That was fast…
It feels like just a few months ago I was living in Medellin, Colombia with fresh residence papers in my passport. The World Cup in Brazil was a new experience for me, as it was for much of the city. Medellin was a very different place from the prior Colombian appearance at a World Cup in the 1990’s, and I was a very different person from the 18-year old that stumbled through the 2010 World Cup.
The circumstances were meant to be.
I remember walking out the door the morning of June 14th. The opening match against Greece was at 11 am. My wife knew Parque Lleras was going to be packed for the match. We left early, around 9 am thinking we could get there in plenty of time and find a table at a bar. It took two hours to get to the park instead of ten minutes. The entire area was shoulder to shoulder of yellow shirts. Thousands of people singing and dancing in the streets.
Vendors were selling Águila beer in plastic cups out of metal coolers for £1. The few dozen bars and restaurants in the area set up barricades of tables and chairs at their entrances to ensure those inside paid their tabs, and those trying to fight their way in would stay out.
The atmosphere was incredible. Then it got crazy.
Five minutes into the match Cuadrado ran the right wing, put a pass back into the box that went to fullback Armero who trickled the ball in past the Greece keeper on the right post. It was the first goal for Colombia at a World Cup in two decades and the spark of an amazing run to the quarterfinals.
The pure euphoria and joy of thousands at that moment is something I will remember for the rest of my life. That day and the two weeks that followed confirmed to me that this is a sport I will study and wager on for the rest of my life. The passion and opportunity are more real than anything else I have come across – especially at the World Cup.
It’s not easy though.
The World Cup is an extremely easy place for a bettor to go broke and lose everything.
The passion has a lot to do with it. It blinds bettors and leads many to bet on emotion. The markets are very tight, which can make it difficult as well. But, the World Cup is one of the few times where a collective mindset can widespread, influence prices and ravage unsuspecting bettors.
Aside from the top tier of teams, predictive information is difficult to find on many others. The sample size of data is small. Many bettors are often settling for the easiest information. With social media more prevalent than any World Cup before, it is easy to lose track of what’s true and what’s not.
A key to success betting the World Cup is spotting the misinformation guiding the large betting handle and searching for value the other way.
That is where the money lies.
Morocco on match day two is the first example of such a case. Read almost any preview or listen to any podcast and Morocco will be hyped up as a strong, defensive African side that parks the bus. Many will cite the fact they did not concede a goal during qualifying and jump to the quick conclusion.
Watch the matches and the evidence will show a quick, technical side that sticks to an aggressive 4-3-3 with three dangerous attackers. The Moroccan defence is good, but it comes from a relentless high field pressure that frustrates teams and creates opportunities from turnovers.
Morocco’s weakness are highlighted against teams which can control a match with their attack by pushing possession through the midfield quickly. Iran is the only team in the group that is committed to defence and willing to give up possession in their conservative 4-5-1 formation.
This is the ideal opponent for Morocco. Iran are loaded with question marks too. They left off their most capped player and will be without their best defensive midfielder for the opening match due to suspension.
Another bonus for the technical Morocco side is that Iran is not physical and prefers to block the lanes with bodies rather than fight for possession. Iran is weak on the wings which will let Morocco execute their preferred style of pressing play comfortably. Much of the betting public is backing the draw and under in anticipation of a stalemate (this match has the most expensive draw price of the opening round games 2.90, and the most expensive under 2.5 goals price at 1.38).
I will swerve and take the inflated price with Morocco and watch them relentlessly attack the tattered Iran defence for 90 minutes. This is a double wager for me.
Another team falling victim to the narrative is Egypt.
This time it is not for lack of understanding, but, rather an overestimation. Take nothing away from Salah, but this a prime example of when a domestic system fits a player while an international system does not. Salah has considerably less freedom with Egypt under Hector Cuper is who notorious for playing an absurdly rigid 4-2-3-1. For reasons unknown to many, Koka, who clears space for Salah to run in from the wing, was left off the squad.
This creates much uncertainty for the Egypt attack. The two Egyptian midfielders rarely press up which leaves a lack of fluidity this side will require to succeed. The lack of fluidity and creativity will be blatantly clear against Uruguay.
The South Americans are my value pick to make a run deep in the tournament and a side I will look to back frequently. This team finally has the mix of youth and experience they lacked in years past and is loaded back to front.
The Egypt attack stands little chance of breaking through Godin and Giménez, the best centreback duo in the tournament.
The Uruguay compact four in midfield adjusts to different styles well and thrives in possession.
Egypt will park the bus, hang their six defenders back and concede the ball. Uruguay will be more than comfortable letting Cavani create space for Suarez and relying on their aggressive fullbacks to set up the opportunities. Uruguay is lethal off set pieces and have world-class embellishment talent upfront which will set up additional scoring opportunities as Egypt get physical when pinned back.
As the betting public flocks to back Salah at a big price, I will pay up for an undervalued Uruguay side in a match that will get ugly in a hurry.
- Morocco 2.32 (risking 2x)
- Uruguay 1.65 (risking 1.33x)