I didn’t trade yesterday in the end but I was sorely tempted to trade the the Croatia game based on the very early goal. Well, of course, that almost immediately became “goals” as it went to 1-1 within 5 minutes. That threw me and I decided to leave it be. I jokingly turned to my partner after the equaliser and said “Given what can happen in these knock out games, we’ll probably see this one stay there and go to penalties” – I WAS JOKING! But that is of course exactly what happened.

I hate the extra time process in these big competitions. As far as I am concerned, they should play the 90 minutes and go straight to penalties, the extra 30 minutes is pointless in my view and it allows the players to think they have all the time in the world and, of course, they use that to stifle the game. I saw Croatia go from one of the most exciting teams in the tournament in their 3 group games, to being a totally boring spectacle in this game. No team really wants penalties, no team can honestly say they want to have their future progress decided on the penalty spot and so removing extra time puts them under pressure to finish up in normal time. Croatia didn’t so much win the penalty shoot out, it was more a case of Denmark losing it.

Anyway, all in all, it didn’t matter, I didn’t trade it because of the two quick goals, but not, I should stress, because I really thought it would stay 1-1 – no, I didn’t trade it on the pure logic that any game that produces 2 goals in five minutes can produce 4 to one side in 90. Boy oh boy did I get that wrong!

Two games yesterday decided on penalty shoot outs after they both produced both of their normal time goals within the first half of the game proper. When you think about it, that tells you all you need to know about the World Cup. In the knockout stages, the fear of losing vastly outweighs the drive to win in most cases. I hope that Gareth Southgate drills his team into focusing entirely on beating the Colombians in 90 minutes and doesn’t allow this idea that they have a full 120 minutes to decide it. All due respect to Harry Kane, we do not want to take a chance on another England penalty shoot out!

There was no trading prospect for me in the Spain game either. AO started out looking too much like a threat. I (and I guess many) didn’t expect Russia to do much with this game and to see Spain beaten on penalties in the end was a shocker but it is good for the tournament. The hosts bring most of the noise with them and that keeps theĀ  tournament buzzing into the quarter finals. Again I have to say that the Spanish were not a joy to watch, they looked and played as if they had all the time in the world and that Russia couldn’t possibly win.

Moving on to today we have two games that should be predictable (dangerous assumption) as Brazil take on Mexico and Belgium take on Japan.

Brazil v Mexico

The filters stack up for trading in this game if you ignore a) Brazil being very hot favourites at around 1.5 and b) AOHW sitting at around 8 so, in other words, the odds do not bode well for a trader. The market is almost in contradiction, not for the first time. The favourite scoreline, based on odds is 1-0 at around 7. The market also sees under 2.5 goals as more likely than over even though the second favourite scoreline in the Correct Score market is AOHW. This tells me, based on experience, that it is a 2-0 outcome that really is the key scoreline here. Generally, the over/under 2.5 goals market is the one that the rest of the market forms around. That isn’t a scientific fact or anything it is just based on years of observation.

Having said that, Mexico were superb until they played Sweden and are capable of scoring. You could put that last game all down to a decision to rest key players with Sweden playing their full strength team. It’s hard to say. Instinctively, I can’t believe Mexico will simply lay down and die at the feet of Brazil and they are more than capable of harassing the Brazilian defence (and they have shown moments of defensive uncertainty). Contrary to the market, I definitely feel like this game shapes up to be quite a lively attacking affair and my favourite scoreline here would be 3-1. Any game that you perceive could be 3-1 can also easily be 4-1 as we know only too well.

The plan with ASP is to only take on games where you believe that the scoreline is unlikely to go past 2 goals to one side. I don’t confidently feel that here and so I will be leaving it alone for trading purposes.

Belgium v Japan

As spunky as Japan have proven to be in this tournament they are up against it here. Whatever happens, they have at least already achieved what any Japanese team has previously achieved in the World Cup. They’ve played against the best of the best in International Football and not been found wanting and qualified to the knockout stages. They will want to go further and may even believe that they can go further but I don’t think that they will go further. Belgium have finally looked like the team that everyone has been expecting to turn up this time around.

They were seen as potential winners in 2014 and disappointed. They were not overly impressive in the 2016 Euros with some up and down performances and then went out in a shock defeat against Wales in the quarter finals (it’ll be a long time until the Welsh forget that one). This time Belgium look like the complete package and they will be, in my opinion, nigh on impossible for the Japanese to contain. This game has an AOHW end result written all over it and the market supports that by making the AOHW scoreline the favourite. I must contain my enthusiasm again for another day even though I really want to trade both of today’s games, I will just sit back and try to enjoy them for the game alone if I can.

I expect to see both Brazil and Belgium advance to the quarter finals even though we all know how easily the World Cup can throw up shock results.