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+.

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+.

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+.

Chile Knocked Spain Out but Not Expected to Win Against Unbeaten Brazil

worldcup-brazilvschile

Brazil cruised through its group in first place but now the World Cup host team now faces a big test in the second round against Chile.

Luiz Felipe Scolari’s Brazil team is a strong favorite at -167 after staying unbeaten so far in its first home World Cup since 1950. Chile impressed when knocking out holders Spain, but is a +450 outsider to shock the host nation in Belo Horizonte.

“Brazil made a slow start, but with the 4-1 win against Cameroon the Selecao showed real signs of being a potential World Cup winner,” an oddsmaker at AllYouBet.ag Sportsbook told me yesterday.  “Still, we shouldn’t underestimate Chile. Five different players have scored goals for Jorge Sampaoli’s team, so we know they are capable of threatening from a number of routes.”

Brazilian golden boy Neymar has impressed in the first three matches, and is one of bookmakers’ favorites to win the Golden Boot, awarded to the tournament’s top scorer. The 22-year-old can be backed at +185.

All World Cup odds mentioned are provide by AllYouBet.ag and are subject to change.

Brazil vs Chile, Saturday, June 28

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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.

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+.

Mexico or Croatia to join Brazil in the last 16?

Seven days into the World Cup and Group A is rather finely poised after two games. Mexico proved to be the battling opponents that everyone expected them to be and that has left Brazil needing a win in their final game to top the group.

That victory will come. There had been some suggestion that with Group B playing their final round of games a couple of hours before Brazil kick-off against Cameroon, the home team may be able to “choose” their opponents in the second round. The winners of the Chile versus Netherlands clash will top the group also featuring the 2010 World Cup winners, Spain. However, such a ploy from Brazil offers too much risk. Were they to lose against Samuel Eto’o’s Lions – an unlikely prospect given their lacklustre showings so far – then a draw in Group A’s other match would dump the Seleção out of the competition. That doesn’t bear thinking about.

That also gives Cameroon credit that they don’t deserve. Wednesday night’s 0-4 drubbing at the hands of Croatia means that The Indomitable Lions have now lost their last six World Cup matches in a row. You have to go back to El Salvador’s run in 1982 for the last time a team had such a poor run; and there has been little to suggest that they can turn it around for their final group game.

Before the Cameroon squad arrived in Brazil they were complaining about the bonuses they were due from their Football Association. The players just haven’t looked motivated to chase either of the games so far, and it’s unlikely to be any different against a Brazilian side with their eyes on an important victory. If Brazil don’t win to nil, it’ll be incredibly surprising. If Neymar or Fred find a way to break the deadlock in the opening 10-15 minutes, they could run up a cricket score.

Betting Instinct tip Brazil to win by three or more goals is 1.88 with Intertops.eu

 

The real action on Monday evening will be in the game that decides who will join Brazil in the knock-out stages of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Mexico and Croatia will be staring across from the team they need to overcome to set-up a clash with either Chile or the Netherlands; but they will both be wary that events that have already occurred in the competition won’t be repeated.

Guillermo Ochoa won’t repeat his performance against Brazil. The 28 year-old was the star of the Mexican resistance as he repelled a string of Brazilian efforts and held on to an unlikely clean sheet. However, Ochoa is know as a hit-and-miss ‘keeper. He would be playing at a level above AC Ajaccio in Ligue 1 if he were able to produce such displays on anything close to a regular basis. Unfortunately for Mexico, that’ll mean they can’t rely on Ochoa to dig them out of a hole.

For Croatia, it means that they are unlikely to concede a penalty as soft as the one given for Brazil in the opening match of the tournament. The European side were more than competitive against the tournament hosts until Fred was controversially felled in the area and Neymar stroked them into the lead. They could have replicated Mexico’s result against Luis Felipe Scolari’s team and can feel hard done by to be the side entering the final game with a point to make up.

 

Croatia need to win. Their 4-0 victory over Cameroon will be proof enough for their players that the Lions aren’t going to upset Brazil. A draw – taking them to four points for the group – won’t be enough. They’ll need to be positive from off and they’ll need to score goals. Ivan Perišić has transitioned wonderfully from a bit-part player in Borussia Dortmund’s squad to a stand-out in Wolfsburg’s midfield. He’s been excellent for Croatia so far, creating a string of chances and putting an opportunity on a plate for Ivica Olic to finish.

