Archive | June, 2014

Business as usual for La Roja

13 Jun


Held at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador, Brazil, the third game of World Cup 2014 is a rematch of the 2010 World Cup final between Holland and Spain.

Spain (5/6) qualified for Brazil 2014 as group winners, but weren’t as impressive as they’d been in previous qualification campaigns, such as 2010 when they won every game.

Indeed, Spain actually drew two games in a row and had to rely on defeating France in Paris in order to avoid a play-off. That win, however, has not worked in their favour as France have arguably been given an easier draw in the World Cup tournament group stages.

Are Spain a declining force, then? A little, as they’re not as quick or attack-minded in moving the ball as they used to be, have perhaps believed in their own hype a little too much and no longer really have an elite striker that’s in his prime and scoring 30 goals a season with his club.

Ok, Negredo had an impressive debut campaign in England with Manchester City, while Diego Costa has proved that he’s world-class, but the latter is relatively untried in national team tactics, likely not at full fitness and the ‘La Roja’ coach, Del Bosque, often prefers a ‘false’ No 9, such as Fabregas, anyway.

Most crucially, I’d argue, the way opponents play against Spain is the biggest problem, certainly from an entertainment perspective. Of course, set to face the mighty Spain – winner of back-to-back European Championships, the last World Cup and considered to be by far the best team in world football throughout that period – is a daunting task for most national teams, and consequently they’ll fear being beaten by a heavy scoreline and play negative football in order to try and avoid such an outcome.

So, a victim of their own success, Spain now face teams who simply ‘park the bus’ and try to stifle them. Given this, Draw/Spain in the Half Time/Full Time market, under 2.5 goals and 1 or 2-0 correct scores have proven to be the bets to take in recent fixtures.

Eventually, Spain believe that they’ll wear their opponents down, score and win. That’s usually the case, but then by attacking Spain from the offset – something Del Bosque’s boys are not used to – and continuing to attack after taking the lead, Brazil demonstrated another way to potentially stop – and in their case – beat the number one ranked team in world football in the 2013 Confederations Cup final.

With Holland (4/1) perceived to be weak and slow in defence, is their best form of defence attack? Possibly, but then this is the first group game of a World Cup, nobody wants to lose that and I expect the Dutch to try to keep Spain at bay by defending in numbers and attempting to strike on the counter-attack through players like Robben and van Persie.

In conclusion, with under 2.5 goals too short priced at 1/2, I’ve gone for the bigger priced double result favourite. Oh, and I don’t think that Diego Costa will start the first game, for the reasons listed earlier and the perception that a more mobile, experienced Villa – who came on as a substitute – took the plaudits when Costa received a recent start for Spain against El Salvador. After all, as mentioned, the first game is not one for risk taking.

Recommendation: HT/FT -Draw/Spain (10/3, Ladbrokes)

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England v Italy Betting Preview & Pick -Three Lions To Meow!

13 Jun


Four-time World Cup winners Italy face 1966 tournament victors England in the Amazonian venue of Manus on Saturday night at 23:00 GMT in what will be each teams debut match in Brazil 2014.

Many England fans think that Italy have worsened and England have improved since the ‘Azzurri’ outplayed and eventually defeated the ‘Three Lions’ via penalties in Euro 2012, but I’m experienced enough to know that Italy often appear to be in poor shape going into tournaments and then exceed all expectations.

Plus, over the years, I’ve seen countless people forgetting that England aren’t actually very good either after viewing a future ‘Three Lions’ opponent play poorly against someone else and concluding that England should be beat them when they meet.

Generally, this person – and I’ve been him once before – is then horrified when England are outplayed and beaten. I mean, as an Englishman I want England to win, but I’ve learned to be sceptical about the hype and realistic in my expectations.

I wouldn’t bet on England getting out of Group D, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they did, and eventually lost on penalties – as is the national tradition.

