Tag Archives: World Cup

10 Winners And Losers From The 2018 Group Stage

Russia were big winners during the group stage of the 2018 World Cup (Matthias Hangst/Getty Images Europe)

10 Winners And Losers From The 2018 Group Stage

48 matches have been played thus far at the 2018 World Cup and there have been plenty of winners and losers. We take a look below at ten winners and losers from the group stage.

1. Winner: The viewers – Anyone who has followed the 2018 World Cup, even from afar, can see there has been quite the amount of drama. Late goals, spectacular performances, shocking upsets, this tournament really seems to have had it all. There was only one scoreless draw (France and Denmark) and every team scored at least two goals in the group stage. What could the knockout stages hold for us?

2. Loser: Pre-tournament favoritesSpain, France, Argentina, Germany, and Poland (at least to get through Group H) all had some hype around them. Instead, Germany and Poland were eliminated in the group with Germany being so for the first time. Argentina needed a late Marcos Rojo goal to finish second. Spain and France have not looked convincing even if they did both win the group. That does make for good drama worth tuning in to.

3. Winner: Peru – Peru were very unlucky to have failed to qualify for the Round of 16. The missed PK against Denmark will haunt them as had that been converted and ended as a draw they would have gone through. Nevertheless, they won a lot of fans for their exciting style of play and would have been deserving of progressing.

4. Loser: Germany – Not to pile on, but this really was a disaster. The 2014 World Cup Winners were eliminated in the group stage, which has happened to four of the last five World Cup Winners. However, this was the first time Germany failed to make it out of the group stage and they did it spectacularly by finishing last.

The only real inclination of possible problems was the lead up to the tournament. The Germans stumbled in their friendlies and looked terrible, but those were just tune up games. They made the semis of Euro 2016 and won the 2017 Confederations Cup, which built up their hype to potentially repeat in 2018.

5. Winner: Russia – The lowest ranked team entering the World Cup started with back-to-back crushing wins to book their place in the Round of 16. Russia had a chance to win Group A had they at least drew with Uruguay, they were outmatched and finished second. Their reward is playing Spain, but the Spaniards have not looked dominant, Russia will have the crowd behind them, and this tournament has produced a few shockers.

6. Loser: Referees – While this author thinks that VAR has been solid, the real issue with its use is down to the referees and length of review.  Whenever VAR is used, it has seemed to take far too long to make a determination. In addition, there are some clear cut calls that could be made on the field, yet referees defer to VAR to bail them out. While VAR is well intentioned and has worked decently, the human aspect needs a bit more fine tuning.

7. Winner: Fox’s commentators and analysts – Everyone has their preferred commentators when they watch sports, but Fox’s roster has been very solid. Anchored by JP Dellacamera and Derek Rae, all the commentators have done a good job calling the games and the analysts have been fantastic to listen to as they break down plays. Stuart Holden has been a bright spot from the viewpoint with his specific breakdowns for the viewers.

8. Loser: United States – Watching Panama and Costa Rica crash out after two games must be bothersome. Seeing Mexico move on to the Round of 16 must hurt more. But the worst part has to be the chaos that has erupted with the upsets and lack of a dominant team. Had they just drawn Trinidad & Tobago, they could be part of this carnage. Then again, who says the US would have advanced to the knockout stages? Overall, the US will be better down the road even if this is tough to watch now.

9. Winner: The last 16 teams – In most years this would be a cliché of “anything can happen.” Well, in 2018, this really is true for the last 16 teams left in the World Cup. There has not been a truly dominant team or any group of teams that have separated themselves. The favorites look vulnerable and upsets that few envisioned are actually happening (see South Korea v Germany). If a 16 can beat a 1 in the NCAA Basketball tournament during 2018, why not a surprise WC winner?

10. Winner: Asian Confederation – Four years ago, the four teams from AFC combined to play 12 games and finished with three draws and nine losses. They scored nine goals, gave up 25 goals, and all four teams finished last in their group.

Flash forward to this year and it has been a different outcome. Five teams qualified with Saudi Arabia, Iran, South Korea, and Japan all recording victories. Only Australia failed to win a game as they finished last in their group. Japan qualified for the Round of 16 as second place finishers in Group H. It has been a much better performance all around from the AFC.

Bonus: Own Goals/Penalties – This could go as a winner or loser depending on your point of view. There have been 9 own goals in Russia, 24 penalties given, and 18 of those penalties have been converted, which are all World Cup records. Some may complain too many penalties have been given, while others may say they were correctly given.

