Mark Stinchcombe: “England were impressive but they rarely blow sides away and I think I can be a bit clever here”

10 min

It was a poor start to the World Cup for me as Morocco, who I tipped up at -0.25, lost 1-0 to Iran. Morocco dominated the opening 25 minutes, but like many sides at the World Cup, they lacked the composure to convert any of their eight shots into a goal. It’s hard to argue it was a bad bet though and right until the end it looked as though half our stake would be returned until a 95th minute own goal from a substitute. Pretty bad luck.

I equally had absolutely no qualms with the loss in the Portugal v Spain game where despite my expectations it turned into a goal-fest. Goals change games and who knows how it would have played out had Nacho not conceded a penalty on club-mate Ronaldo after just three minutes.

Both sides next games were only won 1-0 against Iran and Morocco respectively, so I was probably on the right lines of a tight game here.

A hat-trick from Cristiano Ronaldo put paid to any hope of the unders cashing in Spain v Portugal.

My final bet in Peru v Denmark was such a frustrating watch. Having talked up both sides, particularly the Peruvians, it was disappointing to see them waste chance after chance, especially the penalty.

The overall xG returned 2.84 so having been on over 2.0 goals and then over 1.75, it was really unlucky not to have two winners, let alone at least a push with exactly two goals.

It’s important not to get carried away with a few losses, though. International football and particularly World Cups are only played every four years, and the sides do not play enough for their results to mostly reflect their mean abilities. It’s a very small spread of data and it’s the long-term results we’re interested in. So with that said let’s look at this weekend’s bets.

Mexico V South Korea

First up I really like Mexico to beat South Korea at 1.73. I mentioned in the Matchbook ebook how Mexico could outperform their odds so it was no surprise to see how well they played against Germany. Mexico drew 3-3 in Brussels against Belgium whilst bossing possession, and this was on the back of an impressive qualification campaign where 16 different players scored.

South Korea, on the other hand, aren’t a very good side as I alluded to in the eBook and this was further confirmed with their performance against Sweden. They managed just five shots, 0 on target, returning an xG figure of just 0.25. Whilst going the other way they allowed 15 shots against and even excluding the penalty the chances totalled an xG figure of 1.79.

Again this shouldn’t be a surprise with South Korea winning just 40% of their games in the second round of qualification, including none away, against the likes of Qatar and China. They managed just 11 goals whilst conceding 10, with Heung-Min Son scoring just once as he suffers from a lack of quality service. Further evidence need only to be seen by their 0-0 friendly draw with Bolivia earlier this month.

In contrast, Mexico won the expected goals in their qualifying matches with an average xG of 1.6 – 0.7 (+0.9).

Mexico were 1.75 for this match before the Germany game, and have gone as low as 1.44 since but the market looks to have over-corrected itself too much and 1.73 represents good value here.

This looks a really nice price, with Mexico shorter prices against better sides in the past, at 1.64 to beat Iceland on neutral ground and 1.43 against Bosnia. So I’m having 1.5 points here on Mexico on the outright.

England v Panama

England were really impressive in their first game. They had 65% possession, had 18 shots to Tunisia’s 6, with seven on target, and won the xG count 3.46 – 0.19 (excluding the penalty). England seem to be devoid of credit because it required a last minute goal to win the match but it’s doesn’t really matter when they scored it because they more than deserved it.

Next they come up against a Panama side who are really, really bad, and a level below Tunisia, so it should be more of the same here.

Panama lost 3-0 v Belgium conceding an expected goals figure of 1.83, whilst they managed just two shots inside the penalty area at the opposite end.

They’ve scored just one goal in their last seven games, mainly against European opposition, and this really should be a case of how many for England.

However, I am wary of backing England -1.75 goals as I could see Southgate ‘managing’ the side to a comfortable 2-0 victory, potentially resting players with the Belgium game in mind. England rarely blow sides away and six of Southgate’s 10 wins have been 1-0 or 2-0.

So with this in mind, I think I can be a bit clever here and dutch England to win 2-0 or 3-0 at much bigger prices.

Japan v Senegal

Finally, I’m off to group H, and it’s goals I’m looking at for the Japan v Senegal game. Both sides should be full of confidence having got off to winning starts and with them each now facing the weakest side in the group according to the odds, this should represent a great chance to win and qualify for the knockout stages.

I said in the eBook this group could represent value with the range of ability across all four sides the shortest of any group, and the first round of matches didn’t disappoint with three goals in each.

With a goal line of just 2.0, only three of Japan’s last 38 games would see this bet lose (8%) while it would have lost in only five of Senegal’s last 36 (14%).

Their opening games returned total xGs of 3.10 and 2.15 respectively (excluding penalties), with Japan’s qualifiers averaging 2.70 and Senegal’s 2.00 so for me there has to be more upside than downside in backing over 2.0 goals.

My final bet for the weekend is a point on the over 2.0 goals at around 1.90.

Recommended bets:

  • Mexico 1.73 – 1.5pts
  • England 2-0 ~5.7 & England 3-0 ~7.7 – 0.5pts on each
  • Over 2.0 goals Japan v Senegal ~1.90 – 1pt

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