Of course with Niko Kovač’s men forced to be positive, things will play into the hands of Mexico and the pace they possess in attack. Javier Hernandez will probably still be held in reserve with Oribe Peralta once again partnering Giovani dos Santos, although there is a temptation to unleash the Manchester United forward’s speed from the start of the game. If Mexico can catch Croatia as the European side commit bodies forward, they can pick them off and secure a spot in the last 16 for the sixth successive World Cup.

It’d be a bold man that tried to pick a winner. The strength of the Croatian side and the fine seasons that they all enjoyed probably means that Mario Mandžukić and company are just about favourites to win. It’ll be easier to just go into it expecting goals. Based on the exploits of the 2014 World Cup so far, at least two each isn’t a ridiculous thing to look for.

Betting Instinct tip More than 3.5 goals in Mexico v Croatia is 3.75 with AllYouBet.ag

 

Not used to decimal odds? Check out our odds conversion guide.

Ryan avatarRYAN KEANEY (ryankeaney) is a huge sports fan who spends most of his week toying around with sports data. He is the editor of www.thefootballproject.net and a co-editor for In Bed with Maradona. Follow Ryan on Twitter or Google+.

Knack of the Bet: Cristiano Ronaldo going for gold in Brazil

Can Lionel Messi transfer his club form to the World Cup stage?

Can Lionel Messi transfer his club form to the World Cup stage?

In a new satirical section, Back of the Net’s John Foster takes a sideways look at this summer’s World Cup in Brazil. While the odds are very real, he may have taken some artistic licence elsewhere.

With the 2014 World Cup just days away, it’s time to take a close look at the candidates to be the tournament’s top scorer. In just over a month, a new hero will be leaving Brazil with the coveted Golden Boot, assuming 2010 winner Thomas Müller remembers to bring it with him.

 

Lionel Messi (8.00 with Intertops.eu to end the tournament as top scorer)

Leo Messi has scored just twenty-one goals in his past twenty-three international appearances, leading many to wonder if he will ever be effective for Argentina. The 26-year old is yet to score at a World Cup, having been underused in 2006 by José Pekerman and mistrusted in 2010 by Diego Maradona, who thought Messi was a mystical forest spirit only he could see. Most pundits agree that the Barcelona star cannot truly be considered El Diego’s heir until he shoots a journalist with an air rifle.

Neymar (11.00 with AllYouBet.ag)

Brazil’s golden boy will be carrying the hopes of a nation on his shoulders, despite Hulk’s objections that Hulk’s shoulders would be far better suited to the task. Neymar hasn’t quite set the world alight at Barcelona, having got as far as Xavi’s jacket and Cesc Fabregas’ pants before being told to stop it, and much will depend on whether he can respond to being called ‘the New Pelé’ in the same way that Pelé did in 1958 after being dubbed ‘the Old Neymar’.

Cristiano Ronaldo (15.00 with Intertops.eu)

The Portugal captain will be desperate to display the World Cup Golden Boot next to his Premier League Golden Boot, his Ballon d’Or, his other Ballon d’Or, his three UEFA Golden Shoes, his golden tamarind monkey, and the bust of his own head made from solid gold. It was widely reported last week that Ronaldo had been cursed by a Ghanaian witch doctor, who told him that he would achieve great fame and wealth but never get past the twelfth-level boss in Assassin’s Creed IV.

Fernando Torres (34.00 with AllYouBet.ag)

The Chelsea frontman is having a miserable 2014, following a poor 2013, a bad 2012, and an unsuccessful two-year period before that. He has been included in the Spain squad thanks to his tendency to be top scorer at international tournaments, a record that stretches back nearly two tournaments. Vicente Del Bosque’s side is likely to line up without a recognized striker, a role that Torres has made his own.

