Last week was more encouraging for me with two out of three winners, but before we move on I have to touch on my outright bet on Germany. They crashed out of the World Cup ultimately finishing bottom of a group containing South Korea, Sweden and Mexico and I’m not sure what to say really.
Given all the information and data available before the tournament, I would still back Germany at the prices. And there appears to be no standout reason why they performed as poorly as they did. If we look at their xG, for example, they won each game 2.2 – 1.2 but in reality, it was 0.7 – 1.3.
At this World Cup, the level of variance does seem to be higher than at previous major tournaments, and this is potentially not helped by VAR.
VAR’s implementation is open to interpretation and thus ultimately lacks consistency. Unlike goal-line technology and Hawkeye in tennis, it does not provide a 100% correct decision and is still one human’s opinion. There may be a place in the game for it but in its current guise, with the interruptions it brings, as a fan and a bettor, I do not like it.
Mexico bring home the value
But back to the results and it’s been a better week for the bankroll as Mexico beat South Korea, and Japan and Senegal produced an entertaining 2-2 draw.
With Mexico having been as short as 1.44 following their opening round win against Germany, it was strange the market overreacted again to push them back out at 1.73, but it was good for us to be able to take advantage.
It’s important sometimes not be put off by big moves in prices as they can be over bet too much. Mexico only won 2-1 but it was a comfortable victory with South Korea’s goal not coming until the 93rd minute with a wonder strike from Heung-Min Son. South Korea actually outshot Mexico, but it’s all about quality with Juan Carlos Osorio’s side winning the expected goals 1.86 – 0.98.
It was also encouraging to see Group H produce goals as I first flagged up in the Matchbook eBook World Cup guide.
Japan and Senegal played out an entertaining 2-2 draw and having been on over 2.0 goals, it was a relaxing watch after Takashi Inui equalised to make it 1-1 after 34 minutes. There were 10 shots on target between the two sides returning an xG figure of 2.48 so two goals were the least we deserved.
The England match, however, I called wrong, and I think I was guilty of reading too much into other manager’s approaches. But it was only a small bet on the 2-0 and 3-0 correct scores, and the expected goals without the penalties actually finished 1.62 – 1.24. I think I was possibly on the right lines but should have perhaps heeded my own advice as indeed Panama are really, really bad.
Time to say Buenas Noches Argentina?
We’ve now reached the knockout stages and since the 2002 World Cup, the goal expectancy decreases from 2.52 in the group stages (192 games) to just 1.94 in the last 16 onwards (64 games). This is a 20% decay and unfortunately, the market is well aware of this, so there is very little wiggle room in opposing goals.
If we take out the matches with decent favourites (Spain v Russia, Brazil v Mexico and Belgium v Japan) the average goal expectancy across the other five games is just 2.05.
But with low goal expectancies, this means higher odds on sides to win, and this is something which I think we can take advantage of.
First up France host Argentina on Saturday and I’m surprised at the odds available on the French here. Argentina needed an 86th-minute goal in the final group game to get through, having failed to impress in any of their group games. They were held 1-1 v Iceland, comfortably beaten 3-0 by Croatia and were fortunate to beat Nigeria 2-1 in a game of little quality chances.
France, on the other hand, qualified comfortably and the only goal they conceded was a penalty against Australia when Samuel Umtiti bizarrely raised his arm. I wrote i
n my outright preview on my blog that Argentina may struggle to adjust to manager Jorge Sampaoli’s style of play and I think we’ve seen plenty of evidence of that so far, so much so that it’s unsurprisingly boiled over in the dressing room with plenty of players voicing their unhappiness.
Sergio Aguero has started just one game and Paulo Dybala has seen just 22 minutes of action! It feels similar to Maradona’s in cohesive 2010 Argentina side where they were blown away by Germany 4-0 in the knockouts. I’m not suggesting that is going to happen here but we’ve already seen them implode and lose 3-0 to Croatia.
In contrast, while I’m not a huge Didier Deschamps fan but his side are definitely more settled and have a game plan everyone is onboard with. And in Kylian Mbappe they possess pace that could really hurt this ageing Argentina defence. France’s average xG saw them win 1.2 – 0.6 whereas Argentina’s was 1.5 – 1.5. France are 2.51 and that just seems too big.
The xG from the group stages is only a small spread of data but when it matches up with what we’ve seen with our eyes, it provides substance to our argument.
So backing them -0.25 at odds against looks the way to play keeping the draw onside.
More value to be found in South America
There is pretty much nothing to choose in the match odds between Uruguay and Portugal and despite suggesting Portugal were the bet in the Matchbook eBook, given the prices, it’s Uruguay I want to side with. Football is a game of fine margins, and given the two sides’ attack and defence, it’s the South Americans I like here.
Suarez and Cavani together are capable of doing the same amount of damage as Ronaldo, but it’s the defensive pairing of Atletico Madrid’s Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez that could make the difference here.
Portugal’s centre-backs consist of 35-year-old Besiktas defender Pepe and 34-year-old Jose Fonte now of second from bottom Chinese side Dalian Yifang.
Right-back Cedric hasn’t had the best of seasons for Southampton, and even Raphael Guerrero has been caught out a number of times at left-back. Focussing on both sides performances in the group stage, despite Portugal having the harder task with Spain, Uruguay more than dwarfed the Portuguese numbers, winning on average 2.3 – 0.3 xG compared to 1.3 – 1.4 xG and Uruguay +0.0 is the bet for me.
Finally, with all the variance I’ve experienced so far, it’s the long-term data I want to rely on and I’m heading to the all American clash of Brazil and Mexico.
I said in the eBook the Mexicans won’t be frightened of Brazil and I stand by that. Mexico have a history of upsetting Brazil in tournaments, drawing 0-0 in the group stages of the last World Cup and winning the 2012 Olympic final.
Overall Mexico have avoided defeat in eight of their last 10 competitive meetings with Brazil, winning six. Marcelo is doubtful, meaning the impressive attacking first-choice duo of him and Dani Alves isn’t there and with Douglas Costa injured, the inconsistent Willian will play with only Roberto Firmino providing an injection of quality from the bench.
However, rather than try and be too clever and oppose the Brazilians with a strikeforce of Neymar, Gabriel Jesus and Coutinho, I’m going to oppose goals with the expectation out of line with the historical data at 2.55. Brazil have huffed and puffed a little so far, recording under 2.5 goals in all three games, while the Mexicans were very adept at keeping Germany at bay.
Overall 10 of the last 14 meetings between the sides have finished under 2.5 goals and I think a bet on the unders here is well worth a point.
- France -0.25 ~2.11 – 0.5pts
- Uruguay +0.0 ~1.98 – 1pt
- Under 2.5 goals Brazil – Mexico ~1.89 – 1pt