By Ken Boehlke
Colombia vs. Ivory Coast (Group C)
2 way line – Colombia -0.5 (+110) Ivory Coast +0.5 (-130)
3 way line – Colombia (+110) Ivory Coast (+260) Draw (+235)
Total – Over 2.5 (+100) Under 2.5 (-120)
Side: No Falcao, no problem. Colombia were exquisite in their opener against Greece. An early goal set the tone and they continued the dominance through the entire 90 minutes. Despite only controlling the ball for 46% of the match, Los Cafeteros were in control of the match from the onset. The road gets tougher though as they head into their second group stage game with Ivory Coast. The Ivorians will be much more proactive than Greece were against Colombia, so the Coffee Growers will have to be a lot more careful in the midfield where they gave the ball up to Greece far too often via fouls and turnovers. Both teams come in with three points and in control of the group, so this may be more of a feel out game in which both are just looking to come away with a point. That’s not typical South American soccer, but it certainly would suit both sides.
Ivory Coast were one of the many teams in the first group of matches that fell behind early and then came back to win the match. The Elephants looked a bit lost without their star Didier Drogba on the pitch to start the match and they were tagged early by a brilliant strike from Keisuke Honda. The match turned on a dime though when Drogba entered in the second half. He turned the Ivory Coast from Popeye pre-spinach to post-spinach, and they instantly looked the better side. They’ll face a much more difficult defense when they meet up with Colombia and falling behind could be fatal in this match. It’ll be interesting to see if Drogba starts or if they use the “spinach method” again. As mentioned above, a draw suits both, so if one team doesn’t jump out early, it could be a midfielders game. Pick: 2 way bet – Ivory Coast +0.5 (-130) [If looking for a nice long shot, take the draw +235]
Total: Both teams netted multiple goals in their openers, but this one will be a much tighter match for each as they both seek a point. Colombia jumped out early in their match while the Ivory Coast struggled in the opening minutes. Colombia may try to take advantage of this and if they can, an early goal would change the entire complexion of the game. If they can’t, both teams should settle into the midfield and take calculated shots forward only when they have coverage. Despite the fact that both teams have strong scoring histories, this one could easily land on one or even zero goals. Pick: Under 2.5 goals (-120)
Uruguay vs. England (Group D)
2 way line – Uruguay +0.5 (-135) England -0.5 (+115)
3 way line – Uruguay (+245) England (+115) Draw (+235)
Total – Over 2.5 (+100) Under 2.5 (-120)
Side: Uruguay jumped out to a 1-0 lead after Edinson Cavani converted a penalty. They carried that lead into the second half, but it all went downhill from there. The game opened up and the Ticos took advantage of the suddenly unorganized Uruguayan defense. The same problems that hampered Uruguay during their tumultuous qualifying campaign reared their ugly heads again and they became the victims of one of the biggest surprises of the first group of matches. Things must change quickly or they will be exposed over and over again by England. Uruguay must play together much better as a unit on the defensive end, and they have to get a better link up between the midfield and strikers. Even in the half in which they controlled play, they still were not peppering the goalie with shots because the service was rarely provided properly. Straighten up in the back, and then let the elite strikers at the front do their jobs, otherwise, it’ll be a quick and ugly exit.
The English looked dangerous for the first 60 minutes of their opener with Italy. They found space in between the Italians regularly and were able to create multiple chances around the net. Then they hit a wall known as the Amazon jungle. After Mario Balotelli scored the go-ahead goal, the Three Lions looked out of gas and despite controlling possession for most of the latter portion of the second half they never truly threatened the Italian goal. The good news is that the next game is not in Manaus, and if they put together an identical effort, they should make life very difficult on Uruguay. If they can get anything out of Raheem Sterling, or his replacement, and if Wayne Rooney can finally break the hex that haunts him in World Cups, England could be dangerous not only in this match, but moving forward in the tournament. Pick: England (+115)
Total: England spent a nice amount of time in the Italian third, yet only managed one goal and had just a few other true goal scoring chances. Uruguay will be keenly focused on fixing the problems they experienced at the back against Costa Rica, so breaking them down should be much more difficult than it was for the Ticos. However, there are so many excellent attackers on the field so it’s hard to imagine a match without its fair share of chances. For Uruguay, focus on defense doesn’t always mean improvement, and for the English will be dealing with an equally potent attack that they conceded twice to. Pick: Over 2.5 goals (+100)
Japan vs. Greece (Group C)
2 way line – Japan -0.5 (+115) Greece +0.5 (-135)
3 way line – Japan (+115) Greece (+240) Draw (+240)
Total – Over 2.5 (+110) Under 2.5 (-130)
Side: Japan looked the better side for the first 60+ minutes of their match with the Ivory Coast, then Didier Drogba entered and the Samurai Warriors were overwhelmed. Luckily for Japan, Greece are eons away from the Ivory Coast when it comes to attacking prowess. Japan are a crafty team that have the ability to score from all over the field. They’ll need to come up with some special ideas if they want to break down the Greek defense, but they have only been shutout twice in their previous 16 matches so odds are in their favor to find a way to get a goal. Defensively, Japan were confusing and at times frustrating the Elephants attack in the opener, but completely broke down when Drogba added that extra dimension. Greece will attempt to counter the Samurai Warriors, but Japan should have no problem holding up defensively against the feeble Greek attack.
Greece allowed a goal to Colombia within five minutes of the opening kick. Normally, when a team concedes so early, they spend the majority of the match on the offensive trying to chase the game. With the Greeks, they held the ball, but rarely carried it into scoring zones with much conviction. Greece always wants to play with a defense first mentality, but after dropping a game and falling down three goals in differential, they’ll have no choice but to try and play a more aggressive game. Against Colombia, they were stunned and never able to properly set up an attacking formation. Now, they’ve had five days to set up a plan that will enable them to get forward. Unfortunately for the Greeks, they just don’t have the pieces to do it. Pick: Japan (+115)
Total: Japan are typically a team that plays over the total, while Greece almost always play under the total. Both are in a bit of a bind having lost their first match so each desperately need a win. It’s unlikely Greece get on the scoresheet more than once, and Japan’s play attack the central defense style will play right into the hands of the Greek defense. The line may be inflated due to the nature of the score lines early in the tournament. Good scoring chances will be few and far between, and with one side unlikely to score, the pick becomes easy. Pick: Under 2.5 goals (-130)