Wednesday and Thursday may not have provided us with a ton of goals, but it did provide us with some big moments. Uruguay, Russia, France and Croatia all punched their tickets to the Round of 16 while Peru, Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Egypt all had their dreams crushed as they were eliminated.
Uruguay (1) Saudi Arabia (0).Uruguay started hot going up 1-0 early, but stalled after that. They’ve booked their trip and now face Russia in a winner-take-all game for Group A on Monday.
Portugal (1) Morocco (0).Outside of Ronaldo’s goal 4 minutes in, Portugal was not convincing in this match. Doesn’t matter though as a point against Iran will seal their trip to the Round of 16.
Iran (0) Spain (1). Spain utterly dominated with 78% possession and 560 more passes but their goal scoring chances were severely limited. They had an expected goal count of 2.03, but only scored 1 goal. You won’t go far in this tournament with keeping the ball all match and not creating an equally high amount of scoring chances.
Denmark (1) Australia (1).Australia showed that they can run with the big boys again, drawing Denmark. Things could get interesting if France beat the Danes and Australia beats already eliminated Peru, which would likely put the Soceroos through to the next round.
France (1) Peru (0). France looked a little unsettled for a lot of the first half, but after Mbappe’s 34th minute goal they started to settle in. They’re already through but face Denmark for the group on Tuesday.
Argentina (0) Croatia (3). Argentina look utterly atrocious. Messi didn’t get involved nearly enough, Caballero committed one of the worst goalie howlers in World Cup history, and overall the team looked lost and lethargic. They’ll need anything but an Iceland win on Friday, a win against Nigeria in the final match and a Croatia win over Iceland on the final day just to advance. Overall, it was embarrassing for Argentina.
As always, Planet Football rolls on and I have previews and picks for the next 3 days (9 matches). My last batch of picks didn’t go as planned but luckily we still have 41 more matches to get everything back on track. Trust the damn process.
All-Time Record: 241-221-64
World Cup Record: 8-11-4
Friday, June 22
8:00 am EST
Brazil v. Costa Rica – The Brazilians look to rebound after their 1-1 draw to the Swiss over the weekend against one of the weaker sides of the tournament. This smells like a bounce back match for Brazil as they didn’t look themselves on Sunday in Rostov. That Sunday they got an xG of 2.48 goals against a stingy Swiss defense and only scored 1. Looking into that you can use that for or against them, but as long as they’re creating good chances there is a good chance they will score. Don’t overthink this one here, as the tournament favorites go up against a team who’s just happy to be here. Brazil (-1.5).
11:00 am EST
Nigeria v. Iceland – This is a huge match for both teams as well as Argentina. An Iceland win would almost guarantee putting Argentina out of the tournament but a draw brings them hope. But Iceland go up against a really exciting squad in Nigeria who although lost to Croatia 2-0, they actually matched up nicely. Expect Iceland to do something similar to what they did against Messi and Argentina, absorbing pressure and causing trouble on the counter attack. It’s a pickem here and a draw is very likely but I like Nigeria matching up against Iceland with their swift attacking midfield, likely to cause Iceland trouble. Nigeria (Pick -105).
2:00 pm EST
Serbia v. Switzerland – The Swiss come into this match knowing that they need a win if they want to catch Brazil or jump ahead of Serbia. But my one issue with Serbia is that they barely escaped Costa Rica and the Swiss hung with the world’s best for 90 minutes in their draw with Brazil. Although the Swiss didn’t generate many goalscoring chances against Brazil, that wasn’t their goal as they just tried lasting all 12 rounds with them surviving their blows and taking advantage of set pieces. What makes this Switzerland team so good is that they can do that against Brazil but also take it to teams like Serbia. I expect the Swiss to get points here and at the worst nab the draw. Switzerland (Pick -110).
