Adam Chernoff: World Cup Final Preview

10 min

I want to start this blog off by saying thank you for taking the time to read my blogs this World Cup. Every click and every minute spent reading means a lot to me. I hope you were able to enjoy the profit from my wagers in return.

I used to despise losing. It drove me nuts.

Nothing was worse than thinking matches should go one way, but betting another. Looking and feeling stupid felt equally as poor to not getting my money back – sometimes worse.

Over time I have learned to enjoy losing…or perhaps hate it less. After a decade of being on both sides of the counter, it has become evident that there are many ways to win in betting. The difficult part few can master is taking bad losses in stride and get stronger with their next wager.

Cashing in on the draw between England and Croatia with my blog earlier this week was great because it paid 2.32x at odds of 3.16, but it was extra sweet to get it after dropping three bets in the quarter-finals.

After the cash on Wednesday, my World Cup record here on Matchbook moves to 14-8-2 (+8.40x).

I watched the end of the England Croatia match inside the clubhouse at the golf course. I teed off on the first hole with France on my mind. It was another knee-jerk reaction I have learned to recognize and drown out. Had I not been occupied with trying to find the fairway, I would have very likely loaded up on France at 1.98 – I even tweeted about it late Wednesday night after the round.

I woke up Thursday morning and checked the odds screen on my phone. France was down to 1.93. Immediately I panicked.

“France is moving! I knew it! I priced the match to 1.70, and now I am missing out on the value!”

I ignored the morning coffee in the espresso machine and rushed to my desk to pull up the account and get a bet down.

I stopped myself from clicking submit on the bet slip at the last second. Something just did not feel right about pulling the trigger.

I will admit, it was not until Friday morning when I was on the phone with Matchbook’s big bet expert, Aidan O’Sullivan that I shared my thoughts out loud on this match.

It was nearly two days after the market opened until I knew my position – and it was not my original gut feeling of France.

I will be backing the draw.

This match is going to play out much different than many people expect. This will be the first match for both teams where they do not have to work hard to get into the playing style they are comfortable with. In fact, they will not have to work at all.

Croatia is most comfortable and confident when they can control the ball in midfield, be patient and rely on their technicality to create opportunity.

France is most comfortable playing without the ball, creating turnovers and using their speed and skill in transition to create scoring opportunities at the other end.

Due to the lack of relevant data on these teams, many people are hell-bent on using the previous matches this World Cup to predict the next one. I have mentioned it many times. The market always prices these factors in because everyone else sees it too.

There is such a blatantly obvious handicap in the talent of France being too much for a Croatia team that has played a full 90 minutes more, but go beyond that and the tactical advantages on either side cancel each other out.

The big problem is that it is so difficult to get beyond the obvious hurdle. It took me two days, and I know many never will.

I described Croatia and England as a chess match where the most patient side will win. As the match went on Croatia got stronger. They imposed their playing style and waited for opportunities to arise. In a match like this final where the draw result is dependent more so on Croatia than France, I like the fact that playing level or from behind, Croatia is going to get the bulk of possession and control in midfield – something they need to succeed.

Croatian players celebrate their penalty shootout win over Denmark in their last 16 tie.

France, much like England, is a team that has relied on the success of individual moments from set pieces. The adversity a match ago where England had to play a style they were not comfortable with was enough to throw them off.

I think France matching up against the most talented midfield they have faced this tournament will frustrate them. Not getting sloppy turnovers to create into opportunities coupled with the stress of another big final will be enough to slow down the individual brilliance just enough to take this to extra time.

I anticipate Croatia bringing in an extra defensive holding midfielder to protect against transition attacks. The French defence will look sloppy, but they will do enough to keep Croatia from pushing too high. Turnover opportunities created by France will result in a fair number of breaks on the counter, but the discipline in midfield of Croatia will break up the bulk of opportunities and prevent any odd man chances.

By playing their most preferred style, both teams naturally cancel each others strength. I expect this match to be tied heading into the 70th minute at which point both teams pull back and play for extra time.

France will believe they can wear Croatia down and have a big advantage in penalties. Croatia will be confident they can jump on the weak back line the second France over commits. Both will be hesitant to give an inch because it is most beneficial to wait for the other to break down first.

The draw is the best bet to make in this match at odds of 3.34. Both teams will get what they want, and both will employ a low variance game plan.

Enjoy the match, and see you all back here on Insights for NFL Season.

Recommended Bet

  • France Croatia Draw 3.34 (risking 0.75x)

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