By Ken Boehlke
Italy vs. Uruguay (Group D)
2 way line – Italy PK (-105) Uruguay PK (-115)
3 way line – Italy (+175) Uruguay (+170) Draw (+215)
Total – Over 2.5 (+110) Under 2.5 (-130)
Side: Italy seemed lost in their defeat at the hands of Costa Rica. They couldn’t maintain possession of the ball, they couldn’t figure out how to get Andrea Pirlo involved, and most importantly they couldn’t stay onside. Costa Rica caught Italy offside 11 times in the match and it majorly frustrated Mario Balotelli. Defensively, Italy was solid but a few breakdowns on the back side allowed the Ticos the game winning goal. They’ll have to shape up if they want to stay in this World Cup. Against Uruguay expect to see a more proactive side through the midfield and fewer attempts over the top of the defense. The Azurri also will have to deal with a suddenly potent Uruguayan attack since the return of Luis Suarez. Non-European teams appear to have a hex on the Euros, Italy have a major chance to change that, but they’ll need a better effort from Balotelli.
Uruguay looked stunned when they lost to Costa Rica, then they came back against England and played far better. The re-entry of Luis Suarez changed the entire look of the Uruguay attack. Suarez coming back in allowed Edinson Cavani to drop a bit further back and mark Steven Gerrard. They’ll likely employ the same strategy with Pirlo. With both Italy and England, if you cut off the head of the snake (Gerrard and Pirlo) their ability to get the ball forward lacks. Uruguay will attempt to control the ball through the midfield with short quick passes that could make life difficult for the Italian midfield. Uruguay know they need not only a result, but a win, if they want to move on. They’ll play an attack minded style that could play right into the hands of the Italian counter. Pick: 3 way bet – Draw (+215)
Total: The game should be rather open despite the quality of both defenses. Uruguay will attempt to punch Italy in the mouth seeing them as wounded after the Costa Rica loss. The Azzurri should be able to put together a few counter attacks that will slow down the numbers Uruguay will send them early. Balotelli must be better in this game and he understands the pressure is on, expect him to rise to the occasion and make life hell on the very good Uruguayan defenders. Italy have promised they are not the old Italian side that will sit back and let teams comes at them. However, they know a draw will do, so it might be in their best interest. Nonetheless, Uruguay will not be held at bay and their desperation could present great opportunities for Italy. Pick: Over 2.5 goals (+110)
England vs. Costa Rica (Group D)
2 way line – England -0.5 (-125) Costa Rica +0.5 (+105)
3 way line – England (-125) Costa Rica (+335) Draw (+275)
Total – Over 2.5 (-120) Under 2.5 (+100)
Side: England are eliminated from the tournament after two sub-par efforts. The match against Italy showed some promise but they were unable to build on it when they came up against an equally desperate Uruguay. The English could not get anything going for a majority of the match because Steven Gerrard was locked down. Wayne Rooney was actually pretty darn good in the tournament finally getting his long awaited goal, but there was the lack of quality underneath him that eventually did the English in. They will empty the bench for the match with Costa Rica. It could actually be a positive for England because they’ll have the ability to let the young players loose and see what the future of their side may become. They’ll definitely play an open style of game that will hopefully mean a quicker game as well. The Ticos may not play their full first side either so the game could really go either way.
Costa Rica continue their incredible run in the tournament and are now guaranteed a spot in the Round of 16. Brian Ruiz’s headed goal was an earth shaker and was truly deserved from the way the Ticos had played the match up to that point. Aggressive defense has been the name of the game for Costa Rica thus far. They’ve jumped all over their opponents and in turn have been able to get into their attack remarkably quickly. They were effectively able to crowd Andrea Pirlo therefore forcing Italy to play through someone else in the midfield, something they weren’t prepared for. Certainly a risky style, but it’s paid off perfectly in their first two matches. Despite a number of changes in players, they’ll keep the same style against England. The inexperience of the English players could open up some chances for the Ticos. Costa Rica has a group to win, England is simply playing to try and restore some pride. Underdogs and a plus price. Yes sir. Side: 2 way bet – Costa Rica +0.5 (+105)
Total: Pressure from the Costa Rican midfield coupled with English players trying to impress should combine to make an exciting open match. The Ticos have shown an ability to score even against top notch defenders and England have the type of players that can take advantage of the risky Costa Rican style. It’s possible Jorge Luis Pinto opts to hold budding star Joel Campbell out of the finale which could cause Costa Rica to struggle in the final third. But, with the disparity between the top team in Group C and the runner up, its likely Costa Rica will want that point that will put them atop the group and avoid Colombia. The English media will not have much positive things to say about their national team’s effort in Brazil, but a high scoring affair in the swan song match can only help, that should be enough to motivate England. Pick: Over 2.5 goals (-120)
Colombia vs. Japan (Group C)
2 way line – Colombia -0.5 (+135) Japan +0.5 (-155)
3 way line – Colombia (+135) Japan (+200) Draw (+235)
Total – Over 2.5 (+100) Under 2.5 (-120)
Side: Los Cafeteros have inspired South America with their joyous return to the world stage. After a thorough drubbing of Greece they put together a clinical effort against the Ivory Coast. Colombia simply allowed Ivory Coast to play right into their hands and then jumped on them in the counter attack. In the opener, Ivory Coast brought on Didier Drogba and were instantly dangerous. Colombia turned Drogba’s entrance against them. When he came on, the Ivory Coast attempted to get even further forward, and it was the perfect time for the Colombians to attack. A goal on the set piece and then another one in the run of play from a substitute bodes well for Colombia moving forward. They’ll likely play a much more aggressive style against Japan. Expecting to own more possession in the midfield they should be able to provide more consistent service up to Teófilo Gutiérrez and James Rodriguez (assuming both play). Scoring shouldn’t be an issue, it’s just a question of if they’ll have the discipline it takes to keep the Japanese offense at bay.
