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2014 World Cup Betting News and Notes

2014 World Cup Betting News and Notes

Group A Preview
By Footy Tipster


After a period of trials and tribulations, Brazil failed to play football on the same level as their credentials after conquering their 5th World Cup in 2002. Carlos Parreira, Dunga and Mano Menezes failed to make an impact, with two questionable performances in 2006 and 2010, the performances in Africa were heavily questioned. Luis Felipe Scolari returned and instilled a sense of responsibility in the young players and combined with a few seniors balance was struck. Winning the Confederations Cup with strong and passionate performances, the thrashing of Spain in the final was the strongest statement Felipão could've hoped for.

The hosts managed to find themselves in a group with reasonable competition, an easy group would've been prejudicial to the team in the knockout rounds. Playing to their fullest and focusing on winning the 3 matches, Scolari will be able to reintroduce his squad to the Brazilian public in good light and secure their support earlier in the tournament, dispelling the usual doubts surrounding the squad. Constant support by the fans is essential for Brazil if they want to lift their sixth trophy, that was proven in the Confederations Cup where they managed to establish an early lead within 15 minutes of every match except Uruguay, the match Brazil struggled the most.

The team has problems with the first choice goalkeeper, given that Julio Cesar is benched at QPR, currently in the second division. Jefferson (Botafogo) and Victor (Atlético Mineiro) are unproven in the big stage. Felipão urged Cesar to leave QPR as soon as possible as he is his starting choice for 2014. Defense could face fitness issues, David Luiz and Thiago Silva aren't having their best seasons in the physical side.

Neymar is in the spotlight to lead Brazil, the youngster will be 22 years old in the World Cup and one could question if he'll succumb to the pressure. The Barcelona star managed to lead his team Santos to win the Copa Libertadores when he was merely 20, winning a Copa do Brasil and 3 State Championships before arriving in Catalonia. Unproven in Europe, Neymar scored the decisive goal in the Spanish Supercup and scored in his first Spanish Super Clásico, the first Brazilian to do so. Silenced his last critics by scoring a hat trick vs Celtic in the Champions League after his performances in the UEFA competition were questioned. The icing on the cake was his outstanding performance in the Confederations Cup that earned him Player Of The Tournament award, including a goal in the final.

Brazil played with Croatia in the 2006 group stage winning 1-0 and will hardly experience any difficulties winning again. Faced Mexico thrice in the group stage winning all without conceding a goal: 2-0 (1962), 4-0 (1970), 5-0 (1954). A single duel with Cameroon, a 3-0 win in 1994 group stage.


El Tri faced a huge crisis in the qualifiers for the World Cup, changing their manager 4 times. With only one win in the entire qualifiers, the National Team still qualified, thanks to USA forgetting their rivalry and scoring the necessary goal in a 3-2 vs Panama. Two easy wins over New Zealand in the playoffs guaranteed their place in Brazil. Mexico is still facing many internal problems and the road to stability is steep as the World Cup draws near. The team is riddled with uncertainties regarding the squad and a good run in the tournament is necessary if they wish to redeem themselves with the fan base.

The National Team always qualified for the knockout stage in the World Cup since 1978. The opposition consisting of Croatia and Cameroon shouldn't give them a scare if Mexico's situation is sorted out. A wise team and manager selection are necessary. Among their main players, Chicharito is playing for Manchester United more regularly after Robin Van Persie injured himself, but the Mexican could search for more playing time away from England if necessary. The young generation is a bright one and betting on the kids to do well in a World Cup is something I find feasible, the experience will prove valuable in the future. Hector Herrera, a talented midfielder with good ball control and a surprising calmness with the ball, and Henra Mier, a talented defender with a touch of Rafa Marquez, are among the top Mexican prospects.

Oribe Peralta is the currently the danger man. Mexico's top scorer in 2013 with 7 goals in 8 games, the experienced player gave Brazil nightmares in the London Olympics Football final and scored a hat trick vs New Zealand in the playoffs. The Santos Laguna player also has an impressive defensive work rate, scoring 54 goals in his last 87 appearances for the club. Its surprising that no club in Europe is interested, a good performance in the World Cup could change that.

Mexico lost the 3 times they've faced Brazil in the World Cup without scoring in each, and won 1-0 vs Croatia in the 2002 WC group stage, it'll be the first time they'll face Cameroon.


