|Date||Match Up||Rating||Score||Result||Profit||Lead Time||Analysis|
|07-11-18||England v. Croatia +0.5||Top||1-1||Win||100||19 h 25 m||Show|
10* Croatia +0.5 (2:00 ET): As I said in my previous analysis, it's looking more and more like "the year" for England. I took The Three Lions in the quarterfinals when they blanked Sweden, 2-0, arguably their finest performance of this tournament to date. There's a real irony to the fact it was their lone loss (1-0 to Belgium) that set them up so well in this - clearly - weaker half of the draw. But make no mistake about it, their semifinal opponent - Croatia - is no pushover. Sure, it has taken penalty kicks for the Blazers to advance each of the last two rounds (over Denmark, then Russia). That left me unhappy as I was on them both times. But remember that it took PK's for England to get by Colombia as well in the Rd of 16. I see an even match here and Croatia will do no worse than a draw after 90 mins.
A lot is being made of the extra football Croatia has had to play just to get here. But the reality is that they've played only 30 mins more than their English counterparts. I view that as a non-factor. More intriguing to me is how England handles its new role of the hunted (as opposed to being the hunter). They performed quite well against Sweden, their 1st match of the tournament where they did not concede. At the same time, it was also the first match where Harry Kane failed to find the back of the net. However, this is England's first trip to the World Cup semis in 28 years. The pressure is squarely on them Wednesday and I expect them to play a bit cautious.
Croatia has scored 10 goals in the tournament, just one fewer than England. They've also been less reliant on set pieces. They clearly have the edge in the midfield as well, where led by Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic, they may be as talented as any team in the entire draw. Also keep in mind that 6 of England's 11 goals scored in this tournament came against a lousy Panama side. Croatia is unbeaten in its last six matches overall. They will not go down easily and I feel England is overvalued in this particular spot. 10* Croatia
|06-28-18||Poland v. Japan||Top||1-0||Loss||-114||9 h 59 m||Show|
8* Japan +0 (10:00 AM ET): Note that I'm using the Asian Handicap here, meaning that in case of a draw, the result will be a 'push.' This is a nice way to "protect" ourselves in a situation where Japan, not Poland, should now be considered the favorite. Group H, already considered the most "wide open" when the draw was announced, quickly plunged into "choas" w/ the results of the first two matches here in Russia. Those results saw Japan stun Colombia and Senegal upend Poland. Japan didn't stop there though, earning itself a rather dramatic draw against Senegal and they are now the group leaders w/ four points. Poland, meanwhile, is winless and the only team in the group eliminated. So you can see how, from a motivational perspective, I'd side w/ Japan here.
It wasn't supposed to be this way for Poland. Coming into the World Cup ranked #8 by FIFA, the Eagles were expected to advance past the Group Stage, led by Robert Lewandowski. But this isn't a deep team and that's why I played against them in the opener vs. Senegal (using the Asian Handicap). That was an ugly game and the sixth straight time Poland failed to win its first WC match. Then, a 3-0 loss to Colombia ensured a 32-year drought of not advancing past the Group Stage would continue. The lack of depth behind Lewandowski has been apparent in the first two games as they've scored just one goal (and it came late vs. Senegal and maybe shouldn't have counted) and had only six shots on goal. Having already been eliminated and off two brutal losses, I question this side's ability to find the adequate motivation on Thursday.
Just like Poland at the bottom of Group H is a surprise, Japan at the top is equally (if not more) shocking. After stunning Colombia 2-1 in the opener, they pulled out a dramatic 2-2 draw vs. Senegal w/ Keisuke Honda coming off the bench to score in the 78th minute. All they need here is another draw and they're onto the Round of 16. But don't think for a second that the Samurai Blue will be satisfied w/ simply a draw here. This is an attacking group w/ plenty of experience. "I think we have to focus on getting three points rather than make calculations. We have four points after two games but we haven't accomplished anything yet," said captain Makoto Hasebe. They are the more motivated side here and I believe will be victorious here. 8* Japan
|06-20-18||Morocco +1 v. Portugal||Top||0-1||Push||0||14 h 53 m||Show|
8* Morocco +1 (8:00 AM ET): Please note that I'm using the Asian Handicap here where all we need is a draw. Morocco got the proverbial "raw deal" in its opening match, losing on an "own goal" (in the 95th minute!) to Iran, 1-0. I had the Under in that game, an easy winner. I did not have a play in Portugal's opener where they drew Iberian rival Spain, 3-3, as all three of their goals came off the foot of the incomparable Cristiano Ronaldo. Prevailing wisdom here is that a mentally beaten Morocco will be no match for Ronaldo and company. But I contest that theory. What If Ronaldo isn't at the same level we saw him at against Spain? The Atlas Lions can certainly earn a draw here.
Realistically, Morocco probably needs a win here to have any chance of advancing past the group stage. Therefore, look for them to be a lot more aggressive than they were against Iran. That said, this is still a team that "should have" played to a scoreless draw vs. Iran. Had they done so, they would have added to their already impressive total of recent "clean sheets." As I said in my analysis for the matchup w/ the Iranians, Morocco went unbeaten in CAF qualifying and didn't concede a single goal in six matches. That's really impressive. It should also be stated that while they lost to Iran, the Atlas Lions truly did outplay Team Melli. They had 13 shots on goal (to Iran's 8) and also had possession of the ball 63% of the time.
