|Date||Match Up||Rating||Score||Result||Profit||Lead Time||Analysis|
|07-15-18||Croatia v. France||Top||2-4||Win||100||24 h 51 m||Show|
At 11:00 am, on Sunday, our selection is on France to defeat Croatia, and lift the trophy (at -230 odds). Thus, our wager will win, if France succeeds in regulation, extra time, or on penalty kicks. The challenge ahead for Croatia is daunting after surviving its third straight match which required extra time. The Vatreni displayed plenty of grit to rally from an early 1-0 deficit to England to force extra by scoring a tying goal with under 25 minutes to go, and the winning goal in the 109th minute. But how much does this older team have left in the tank? With three straight contests requiring extra time in the knockout stage, the Vatreni have essentially played an extra game than the French (who also have the benefit of an extra day of rest for this championship match). But even if this wasn't the case, I was going to favor the winner of the France/Belgium game against the victor of the England/Croatia match. Les Bleus also are more youthful -- with an average age of 26 -- and they have a clean bill of health. It will be hard for the Croatians to slow down the 19-year-old sensation Kylian Mbappe, whose explosive speed will severely test their midfield and defense. Yet while Mbappe and fellow midfielder Paul Pogba receive most of the attention on this French team, it is midfielder N’Golo Kante who is France's Most Valuable Player. Kante was the key piece for two separate English Premier League championship teams for Chelsea and Leicester City with his ball-hawking and defensive skills. He will be up to the task of neutralizing Croatian star midfielder Luka Modric. So, the talent edge certainly goes to France (though Croatia has a slight edge in the midfield overall), especiall considering their back line and goalie Hugo Lloris (who is simply one of the top keepers in the world). Finally, the road for the French to get here has been more difficult with victories over Argentina, Uruguay, and then Belgium in the semifinals. In contrast, Croatia has needed extra-time to defeat Denmark, Russia and then England which are a level of class below what Les Bleus have overcome. Take France. As always, good luck....Al McMordie.
|07-14-18||England v. Belgium||Top||0-2||Win||100||10 h 45 m||Show|
At 10:00 am, on Saturday, our selection is on Belgium PK, at --170 odds, to win the match (whether in regulation, extra time, or on penalty kicks). Both these teams will have to pick themselves up from deflating losses in the semifinals for this consolation 3rd place match. However, it will likely be more difficult for England to recover. Not only do the Three Lions have one less day to rest and prepare for this match but they also have to rebound from a grueling physical and emotional 2-1 loss to Croatia that needed the thirty minutes of extra time to resolve. The Three Lions had victory in their grasp for much of that match with Kieran Trippier scoring five minutes in, but they lost steam in the second half and eventually conceded the tying goal in the 68th minute. England looked like it would have the opportunity to win in a shootout but its hearts were broken when Croatia scored the winning goal with just nine minutes left in extra time. Manager Gareth Southgate has indicated that he will rest many of his regulars who are dealing with injuries (or who are simply just gassed from the physical demands of that match on Wednesday). At the very least, this sounds like Trippier, as well as midfield cogs Ashley Young and Jordan Henderson, as candidates to not take the pitch. So, Belgium should be more fit to win this match. Moreover, Manager Roberto Martinez has declared that his team will not be taking this opportunity lightly: "I am not going to make changes now to give certain players opportunities....Any change will be to make the team stronger." A victory for the Red Devils today will result in the top finish in Belgium history at a World Cup (besting its 4th place showing in the 1986 games in Mexico), and that is of great importance to this team. Take Belgium to be victorious (at --170 odds). As always, good luck...Al McMordie.