World Cup group stage preview17th Jun 2018 |
Denmark vs Australia (Group C)
Australia came close to springing a surprise in their first World Cup encounter, losing 2-1 to France but giving Didier Deschamps’ men a scare on Saturday. The Socceroos were well organised and disciplined defensively, while they also ensured they offered enough of a counter-attacking threat to avoid being pinned back in their own half for too long. Denmark edged out Peru a few hours later to take a major step towards qualification for the knockout phase, with victory here likely to be enough to book them a place in the next round. Australia will not make life easy, though, and this could consequently be a low-scoring affair – consider a Denmark win in a game featuring fewer than 2.5 goals at 23/10.
France vs Peru (Group C)
France did not impress in their opening encounter, although it was vital that they still found a way to emerge victorious. A front three of Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele looked mouthwatering on paper, but the trio rarely combined and each of them failed to perform anywhere near their potential. Olivier Giroud will probably come into the team for this match, particularly as Peru can be vulnerable when forced to defend crosses into the penalty area. It may even be worth putting some money on the Chelsea striker finding the back of the net against opponents who will have to take a few risks having lost their first game to Denmark. Giroud to score any time is available at 6/5.
Argentina vs Croatia (Group D)
Argentina may have been among the top five favourites to win the World Cup before the action got under way, but that was an overestimation of their quality. Although Lionel Messi missed a spot-kick in the 1-1 draw with Iceland on Saturday, that encounter showed how reliant the Albiceleste are on their captain, who frequently dropped deep to pick up possession due to the midfield’s inability to progress the ball up the pitch. Croatia will also have to raise their game for this match, although their rather subdued showing against Nigeria was perfectly acceptable given they held the lead for around an hour. Given how many problems Argentina currently have, a sneaky beat on Croatia at 31/10 could pay dividends.
Nigeria vs Iceland (Group D)
Nigeria were one of the most disappointing teams in the first round of games, going down 2-0 to Croatia after an insipid performance. The Super Eagles did not seem to have any sort of discernible attacking game plan, with Chelsea’s Victor Moses relied upon for flashes of inspiration in the final third. Other key players such as Odion Ighalo, John Obi Mikel and Alex Iwobi were largely anonymous, and Iceland will certainly not hold any fear ahead of this clash in Vologograd. Heimir Hallgrimsson’s charges are perhaps the most well-organised team in the competition, and odds of 17/10 on an Iceland win look like good value.
Serbia vs Switzerland (Group E)
Serbia beat Costa Rica 1-0 in their first match in Russia, while Switzerland came from behind to draw 1-1 with pre-tournament favourites Brazil. Those positive results mean a win for either side here would see them take a huge step closer to the round of 16, although defeat for Serbia would be a blow given they still have to take on the Brazilians. With so much at stake this will probably be a tight, tense affair between two teams who will be keen to avoid mistakes, so my tip for this Group E encounter is a goalless first half – that particular wager can be found in the sportsbook at 13/10.