Let’s hope the last two weeks are as entertaining as the first two weeks have been. Enjoy the knockout stages!

10 Predictions For The 2018 World Cup Group Stage

Lionel Messi leads Argentina into the 2018 World Cup. How will the magician continue his majestic ways this summer? (Paul Gilham/Getty Images South America)

10 Predictions For The 2018 World Cup Group Stage

The FIFA World Cup begins on Thursday, June 14 when Russia takes on Saudi Arabia in Moscow to open the month long tournament. We will take a stab at some predictions for the tournament starting with the group stage.

Below, we will make a prediction for each of the eight groups (A to H) and then also make two general predictions for the group stage.

1. (Group A) Uruguay will win all three matches – The first group is a favorable draw for Uruguay against Russia, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. Uruguay is favored to win the group, but this calls for them to sweep their way to nine points. The biggest threats are Russia and Egypt who will presumably be battling for second.

For Uruguay, they will have to deal with combination of Mohamed Salah and the awesome story of Essam El-Hadary, the 45 year old goalkeeper for Egypt. Salah is nursing an injury going into opening game for the Egyptians, which is against Uruguay. Even without Salah, the challenge is going to be difficult. Then there is Russia playing at home which will give them a boost. Still, Uruguay is in position to not only win Group A, but win all three matches.

2. (Group B) Spain defeats Portugal and wins Group B – Barring a 2014-like collapse, this group is down to Spain and Portugal. No offense to Morocco and Iran for not giving them a chance, but they were dealt a horrendous draw.

This game is on match day one, which means the winner of this game will have one foot in the knockout stage. This matchup between the two neighboring countries will go to Spain as they roll into the tournament looking to avenge the disastrous campaign four years ago.

3. (Group C) France does not win the group – This French team is getting a lot of hype to win the World Cup. They have the talent with the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba, Kylian Mbappe, and N’Golo Kante among many others.

What is worrying about France is their desire and ability to finish games. The Euro 2016 Final against Portugal is exhibit A while poor results against Colombia (lost 3-2 after holding a 2-0 lead) and the United States have not looked good. The latter was particularly striking as the French towered over a young squad and yet only came away with a 1-1 draw.

Les Bleus take on Australia, Peru, and Denmark in this group, which seems like it would be favorable to them winning the group. However, Denmark will be a tough test and the longer France lets Australia and Peru hang around, the more confidence the underdogs get.

France can surely quell the unease with statement wins against all three, but there is something about this team that lingers. We still think France reaches the knockout stages in the end (and probably makes a deep run), but we predict they do not win the group.

4. (Group D) Group D will feature the most entertaining matches – Lionel Messi and Argentina lead this group, but that is not the only reason for this prediction. Nigeria has an odd way of testing Argentina. The Super Eagles have split the last four games against them and all four games featured at least four goals including the 2014 World Cup match Argentina won 3-2.

Then there is Iceland. Iceland has given up at least two goals in their last four international friendlies. This team can also score goals to provide some more excitement including at the end of games (see Euro 2016 against Austria).

Croatia, who got hammered 3-1 against both Brazil and Mexico at the 2014 World Cup, has two players embroiled in a scandal going into the 2018 Finals. One of them is Luka Modric, a man heavily relied upon for the team. Will that negatively affect their play? We shall see, but overall, this group should be fun to watch each match day.

5. (Group E) Costa Rica will get back to the Knockout Stages – Now this would be a surprise. Then again, what they did in 2014 was also a surprise. The Ticos not only made the knockout stages four years ago, but they won Group D by defeating both Uruguay and Italy while drawing with England. 

This year features a group of Brazil, Switzerland, and Serbia. Getting past Brazil will be tough, but the Ticos can get past the duo of Switzerland and Serbia. Keylor Navas will be in the net, but also returning are the four players who scored for Costa Rica at the 2014 World Cup: Bryan Ruiz, Joel Campbell, Oscar Duarte, and Marcos Urena.

This group already knows how to defy the expectations placed upon them. They also know how to handle the pressure of being at the World Cup. We like Costa Rica to get past the group stage once again.

6. (Group F) Germany drops a point – The reigning World Cup winners tower over this group. Mexico, Sweden, and South Korea will be fighting for second. They key for all three is if they can steal a point (or more) from the Germans. On paper, this seems like a stretch. However, if we go back to 1998, only once has Germany won all three games in the group stage. That came in 2006 when they hosted the World Cup. Below is a look back at each game Germany has failed to win at the World Cup since 1998.