Wayne Rooney (41.00 with Intertops.eu)

England’s main offensive weapon has struggled for goals recently, though he continues to be offensive and is clearly a bit of a weapon. The Manchester United man has a tendency to get overheated in big matches, and when playing for England, and in the heat, so expect strike partner Danny Welbeck to take to the field carrying buckets of ice-cold water. Rooney may also be hampered by a massive luxury hamper featuring a selection of cured meats and rich, creamy cheeses, a pre-tournament gift from the Uruguayan FA.

Josip Drmic (3.75 with AllYouBet.ag to finish as Switzerland’s top scorer)

Swiss striker Drmic became a household name at Nürnberg this season despite a crippling lack of vowels. The 21-year old owes his success to a relentless work rate and a lethal instinct for goal, and also to his faithful companion Khyrax, a giant eagle who carries off defenders with her vicious eight-inch talons and consumes them on the stadium roof. Khyrax picked up a beak injury in Switzerland’s friendly with Peru, and Ottmar Hitzfeld will be praying she recovers in time to terrorize the Ecuadorian back four.

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

 

John_F avatar JOHN FOSTER is a freelance football writer and one part of the Back of the Net team. He has  written for FourFourTwo and The Daily Mash. Follow Back of the Net on FacebookTwitter or  Google+.

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+.

World Cup 2014: Ones to Watch

The World Cup often sees lesser-known players steal the spotlight

The World Cup often sees lesser-known players steal the spotlight

With this year’s World Cup now under a week away, Betting Instinct has the lowdown on some players to look out for in Brazil.

 

Admir Mehmedi – Switzerland

The Swiss national side are regarded by many to be the weakest of the eight seeds, but they have some top talent in their squad, including a number of players of Albanian descent.

Xherdan Shaqiri has blown hot and cold since moving to Bayern Munich last summer, while another former FC Basel youngster, Granit Xhaka, has also laid down a marker in the German Bundesliga. In central midfield, captain Gökhan Inler will be flanked by Napoli duo Valon Behrami and Blerim Džemaili, but much of the talk going into the tournament surrounds Mehmedi.

After an unremarkable spell with Dinamo Kyiv, the former FC Zurich man has top-scored for SC Freiburg this season with 12 goals, earning a permanent move to the German club last month. He will face competition for a starting place with the likes of Josip Drmić, but there is no doubt that the 23-year-old comes into the tournament in high spirits.

Betting Instinct tip – Switzerland to win their opener against Ecuador is 2.28 with GR88.com

 

 

Shinji Okazaki – Japan

Another German-based player, Okazaki has more international goals than any other player in Group C with the exception of Côte d’Ivoire captain Didier Drogba.

The experienced forward stood out at last year’s Confederations Cup, scoring the third goal in an agonising 4-3 defeat against Italy and also finding the net against Mexico, and he will hope to flourish in Brazil for the second summer running.

Japan are in one of the more open groups in this year’s World Cup, but will need Okazaki and team-mates such as Shinji Kagawa to fire on all cylinders if they are to make it to the knockout stages.

Betting Instinct tip – More than 2.5 goals in Japan’s opener against the Ivorians is 2.34 with GR88.com

 

 

Keylor Navas – Costa Rica

On paper the rank outsiders in Group D, Jorge Luis Pinto’s side were dealt a huge blow when their squad’s top scorer Álvaro Saborio suffered a metatarsal injury that will rule him out of the entire World Cup.

This puts even more pressure on the Central Americans’ defence, and goalkeeper Navas is expected to be in the thick of the action as Los Ticos take on three formidable opponents in England, Italy and Uruguay.

However the 27-year-old shot-stopper has relished his underdog status at Levante, helping the minnows to a top-half finish in La Liga for only the second time in the last 50-years. After helping his country to a second-place finish in the final round of CONCACAF qualifying – with the best defensive record in the confederation – Navas and his team-mates will hope to spring a surprise or two.

Betting Instinct tip Costa Rica to hold Uruguay to a 0-0 draw is 8.60 with GR88.com

 

 

GR88.com is holding a $1m prediction challenge for the World Cup. Anyone who wants to give themselves a chance of scooping the seven-figure jackpot, or the very generous $100,000 consolation prize, needs to head to worldcup.gr88.com/picks and make their selections for the 48 group games. Terms and conditions apply.

 

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+.