The African team has some memorable performances in World Cup history, but the current generation is far from the legend of 1990 where the senior Roger Milla managed to lead his country to the quarterfinals, giving England a headache to reach the semifinals. Regularly qualifying for the World Cup but only passing to the knockout rounds once, we can't expect much of Cameroon in Brazil.

The main player is still the 32 year old Samuel Eto'o, now playing for Chelsea the 3 time UCL winner striker is struggling to find form, and has many problems with his national team colleagues, accusing them of not passing the ball and avoiding him. It is rumoured the manager was forced to call Eto'o to the qualifiers. Alex Song is another known player in the National Team. The  Barcelona player currently plays as a midfielder for his country.

Cameroon only faced Brazil once, losing 3-0 in 1994. No matches vs Mexico nor Croatia.


The Croatian National Team managed to qualify in the playoffs against Iceland without struggling after appointing Niko Kovac as manager, the former player managed to struck a cord with his squad. After an incredible debut in the World Cup in 1998, when Davor Suker lead his team to a heroic third place in France, Croatia failed to go past the group stage in 2002 and 2006, failing to qualify in 2010. A reasonable performance in the 2012 Euros gave Spain a few scares, but a proactive performance in 2014 isn't expected, especially considering the climate.

Modric is the stand out player, the Real Madrid playmaker returned to his best under Ancelotti and his shots from outside of the box are a real danger for opponents. The partnership with former Tottenham player Kranjcar are essential to challenge Mexico and Cameroon. Mario Madzukic is suspended for the opening match against Brazil, but the striker is important for the other two group matches, scoring 22 goals in 40 appearances for Bayern Munich in the treble winning season.

Croatia faced Brazil and Mexico once, losing both matches 1-0.

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Group B Preview
By Footy Tipster


The World Champions face the real group of death against their rivals in the 2010 World Cup final, a strong willed Chile and a easy match vs Australia. Experience will prove essential for La Roja, most of the Spaniards won the Euros and World Cup, some won everything twice and a few were just recently called up or not introduced whatsoever (Diego Costa). Del Bosque faces a test that should be considered his speciality, after all he is coaching the only National Team that was capable of winning the historic treble.

The Marquis has a difficult task in his call ups too, with the emerging Diego Costa and the on form Negredo, the Salamanca born manager could drop his usual strikers Fernando Torres and David Villa, both are past their prime, relegated to second option in their respective clubs and far from scoring enough goals. Soldado also lost in translation in the Premier League will probably not feature in Brazil. In the middle young players like Koke Resurrección, Isco Alarcón and Thiago Alcântara could kickstart a squad renewal while keeping Xavi Hernández, Andrés Iniesta and Sergio Busquets. After a wonderful season at Bayern Munich, Javi Martínez also has a strong argument to start ahead of Alonso in the double pivot.

Defense is Spain's biggest problem, both starting centre backs Gerard Piqué and Sergio Ramos are experiencing lacklustre spells and a young defender like Marc Bartra is necessary. The same can be said about Alvaro Arbeloa and Raul Albiol, they could be dropped in favor of Martino Montoya, Cesar Azpilicueta or Alberto Moreno.

Diego Costa will undoubtedly be in the spotlight after the Brazilian Football Federation and Scolari managed to turn Brazilian fans against him, the same nation that didn't even bother calling him up except to obstruct him in playing for another country in a typical and spiteful attitude by the federation. The centre forward isn't the kind that shies away from delivering when booed, he was elected the most hated player last year in La Liga and the jeering will just serve as another inspiration. If Scolari had acted decently Brazil could've had one of the best strikers in the world spearheading their attack.

Spain faced Holland only once in the World Cup, the 2010 final winning 1-0. Won 2-0 vs Chile in 1950 and 2-1 in 2010, both matches in the group stage.


After a performance in 2010 that drew criticism from every footballing legend in their country and a miserable way of going out in the 2012 Euros, the Netherlands National Team is looking for redemption. Newly appointed coach Van Gaal recovered some of their best players to their respectful places and among the World Cup teams they hold the longest unbeaten record (17 matches), only losing once since Van Gaal grabbed the reins. The coach has a difficult mission in Brazil to qualify for the knockout stages.

Revenge against Spain for the World Cup final is far too cheap of an argument, and the match will prove to be extremely difficult for both teams. Currently the biggest underachievers in the world, Oranje has a good chance to start well. Their team is a mix of youngsters and experience like Sneijder, Robben and Van Persie, though dependency on them might be counterproductive in the long term, but for the World Cup seems ideal given the conditions Van Gaal has handled with the squad.