2014 – 2-2 draw vs Ghana

2010 – 0-1 loss vs Serbia

2006 – Won all three games; WC played in Germany

2002 – 1-1 draw vs Republic of Ireland

1998 – 2-2 draw vs Yugoslavia

Another reason for this prediction is the lackluster performances from Germany leading up to the World Cup. They survived 2-1 against Saudi Arabia, lost 2-1 to Austria, lost 1-0 to Brazil, and drew 1-1 with Spain. Germany has their weird way of turning it on once they hit the field, but not without a bump in the road. Expect one of those in Group F though the Germans will still cruise into the knockout stages.

7. (Group G) Belgium score at least 10 goals – We really find Belgium’s Group G matchups favorable, aside from the England game. Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Dries Mertens, and Kevin De Bruyne should create plenty of chances against Tunisia and especially Panama.

This team looks ready to pour in the goals and they finish the group stage against England with the winner of the game most likely to take top billing. A couple goals against England could put this prediction over the top.

8. (Group H) Senegal Finishes Top Two – This group features Poland, Colombia, and Japan so the work is cut out for Senegal to advance. It is crucial they take points from Poland and Colombia (a win against either and a win against Japan should suffice). Sadio Mane will be the focus for them as the Liverpool man is coming of a 20 goal campaign.

Outside of Mane, they have the talent to compete and move past the group stage. Kalidou Koulibaly will be worth keeping on eye on as well. The last game is against Colombia is likely decide which team goes through and which team goes home.

9. (General Prediction) The group stage will see at least 125 goals scored – Let’s be honest: We want to see goals. And a lot of them. That does not mean a 0-0 contest is boring or not entertaining. They most certainly can be, but we are going based on what has historically happened.

Since the World Cup expanded in 1998, there has been an average of 122 goals scored in the group stage. Three have featured more than 125 goals and we look for the same. This is not guaranteed though. Back in 2010, only 101 goals were scored in the group stage thanks to an abnormally low 25 goals on match day one. 2014 saw that total nearly double to 49 for match day one. 2014 was also the highest scoring group stage at 136 since 1998. Let’s hope this continues at the 2018 World Cup.

10. (General Prediction) Asia and Africa have a 2014 repeat – Let’s clarify what we mean here. In 2014, Africa had two teams to make the knockout stages while Asian teams were shutout. In fact, no Asian team recorded a win in 2014. We are predicting that two teams from Africa will go to the Round of 16 while no Asian team will advance to that point.

Let’s start with Africa: We have already called for Senegal to make the knockout stages, but there are other opportunities for the continent. Egypt could slip through Group A with Salah; Morocco has a tough Group B draw; Nigeria might also sneak through if results against Iceland and Croatia break their way; Tunisia faces a daunting task against Belgium and England.

That gives Africa three plausible knockout choices in Egypt, Nigeria, and Senegal. The same cannot be said for Asia. Saudi Arabia is in group A, but considered a serious longshot. Iran is in Group B with Portugal, Spain, and Morocco. Australia has a chance though they need results against European sides France and Denmark. They also face Peru, which will not be easy.

South Korea is in Group F with Germany, Mexico, and Sweden. With the Germans, that realistically leaves one spot open and the Koreans will need results from the other two games. Japan faces a similar dilemma against Poland, Colombia, and Senegal. All five Asian sides are considered the longest shot in their respective group to win.

We expect a good fight from all five Asian countries. However, given their draws, this looks like another World Cup without an Asian side making the last 16.

That concludes our 10 predictions for the 2018 World Cup Group stage. Enjoy the start of the 2018 World Cup!

Brazil 2014 – Part 3: Odds and Predictions

This is the third post in a series leading up to the 2014 World Cup to be held in Brazil. The first post can be found here and the second post here.

