World Cup group stage preview19th Jun 2018 |
South Korea vs Mexico (Group F)
South Korea were disappointing in their opening game, turning in an unconvincing all-round performance in a 1-0 defeat by Sweden. This is a team utterly reliant on star man Son Heung-min, but the Koreans struggled to turn a handful of counter-attacks into meaningful scoring opportunities on Monday afternoon. Mexico, by contrast, were exhilarating on the break in their magnificent 1-0 victory over holders Germany, a win which could have been by an even bigger margin had they been a touch more efficient in the final third. El Tri will have to approach this game different, but another win and clean sheet looks good value at 7/5.
Germany vs Sweden (Group F)
Germany’s display against Mexico was genuinely concerning, with the Mannschaft made to look vulnerable in a way they have not for several years. Joachim Low’s side suddenly looked one-paced, open and unable to guard against the opposition counter-attack, signs which will no doubt have been picked up on by Sweden boss Janne Andersson. The Swedes deserved their 1-0 win against South Korea on Monday but they will take a different approach to Mexico here, with Andersson preferring to defend deep and pack men behind the ball. Germany may therefore have to work hard for their breakthrough, but it is hard to see them slipping up again. Back Low’s men to win a game featuring fewer than 2.5 goals at odds of 43/20.
Belgium vs Tunisia (Group G)
Belgium beat Panama 3-0 in their opening encounter, but they did not have everything their own way against Hernan Gomez’s charges. Indeed, the Red Devils’ tactics were again called into question and they relied on individual magic to get the job done, although that will probably be enough to see them past Tunisia at the weekend. A side featuring Kevin De Bruyne, Dries Mertens, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku is capable of scoring goals for fun against weaker opposition, and I expect them to keep a clean sheet and find the back of the net over 2.5 times themselves – a bet which can be found at a price of 27/10.
England vs Panama (Group G)
England left it late before overcoming Tunisia last time out, but Harry Kane’s header in second-half stoppage time brought them all three points; that was a huge goal for the Three Lions, who will be full of confidence ahead of their second match as a result. Panama’s World Cup debut may have ended in a 3-0 loss to Belgium on Monday, but they did themselves proud – particularly with a dogged, resolute first-half showing. The Canal Men have one of the oldest squads in the competition and England have one of the youngest, and the latter’s energy and dynamism will surely prove too much for the CONCACAF nation in this one. A wager on an England win by a three-goal margin or more could be wise at 29/20.
Japan vs Senegal (Group H)
Group H always looked like the most intriguing and open before a ball had been kicked in Russia, and that sense was only heightened after the first round of fixtures. Japan were the underdogs ahead of their meeting with Colombia but were handed a huge opportunity early on, with Carlos Sanchez sent off for handling the ball in the box and Shinji Kagawa tucking away the resultant penalty. The Samurai Blue went on to win 2-1, which is the same scoreline by which Senegal dispatched of Poland a few hours later. Aliou Cisse’s attacking 4-4-2 formation was rewarded with a deserved victory over Adam Nawalka’s men, who were poor both with and without the ball. I expect Senegal to follow that triumph up with another here, so consider backing the Lions of Teranga at 21/20.