By Ken Boehlke
Argentina vs. Iran (Group F)
2 way line – Argentina -2.5 (+115) Iran +2.5 (-135)
3 way line – Argentina (-1150) Iran (+3000) Draw (+900)
Total – Over 3 (-125) Under 3 (-105)
Side: Argentina were far from their best in their opening match with Bosnia and Herzegovina. They were gifted an own goal three minutes into the match, and then got a much needed moment of brilliance from superstar Lionel Messi. The Argentinians looked timid defensively at times against the Bosnia and Herzegovina attack, and they didn’t commit the numbers forward that most expected. In the match against Iran they will want to show that they are ready to grab with World Cup by the horns and cement themselves as the tournaments’ second favorites. They’ll control the ball for something near 70% of the match but breaking down the incredibly compact Iran defense will not be an easy task. Expect Argentina to throw everything they have at Iran early to try and score one and open up the stronghold in front of the Iranian net, but frustration may set in if they don’t score early against a team they believe is far inferior.
Carlos Quieroz got exactly what he asked for in Iran’s first match with Nigeria. His team played tight on defense and they had two or three chances going forward, one of which took a masterful save to keep Reza Ghoochannejhad from heading one home. Nigeria held possession for 63% of the match yet only took 10 shots and six on net. Iran looked difficult to solve and they didn’t find themselves out of position a single time in the match. Going up against Argentina will be a completely different assignment though. Iran will see even less of the ball, the attacking chances will be even fewer and farther between, and the Argentinian attack is light-years beyond anything Nigeria threw at them. This being said, it’s still hard to believe Iran would concede more than twice in any match. In their last 25 matches, they’ve allowed more than two goals just once and let in one or fewer in 23 of them. Iran have not seen anything like they’ll see against Argentina, but they still should be able to hold strong a good portion of the match. Pick: 2 way bet – Iran +2.5 (-135)
Total: The first thing that should come to mind when analyzing a game involving Iran should always be the under, and even though they are playing a top side in a virtual road environment, the under should still be heavily considered. There is something like a 1% chance Iran score in the match so Argentina will have to provide the entire total. It’s not unfathomable that the White and Sky Blue score multiple goals, but they also understand any path to three points qualifies them for the knockout stages so they won’t be pressing for goals two, three or four. Due to the fact that Argentina will see a majority of the possession, they’ll have no choice but to get forward and try to score. The question is, at what point do they call off the dogs? Three goals will probably suit them just fine, four might just be cruel. Pick: Under 3 goals (-105)
Germany vs. Ghana (Group G)
2 way line – Germany -1.5 (-110) Ghana +1.5 (-110)
3 way line – Germany (-395) Ghana (+1000) Draw (+510)
Total – Over 3 (-110) Under 3 (-110)
Side: The Germans were superb in their game against Portugal. Despite playing without a true striker, Germany was all over the Portuguese defense and made life a living hell for goalkeeper Rui Patrício. The match opened up substantially after Pepe inexplicably headbutted Thomas Müller, however even had Portugal played the entire match with the full cast of 11 men they still would have had troubles slowing down Die Mannschaft. Expect a tougher task for the Germans against Ghana. Not necessarily because Ghana are a better team but because Ghana play a much more aggressive style and won’t allow Germany to control the ball through the midfield like they were able to do in the opener. The Germans should still create a number of good chances, but Ghana will not be overwhelmed and have their backs against the wall.
Ghana conceded to the United States within the first minute of the match. The instant goal changed the game and caused all of the preconceived notions of how each team would play to be thrown out the window. Ghana dominated possession, but despite equalizing in the 82nd minute they did not create nearly as many chances as they probably should have. They continued to move the ball through the American midfield into the final third but could never seem to get the final ball right. It took a brilliant diagonal pass followed by a spectacular back heel to set up the shot that finally beat Tim Howard. Ghana will need more special combination play like this if they expect to score on the giant German defense. Ghana will start the match with 11 men, so they’ll be more dangerous by default, but they must focus as much attention as possible towards playing the ball into the German zone. If they don’t, Germany will pick them apart over and over again, and the Black Stars will be sent home much earlier than they wished. Pick: 3 way bet: Germany (-395)
Total: Ghana must attempt to score against Germany, they cannot expect a defense that was rarely tested against the U.S., and conceded twice when they were, to be able to hold the Germans out over the course of the 90 minute match. Because of this, they’ll likely commit numbers forward and could become vulnerable on the counter-attack. Counter is not the game plan for Germany, but that doesn’t mean they can’t do it. Germany will likely posses the ball for a good portion of the game and will create goal scoring opportunities regularly, but it’s the Ghanaians that will determine the openness of the match. Expect Ghana to attack this game early and try to shock Germany. It won’t stop there either, the Black Stars will have to keep attacking to avoid allowing Germany to pick them apart. Pick: Over 3 goals (-110)
Bosnia and Herzegovina vs. Nigeria (Group F)
2 way line – Bosnia and Herzegovina -0.5 (-110) Nigeria +0.5 (-110)
3 way line – Bosnia and Herzegovina (-110) Nigeria (+310) Draw (+250)
Total – Over 2.5 (-105) Under 2.5 (-115)
Side: The Dragons of Bosnia and Herzegovina held up quite well against Argentina. Defensively they seemed to frustrate the Argentinian attack and they didn’t have nearly the difficulty pressing forward as was to be expected. Now, they face a much easier attack in the struggling Nigerians. Bosnia and Herzegovina are not a team that normally holds much possession in matches, but it’s hard to believe they won’t in this one. They were caught off guard when Argentina changed their tactical formation at half and it likely cost them a well deserved chance at a point. They’ll have a much better understanding of the Nigerian shape and shouldn’t have to worry about any drastic shifts in style during the match. Bosnia and Herzegovina made it difficult for Argentina to score, they won’t have any problems slowing down the Super Eagles.
Nigeria held possession of the ball for most of the match against Iran. Yet, they only created three legitimate goal scoring chances and weren’t able to convert on any of them. It’s been an ongoing problem for the Super Eagles who just cannot seem to figure out that final piece that leads to goals. They’ll face an uphill battle against the Dragons when the teams meet in Cuiabá. Nigeria will not only see less of the ball but they’ll be challenged much more in the midfield than Iran did in the opening game. Plus, in this match they face an attack minded side rather than a team trying to sit back and keep a clean sheet. Bosnia and Herzegovina are one of the most underrated sides in the entire tournament and the opening loss won’t help public opinion. But anyone who’s watched what Nigeria has presented in the previous month know they are simply not ready for a tournament of this magnitude. Pick: Bosnia and Herzegovina (-110)
Total: Even though Bosnia and Herzegovina only scored once, they looked dangerous when they moved into attacking positions. They’ll have many more chances in this match as Nigeria will be unable to handle the Dragons pressure defense. The game should open up early as both teams understand they need a victory if they want to move forward in the group. Bosnia and Herzegovina should be able to score while Nigeria will need to buck a nasty trend if they are to break through. The Dragons know scoring on Iran in their final match will be difficult so they’ll want to focus on goal difference now rather than wait. Nigeria also understand that their next match is against Argentina so this is really their last chance to put points on the board. Pick: Over 2.5 goals (-105)