2018 FIFA World Cup: Round 3 Group Stage Match Analysis

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Friday 29th June, 12:00am AEST

Poland are the first top seeded team to exit from this World Cup. They lost their opening two matches, which will be a great disappointment having won eight of their 10 qualification matches. Japan, meanwhile, have been getting the job done in one way or another, as they beat a 10-man Colombian side first before twice coming from behind to rescue a point against Senegal.

Poland will be very happy to see the return of their key defender Kamil Glik for this encounter, having not started in their opening two fixtures. Interestingly, teams that have lost both their opening two world Cup matches since 1990, have gone W8-D3-L3 against teams we rank below them, as is the case here, and they’ll be desperate to give their fans something to cheer about. Japan may look the form team of the two, winning two of their five matches under Akira Nishino, but they’ve been very fortunate in their opening two World Cup fixtures. Given that Asian teams have lost 66% and won just 13% of their 53 World Cup matches against UEFA nations since 1990, we fancy the Poles to rescue a little pride from this match.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Poland to Win at 3.20

Friday 29th June, 12:00am AEST

Senegal will be frustrated not to have seen out their game against Japan when 2-1 up with 15 minutes to play but the eventual draw means they just need a point here to reach the knockout stages for the first time since 2002. The issue is Colombia arrive full of confidence following their dismantling of Poland and African sides have a terrible record against South American nations at the World Cup. Cameroon beat Argentina back in 1990 but since then they’ve lost 15 of 20 winless matches (not including Argentina vs Nigeria on Tuesday).

Colombia need to win and with the likes of Falcao, Rodriguez and Cuadrado all playing well they look an excellent price to do so. Indeed, facing sides ranked 20 places or more below them in our rankings, they’ve won seven of their 11 matches since the start of 2016, while African sides haven’t fared too well against the world’s best in the past few years, losing 25 of their 33 matches against top 15 sides since the start of the last World Cup.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Colombia to Win at 1.89

Friday 29th June, 4:00am AEST

England have only lost two games under Southgate, narrow defeats away in France and Germany, and that should offer some encouragement ahead of facing Belgium after securing positive results in the glamour friendlies building up to Russia – beating the Netherlands and earning draws with Germany, Brazil and Italy. The Red Devils didn’t quite test themselves in the same way after gearing up with a series of home friendlies, as Portugal and Mexico were the only sides of real quality they faced, but they could only manage stalemates with both of those and questions still linger over Martinez’s managerial capabilities. In fact, the only other quality opposition they’ve encountered during his spell in charge saw them succumb to Spain and draw with the Netherlands, while they were beaten by Italy and Portugal earlier in 2016 before Martinez arrived.

While nobody doubted Belgium’s firepower heading into the tournament, Harry Kane has cemented his status as a world class striker with five goals already, while his teammates also raised a few eyebrows with their performances against Panama. Rashford didn’t even play a part in the rout as he warmed the bench against the Central Americans, and England will back themselves to get onto the scoresheet at some stage against Belgium – who kept just one clean sheet in those six aforementioned games with quality sides since 2016. In fact, five of Belgium’s last six stalemates have been score-draws, with half finishing 1-1, and that’s certainly worth a punt.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Draw at 3.15

 BACK – 1-1 Draw at 7.20

Friday 29th June, 4:00am AEST

In a group alongside England and Belgium, it was always likely that these two would be battling it out to avoid the wooden spoon and that’s exactly what’s transpired. Tunisia look the more likely to end up in 3rd as they proved competitive against England and would have picked up a point were it not for Harry Kane’s injury-time winner, whilst Panama have looked lacklustre throughout, losing their games by an aggregate of 9-1.

Tunisia generally struggle against the top teams but if we exclude those we have ranked in the top 15 in the world then they’ve won five of seven unbeaten games and so they look a fair price to go out with a win. If we exclude teams ranked outside the world’s top 50 (Tunisia are 38th in our rankings) then Panama have lost 15 of their last 22 matches, winning only once during that sample, and they also lost a couple of first choice players to suspensions for this match as they lost their heads against England.

