Matchbook Podcast listeners were in clover on Saturday after a cracking day saw all four of our nominated selections provide profit. Obviously, I was delighted with the results but at the same time, it’s important to keep your feet firmly on the ground in this game.
I’m aware at least three of those four matches were reasonably fortuitous for us; VAR significantly contributed to the goals tally when France met Australia, Lionel Messi inexplicably missed a penalty to see our Unders bet cop in Argentina’s encounter with Iceland, and Denmark failed to impress despite overcoming Peru.
Of course, it’s all part and parcel of being a punter.
Monday’s football was again going swimmingly until Harry Kane touched home a stoppage-time winner to scupper another Unders wager – England should really have been home and hosed by half-time but even so, you can’t shake that sickening feeling when a late goal goes against you.
Anyhow, we’ve now seen all 32 nations and, in terms of first-round group games, I’m pleased to report that we remain in a positive position.
However, I do take matchday two a little tentatively as numerous factors come into play.
Firstly, it’s important not to make any kneejerk decisions based on a one-game sample. We’ve put in weeks of work preparing for the competition and ripping up your ratings based upon 90 minutes evidence is far from advisable.
Unless anything drastic has occurred – we’re looking at you, Saudi Arabia – only subtle amendments should take place.
Germany were noticeably disastrous against Mexico but as the stereotype goes, ‘never write off the Germans’ and we’d be fools to believe a repeat performance is incoming from Die Mannschaft.
I felt Portugal were vulnerable in Group B and the 3-3 result against Spain may have clouded our judgement. The Selecao scored from their only three on-target attempts – a penalty, free-kick and goalkeeping error – and would almost always lose that match if it was replayed over and over. I certainly won’t be changing my pre-tournament opinion based on what was seen last Friday.
What’s more, the dynamics of the pool now come into play. We’ve completed our pre-tournament prep and we’re now comfortable in our assessments having seen each side in competitive action in Russia but opening round results will now have an impact on each team’s approach to their next match.
Look at Group B, for example. Portugal meet Morocco on Wednesday with the match ending four hours before Iran take on Spain. The result in the opening game – remember, both sides failed to win their first fixture – could have major implications on how the late kick-off plays out.
If Portugal and Morocco share the spoils, Iran will remain in a top-two position. They can attack the Spanish game knowing they’ll enter the third and final group games in control of their own destiny. As you can see, that’s bound to have an effect psychologically, at the very least.
So it’s a tricky time for punters and I’d advise you all to tread a little carefully. Explore every angle, understand what each nation are attempting to achieve and educate yourself on the dynamics of each group and how kick-off times could play a key role in approach.
There are opportunities out there, we just might need to work an ounce harder to spot them.
One such wager may arrive on Thursday. Croatia are in control of Group D, being the only side to start with a success. The Blazers laboured to a 2-0 triumph over an unimpressive Nigeria and must now meet Argentina in a mouthwatering match-up from Nizhny Novgorod.
The South Americans are a touch bigger than evens and I still feel Lionel Messi and co. are being overrated. They toiled when asked to breakdown Iceland’s rigid system and they’ll be given fewer chances to impress against the ball-hogging Balkan boys.
Knowing a point would put them in pole position to top the pool, Croatia appeal with a +0.50 Asian Handicap start at 1.88.
- Argentina v Croatia – Croatia +0.50 Asian Handicap (1.88)