We almost started the rest of the World Cup today without Argentina. I was desperately sad to see the efforts that Nigeria made come to nothing and I so nearly got my 1-1! We also got our first 0-0 of the tournament as two teams, France and Denmark, decided to just have a kick about instead of a world class international game. I guess taking an easy point each was a lot easier than trying to win for heavens sake! That of course made the Australia v Peru game irrelevant and so we’ll leave that one there. Iceland v Croatia went exactly as I thought it would and how nice to see at least one team play (Croatia) as if they wanted to win and, of course, win they did to take the full (deserved) 9 points from the group stage. Now let’s look at today:
Mexico v Sweden almost qualifies as an ASP trader but the AO odds take it off the menu for me. Mathematically, this group is intriguing as, even though Mexico have 6 points, they could still not qualify if Sweden were to beat them with a 3 goal difference (technically 2 may be possible but I don’t known the standings in yellow card/fair play results so far). I don’t think that will happen, based on seeing Sweden’s first two games, and I expect Mexico to win this. Of course, even if Sweden were to win with a 3 goal margin, it would still require the same from Germany (i.e. a 3 goal margin win for them). A draw or defeat for Sweden would see them likely go out unless South Korea beat Germany (and even then, the second place may still need to be settled under the fair play rules).
South Korea v Germany. The Germans pretty much came back from the dead against Sweden and turned an early exit probability into a “how far will they go now” conundrum. They were outclassed by Mexico in game one and simply didn’t look good enough to be contenders at that stage. But now, of course, many are simply putting that down to a jittery start. The easiest game for them in this group was always going to be game three and the expectation was (at the beginning of the tournament) that it would be a formality just to rubber stamp the group supremacy. The fact that they could, given a poor performance today, still go out would have been hard to imagine before it all started.
The reality though is that anything other than a win for the Germans in this game now seems unlikely. It isn’t an ASP trader, the over 2.5 goals odds kill that possibility and so it is a watch only for me even though the temptation to simply lay AOAW is huge.
Serbia v Brazil. A draw would see Brazil through to the next stage but they showed moments of class against Costa Rica in their second game that showed us that, when they need to, Brazil can still play. And I think they will win but I have some minor concerns. The opening game against Switzerland now seems hard to fathom as I think the Swiss were a bit lucky to take 3 points from Serbia in the second game. And of course that’s the thing about the World Cup, even if you watch all the games you simply can’t really evaluate one team against another with accuracy based on the scoreline alone in a game. To explain that further, Brazil looked poor against Switzerland and managed a draw. Serbia looked good against Switzerland and yet they lost.
Switzerland are a team that grind away at their opponents and they obviously did something to earn world rankings of 6 before the tournament started. Even though you conclude that they may have stifled Brazil in game one, they did score and you would have expected them to at least hold that lead. That tells you that, when they really need to, the Swiss can score and pull games back from the brink. They have now turned a game that looked like a defeat into a draw and a game that looked locked on as a draw into a win. This tells me that their style is all about get ahead and keep the lead but their defence just lets them down a shade. They could be a surprise handful in the later stages.
Brazil and Switzerland were expected to be the qualifiers from this group pre-tournament and they still are so, maybe, their drawn game was simply what should have happened. I sort of think that Serbia could pull off a shock here but am I over estimating Serbia as a team? The odds in the market show a resounding expectation of Brazil winning and a game with 3 goals or more. Once more that declares this a no-go for ASP. I’m happy to speculate on the first two games in the group stage but game 3, when there is often so much at stake, is a whole different ball game. The only thing we know for certain about group E is that Costa Rica are going home whatever happens.
And so, my view on Switzerland v Costa Rica has to go with the market and Switzerland are clear favourites to win but the expectation is a low scoring affair. This game stacks up as an ASP trader and, given what these two teams have done so far, it’s hard to see beyond a goal from Switzerland followed by a brick wall defending game thereafter. 1-0 is the most fancied outcome in the correct score market with 2-0 coming in second. That said, the AOHW odds at 11 show a little uncertainty about whether Costa Rica are good enough to stop more goals than 1 or 2. Serbia only put one goal past Costa Rica and a much more alive Brazil (than the one showing against Switzerland) got 2 past them. Can you see Switzerland putting 4 past them? I don’t think so. But if you do trade this one, know the risks, it is the World Cup after all and Costa Rica only have pride to play for now.