I was pretty accurate with my assessment of the last two games (on Tuesday 3rd) and I did no trading. I enjoyed the England game in the pub and what a ride that was. I could not believe the sheer stress level during the penalty shoot out and the euphoria when we won it. What is this thing that gets inside grown men and turns them into well, frankly, a frenzied horde (OK, maybe a little over the top). It really must be close to what happens on the battlefield but never having experienced that I can only surmise. Anyway, we are through to the quarter finals and why not think now in terms of going all the way!
So, today we have Uruguay v France and Brazil v Belgium and the prospect of two very exciting games.
Looking at Uruguay v France let’s deal with the basics. France are match favourites and given their line up of super stars or potential super stars that is no surprise. Whilst they are clear favourites with odds around 2 versus Uruguay’s 4, the market is heavily in favour of less than 2.5 goals. The 0-0 outcome is seen as very high probability and AO odds are well out of range. You could take a flutter on laying AOAW but at odds of aorund 23 you wouldn’t get much in the pot without substantial risk.
0-1 to France is the absolute favourite scoreline in the market and all makes perfect sense to me that 0-1 and 0-0 seem to be the prevalent predictions. However, there are rumours that not only will Edison Cavani not be fit enough to play for Uruguay against France but also that there may even be question marks over Suarez playing. Realistically, they need both of these guys to beat France and even the absence of Cavani makes their task too difficult in my opinion because of the way Suarez and Cavanni link up to cause problems.
So assessing this game is hard without all the facts. If either of those guys are out (and especially if both are out) this game is a one-way street and a French win. I also think that it is then open wide for a French domination. Uruguay probably have the best defence in the tournament from what I have seen and that could be the only thing to give them real hope but even then you have to look at the fire power in the French side. No question Mbappe is one serious talent and the first teenager to score 3 goals in a World Cup. But how will he fair against a seriously good defence? How much attention do we pay to one particularly onerous statistic concerning France against Uruguay? The French have won only 1 of the last 8 meetings between these two and have never beaten them in World Cup matches. 3 of the 8 games have been Uruguay wins and 4 of them draws.
That last statistic is in such contrast to another, that is, France are unbeaten in the last 9 games they’ve played against South American sides (won 5 and drawn 4) so – pick the bones out of that – as they say. In the end I am never much of an observer of long term statistics (let’s face it, if we focused only on that, how would England have ever won a penalty shoot out?). I think that this will a) end in a draw if Cavanni and Suarez play and are both at least almost fully fit but could just as easily end with a goal up to Uruguay- extra time? Penalties? Who knows…
Or b) in the absence of even one of those guys, I go mostly with the market but I think if France can penetrate the Uruguayan defence once, they can do it twice or even 3 times. My prediction with b) is 0-2 to France as I believe mentally, Uruguay will find the absence of even one of their match winners a big hurdle.
Brazil v Belgium is a game that I am really looking forward to. I still very much believe that Belgium have not been fully tested even though Japan did surprisingly well against them and I think Brazil will be the team to finally open them up and show us their weaknesses. As a team Brazil seem more together but there is no denying that Belgium have some extremely good individual players especially Eden Hazard, De Bruyne and Lukaku. The striker, Lukaku seems more clinical as a finisher at the moment than Neymar does for Brazil but then I do not believe we’ve seen Neymar at his best and there is a reason why he is the world’s most expensive player currently. If only he’d stop falling over…
In defence I believe Belgium are the slightly stronger team and they should also have the midfield edge as Brazil are without Casemiro in this game which will give De Bruyne of Belgium, perhaps, a little more room than expected. So I am slightly against the market in favour of Belgium. That said, it should be close and I do expect normal time goals.
It’s very hard to separate these teams overall as they both have such a vast pool of talent to call on so we have to let the market help us as best it can. Sadly, though, the market doesn’t help us much at all except that leans towards Brazil. That is always going to be the easier option though because no other team has their World Cup pedigree after all.
The market is marginally in favour of under 2.5 goals and the favourite scoreline prediction is 1-1. That pretty much instantly tells us that no-one is really sure about which side is best here. It is an ASP trader based upon the starting odds and the danger would be, as is always the case in World Cup knockout games, that there isn’t an early enough breakthrough goal and thus it is undecided at full time with both teams believing they can go on to win in extra time.
One other notable fact before I finish is this:
European teams have won the last 3 World Cups. If the Brazilians are beaten in this game by Belgium, and if my belief that France will beat Uruguay is correct, then the last South American hope for the first World Cup win since 2002 will fade and the Europeans will dominate again. The trophy being retained three times in a row by European teams is already a record (previously only two World Cup wins by either South American teams or European teams without it crossing the Atlantic again had been achieved and even that had only occurred twice). Until recently, it was pretty normal for it to cross the Atlantic again after each tournament. I mention that only as food for thought. Could European teams really be looking at 4 World Cup finals without the trophy going back to South America? And now the total tally is South America 9, Europe 11 – could it really go to 12?