Saturday, June 23
8:00 am EST
Belgium v. Tunisia – Results-wise Tunisia has had a pretty impressive run as of late. Before the tournament in one of the tuneup friendlies they only lost to Spain 1-0 and of course on Monday only a 91st minute Harry Kane winner separated themselves from a 1-1 draw with England. But the stats tell a different story, as they allowed a 3.46 xG total against England proving that they can let teams into their final third and allow them to get solid chances. They were out-shot 18 to 6 and out-possessed 65% to 35% which will not bode well against this Belgium team who tore Panama apart. I like Belgium to make another statement here in another big win as they just looked too good on Monday. Belgium (-1.5).
11:00 am EST
South Korea v. Mexico – The Mexicans will look to somehow replicate their historic performance from last Sunday against the South Koreans. Sadly I don’t think they will replicate that performance but that doesn’t mean they will have trouble against this South Korean team. I’m quite low on this South Korean team after their loss to Sweden where they generated 0 shots on goal and an xG count of 0.25, likely the lowest of any team in the tournament so far. Mexico (-1). **AS OF 4:00 PM EST ON FRIDAY, MEXICO ARE (-0.5)**. Mexico (-0.5).
2:00 pm EST
Germany v. Sweden – Germany looked lackluster in their performance against Mexico with the curse of the reigning champions looming for another World Cup. They weren’t playing the fluid soccer that we have known them to play and they let Mexico take take the match to them. It’s not that I hate the Germans in this one as much as I like the Swedes. This Sweden team is a team that can suffocate any offense, having the best goal differential in all of European qualifying as well as shutting out Italy in the qualifying playoff match. They’re built to face teams like Germany and they could easily keep this match to a draw here. Sweden (+1).
Sunday, June 24
England v. Panama – This should be an interesting game as England has been known to play to each team’s level. After beating Tunisia and gaining tremendous confidence, can this team show the world that they aren’t going to mess around with lower sides? Or can Panama steal a sneaky goal and shake up Group G? These questions should be answered in the first 20 minutes if England can get a goal or if they come out sluggish after their big win on Monday. With the spread being at 2, I’m tempted to take the underdog due to my rule of thumb when betting soccer but this is a Panama team that let Belgium score at will, and if England can create the chances that they did against Tunisia this has the potential of being a blowout. Expect a push but if Panama starts to get leaky early, they know they will be going home and it could all unravel. “It’s coming home! Football is coming home!”. England (-2).
11:00 am EST
Japan v. Senegal – I’m going to LOVE watching this match. We have now entered the group of the unknown, as two the two teams who were projected to finish 3rd and 4th sit atop the group with 3 points with Poland and Colombia sitting at the bottom with 0. Knowing that one, if not both, teams below them will end with 0 or 1 points after Poland/Colombia, the winner of this match can really take a stranglehold of the group. I’ve been high on Senegal all tournament due to their fun style of play and ability to counter attack. They did just that against Poland in their 2-1 win and convinced everyone that they have a lot of potential in this tournament. But they go against a Japan squad who shocked the world in their 2-1 win against Colombia where they completely outclassed the Colombians. They out-shot them, they out-possessed them and they had a better xG differential by +1.32. But are the Japanese a one-hit wonder and can they handle the speed and counter of the Senegalese? I truly don’t think so and I think Senegal can nab at worst a point here in this one. Senegal (Pick -130).
Poland v. Colombia – Talk about another do or die match here as both of these teams desperately need 3 points in this match, but both have several things to worry about. Colombia did not look good in their first match against Japan where they did not start star play James Rodriguez. But honestly, I don’t think he would have made much of a difference as Colombia looked lost all around the field. The worrying thing about Poland is that they seemed to play better on paper against Senegal but they were leaky at the back and couldn’t find their talisman Lewandowski up top. Both teams didn’t start with the results they wanted and they now find themselves on a crash course in a do or die match and to be honest I don’t feel comfortable taking either side here. Without looking at the odds I expected it to be a pickem favoring Poland, but instead found that Colombia were favored ever so slightly. I’m going to take the points and follow my gut instinct. Poland (+0.5).
Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.