Japan could just never put it together against a Greek team that played down a man for more than 50 minutes of the match. The Samurai Warriors want to play the ball low and quick directly through the center of the defense. Unfortunately, that played perfectly into the suddenly compact 10-man shape of Greece. Japan had chance after chance but couldn’t ever put it all together. The Japanese must have a win and also get an Ivory Coast loss or draw to move forward. The goal differential would not be in their favor unless they can muster up a two goal win. Therefore, they’ll want to stay on the offensive as much as they can without just giving away chances to the dangerous Colombians. Japan’s style can work against Colombia, but they have to find that killer instinct in the final third rather than waiting for the absolutely perfect chance. Pick: Colombia (+135)
Total: Japan will look to attack knowing a victory is the only way through. Colombia should attempt to control possession as much as possible but the Japanese attack will be relentless. Counters have been successful for Los Cafeteros and could be used to perfection against a desperate side. Colombia know a draw will secure the top spot in this rather soft group, but playing in front of 70,000 plus rabid South Americans could influence them to make a run at a win. Both teams do have the metal to score in the match, but the Colombians have been a lot better in defense than was to be expected pre-tournament. If Japan get one early, they’ll look to get the 2nd to control goal differential. However, a third goal does them no good so they could opt to drop into a shell if they get there. Colombia only needing a draw could get in the way of their affinity to counter with as much vengeance. Styles say this will be an open match, but tournament scenarios override styles almost every time. Pick: Under 2.5 goals (-120)
Ivory Coast vs. Greece (Group C)
2 way line – Ivory Coast -0.5 (+105) Greece +0.5 (-125)
3 way line – Ivory Coast (+105) Greece(+275) Draw (+235)
Total – Over 2.5 (+120) Under 2.5 (-140)
Side: The Elephants were shocked by a pair of quick goals less than six minutes apart. However, they responded well to the shot in the mouth. Gervinho’s individual brilliance immediately changed the tune of the match when he scored a masterful goal. Colombia went from euphoria to almost a state of panic while Ivory Coast felt an equalizer would come. The Ivory Coast threw waves of attacks at the Colombians and for some odd reason, Colombia continued to try and counter them rather than just playing to safety. Ivory Coast shouldn’t have too many problems against the Greeks. They will continue to try and attack up the wings by getting the defensive backs forward and stretch the Greek defense. It’ll be interesting to see if the Greek defense wants to stay compact or if they’ll be willing to actually make an attempt at advancing by getting a win and turning around a large goal differential hole. If Greece stays tight, it could be another scoreless draw, if not the Ivory Coast will eat them alive.
After getting smoked by a hot Colombian team the Greeks felt as if Japan would be a perfect side in which to steal three points. Then Kostas Katsouranis was shown a red card and they decided their only chance to survive in the tournament was to keep Japan out of their goal for the remainder of the game. Mission accomplished, and they are not eliminated, but their chances are on a respirator. Greece must have a win, which is unlikely, and a Japan loss or draw. For a team that has yet to score in the tournament it’s hard to imagine they’ll be able to get a result off a solid Ivory Coast team. Greece will have to pick their spots and take advantage of the moments when the Ivorian backs wander too far forward. There should be opportunities for the Greeks to get forward, they just may not have the pace nor players to take those chances. Pick: Ivory Coast (+105)
Total: An Ivory Coast win of any score will be enough for them to move on to the knockout round for the first time in the African nation’s history. The tournament is begging Greece to get forward and try to attack, but they still won’t do it. Greek matches that see multiple goals do not come around too often. Expect Ivory Coast to get after the Greeks early and often, but it’ll take something special to break them down. They eventually will and then the game should flip. Greece should attack and Ivory Coast should bunker down to secure their spot in the next round. Greece may try, but what will wind up happening is the ball will be bounced around the middle and Ivory Coast will be perfectly fine not exposing their defense anymore and sitting on the 1-0 lead without the Greeks ever truly threatening them. It could be awfully boring, but it should work for the Elephants. Pick: Under 2.5 goals (-140)