Arjen Robben is the stand out player, now fulfilled after winning the treble, the Dutchman is set to make his final World Cup a memorable ride. Robin Van Persie is now the all time top scorer of his country and his current struggles with injuries might keep him out of the tournament, both club and country have to reach an agreement to maintain his fitness.

Netherlands previously faced Spain in the 2010 World Cup final, losing 1-0, and will face both Australia and Chile for the first time.


Chile was in shambles before former player Jorge Sampaoli took the responsibility and turned their fortunes around. The manager was employed by Universidad Catolica where he managed to win the Copa Sul Americana with an incredible offensive record with dozens of goals scored and helping Eduardo Vargas reach his best. A Bielsista, Sampaoli favours attacking football using pressing combined with a strong midfield. There's a sense of dread in the European sides regarding Chile for their incredible form and advantage of playing in South America, third best in the continent after Brazil and Argentina.

Alexis Sánchez regained his best form after Martino was appointed as Barcelona coach and Sampaoli managed to draw even more of El Niño Maravilla. Blessed with an outstanding work rate and good technique, the former Udinese forward found his place in Spain and Chile, the "Jugadorazo". Arturo Vidal is the other outstanding player. One of the best midfielders in the world, blessed with a work rate that could lead a few to suspend their belief and a unique versatility, the Juventus leader is set to be one of the best players in the tournament.

Chile faced Spain twice in World Cups, losing 2-0 and 2-1. Will face Australia and Netherlands for the first time.


The unluckiest team in the tournament, Socceroos are bound to leave Brazil with 3 defeats in 3 matches. Recently appointed, former football player Ange Postecoglou has to find a way give the 3 opponents problems and look for draws, going out of the World Cup sooner but managing to hurt a top National Team seems a significant achievement for Australia. Tim Cahill is the known player among Europeans, currently playing in the MLS. At the end of the day, starting Langerak on goal might help Australia, the Dortmund reserve goalkeeper is seen as a talisman by players and supporters in Germany.

Australia faced Chile once in the Group Stage, drawing 0-0.

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Group C Preview
By Footy Tipster


Colombia lived through a disappointing generation and has returned to the World Cup after a 14 year hiatus. A dark horse in the World Cup, the new crop of players is set for a strong campaign. The squad holds the promise of living up to expectations, something the 1994 Golden Generation of the country failed to do. Tipped by Pelé as possible World Cup Champions, Colombia failed to qualify to the knockout rounds.

Coaching Argentina in the 2006 World Cup, shortly after José Pekerman fell into international oblivion. In 2012 the Argentinian returned to revive a lacklustre side that was Colombia. He was able to muster a sense of responsibility among his peers and created a solid unity both in defense: conceding the fewest goals in the South American qualifiers; and attacking: the second best after Argentina. Colombia won 9 matches, drew 3 and lost 4 in the qualifiers.

Led by Radamel Falcão Garcia, one of the deadliest strikers in the world, El Tigre is one of the candidates for top scorer in the tournament. Accompanied by the talented Fiorentina winger Juan Cuadrado and one of the top young playmakers in the world and Monaco partner James Rodriguez. Colombia won't struggle to find the goal net, other talented forwards are the Cagliari on form striker Ibarbo, Luis Muriel from Udinese, and one of the revelations of this La Liga season Carlos Bacca. The South American teams offence are a sight to behold.

The defense is led by the veteran Yepes, currently playing for Atalanta. Colombia has yet to face Japan, Ivory Coast and Greece in the World Cup, all of the countries in this groups will play against each other for the first time.


The most under appreciated team, Japan has grown into a fine and competitive side under Italy Legend Alberto Zacheroni, winning their 4th consecutive Asian Championship and being the first country to qualify for the World Cup for the 3rd consecutive time. Japan had a disappointing Confederations Cup, but I saw a promising side that's eager to play football to their fullest. The match against Italy showed the side has yet to grown, conceding silly goals, and the coach will use the experience in Brazil to form a good challenge and qualify for the knockout rounds.

Shinji Kagawa has yet to replicate his Borussia Dortmund performances regularly for Manchester United, but the Japanese ace is his nation hopes for a good exhibition in the World Cup. If the form continues he's set to deliver with real sparks of brilliance. Recently signed by AC Milan, Keisuke Honda is their main striker and proven his quality constantly with not only goals but good technique and experience in Russia. Shinji Okazaki completes the attacking trio, scoring 8 goals in 14 games in the qualifiers.