The reigning Euro Champs would seem to have a clear path to advancing to the Round of 16. Beating Morocco and Iran would get them there and Selecao has lost just two competitive matches since the '14 World Cup. Both times Ronaldo was injured and did not play. However, it needs to be reiterated how this isn't the deepest of teams. Other than Ronaldo, who can score? No one did vs. Spain and they also conceded three goals. Considering the "stinginess" of the Moroccan side, Portugal won't be scoring as many times here as they did in the opener. Count on that. A goal from the Atlas Lions all but assures us this won't be a losing bet. 8* Morocco +1
|06-19-18||Senegal +0.5 v. Poland||Top||2-1||Win||100||21 h 41 m||Show|
8* Senegal +0.5 (11:00 AM ET): Please note that I'm using the "Asian Handicap" for this play, which means we win if the game is a draw OR (obviously) if our side prevails outright. I like Senegal getting a half-goal in this situation as I believe them to be every bit as talented as their favored counterparts in Poland, if not more. Group H is perceived to be the most "wide-open" of the entire draw and if there is to be an "upset," I believe it would be here and that could have major ramifications for the rest of the group and possibly have Senegal advance to the round of 16 alongside group favorite Colombia. The +0.5 is a nice luxury to have here.
Qualifying for this year's WC came fairly easy for Senegal. The Lions of Teranga took 14 points in their six matches (four wins) and scored 10 goals in the process. They didn't lose and one of the two draws saw them give up the lead in the 88th minute. It's a talented group, led by Sadio Mane, who was Liverpool's second best player this past Premier League campaign, behind only Mohamed Salah. It's the first World Cup appearance since that miraculous run to the quarterfinal round in 2002 (which included an opening rd win over France) and while no African side has ever won a WC, I believe this one can certainly make some noise in the group stage.
Poland comes in at 8th in the FIFA rankings, but I have to wonder if that's too high. The team is highly dependent on Robert Lewandowski, whose 16 goals were tops in UEFA qualifying. However, some of the other key players simply did not have impressive seasons w/ their respective clubs. Quite frankly, I don't think it's a stretch to say Senegal is the deeper side here. This will be Poland's first WC appearance since '06 and they haven't made it out of the group stage since 1986. They are likely going to be w/o defender Kamil Glik on Tuesday, which would be a key absence. I see a draw being a likely scenario here (which would be potentially huge for Senegal) and that's all we need. 8* Senegal +0.5
|07-07-16||France v. Germany||Top||2-0||Win||100||78 h 2 m||Show|
5* France +0.5 (3:00 ET): The tournament hosts only needing to be even after 90 minutes is a nice luxury to have here, even though the price to pay is somewhat steep. Ever since falling behind Ireland 1-0 early (3' penalty kick), France has looked really impressive. They poured it on in the second half vs. Ireland, scoring twice in a short time frame, and then absolutely blitzed and admittedly overmatched Icelandic side, 5-2, a match where I had the 1st Half Over and cashed in the 19th minute (four total goals scored in first 45 mins). Clearly, it won't be that easy here against Germany in the semis, but I feel that Les Bleus certainly won't be losing within 90 minutes.
Playing in front of a partisan crowd, France doesn't need any extra advantages, but they'll have a big one here and that's being at full strength. Germany, meanwhile, could have as many as four key contributors missing here. Mats Hummels has been booked, so we know he's out and both midfielder Sami Khedira and striker Mario Gomez are injured. Making matters worse is tat Khedira's likely replacement Bastian Schweinsteiger is also probably out. While they didn't concede any goals during the group stage, it's not as if Germany was overly dominant against Ukraine, Poland and Northern Ireland. They saved their best for Slovakia in the Round of 16 (won 3-0), but then narrowly escaped Italy (penalty kicks) in the quarterfinals. Don't discount the impact that match with the Azzurri has on this team here.
France has been the top-scoring side in this tournament w/ 11 goals. Obviously, that's heavily influenced by what they did to Iceland Sunday. Yet, the bottom line is that Les Bleus is unbeaten in their last nine matches overall, including four wins and a draw here at Euro 2016. Yes, Germany is unbeaten in its last six fixtures and has conceded just the lone goal at this tournament. But, short-handed, the Mannschaft are up against it here. 5* France +0.5
|06-27-16||Iceland +1 v. England||Top||2-1||Win||100||18 h 8 m||Show|
10* Iceland +1 (3:00 ET): Note I am taking Iceland +1 here. This has been the Cinderella story of the tournament thus far as the Euro Cup neophyte has made the Round of 16. Iceland shockingly has yet to lose here in France, pulling off one win and two draws in group play. In each fixture, they conceded only one goal. The opposition will be stiff Monday as they take on heavily favored England, who made its way through the group stage w/ one win and two draws, same as Iceland. While those results were cause for celebration in Reykjavic and beyond, in London, they were considered quite disappointing. I'd be leery of trusting The Three Lions at this stage of the game. This one will at least be tied at the end of 90 minutes.
Iceland is most likely to employ a defensive strategy here, one that can frustrate the English much the same way that Hungary and Portugal were left frustrated as well. There has been consistency with the Iceland Starting XI whereas I expect changes from Roy Hodgson. Yes, England has done well in terms of possession, but they are not converting at the rate you'd like to see. Even if The Three Lions were to win this in extra time, I imagine it's going to be another frustrating result for them. They have not won in the knockout round of a European Championship since 1996! Iceland is actually unbeaten in its last nine competitive fixtures.
I really think that Hodgson blew it by making all those changes to his Starting XI prior to the Slovakia match. The result was a goalless draw w/ Slovakia that cost them the group. I look for there to be a sort-of "carry over" effect to this match, at least early on. Remember that this side also trailed Wales early and had it not been for a stoppage time score, they wouldn't have won at all in the group stage. All of their goals thus far have come from the 56' minute on. Again, Iceland is playing well right now and I expect them to do no worse than to get this thing into extra time. 10* Iceland (+1)