Hi haters! This is my Christmas and every four years I’m filled with an endless amount of joy that everyone somewhat cares about my favorite sport for a month and acts like they know what they’re talking about. My goal is to not only inform you about what’s going on during the tournament but to also pick each match that occurs throughout the entire summer, hopefully giving you the knowledge to know what you’re talking about.
This will be the first edition of many where I preview and a pick for all 64 matches from Thursday’s opener all the way to the Final on July 15th. If you missed my preview of every team and group in this tournament you can find them HERE (A-D) and HERE (E-F). You’ll want to brush up a bit before you start talking out of your ass to your friends.
If you’re new to the blog here’s how I do this. I preview every match (all year long that was the Premier League and other notable matches) and pick a team in accordance to the spread, or the projected win/loss margin for that match. I normally pick every match by using a mix of analytics and judgement but since there are no numbers or data backing these teams up, I will most likely be leaning more on my judgement. My Win-Loss-Push record was pretty impressive from August to May (233-210-59) with my total record never entering the negative.
How the spreads work: If a team is a favorite of (-0.5) goals it means that any win will cover for that team, but a draw or win for the underdog means that that favorite does not cover. If a team is (-1) that means they are favored by a goal. If that team wins by 1 they push, if they win by 2 they cover and if they don’t do better than a draw then they don’t cover. If a team is favored by (-1.5) it means they’re favored between 1 and 2 goals, meaning winning by 2 goals will cover but only 1 goal won’t. Conversely, if an underdog is (+1) it means they are given a point and anything better than a 1 goal defeat (draw or a win) means they cover. And so on and so forth. If a team is a (Pick) it means that neither team is favored, making a draw a push and a win by either team would cover for that respective team.
Let Planet Football commence!!
All-Time Record: 233-210-59
World Cup Record: 0-0
Thursday, June 14th
11:00 am EST
Russia v. Saudi Arabia – The opening match isn’t always that much to write home about, but instead more of a celebration of the beginning of the tournament. This year it will include the two worst teams in FIFA’s rankings (which I normally don’t approve of) in Russia and Saudi Arabia. This one is somewhat of an easy one for me to pick as I think Saudi Arabia may be the worst team in the tournament and Russia has the nation on their side. To add to that, in the last 3 opening matches the host nation has covered pretty handily. It’s a 1-goal spread and I feel that Russia at worst will win by 1 goal in this match. Russia (-1).
Friday, June 15th
8:00 am EST
Uruguay v. Egypt – This match will rely heavily on the fitness of Egyptian star Mohammed Salah. Although the Uruguayans are a much better side and are favored by 1 here, if Salah can do what he has done all year and score crucial goals in crucial moments they may be able to steal a point. But top to bottom, Uruguay are a better team and have much more quality tournament experience especially in the World Cup. It may be tough for Egypt to run with them for the whole 90 minutes. Uruguay (-1).
11:00 am EST
Iran v. Morocco – This match should be a low scoring one, maybe even decided in 1-0 or 1-1 fashion. It’s tough to pick a winner in a match like this where I don’t know much at all about either team, but I’m here to give you winners and that’s what I shall do. Morocco is slightly favored in a match that could easily be a Pickem, which makes me want to take the underdog. I expect this to be a draw, therefore taking Iran as the underdogs to cover. Iran (+0.5).
2:00 pm EST
Spain v. Portugal – The big one! The world will surely stop for this match as two heavyweights collide in Sochi. Hopefully you can get off of work a little early on Friday and head to the bars for what could be one of the better matches of the Group Stage. This one could also decide who wins the group, giving the winner an immediate edge and leaving the loser hopeful for an upset. But the news out of the Spain camp on Wednesday morning wasn’t good after they sacked their manager just days before the tournament started after he accepted the Real Madrid job for this upcoming season. Exactly why they fired him is unknown but I think this team can rally around their new manager and pull it together on the pitch. Many think it will be an issue and an opportunity for Portugal but in my opinion, I don’t think the Portuguese have much of a shot in this one. Spain will control most of the match with possession and unluckily for Ronaldo, the Spain defense knows him pretty well after playing with or against him domestically. Spain’s midfield will choke Portugal’s advance to try to feed the ball to Ronaldo who will surely not come back to receive the ball, and even if he gets the chances he wants he will have to face the best goalie in the world in David De Gea. I love the Spanish to not only win this match, but to gain a stranglehold on Group B. Spain (-0.5).
Saturday, June 16th
6:00 am EST
France v. Australia – This one is pretty cut and dry here as France should win this match. But here is where picking spreads can be dangerous as the line has moved to (-1.5). It’s hard to bank on a team to win by multiple goals in this tournament especially in the beginning of the Group Stage and a lot of teams are playing in the biggest matches of their lives and are leaving everything on the field. But I’m here to tell you that France may run away with this one and win 3-0. Australia won’t be able to handle anything that France will come at them with, even with or without Mbappe after he suffered an ankle injury during training. They have more quality in every single position and even their bench could take this Australian team on. This could be where the French send out the warning signs to the rest of the competition and get an easy and early 3 points. France (-1.5).
9:00 am EST
Argentina v. Iceland – This will be an interesting match, as two conflicting styles will clash together on Saturday morning. Argentina may boast the best attack in recent memory in the tournament but have massive holes in the defense and goalie positions. Meanwhile Iceland are known to sit back, absorb pressure, counter attack and score on set pieces. That is exactly what Argentina don’t want to go up against. This match will come down to if Argentina can get insurance goals or conversely if they let Iceland hand around for too long, causing them to concede a silly goal. Although Iceland shocked teams like England in the Euro and they progressed to the Quarterfinal, they have not faced an attack quite like this Argentinian attack. Expect Messi and Aguero to get on the score sheet and put this one to bed early in the second half. Argentina (-1.5).
12:00 pm EST
Peru v. Denmark – Denmark enter this match having better odds on the Pickem line and many markets have them as (-0.5) favorites but I have Denmark as favorites and that changes a lot for me. Both are sneaky good side, but Peru came out of a harder qualifying group and had great success against Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Colombia compared to Denmark’s competition of Poland, Montenegro, Romania and other minnows. Peru also qualifying for their first World Cup since 1982 is a big deal for their nation and with the whole country shutting down as well as a massive traveling fan base, expect them to come out swinging. I’m taking Peru as underdogs here. Peru (+0.5).
2:00 pm EST
Croatia v. Nigeria – Croatia are the favorites but many should tread lightly on this one. This is a match that can very much decide second place at the least, and if Argentina slip up could decide first place in the group. But if I have to determine who will win this one off of recent form and experience, the clear favorite is Croatia. I love Nigeria in this tournament (yes, for more than their jerseys) because of their forward way of playing and how well they can play together. But their defense and goalie situation is very worrying when going up against an attack that includes Modric, Rakitic, Kovacic and Perisic. I like Croatia to win this one in an exciting match. Croatia (-0.5).
That’s all for that matches through Saturday! Expect another preview coming your way for the matches on Sunday, through to the end of the first set of matches on Tuesday.
Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.