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Saturday, 28 June 2014

World Cup Second Round Picks 2014 (June 28-July 1)

It has been an engrossing opening to the World Cup which has seen the last two weeks fly by in the Group Stage- most casual fans would have been extremely have happy to see the huge amounts of goals flying which had not been a feature of the previous tournament in South Africa.

There's no doubting that it has been an extremely fun tournament in terms of viewing, but I had a horrendous set of results in the middle round of games that has put a dampener on the results achieved.

The good news is the tournament looks to be building nicely with some intriguing Second Round matches and potential Quarter Finals ahead.

It does seem a good time to reflect on which of the teams have looked the most likely to win the tournament after my brilliant call on Spain fell at the wayside. I have been most impressed by France, despite the lack of quality in their Group, while I do have my doubts about Germany even if they did beat Portugal beat 4-0.

That result doesn't really look as great when you see how Portugal played the rest of the way and I do fancy France to win that Quarter Final if it is the one we get.

I do expect better things from Brazil, while Argentina have the bonus of being on the other side of the draw than the hosts, France and Germany. All in all it should be a fascinating final two weeks of a wonderful tournament to this point.


Brazil v Chile Pick: This is the most fascinating Second Round match as Luis Felipe Scolari has been adamant for months that the one team he didn't want the hosts to be facing was Chile.

That is the situation that has developed for Brazil and there is a real tension that this could be the match that undoes their chances of winning the World Cup on their home soil.

I can understand the concern- Chile play with a high-tempo, pressing game that can cause any team problems as they showed in the Group alongside Spain and Holland and there is a sense of misfortune that they didn't top the section.

With players like Arturo Vidal and Alexis Sanchez, Chile can create chances against a Brazil defence that has looked vulnerable through the tournament. I'd very much expect Chile to score, but can they hold their nerve and record a huge victory for the nation.

That I am less convinced about- Brazil haven't played well but there are signs that they are getting into the groove, although nerves should be frayed in this one. If they fall behind, Brazil could find themselves in big trouble, but a lead could give them the opportunity to counter-attack and win this game.

It's really tough to call because I have been so impressed with Chile in the tournament- however, they didn't have the best results in the qualifiers against their fellow automatic qualifiers and Brazil should be able to beat them. However, they look short considering the threat Chile pose and I think it might be a better option backing Brazil to win a game in which both teams score, which would have been a winner in their two Group wins.


Colombia v Uruguay Pick: There are two ways that Uruguay are likely to be affected by the suspension that has been handed out to Luis Suarez for his awful decision to bite Giorgio Chiellini in the final Group game- either Uruguay will employ a 'siege mentality' and rally together to move through to the Quarter Finals for the second World Cup in succession, or they will crumble without their best player as they did against Costa Rica in the first game at the World Cup.

It is clear that Oscar Tabarez is looking to find the 'siege mentality' from his latest press conference, but the players have to be feeling this situation with Suarez. It has to be a mental burden to try and concentrate on the football knowing what has happened to their talisman and they are up against a confident and, more importantly, settled Colombia team.

Colombia have been enjoying their football in Brazil and have scored plenty of goals in their games here, while the squad all seem to have rallied without their best player who couldn't return to fitness in time for the tournament.

That may even have freed up the likes of James Rodriguez and Juan Cuadrado who have been brilliant to watch in the tournament. Jose Pekerman is the kind of manager that will ask his team to go out and express themselves and as long as he doesn't make the mistakes that cost Argentina the chance to win the World Cup in 2006, I expect Colombia can beat their South America rivals in the Second Round.

I just don't know if Uruguay will have the belief they can win this game without Suarez and Colombia could punish them on the counter-attack if they have the lead and Uruguay push on.


Netherlands v Mexico Pick: This looks a brilliant Second Round match between two teams that may have exceeded expectations already by getting to this stage, especially from pre-tournament predictions, and both now feel they can go much further.

The two teams are very similar and they match one another in formation and style with both looking to counter attack which makes the first goal that much more important in my opinion.

The Netherlands have the pace and clinical finishing up front to cause some problems for Mexico, especially if they persist with the high line that was very close to being penetrated by Brazil a couple of times in the Group.

I do fancy Holland to get through and I think they will find the extra quality to do that, but this should be another quality game, although conditions could sap some energy towards the end of the ninety minutes. Mistakes may be a factor, but the Netherlands might just have the extra quality to make the difference.


Costa Rica v Greece Pick: Since the World Cup held in Mexico in 1986, at least two matches in the Second Round of a World Cup tournament have had to go to extra time/penalties and I would look at the fixtures and suggest this game is the most likely to follow suit.

There is a lot of hope behind both teams who can make a really big impact on the world stage by becoming the surprise Quarter Finalists of this tournament and from there Greece have proven that anything can happen in a major international tournament.

