Weekend World Cup action didn’t disappoint, unless you were hoping heavyweights would impose their will.
Argentina drew with first-time finalist Iceland, the smallest country in the tournament. The betting favorite to win it all, Brazil, was denied three points by Switzerland after a 1-1 result.
Those ties each paid better than 3-to-1 at the window, while Mexico’s stunning 1-0 Group F upset of Germany paid at least 6-to-1. If you got in on those, kudos.
Playing contrarian paid off, albeit as a fluke given how awful Mexico looked leading up to the World Cup. Brazil wasn’t awarded what looked like a clear penalty and missed numerous opportunities in the closing stages, so those paydays didn’t come without some major sweating.
There was a huge pay day (+775 at Westgate) to be claimed in backing the Swiss to tie the Brazilians by winning the final 45 minutes and a nice hit on the Mexicans to hold on to their lead over the defending champs in the second half via draw (+250).
Of the five teams with the best odds to win the World Cup entering the tournament, only France (6/1) won its first match. Brazil (7/2), Spain (6/1) and Argentina (8/1) all picked up a single point via draws while Germany (4/1) came up empty. The French need an own goal with less than 10 minutes remaining to squeeze past Australia, which looks likely to bring up the rear in Group C.
In light of all of this, many observers have declared this tournament wide open. That’s not entirely accurate, but the early theme has seen established powers struggle to hit the ground running in this World Cup. Despite this, favorites have actually pulled off wins in most matches.
There have only been two outright upsets entering Tuesday’s action, when the final teams to debut in this World Cup take the pitch. Group H, featuring Colombia, Japan, Poland and Senegal, looks equally matched, so we’re not going to see bigger upsets than Mexico (+600) over Germany and Iran (+300) over Morocco until later in the week.
In an effort to further give you readers an edge as you attempt to collect at the window, the following can be applied based on what we’ve learned thus far. Riding the Under in the first half has been profitable thus far since multiple goals have been scored in only four of the first 14 matches. Six of the contests have actually gone to the break scoreless. That’s a theme that should continue as the second installment of group play begins.
For you in-game bettors, don’t be shy about backing scoring even as the minutes tick down. Harry Kane’s stoppage-time winner in England’s 2-1 victory over Tunisia on Monday was the 10th goal scored after 70 minutes of action.
As teams grow more desperate to earn results, this should continue.
VAR, video assistance referee, has helped lead to a pair of penalties that would’ve otherwise gone unnoticed, so there’s a good chance we’ll continue to see more goals as a result. Thus far, there has yet to be a scoreless draw. Iran and Morocco came closest, but a late own goal gave Team Melli only its second World Cup win in 13 lifetime matches.
The Iranians are by far the biggest surprise since they came into the World Cup at 500-to-1 to win it all and find themselves ahead of both Spain and Portugal in Group B. Those Iberian powers put together the game of the tournament thus far, finishing 3-3 after Cristiano Ronaldo completed a hat trick with a hero 88th-minute free kick to rescue a point after the Portuguese twice blew leads.
Wednesday will see both take the pitch as heavy favorites, so considering another draw would put them in serious jeopardy of missing out on the Round of 16, Portugal and Spain are definitely worth backing as favorites against Iran and Morocco.
The Spaniards are laying two goals and are an astronomical favorite (-600 or higher) at most books, so you’re going to want to either lay the goals straight up or add them into an accumulator parlay since a loss is virtually impossible. Iran is close to +2000 to win and a draw is in the +650 range, but I wouldn’t get any ideas about taking a shot. There’s no monumental upset coming.
The fact Morocco came into the World Cup as a dangerous threat has Portugal as just a -160 favorite, which is partially because a draw (+275) wouldn’t be a terrible result. If Spain handles its business against Iran, the Portuguese would still be able to control its destiny against Iran in the final game of the group.
There are a couple of ways to bet Group B, from parlaying both favorites to doing so with a Spain/Portugal-Morocco draw. Make a full day of it by throwing heavily favored Uruguay (-800) in against the most overmatched team in the event, a Saudi Arabia squad that lost to host Russia 5-0 to kick things off and then had a travel scare getting to Rostov-on-Don for its next contest.
Betting Portugal, Spain and Uruguay gives you a return of a little better than even money. Betting the Portugal/Morocco draw with those two heavy favorites gets you a return of nearly 4-to-1.
Serbia is a surprise leader in Group E and can seal its passage into the Round of 16 with a win over Switzerland on Friday, but the other sure thing you can count on this week is Brazil (-600) taking aim at Costa Rica in a must-win.
If you’re in town all week, a parlay backing Spain, Uruguay, Brazil and England (-600), which plays Sunday morning against Panama, would go off at roughly -130 and is certainly worth considering since I don’t see any of those teams not prevailing by multiple goals, which means you won’t even have to sweat any stoppage time strikes.
This tournament figures to get far more complicated as the weeks pass until the culmination of the event in the middle of July, so take your gimmes while you can.