before the tragic flooding of their country in May, World Cup debutants Bosnia were all set to take the most inspiring narrative with them to Brazil, entering their first international tournament after a troubled recent past of war and sectarian in-fighting. Yet the Dragons will not be heading to South America hoping to best sides with a sympathetic story. With Asmir Begovic in goal, Emir Spahic in central defence, Miralem Pjanic in midfield and Edin Dzeko leading the line, they have an exceptionally strong and surprisingly experienced spine of proven, top class players. The presence of Iran, another potential dark horse team, and Nigeria in Group F has tempered the enthusiasm of some for hailing Bosnia’s chances, but if those four key players fit—especially Dzeko, who finished as second-highest top scorer in European qualifying—then they could be more than worthy runners-up to Argentina.

Betting Instinct tip Edin Dzeko to win the Golden Boot is 51.00 with AllYouBet.ag

 

Group G: Ghana

With a well-constructed squad that blends together some of their most exciting young talents such as Christian Atsu, and the experience of Michael Essien, Kevin Prince-Boatang and Kwadwo Asamoah, Ghana could be the strongest African contender at Brazil 2014. The Black Stars have some impressive depth, with other well-regarded names such as Sully Muntari and Andre Ayew swelling the midfield ranks behind captain Asamoah Gyan, who will lead from the front four years after emerging as one of the big stars of South Africa 2010. On first glance, Group G may look like a fiefdom to be fought over by Germany and Portugal, but the high-energy football of die Mannschaft could well wilt in Brazil, and with Cristiano Ronaldo struggling for fitness, Paul Bento’s men may struggle to make the knock outs, especially with Ghana on their tails.

Betting Instinct tip Ghana to make it out of Group G is 3.75 with Intertops.eu

 

Group H: Algeria

Most will remember Algeria as England’s anti-football antagonists in South Africa, whose negative approach also failed them in the 2010 African Cup of Nations. Yet these disasters eventually lead to a rethink and refreshing of the national team under Vahid Halihodzic, who has replaced the turgid time-wasting of the past with a high-press and a refocus on passing. Never mind Adnan Januzaj’s Belgium call up. Tottenham Hotspur’s 19-year-old passing conduit Nabil Bentalab is heading to the World Cup with just two caps to his name; a one-man reinforcement of the ideological shift that has taken place within this Algerian team. The youthful midfielder joins an already exciting cast of players featuring Valencia’s Sofiane Feghouli—a hero of many a player on Football Manager 2014—Granada’s Yacine Brahimi and Islam Slimini of Sporting. A hardened touch of the previous regime remains too to add some physical backbone in captain Madjid Bougherra, which will be needed in a tough and well-balanced group featuring Belgium, Russia and South Korea. However, even if foreign perceptions don’t yet realise it, Algeria have the quality to crash the party in Group H.

Betting Instinct tip – Algeria to make the last 16 is 5.50 with AllYouBet.ag

 

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+.