In the first post of this series I posted the odds for each team to win the World Cup prior to the draw (odds were taken from 5Dimes). For a refresher, here is that table:

 

Team Odds
Brazil  +300
Germany  +560
Argentina  +660
Spain  +680
Belgium  +1650
Netherlands  +2150
Colombia  +2350
Italy  +2450
England  +2550
Uruguay  +2850
France  +3250
Portugal  +3450
Chile  +4450
Russia  +10500
Switzerland  +14500
Ghana  +15000
Croatia  +16000
Mexico  +16500
Japan  +17000
USA  +18000
Ivory Coast  +21000
Bosnia and Herzegovina  +22500
Ecuador  +24000
Nigeria  +29000
Greece  +35000
South Korea  +50000
Cameroon  +70000
Australia  +70000
Costa Rica  +225000
Iran  +250000
Honduras  +250000
Algeria  +250000

As you can see, the top 4 favorites were Brazil (+300), Germany (+560), Argentina (+660), and Spain (+680). All other teams were at +1650 or higher. Now let’s see how the draw affected those odds (again odds from 5Dimes):

 

Brazil   +330
Argentina   +490
Germany   +610
Spain   +775
Belgium   +1550
Colombia   +2150
France   +2250
Netherlands   +2850
England   +2850
Italy   +2850
Uruguay   +2950
Portugal   +3700
Chile   +5350
Russia   +8875
Switzerland   +12500
Ecuador   +13500
Mexico   +15000
Ivory Coast   +16500
Japan   +18500
Bosnia and Herzegovina   +23500
USA   +25000
Ghana   +25000
Croatia   +26500
Nigeria   +28500
Greece   +34000
South Korea   +48500
Australia   +80500
Cameroon   +100000
Costa Rica   +250000
Iran   +250000
Honduras   +250000
Algeria   +250000

 

Brazil’s odds went up to +330 despite the opponents they drew in their group. The slight bump in odds has entirely to do with their possible Round of 16 opponent which will almost certainly be Netherlands, Spain, or Chile. Argentina, which was already a favorite to win, dropped from +660 to +490. This is for good reason too. They got drawn with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iran, and Nigeria.

Below is a table that shows each team’s odd before and after the draw. Also is a column for the odds change that occurred.

 

Team Prior Draw Odds Post Draw Odds   Odds Change
Brazil  +300   +330 +30
Germany  +560   +610 +50
Argentina  +660   +490 -170
Spain  +680   +775 +95
Belgium  +1650   +1550 -100
Netherlands  +2150   +2850 +700
Colombia  +2350   +2150 -200
Italy  +2450   +2850 +400
England  +2550   +2850 +300
Uruguay  +2850   +2950 +100
France  +3250   +2250 -1000
Portugal  +3450   +3700 +250
Chile  +4450   +5350 +900
Russia  +10500   +8875 -1625
Switzerland  +14500   +12500 -2000
Ghana  +15000   +25000 +10000
Croatia  +16000   +26500 +10500
Mexico  +16500   +15000 -1500
Japan  +17000   +18500 +1500
USA  +18000   +25000 +7000
Ivory Coast  +21000   +16500 -4500
Bosnia and Herzegovina  +22500   +23500 +1000
Ecuador  +24000   +13500 -10500
Nigeria  +29000   +28500 -500
Greece  +35000   +34000 -1000
South Korea  +50000   +48500 -1500
Cameroon  +70000   +100000 +30000
Australia  +70000   +80500 +10500
Costa Rica  +225000   +250000 +25000
Iran  +250000   +250000 0
Honduras  +250000   +250000 0
Algeria  +250000   +250000 0

 

Odds to Win Group

Here I will list each teams odds to win their respective group. As before, these odds are from 5Dimes.

Group A

Brazil   -350
Mexico   +650
Croatia   +875
Cameroon   +2150

Group B

Spain   -130
Netherlands   +200
Chile   +475
Australia   +2700

Group C

Colombia   -135
Japan   +350
Ivory Coast   +460
Greece   +700

Group D

Italy   +160
Uruguay   +195
England   +215
Costa Rica   +4000

Group E

France   -145
Switzerland   +310
Ecuador   +340
Honduras   +2800

Group F

Argentina   -430
Bosnia   +595
Nigeria   +830
Iran   +3000

Group G

Germany   -180
Portugal   +260
Ghana   +1050
USA   +1075

Group H

Belgium   -180
Russia   +230
South Korea   +750
Algeria   +2500

 

Super-Duper Early Predictions

I will pick the finish of each group as I see them right now. These are subject to change many times over until the start of the World Cup.

