World Cup Picks: France vs. Nigeria, Germany vs. Algeria

By Ken Boehlke

France vs. Nigeria (E1 vs. F2)
2 way line (90 minutes) – France -1 (-125) Nigeria +1 (+105)
3 way line (90 minutes) – France (-210) Nigeria (+620) Draw (+325)
Outright Winner – France (-440) Nigeria (+360)
Total – Over 2.5 (-110) Under 2.5 (-110)

Side: Les Bleus had a hugely successful group stage in which they collected two wins before switching their squad and still earning a draw that felt like a win against Ecuador. Offensively the French have looked like the most dangerous team in the tournament field and individually Karim Benzema has been stupendous. The counter-attack France has put together thus far has to strike fear in any opposing side. The match against Switzerland was an absolute clinic in using speed in space to make a great defense look pedestrian. Against Nigeria they will likely return to the same tactical strategy deployed against Honduras. Essentially, the diamond midfield controls the match, while Mathieu Valbuena floats around and pops up in dangerous positions, and Benzema reaps the rewards of the French breaking down the opposing midfield and leaving the defense exposed. Nigeria will sit back and let France play into their hands so the French counter will be void while the match is tied, but Nigeria will have a miserable time trying to get out of the own end and the moment they concede, France will counter to the tune of three or four goals.

Nigeria has relied upon physical strength and speed to advance out of the group stage. The key match was a 1-0 victory over Bosnia and Herzegovina where Peter Odemwingie and Emmanuel Emenike exposed the right side of the Bosnian defense and wound up fouling their way to the game’s only goal. France has been good along the wings defensively so Nigeria may need to find a new way to get the job done in this elimination game. A better plan will be something similar to the style they played against Argentina. The Super Eagles identified the center of the Argentian defense as a weak spot. They played hard low passes through the channels and wound up freeing up Ahmed Musa multiple times that led to two goals. The French have been good along the back line and the central defense appears to be playing steady soccer, but the Nigerians won’t have many other options rather than trying to counter off midfield mistakes and then attempt to jam the ball down France’s throat. Nigeria is an underrated offensive side, but they will be on the attack so infrequently early in the match that it’s almost unfathomable to believe they can get a lead. It will likely take a mistake or France wearing down for Nigeria to grab the upper hand. Pick: 2 way 90 minute bet – France -1 (-125)

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Total: Aside from the 0-0 draw against Ecuador, a match in which they missed about 15 chances, the French were the best attacking team in the group stage. France will see a majority of the ball early and should be able to break down a Nigerian defense that looked suspect against Argentina. The Nigerian shell worked against Bosnia, but things could have been much different if one of the many Edin Džeko opportunities had been converted. France have players all over the field that are brimming with confidence so holding them out will be very difficult. Once France scores, the game will open up and the French counter-attack will be lurking. As long as Les Bleus can get one in the first 45 minutes, this game should fly over the total. Pick: Over 2.5 goals (-110)

 

Germany vs. Algeria (G1 vs. H2)
2 way line (90 minutes) – Germany -1.5 (-115) Algeria +1.5 (-105)
3 way line (90 minutes) – Germany (-400) Algeria (+1000) Draw (+450)
Outright Winner – Germany (-900) Algeria (+600)
Total – Over 3 (-105) Under 3 (-115)

Side: Even though they went unbeaten through group stage, scored seven goals while allowing just two, and advanced to the knockout rounds without even an ounce of anxiety, it still feels like the best German side has yet to show up in Brazil. The 4-0 stomping of Portugal was mainly due to Pepe’s idiot red card. The 2-2 draw against Ghana showed a major weakness on the right side of the German defense, and the 1-0 defeat of the U.S. felt like a subdued effort in order to ensure there wouldn’t be a disaster. Now could be the perfect time for Die Mannschaft to turn it on and truly turn into the machine that made UEFA qualifying look like a walk in the park. However, they are facing an Algerian side that may be the most overlooked team in the tournament and could pose a similar threat to that of Ghana. The Germans will have control of the ball often but they must be conscious of the Algerian attack as it has been potent thus far. Algeria could have issues with Thomas Müller’s movement as African sides almost never come up against false-nines. The big advantage that could be the difference in the match will be Jerome Boateng’s ability to get forward from his right back position. When he overlaps Mesut Özil and Bastian Schweinsteiger it becomes almost impossible to defend all the players in the center. Germany have elite goal scorers all over the field, the Algerians will have to try and stay in front and inside of them all night long, otherwise the German’s will make a very solid Algerian defense look like boys among men.

Algeria have quietly put together two solid efforts after a tough defeat to Belgium in their opening group stage match. The Desert Foxes ripped apart a small South Korean defense and then did well to equalize and get the result they needed on a historic night for Algerian soccer in Curitiba. Now they are on to the knockout round for the first time in the African nation’s history and have the tall task of taking on the three-time champion Germans. Algeria has impressed with their new-found ability to get forward while staying organized along the back four. Sofiane Feghouli has been the linchpin that has made this Algerian side go. When he’s on the ball, the Desert Foxes always look threatening to go forward. The combination play between Feghouli and striker Islam Slimani has gotten better and better as the tournament has progressed and they’ll need the pair to continue their positive play if they have any shot against Germany. Against Russia, the Algerians struggled to get going early, but the moment they decided to play the match wider, they were able to open up the Russian defense. They will likely drop into a defensive shell against Germany for a good potion of the match, but they’ve shown the ability to break out and get forward when the game allows it. Algeria must take advantage of the empty space on the left flank when Boateng pushes too far forward. The Desert Foxes have already advanced further than most expected, so a solid effort against Germany would be gravy on top of successful 2014 campaign. Often times teams with nothing to lose can be dangerous, but this German team is just too tough for Algeria to overcome in their first trip to the Round of 16. Pick: 2 way 90 minute bet – Germany (-400)

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Total: Even though Algeria has played a much more positive style in this World Cup and Germany are a threat to score at any point, the Desert Foxes should be good enough defensively to keep this a tight match. Germany will eventually break through and take a lead, but Algeria has shown that even after conceding their defense does not fall apart. Defensively, Germany will make it incredibly tough in the rare opportunities Algeria has to get the ball forward. Most expect a German runaway but Algeria are good enough at the back to hold down the fort and they can be threatening going forward. Things can change if Germany gets one quickly, but otherwise, it’s likely to be a battle in the Algerian third. Pick: Under 3 goals (-115)

Listen to Over and Under with Ken Boehlke and Jason Pothier on CBS Sports Radio 1140 every Sunday morning from 8 to 10. Follow the show on Twitter @OAU1140 and on Facebook.

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