Adam Chernoff - Four Quarter-Final Bets

14 min

It was a profitable Round of 16 for followers of my blog with Uruguay Portugal Over 1.75, Russia +1 and Colombia England draw all cashing in. The only blemish in the round was Brazil Mexico Over 2.5 which fell a goal short.

Entering the quarter-final matches, my World Cup record for Matchbook is 12-5-2 +7.53x profit.

The term “simple handicap” is used to describe a situation where a single narrative lingers with a team and overpowers the market to create a perception.

Simple handicaps are prevalent in high handle betting markets with little situational data to work with (World Cup, Euros, Copa America, NFL Playoffs, Ryder Cup). Simple handicaps influence mass recreational money and the volume driven by them affect the price.

Simple handicaps are not always lays or fades, (nor are they always untrue) but rather, identifiers of value. When simple handicaps can be spotted, it is very easy to determine if a market is tight and if there is value to be taken advantage of.

There is a simple handicap in each quarter-final market and I see value in manoeuvring around them.

The biggest simple handicap this weekend is that Brazil is an aggressive attacking side.

This drives money to the over market and Brazil in almost every match they play. It is not a new simple handicap and one that has stuck with the team for the better part of two decades. At one time, it was true, but it is not true anymore. In this specific match against Belgium, it has led many bettors to continue backing the highest scoring team in the tournament. In fact, the tournament favourites Brazil have drifted from 2.18 to 2.20.

Bettors are in love with the European side and have been rewarded each match for doing so. Anytime a team shows the ability to destroy handicaps and be invincible in a comeback as they were against Japan, they pull in repeat money.

Brazil’s manager Tite has displayed tremendous coaching nous in setting up his side at this World Cup.

The problem is, from a tactical standpoint, Belgium is probably the best matchup for Brazil in the tournament. Belgium loves to load up the midfield and leave themselves light with three true defenders on the back line.

They often find themselves in a unique 3-4-2-1 like formation to rely on their abundance of speed and skill up front. Equal to their skill is their vulnerability, which has been masked this tournament against subpar opponents.

Coming out of Group G they still have not played anyone of note (I will get to England in a second).

The matchup against Brazil is a disaster. Amidst their flare and razz, the South American side is sneaky good at holding the ball and lulling teams to sleep. They wait, and wait, and then wait some more until the opponent gains a little bit of confidence and over plays.

The second the opponent pushes, Brazil comes in with a bit of press, forces a mistake and capitalizes. It is bloody magnificent to watch. They have always been good at it, but this year they have perfected it.

In two prior handicaps for Brazil you have probably seen me reference “the cheap second goal”. They have scored three cheap seconds in three consecutive matches each of which have looked extremely similar on an odd-man rush off a turnover.

Brazil’s defence is going to shine against Belgium as they did to suffocate Mexico. They will give Belgium the ball in midfield, let them gain confidence, and the second Belgium over plays (they don’t know any better), Brazil will counter and that will be the match. Belgium loses control for the first time this tournament and get sent packing.

The price of 2.20 is absurd and is worth a 1.5x stake.

Overrated Uruguay worth opposing

The second biggest simple handicap this weekend is that Uruguay are the better all-around team and therefore the better bet.

This is a simple handicap I don’t disagree with (aside from the better bet part), but, it is not one that benefits Uruguay as many entering the market think it does.

If there is a word I can use to describe Uruguay’s performance at this World Cup, it would be comfortable. I think the general consensus is the word would be dominant. I disagree.

I think this side has done what it needs to in order to get where it is. They have had to rely on their set-piece skills a couple times – which is not bad – but there has not been a moment this tournament where I have watched them play and thought the team was capable of winning it all. When it comes down to it, there is just something missing.

Edinson Cavani celebrates after scoring vs Portugal in the last round. The PSG striker is however a major doubt for this weekend.

The something missing against France is very obvious. Even if Cavani plays, he is going to be nowhere near 100%. There is a video of Cavani at training struggling to walk down the stairs that was tough to watch. Without him on the field creating space, Suarez moves back into a more conservative role and will rely on Stuani. With Suarez reserved, the weak France back four can keep Uruguay high and keep them limited to low percentage chances.

France has the potential to eat the Uruguay back line alive. They can generate pressure up the wings and have the speed to turn the runs outside into cut through opportunities in the box rather than rely on crosses.

Their most comfortable route to goal avoids the strong centreback duo of Uruguay. With the fullbacks forced back, the Uruguay attack gets limited too which will let France push even further forward.

If you watch South American international play, you will know Uruguay are no stranger to the occasional meltdown, and Friday afternoon is likely to be such a case. Much like Brazil, at better than even money, France are worth a 1.25x stake.

Saturday’s Fancies

England have quickly become the most overpriced team in the tournament. The simple handicap on the English side is that they have the easiest path to the final.

If I was asked to name something they have done well, I think the only reasonable answer is that they have not choked.

I do not rate Sweden high, but, they are disciplined enough to stay in formation the entire match. Strange things happen to teams after they go through 90 minutes against Colombia, (only one team has won in the last six matches after playing Colombia).

That match on Tuesday was a slugfest and I think lingering effects come through. Sweden is used to playing against tall physical attackers in practice and the draw price on the match has a ton of upside. A 0.5x stake for me.

The simple handicap with Croatia is that they are the most impressive team in the tournament. I strongly disagree with this, but, I prefer to back them this match for tactical reasons. There is also a simple handicap narrative around Russia and doping/match-fixing which I think is equally outrageous.

This would be a large bet for me had Croatia not gone the distance against Denmark. I am extremely hesitant to back any team coming off a win in penalties at the World Cup as history shows the after effects often keep them from winning in 90 minutes.

Croatian players celebrate their penalty shootout win over Denmark.

Croatia are extremely technical but equally fragile. I do not rate them nearly as high as the bettors who have driven them down from 35.00 to 7.20. However, Russia is coming off penalties as well and the only reason they are this far in the tournament is because of their midfield which is where Croatia thrives. Spain had to be someone they weren’t against Russia, and they failed.

Croatia just has to be the best – or even just an above average – version of themselves.

This match will look like a practice match with an A side of a club playing a B side. The only reason I am only staking 0.75x on Croatia is because I am concerned both teams run out of gas and end up in a scoreless draw.

Recommended Bets

  • Brazil 2.20 (risking 1.50x)
  • France 2.04 (risking 1.25x)
  • Sweden England Draw 3.36 (risking 0.50x)
  • Croatia 2.27 (risking 0.75x)

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