Group A

1st – Brazil

2nd – Croatia

3rd – Mexico

4th – Cameroon

Group B

1st – Spain

2nd – Chile

3rd – Netherlands

4th – Australia

Group C

1st – Colombia

2nd – Ivory Coast

3rd – Japan

4th – Greece

Group D

1st – Italy

2nd – Uruguay

3rd – England

4th – Costa Rica

Group E

1st – Colombia

2nd – Switzerland

3rd – France

4th – Honduras

Group F

1st – Argentina

2nd – Nigeria

3rd – Bosnia and Herzegovina

4th – Iran

Group G

1st – Germany

2nd – Ghana

3rd – Portugal

4th – United States

Group H

1st – Russia

2nd – Belgium

3rd – South Korea

4th – Algeria

I will skip to the Semi-final match ups where I have Brazil vs Germany in one and Italy vs Argentina in the other. I like Brazil and Italy to meet p in the final with Italy coming out on top. Again this is subject to change (and probably will as we learn more about each team’s squad).

Be sure to check back often for part 4 and other blog posts!

Brazil 2014 – Part 2: A Quick Analysis of the Draw

This is the second post in a series leading up to the 2014 World Cup to be held in Brazil. The first post can be found here.

The 2014 FIFA World Cup has been drawn and the groups are now set. I will take a look at each group and give a short analysis.

Group A

Group A is comprised of Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, and Cameroon. Undoubtedly, Brazil are the favorites to win Group A and the World Cup especially after the favorable draw. The battle for second place will be between the other three teams. I see any of the three teams being able to finish 2nd, but it will most likely come down to Croatia and Mexico.

Group B

Group B is mighty interesting considering the 2010 World Cup Final. Both Spain and the Netherlands are draw into this group and as fate would have it, will be playing the opening match of this group. Chile and Australia are also drawn in this group. The rank outsiders of this group are Australia as they have been poor in recent games. I cannot wait to see how Netherlands plays considering they did not win a game at Euro 2012.

Group C

This group contains Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast, and Japan. Colombia are the favorites to win the group, but after that any of the three remaining teams can win. Greece are probably the 2nd favorites in this group while Ivory Coast have not gotten out of the group stage the last two World Cups. Japan played in the 2013 Confederations Cup, but went winless and showed issues with their back four.

Group D

Another tough group resides here in Group D between Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, and Italy. Uruguay and Italy are the favorites to go through, but expect England to have a say in whether or not that happens. This is a tough spot for Costa Rica to have hopes of making the last 16.

Group E

This group is headlined by the “easiest” seeded team in Switzerland. They will be joined by Ecuador, France, and Honduras. Ecuador look to be favored here with this World Cup taking place in South America. France has a great chance of making the Knockout stages despite a less than stellar qualifying run to get here. Honduras are considered outsiders to make the last 16.

Group F

This group is headlined by Argentina and includes Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iran, and Nigeria. Argentina will be heavily favored to win this group. Bosnia and Herzegovina along with Nigeria will battle for the 2nd spot in this group and Iran are considered long shots to make the last 16.

Group G

Arguably the toughest group (along with Group B) will be contested between Germany, Portugal, Ghana, and the United States. Germany are favorites to go through, but any of the remaining three teams can certainly make it through. Ghana has been to the Round of 16 and Quarterfinals in 2006 and 2010, respectively. Portugal have the immensely talented Cristiano Ronaldo and the US have been in good from during 2013. In my opinion, this group is by far the toughest to figure out and that means this should be an entertaining group from start to finish.

Group H

The last group contains the highly talked about dark-horse team in Belgium. They will play in this group along with Algeria, Russia, and South Korea. While Belgium will be favored to win, 2nd place looks like it belongs to Russia. Don’t sleep on South Korea as they made the Round of 16 in 2010 and finished 4th in 2002. Algeria are considered outsiders against this group.

 

This draw gave us a lot of intrigue to look forward to. There is the possibility of Spain and Brazil clashing in the Round of 16. In addition, we could see Spain or the Netherlands not make it out of the group stage. There is even the possibility of Germany struggling and not making it to the knockout rounds (It may be a small chance, but it is possible).

In Part 3 of my series I will look at the odds of each team making it to the Round of 16 as well as the odds of them winning the World Cup courtesy of 5Dimes. I will also give my super-duper early predictions (which are subject to change between then and the World Cup). Until then, enjoy the action and enjoy the World Cup draw banter!

Brazil 2014 – Part 1: What to Watch for at the Draw

This is the first post in a series leading up to the 2014 World Cup to be held in Brazil.

The pots for 2014 World Cup have now been confirmed by FIFA. This image from ESPN FC best illustrates the breakdown of each pot:

(Again, Thanks to ESPN FC for the picture and they own all the rights to it).

