By Ken Boehlke
Mexico vs. Cameroon (Group A)
2 way line – Mexico -0.5 (+125) Cameroon +0.5 (-145)
3 way line – Mexico (+125) Cameroon (+250) Draw (+215)
Total – Over 2 (-105) Under 2 (-115)
Side: El Tri are still thanking their lucky stars, and Graham Zusi specifically, that they are even in the tournament, but not that they’re here, they expect success. Once again Mexico have been drawn into Group A with the hosts, however, yet again the group sets up well for our neighbors to the South. The opening match with Cameroon will not be a walk in the park though. Mexico’s recent form has been shaky at best. Losses to Portugal and Bosnia in friendlies are bad enough, but the real trouble is that the Mexican attack hasn’t found the back of the net in more than 200 minutes of soccer.
Cameroon find themselves in their seventh World Cup, but they’ve tasted success only once in 1990, the only time they’ve advanced to the knockout rounds. As always with the Indomitable Lions, Samuel Eto’o is the key man in attack. Cameroon relies on the Chelsea man to hook up with Pierre Webó to score goals. They are incredibly dangerous in attack, but it often leaves them vulnerable in defense, and they are especially poor on set pieces. Should be an interesting game, but it’s hard to project one side getting the better of the other. Add that with the usual timidness that accompanies opening matches and that +215 looks awfully juicy. Pick: 3 way bet – Draw (+215)
Total: Cameroon has scored at least one goal in each of its last six fixtures while Mexico has been shutout in three of its previous six. El Tri have had a miserable time scoring goals in competitive matches as they limped through CONCACAF qualifying, and the recent friendlies haven’t eased those fears. Cameroon is a solid opponent for Mexico to come up against because of their often porous defense, however two goals still seems like a tall task. This one will absolutely not be a shootout, and the total is most likely to land on two as a push, but the safe play (and the correct one) is the under. One-nil or a goal-less draw shouldn’t shock anyone. Pick: Under 2 goals (-115)
Spain vs. Netherlands (Group B)
2 way line – Spain -0.5 (-120) Netherlands +0.5 (+100)
3 way line – Spain (-120) Netherlands (+400) Draw (+230)
Total – Over 2 (-125) Under 2 (+105)
Side: It’s hard to come up with something negative to say about the two-time defending European champion and defending World Cup champion La Furia Roja, except for the fact that they have a habit of sleeping through the first match of big tournaments. Spain lost to Switzerland in their opener in South Africa at the 2010 World Cup, and finished at a 1-1 draw with Italy to open Euro 2012. They’ve been good recently and blew through qualifying, but haven’t overwhelmed any opponent they’ve faced since the 10-0 drubbing of poor Tahiti at Confederations Cup 2013. The opening match with Holland is a repeat of the 2010 World Cup final and is certainly one of the most anticipated group stage matches scheduled.
This is not the Netherlands of 2010 however. They were abysmal at Euro 2012 and are hoping to erase the demons of the extra time loss to Spain that robbed them of their first ever World Cup title. The Oranje love to get forward and put pressure on the opposing defense, but in matches with Spain that’s easier said than done. The Spanish act like it’s their goal to posses the ball for 90% or more of the match, so attacking opportunities are few and far between for opponents. Holland will likely pressure Spain through the midfield with Wesley Sneijder and Nigel De Jong, and then will look to instantly transition the ball up to their potent attack led by captain Robin Van Persie. Expect Spain to wind up with control of the ball for a majority of the fixture, but Holland to find the back of the net at least once. Pick: 2 way bet – Netherlands +0.5 (+100)
Total: The 2010 World Cup final was played to a 0-0 draw until Andrés Iniesta broke the tie with his 116th minute winner. Both teams played hesitant and rather reluctant to go forward in the biggest match in each nation’s history, but it shouldn’t go the same way in Brazil. Neither team is afraid of the stage, so the opening match jitters should dissipate within seconds of kick-off. Both teams know they have an easy win in Australia coming up and both expect to be able to handle Chile. Therefore, each will look to strike early and often to take control of the group. Neither side has lit the net on fire in recent matches, but when the bright lights turn on, expect bright play to follow. Pick: Over 2 goals (-125)
Chile vs. Australia (Group B)
2 way line – Chile -1 (-120) Australia +1 (+100)
3 way line – Chile (-210) Australia (+650) Draw (+320)
Total – Over 2.5 (+115) Under 2.5 (-135)
Side: A dream opening match awaits Chile when it arrives at the Arena Pantanal in Cuiabá. The Socceroos might be the worst team in the tournament while the Chileans may be one of the most underrated. La Roja play a fun style of soccer in which they pressure their opponents at every turn and then attack from outside-in relying on service from the wings into the penalty area. Alexis Sánchez is the man to watch as it would come as more of a surprise if he does not score than if he does in the opening match. The Chileans have been hot in recent friendlies with wins over World Cup bound England, Costa Rica, and Ecudaor and their only defeats in the calendar year came in matches to Brazil and Germany, both games in which they showed well.
Australia meanwhile still confide heavily on the MLS-based 34-year-old Tim Cahill. The Socceroos had a difficult time even reaching Brazil in the improving Asian Football Confederation. They’ll attempt to counterattack Chile every time possible, but the difference in talent between the two sides is vast. The game should be relatively open and free flowing as Australia seems committed to playing a high paced attack style of game. Nonetheless, the Australians are really up against it in this match. Chile should have numerous opportunities in front of the net, and with Holland and Spain waiting in the wings, they’ll want to get a head start on the ever important goal differential category. La Roja won’t be satisfied until they are up by multiple goals, as they understand the difference between advancing and heading home may come down to who beats up on the groups’ whipping boy the best. Pick: 2 way bet – Chile -1 (-120)
Total: Australia have made a habit of getting blasted when they come up against better sides. 6-0 losses to both Brazil and France have Chile seeing blood in the water. Obviously the Chileans do not bring the same quality as the Brazilians or French, but they aren’t that far off when it comes to attacking prowess. In an August friendly against Iraq, Chile scored 6 goals and kept a clean sheet. During Australia’s qualifying process they needed an 82nd minute goal at home to beat the same Iraqi squad 1-0. Playing Chile in South America will be a majorly different task, so goalkeeper Matthew Ryan better be at his best, otherwise he’ll be spending a lot of time picking balls out of the back of his own net. Pick: Over 2.5 goals (+115)