We’re expecting goals here though, as when teams that have little or no chance of progressing meet in the final group game at World Cups, it tends to be a good watch. When two teams are playing each other having picked up fewer than two points in their first two games, 16 of 19 final group matches have had Over 2.5 Goals since 1990.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Tunisia to Win and Over 2.5 Goals at 2.75

Thursday 28th June, 12:00am AEST

World Cup games involving one team sitting on six points and another with just three in final group stage encounters have typically been low scoring, with seven of eight since 1990 featuring fewer than three goals, and it would be a surprise if this was a full throttle affair with both sides seeing Under 2.5 Goals in seven of their last nine matches. Indeed, Mexico can rest easy knowing a point will secure top spot, while they hold an excellent first-half record with nobody able to defeat them over the opening 45 in 21 games now. Sweden won’t be too upset with a narrow first-half, as they lack the attacking resources to take the initiative and they know their best route to a victory is with a clean sheet.

Mexico organised plenty of friendlies with European sides in preparation for this tournament, and along with their opening day victory over Germany, have five victories from their last eight against UEFA nations, including four that finished 1-0. They’ve also won four of seven games in Russia going back to the Confederations Cup a year ago – they lost to Germany but drew twice with Portugal – so they should have too much for Janne Anderson’s outfit, who will probably depart thinking about what might have been against a 10-man Die Mannschaft. However, such is their sturdy nature that four of their last five have seen fewer than two goals and with six of Mexico’s last nine wins coming by the 1-0 score we expect another victory by a fine margin.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Under 2.5 Goals at 1.74

 BACK – Mexico 1-0 at 8.40

Thursday 28th June, 12:00am AEST

Germany were in danger of going out of the tournament at 1-1 with Sweden and down to ten men but they conjured up a victory thanks to a moment of magic from Toni Kroos and consequently need only to match Sweden’s result against group leaders Mexico to make it through to the knockout stages. We expect them to be buoyed by the nature of their victory over Sweden and they should have no problems in getting past a South Korean outfit that are yet to pick up a point at this tournament and who we rank as the second worst team in Russia.

South Korea are generally cannon fodder for the top teams as they’ve lost eight of their last nine against sides we have ranked in the world’s top 10, with seven of these losses by more than one goal and they failed to score in five of these. Furthermore, European sides we had ranked in the world’s top 10 have played 20 World Cup group matches against Asian opposition since 1990 and they’ve gone W17-D2-L1 with 11 of their last 13 wins coming to nil.

Germany are generally very reliable against the lesser teams as if we exclude teams ranked in the world’s top 15, they’ve won 18 of their last 20 games, with 14 of these victories by more than one goal and 13 clean sheets to boot.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Germany to Win to Nil at 1.95

Thursday 28th June, 4:00am AEST

Since 1994, teams with four points facing teams with three points in their final game have gone W4-D1-L2 full in the knowledge that a draw would send them through. Perhaps more interestingly, five of the games have been level at the break and six have had Under 2.5 Goals.

Serbia enter this game knowing they need a win despite starting the tournament well. The Europeans have fond recent memories of beating the world’s best on the biggest stage as they beat Germany 1-0 in 2010. Interestingly, all of their last five tournament victories have been by the 1-0 score-line, including their opener against Costa Rica, so they’re likely to try and keep things tight, at least early on. Worryingly, that was their only positive result in their last 10 against teams we have ranked in the top five in the world as they’ve lost the other nine including five Under 2.5 Goals games in their last seven.

Brazil are undefeated in their last 13 internationals as they’ve conceded just three goals. Under Tite they have become much more reliable at the back as the manager enforces the tactics that were so effective for Corinthians in his third spell there when his side won the 2015 Serie A with the best record of any side in the history of the tournament. Eight of those 13 matches have had Under 2.5 Goals as they’ve scored more than twice just four times despite being heavy favourites in the majority of the games. He was the master of the 1-0 in that spell with Corinthians and that’s the score most likely here in what should be a tight game.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Brazil 1-0 at 6.50

Thursday 28th June, 4:00am AEST

Costa Rica were well organised against Brazil as they almost pulled off a famous draw. Ultimately, the Selecao’s attack was too strong as they scored twice in injury time but they’ll be playing for pride here and won’t want to go home without a point. Switzerland, meanwhile, simply need to match or better Serbia’s result against Brazil to go through and given the Serbs will most likely lose that, they should be safe enough. In fact, they’re unlikely to press for a big win to top the group, with the runners-up route providing a far better draw in the knockout stages. There’s also the chance that Shaqiri and Xhaka will be banned following their controversial goal celebrations against Serbia, or at least withdrawn early if the opportunity arises, which all suggests the Swiss won’t be racking up too many goals.