Pot 1 is the comprised of the top 8 seeds for the 2014 World Cup. Pot 2 belongs to the five African qualifiers and the remaining two South American qualifiers. Pot 3 is for North American and Asian qualifiers. Pot 4 is the other 9 European qualifiers. In order to have 4 pots of 8 teams, one team from Pot 4 will be randomly selected and placed in Pot 2 to obtain the eight teams.

Keep in mind that no more than two European teams will be matched up in a group. In addition, no more than 1 South American team will be matched up in group. Finally, Brazil will automatically be placed in Group A.

Watch out for the “Group of Death” which would have the strongest teams concentrated in a single group. Every team wants to avoid the so called “Group of Death” which would be headed by Brazil, Spain, Germany, Argentina, Colombia, or Uruguay. The idea of a Germany, Ghana, United States and France Group is tantalizing and would be entertaining every match.

Also watch out for what I will coin as the “Group of Ease”. Both Belgium and Switzerland are being perceived as the easiest of the seeded teams to overcome in 2014. I am not sure that there is such thing as any easy group in the World Cup, especially if the top seed is a European team. It could be the “Group of Ease” for either Belgium or Switzerland if the draw the shakes out correctly.

Below are the odds of every team in the 2014 World Cup as of this writing. The odds are from 5Dimes.

 

Team Odds
Brazil  +300
Germany  +560
Argentina  +660
Spain  +680
Belgium  +1650
Netherlands  +2150
Colombia  +2350
Italy  +2450
England  +2550
Uruguay  +2850
France  +3250
Portugal  +3450
Chile  +4450
Russia  +10500
Switzerland  +14500
Ghana  +15000
Croatia  +16000
Mexico  +16500
Japan  +17000
USA  +18000
Ivory Coast  +21000
Bosnia and Herzegovina  +22500
Ecuador  +24000
Nigeria  +29000
Greece  +35000
South Korea  +50000
Cameroon  +70000
Australia  +70000
Costa Rica  +225000
Iran  +250000
Honduras  +250000
Algeria  +250000

 

I will be tweeting this event live on Friday and you can follow me here. Part 2 of this series will be posted on Friday evening after the Draw has concluded. I will analyze the draw and look at how it affected each teams odds to win the 2014 World Cup. Be sure to check back and enjoy the 2014 World Cup Draw!

UEFA World Cup Play-off Draw Thoughts

Earlier today the play-off draw for UEFA took place in Zurich, Switzerland. The seeded teams were Portugal, Greece, Croatia, and Ukraine. The unseeded teams were France, Sweden, Romania, and Iceland. Here is how the Draw shook out:

Portugal vs Sweden

Ukraine vs France

Greece vs Romania

Iceland vs Croatia

All first leg ties will take place on Friday, November 15, 2013 and the second leg ties will be played on Tuesday, November 19, 2013.

Portugal vs Sweden

I personally see Sweden upsetting Portugal in the first leg match in Portugal. Portugal has had issues at home in this World Cup cycle including draws versus Israel and Northern Ireland. Sweden has played well on the road including a 4-4 draw AT Germany in October 2012.

Ukraine vs France

The Ukraine-France tie is  interesting. Both teams  went unbeaten on the road in this WC Qualifying cycle, while France lost once at home to Spain and Ukraine also lost once at home to Montenegro. Part of me thinks Ukraine will win this tie, but I will go with France because they seem to get it done when it is win or stay home.

Greece vs Romania

I see a couple of typical Greece games. Defensive and counter-attacking with Greece capitalizing on their few chances. I have a difficult time seeing Romania win this tie, but it would be nice to Romania make the World Cup for the first time since 1998.

Iceland vs Croatia

Normally I would call this one for Croatia in a romp, but there are some serious issues with how Croatia finished qualifying in Group A. Croatia obtained 1 point out of a possible 12 in their last four games. In addition, they lost two of those last four games to Scotland. That is not a sign you want to see prior to the two biggest games of the year. Meanwhile, Iceland went unbeaten in their last four games, winning two and drawing the other two. I’m going to pick Croatia to win the tie, but I expect high scoring affairs and would not at all be surprised to see Iceland make their first World Cup.

Betting Odds

Here are the betting odds as of this writing for each team to make the 2014 World Cup. The lines are from 5Dimes.

Portugal: -250

Sweden: +190

Ukraine: +265

France: -355

Greece: -130

Romania: +100

Iceland: +423

Croatia: -600