However, that might also lead to tension in both teams with a lot to lose in a defeat and I am not looking at a game that is going to provide a lot of goals.

Costa Rica will also have to deal with a different mentality and expectation now that they are the favourites to win a match after excelling in an underdog situation in the Group Stages. They have pace up front, but Greece have looked pretty certain of themselves defensively.

On the other hand, Greece might be worried about over-committing going forward and this has all the hallmarks of a match that could easily go to penalties. An early goal could change things, but if this game is level after the hour mark, you may see both taking less risk and the game ending up requiring the additional time and possibly penalties to separate them.


France v Nigeria Pick: I was very impressed with the way the Nigerians approached their game with Argentina, even if they did end up on the wrong end of a 2-3 loss, but they showed they could be a threat to teams in the Second Round and moving forward.

They have pace in the forward positions which makes them dangerous, but the team that has really had me sitting up and taking notice to this point is France and I think they will prove their readiness to win this tournament again.

France seem to have a lovely balance in the squad, while Karim Benzema is finally showing what he can do at a major international tournament following struggles in previous years. With that added potency in the forward positions, France look like a team that can go very deep into the tournament, especially as they seem to be playing as a team which is sometimes their biggest problem.

The French have also shown how devastating they can be on the counter-attack and there are definitely some weakness in the defensive positions for Nigeria that will be exploited. If France get ahead, it might be all the more difficult for Nigeria when pushing men forward and I do think this French team has a better defence than Argentina who were punished by the Nigerians in the final Group games.

I believe France should win this game, and it wouldn't surprise me if they were to win by a couple of goals after catching Nigeria pushing forward when chasing the game.


Germany v Algeria Pick: Revenge is a dish best served cold and this one has been cooling in Algeria for thirty-two years as they have the chance to avenge their predecessors.

Back in 1982 in Spain, Algeria beat West Germany in the Group Stage of the World Cup, but were still knocked out when the West Germans and Austria played out a convenient 1-0 win for West Germany that sent both teams through.

Watch the highlights of the game... After West Germany score early, the rest of the game is played at walking pace with neither team daring to venture into the final third of their opponents and was the catalyst for changing the rules and ensuring the last Group games are played at the same time to try and remove something as distasteful happening again.

Moving back to the present- this Second Round game looks a mismatch on paper, but Algeria are a better team than some people may expect and I don't believe they will just roll over in this one. They are technically pretty good and have a little pace in the forward positions that might worry a Germany defence that struggled to deal with that pace that Ghana generated in a 2-2 draw.

However, I expect Germany to have plenty of control of the ball through their midfield and they have shown there are goals in the side by scoring seven goals in three Group games. With Miroslav Klose also able to be called upon from the bench, I would be surprised if Germany don't go through and find a way to win this one by a couple of goals.

The killer goal could come on the counter-attack if Algeria commit too many men forward, while tiredness could creep in when chasing the ball in tough conditions for long periods. That fatigue cost Algeria against Belgium and they were certainly rattled by South Korea in the second half of that game despite leading 3-0 at half time.

With that in mind, I do fancy Germany to find a win by a couple of goals and set up what could be the best game of the tournament in the Quarter Final against the French as long as both win through on Monday.


Argentina v Switzerland Pick: The last two World Cups have seen Argentina start off very quickly and then fade before being knocked out at the Quarter Final stage, but this time they have started a little slowly and that may be good news for them.

After winning Group F with three nervy wins, Argentina were placed in the 'weaker' half of the draw to the Final and the fans will be expectant that they take advantage. They can't take Switzerland/Belgium/USA/Holland/Costa Rica as an 'easy' path, but when you think the four Quarter Finalists are Brazil/Colombia/France/Germany in the other half, you can also understand the fans excitement.

Lionel Messi needed to have a big World Cup and he has made a good start with four goals in three games, but anything less than guiding Argentina to the title may make it impossible for him to be put alongside Diego Maradona in the hearts of the regular man on the street.

It has been Messi that has provided the difference in all three games Argentina have played, so they will be hoping he can do the same against the Swiss who are perhaps over-rated thanks to the strange FIFA World Rankings.

The fact is that Switzerland are ranked far higher than France, but were obliterated by them in the Group and I am not convinced they have enough to beat Argentina. They have scored goals though and Argentina are vulnerable at the back so there is every chance that Switzerland can at least force a consolation before they head back home, but I do believe they will be heading back home at the end of this Second Round match.

Argentina have won every game by a single goal margin so far, but they have conceded in two of their three games and the value may be that they do so again in another winning effort perhaps inspired by Messi once more.


Belgium v United States Pick: If you believe what you read on any of the United States sports pages there is a conviction that their team can beat Belgium and make it through to the Quarter Finals for the first time since the 2002 World Cup.