15 of Switzerland’s last 20 tournament matches have had fewer than three goals, including five of seven against teams we ranked below them in that time. Meanwhile, seven of Costa Rica’s last eight competitive matches have featured fewer than three goals, and they are struggling for goals generally having scored just once in their last four matches.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Under 2.5 Goals at 1.62

Wednesday 27th June, 4:00am AEST

Argentina have a second chance after Nigeria’s win over Iceland, but they can’t afford any more mistakes as anything less than a win and they’ll be heading home. For Nigeria, they’ll probably hope they can hold out for a draw and that Iceland don’t beat Croatia, while they’ll look for chances on the break through the pace of Musa and Iheanacho.

Musa started the opener on the bench but when given his chance he caused Iceland all sorts of problems as he slotted a brace. Iceland’s defence is relatively slow, but if Sampaoli picks the same team as against Croatia then this Argentina backline and midfield is even slower. Sampaoli surely can’t do that of course, but such is the confusion in his tactics that it’s hard to see him getting it right. Certainly, if he keeps faith with Mascherano and Perez in the middle of the park then it’s hard to see how they’ll have enough mobility to both protect the defence and link the attack without Lionel Messi having to drop very deep.

Ultimately, Argentina’s problems have been evident for a long time as they nearly failed to make it through qualifying, and we’ve seen the South American sides struggle in Russia, so it was hardly a vintage group of opponents. In fact, they’ve won just three of their last 12 competitive fixtures and just one of seven competitive games against teams we had ranked outside the world’s top 20 (W1-D3-L3) so we must lay them here.

Betting Strategy

 LAY – Argentina at 1.58

Wednesday 27th June, 4:00am AEST

Croatia have been superb so far as Luka Modric has been the best midfielder in the competition and has scored in both games. As a result, they’ve already qualified for the next round and they’re 99% sure of topping the group. Iceland, meanwhile, have to win to have any chance of advancing and they probably need to win by a few. That should mean they’ll play on the front foot, but that was the case to an extent against Nigeria and their lack of speed at the back saw them exposed on multiple occasions. Against the superior quality that Croatia possess it should mean we see a few goals in this one.

Iceland’s last two matches have both seen exactly two goals, but penalties were missed to score a third in each and their six games prior to that all saw at least three strikes. Meanwhile, six of Croatia’s eight tournament group games back to the last World Cup have had more than two goals. Tournament trends also point to goals, as since 1990 there have been 20 final group games at World Cups where a team with just one point to their name were playing a higher ranked side and 12 of those saw at least three goals with eight having four or more.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Over 2.5 Goals at 2.48

Wednesday 27th June, 12:00am AEST

Australia might not be out of contention for the knockout phases just yet, but they’re certainly teetering on the brink and will need a win here to stand any chance of progression. Unfortunately for them, opportunities have been at a premium without a consistent goalscorer and they’ve had to rely on penalties to find their way to goal. This isn’t just an issue of VAR though, with each of the Aussie’s last five goals in competitive matches coming from Mile Jedinak – with four via the spot and another from a heavily deflected free-kick – and as such they could struggle to land another blow in this tournament.

At least one team has failed to net in eight of Peru’s last nine fixtures and given nine of their last 11 have seen fewer than three goals, Australia have their work cut out going forward. In fact, Peru haven’t conceded more than a single strike in any of their last 16 matches, but having scored two or more in nine of these, will fancy their chances at the other end. Australia have had six encounters with South American sides since 2013, losing four and drawing two, and having conceded 18 times across these they don’t appear up to the task.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Both Teams To Score – No at $1.98

 BACK – Peru to Win at $2.64

Wednesday 27th June, 12:00am AEST

A draw here would be a mutually beneficial result as it would guarantee France top the group and Denmark go through alongside them, no matter what happens between Australia and Peru. As a result, the market is suggesting a low-scoring draw, but we think this offers some value in the both teams to score market. We’ve backed both teams to score in each of France’s games and we felt we were unlucky it didn’t land against Peru as they were under pressure for much of the second half. Nevertheless, it was just their second clean sheet in their last eight and since 1990, a team on six points has taken on a team on four points for the final group game on nine occasions and both teams have scored in eight.