In conclusion, patriotic, non-patriotic or just a sports punter with no emotional attachment to the game, it seems unlikely that Italy will lose to England on Saturday night so Italy draw no bet makes sense at 5/6.

Recommendation: Italy – Draw No Bet (5/6)

WC Top Scorer Picks & General Opinion

5 Jun


Don’t expect a new winner in 2014

Now, I’m well into my 30’s age wise and, bar France’s home victory in 1998, cannot think of a World Cup won by a team who hadn’t won it before. Sure, there are teams – like Italy in 2006 – that weren’t expected to compete for the title yet ended up winning it, but the European Championships are more proficient in producing first-time winners.

So, while teams like Belgium and Chile could progress far in the tournament and should be entertaining to watch, particularly the latter, I wouldn’t bet on either – even e/w – to win the 2014 World Cup.

All in all, I think that Brazil are justifiable favourites to win international football’s biggest prize for a record sixth time. Of course, you can argue that it’s hard to judge a team who’ve played very few competitive games in the last couple of years, but ‘Big Phil’ is already proven at this level, his team looks balanced and Brazil were very impressive in destroying Spain at the 2013 Confederations Cup.

For many reasons, some advertising related, FIFA always want to see the host nation do well in tournaments and, with further public protests to come during the actual tournament, a Brazil wins suits all.

All in all, however, I’m not really interested in betting on the winner market, not at 3/1, and have instead focused on the top scorer market.


Messi has not been in good form

Messi (17/2) is the favourite in the World Cup Top Scorer market, but he’s spent a large part of the 2013/14 club season as either injured, out of form or a mixture of the two.

Sure, this could be Messi’s chance to shine and emulate Maradona’s feats of 1986, but unless the four-time World Player of the Year was deliberately shooting straight at the keeper in recent Barcelona matches, I’m not confident he’s in good enough form to back.

Neymar (12/1) is second favourite to top score in the World Cup, and I’m more inclined to back him over Messi. Indeed, whenever I watch a Brazil game he scores. Of course, given that they are tournament hosts – and considering that FIFA will want them to progress as far as possible, particularly given the negative publicity the protests will bring about – Brazil are likely to see most refereeing decisions go in their favour. Notably, Neymar – who you could argue goes to ground easily – is very adept at taking free kicks and penalties, and I think that he’s worth backing outright.

Now, I’ve long thought that Kun Aguero is one of the top three strikers in world football and wouldn’t be surprised if he sits near or atop the scorers chart in Brazil but, bar the aforementioned Neymar, I’m only backing players who’ll return decent value if only the place part wins (most bookies offer 1/4 odds), and Maradona’s son in law – at 16/1 – would only result in money back if he were to finish second, third or fourth in the final World Cup Top Scorer standings.


Instead, priced at 22/1 each, I’ve opted to bet on another Argentine – Gonzalo Higuain – and a Brazilian – Fred – as my main picks to be World Cup 2014 Top Scorer.

Bar the prices, which allow for decent profit if one or both can finish in the top four, why?

Well, Higuain finished fifth in the 2010 World Cup scorers chart, has matured as a player since then, has had a tremendous goal-filled season with Napoli and, despite playing three games fewer, only scored one goal less than Messi in the qualifiers.


Fred, on the other hand, has been picked partly because I think that Brazil will at least progress to the semi-finals – therefore guaranteeing the maximum number of games – and want a Brazilian alternative to Neymar.

Bar Jo, Fred is Brazil’s only target man striker and will likely start every game. The Fluminense striker has been in good recent form domestically, will obviously have no problems dealing with the climate and – as tipped by myself – was (joint) top scorer in the 2013 Confederations Cup.

Anyway, good luck with your bets and thanks for reading. I’ll be posting further previews via as of Monday 9th June, so keep an eye out for them!

Tournament Top Scorer recommendations (prices accurate as of 05/06/14:

Neymar (12/1)
Higuain e/w (22/1)
Fred e/w (22/1)