After all, the USA came through a 'Group of Death' containing Germany, Portugal and Ghana and were seconds away from winning two of those games against the latter two nations. The team works hard for one another and Belgium weren't impressive in a very weak section so the feeling is the USA are going to be ready to create a big surprise.

The layers are less sure with Belgium set as the favourites, but it has to be said that the 'sexy dark horse' pick hasn't been as free-flowing as people would have liked to see, even if the most important thing is that they have moved through to the Second Round.

Both nations will believe they can really make an impact at this tournament now they are in the 'weaker half' of the draw, although the winner is likely to face Argentina in the Quarter Finals, and that may make this a tense, tight game.

The United States are compact, but have made some defensive errors to put them in trouble in games and Belgium can capitalise on those. However, this is not going to be an easy game for either team and I might just do a bit of value hunting again.

Two of Belgium's three games at the World Cup have gone in level at half time, the other was when they were behind to Algeria, but each time the Red Devils have recovered in the second half and exerted enough pressure to win all three games.

The USA games have been more mixed with all three possible results coming in at half time, but I can see this game developing like the other Belgium games- that is to say it will begin very tight as both defences hold the edge, but the fatigue and the conditions may make the second half more open. There was a suggestion to back the second half to produce most goals, a winner in all six of these two teams games, but the layers have made that the favourite in this game and instead it may be backing the Belgians to win this game after going in level at the break.

MY PICKS: Brazil Win and Both Teams to Score @ 3.40 Tote Sport (1 Unit)
Colombia Win @ 2.10 Paddy Power (2 Units)
Netherlands Win @ 2.17 Pinnacle (2 Units)
Costa Rica-Greece Draw @ 3.10 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
France - 1.25 Asian Handicap @ 1.95 Pinnacle (3 Units)
Germany - 1.5 Asian Handicap @ 2.00 Bet Victor (3 Units)
Argentina Win and Both Teams to Score @ 3.60 Coral (1 Unit)
Draw-Belgium HT-FT @ 5.00 Bet Victor (1 Unit)

Second Round Update: 4-2, + 5.49 Units (12 Units Staked, + 45.75% Yield)

Group Stage: 17-31, - 14.44 Units (84 Units Staked, - 17.19% Yield)

5 comments:

  1. Hello mate...big fan of yours ps...reside in Lagos Nigeria, studied in London for a bit, and followed you devotedly despite not being on twitter. I fancy Nigeria today, maybe a bit of sentiment but am still not convinced by benzema, aside from the pk, the other goals came when the game was done imo. Vincent Enyeama could be key in stopping kb and og. The french have gone somewhat narrow and that would suit the african side in the searing heat. But with the Nigerian lineup, i think you are right in saying they cannot concede first, as the team consist of just two midfielders. I really like the match up of the wingers against the french fullbacks...they have the beating of them. Nigeria on the handicap for me...look after yourself mate..

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  2. Appreciate the comment... I have been very impressed with Nigeria, was not convinced about them pre-tournament, but the pace and power up front could be key.

    Just feel the French midfield three might be able to take control of the game and prevent the ball getting to Muso/Emenike, but I don't take Nigeria lightly, especially if they score first.

    Enjoy the game, hopefully it is an entertaining one to go with the rest of this World Cup. First goal, no matter who gets it, could be the key to the whole game today, enjoy!

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  3. Spot on mate, didn't give them much of a chance meself after seeing their friendlies against the Greeks and the Americans...I think the midfield battle might be their undoing though, mikel isn't at the level he was at the african cup of nations and the confederations cup, onazi has been the consistent performer but he would need help...curtailing pogba, matuidi and valbuena would be vital. Hopefully its another great game, and africa get loads of plaudits.

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  4. your pick was a winner in the end, and that's all that matters for your profits, i thought nigeria were slightly better in the first hour of the match but it a shame africa as a continent has no quality 'number 10' who would make the right decisions and show that composure...algeria did well too, so africa has something to build on, problem is a country like nigeria with a 170million people can't boast of quality academies were talent can be harnessed. wish you luck with your picks today, hopefully you can finish the WCF on a high after your troubles at the group stage.

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  5. It was a fortunate win but both games were similar yesterday- I thought Nigeria/Algeria started off fantastically and should have been ahead, but after around 35/40 minutes, the two European teams started exerting a control of the game.

    France and Germany both had decent chances in the second half- the difference was France took one and caught Nigeria pushing forward, while Germany missed theirs and had to be forced into extra time.

    Both Nigeria and Algeria should be proud of their efforts, but it is all about building on those in time for the next African Cup of Nations and then qualifying for the World Cup in Russia in 2018.

    Thanks for the comments- Group Stage stunk for me, but hopefully the tournament does end on a much higher note

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