In Christian Eriksen, Denmark have a player who can hurt this slightly frail French defence and having carried his country through qualification the Spurs man is now leading from the front at the World Cup. He’s been involved in both their goals so far (one assist, one goal) and with 12 goals in his 14 competitive matches since the start of qualification he’s the most likely candidate to strike against this French defence.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Both Teams To Score – Yes at $2.25

 BACK – Christian Eriksen to Score at 4.40

Tuesday 26th June, 4:00am AEST

Morocco are heading home early, but not before facing a Spanish side who will be motivated to win knowing Portugal will have to better their result to take the group on goal difference. They’ll be confident of obtaining the right result however, having won their final group stage encounter at every World Cup since 1990, while they’ve emerged victorious in 19 of 20 competitive matches when facing teams outside the world’s top 20 according to our rankings.

The African side can’t look to history for much joy, with teams that have been beaten in their opening two games suffering the same fate in seven of eight final World Cup group matches since 1990 when facing top-10 opponents, including Australia’s 3-0 defeat to Spain four years ago. We can certainly see this one containing a few goals as well, with La Roja netting at least three times in six of their last nine competitive outings, while Diego Costa is in the hunt for the golden boot. However, with the African side failing to register a goal at the tournament so far, we don’t expect them to register one now, and so the 3-0 correct score is a tempting offer.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Spain 3-0 at $9.20

Tuesday 26th June, 4:00am AEST

Portugal may have been heavily reliant on Ronaldo in their opening two games but they won’t be perturbed by that, with this a side that knows its limitations and plays to their strengths. It’s seen them win 12 of 16 unbeaten competitive matches over 90 minutes, but they’ll have to work hard nonetheless versus a dogged Iranian defence.

Indeed, Iran have been level at the break in 14 of their last 20 matches, and while the vast majority of their opponents in that time can’t offer the firepower of Ronaldo and company, they showcased their mettle against Spain last time out as they held on for nearly an hour. That was the fourth time in their last six encounters with top-10 sides that they were Draw/Loss in the half-time/full-time market, including clashes with Argentina and Portugal themselves at the 2014 and 2006 World Cup’s respectively.

Should Iran hold down the fort until the interval, it doesn’t leave Portugal with too long to blow them away and a narrow win should be expected. Iran’s defensive outlook, no matter their opponents, has seen seven of their last 12 defeats finish 1-0, including five of their last six competitive losses, while Portugal have kept a clean sheet in seven of their last eight victories, with half of these ending 1-0.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Draw/Portugal HT/FT at $4.20

 BACK – Portugal 1-0 correct score at $6.80

Tuesday 26th June, 12:00am AEST

It’s no surprise to see both sides out of the competition. Not only were they grouped with the hosts – who have qualified through the group stages in all recent World Cup’s bar South Africa in 2010 – but they also faced one of the toughest defences in the world in Uruguay. Saudi Arabia were always unlikely to make a dent at the while Egypt had the double-edged sword of lots of distance to travel and an injury to their main man Mo Salah.

It’s just a 2h30m flight between Cairo and Riyadh but as the two sides play in different FIFA jurisdictions it’s quite rare for them to face each other. Egypt have won both of their meetings this century, but it’s been over a decade since they squared off in the 2007 Pan Arab Games.

While Saudi Arabia were solid enough at the back they offered little going forward and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see them play for a draw here. If Egypt get in the lead we don’t see Saudi Arabia scoring given they’ve failed to net in seven of their last eight World Cup matches. Egypt have been poor going forward and with doubts over Salah both teams not to score looks the safest bet of the lot.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Both Teams to Score No $1.90

Tuesday 26th June, 12:00am AEST

Both these teams are safely through to the next round, but they’ll want to win and keep building momentum through to the second round. Prior to the tournament starting, Uruguay would have been huge favourites to win this clash and while Russia have played well they’ve been made to look better than they really are by some poor opposition. Their form prior to that gave a better indicator of their true level as they’d gone six games without a win, while going back to Euro 2016 they’ve failed to win any of their 11 matches against teams we ranked inside the world’s top 20 (we have Uruguay 10th).

The South American’s have struggled to hit top form so far, but they’ve done what was required and they’ll be aiming to gradually improve. Furthermore, they’ve won 14 of their last 18 competitive matches against teams we had ranked outside the world’s top 20 with just one defeat. With Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani up front, plus a formidable defence, they may only need one chance and while they haven’t been at their best against Egypt or Saudi Arabia they look a massive price here.

Betting Strategy

 BACK – Uruguay Win at $2.75


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