Ivory Coast

Reaching the World Cup for the 3rd consecutive time, the Africans easily passed through the qualifiers and could challenge Colombia for the first place given their veteran players experience. Captained by Didier Drogba, the 35 year old striker has seen better days but his quality as a football player is unscathed and scored some impressive goals recently. The Touré Brothers will play a huge role for their team, especially the thunderous Manchester City midfielder now that he has discovered a knack for scoring free kicks, there's also the expectation of a few Yaya-Kolo songs.

Ivory Coast has a reasonable quality, ex-Arsenal Gervinho revamped his career at Serie A where he's currently one of the top performers for his team Roma and Salomon Kalou surprisingly found some playing time for Lille at Ligue 1, actually scoring goals.


After the miracle of 2004, the heroes are all but legends with the exception of Charisteas, the only remaining 2004 Euro Winner. The impeccable defensive record continues, Greece is the team that conceded least goals in the entire European qualifiers and their classic bus will decide who's going to the knockout stages.

Kostas Mitroglou made his breakthrough in the Champions League this season scoring a hat trick against Anderlecht and is currently one of the most coveted strikers by Premier League clubs, the 25 years old forward could make the difference between winning and losing, deadly in set pieces and receiving long balls.

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Group D Preview
By Footy Tipster


The Ghost of 1950 returns to Brazil after a difficult qualification battle, Uruguay struggled to find form and almost failed to visit their neighbours. Oscar Tabarez managed to find a way, mainly relying on two of the best strikers in the world to their fullest was key to secure a spot: 7 wins, 4 draws and 5 defeats. The country was a shadow of their past achievements for decades and a glorious run in the 2010 World Cup reaching the semifinals, fortunes were turned.

Luis Suárez is on the spotlight for all the right reasons, surpassing a rough spell on the sidelines after being suspended by the FA for biting Chelsea player Ivanovic, the Uruguayan striker returned in full force scoring for fun in the Premier League and breaking many records in the process. Now with his contract renewed, the only player capable of outscoring Messi in the qualifiers is one of the most talented in the world.

Uruguay won 4-2 vs England in the 1954 Quarter finals and a 0-0 draw with England in the Group Stage in 1966. Faced Italy twice, losing 2-0 in the last 16 in 1990 and drawing 0-0 in the 1970 Group Stage.


Facing a calamity in the 2010 World Cup, eliminated in a doable group, Italy started a deep renewal of their football under Cesare Prandelli wielding great results by reaching the 2012 Euro final. Aided by an also renewed Juventus, most of the success of Azzurri is related to an on form Vecchia Signora. In 2014 the team continues a long road to recycle their style and the legacy of a nation that won the World Cup 4 times, Italy will pose a threat to every title challenging country.

Aside from the problems with the heat in Manaus, Italy will go through the group without experiencing problems and the match with Uruguay will certainly be a joy to watch. Duels with England and Costa Rica won't pose any problems, especially considering the negativity surrounding Roy Hodgson's team. Balotelli is their biggest attacking asset and after enduring another troubled spell at the end of 2013 he has the character to bound back.

Italy won 2-1 vs England in the 3rd place match in the 1990 World Cup, one win and one draw with Uruguay.


A huge display of disbelief by the FA officials shortly after the group draw was a disappointing sight and Roy Hodgson keen on avoiding Manaus only worsened the situation when the groups were decided. England looked defeated even before the tournament started, but their chances are much better if they're capable of overcoming the nonsensical sense of doom. Facing Uruguay and Italy with two of the favourite English tabloid targets Luis Suárez and Mario Balotelli is somewhat ironic but results against tough opposition is part of football.

Experienced players like Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard will prove essential in tough matches, they're used to tackling challenges head on and that should propel youngsters such as Jack Wilshere, Chamberlain and Ross Barkley to better performances. With the right mindset England is capable of reaching the knockout stage.

England lost once to Italy, one loss and one draw vs Uruguay.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica did well in the qualifiers giving problems to top Concacaf sides. Facing the first group in the history of the World Cup with 3 World Champions is a herculean task. Their impressive back line of 5 could give opponents a headache but qualification is a far cry.

Real Saltlake striker Saborio stepped up to help his country and was elected the best latino player in 2013 by the Major League Soccer, Fulham player Brian Ruiz is the most known player in the National Team but far from their best, failing to replicate his good performances for Fulham on the national stage. Olympiakos wonder kid Joel Campbell is among the recent Costa Rican top prospects.

Costa Rica has yet to face their 3 opponents in the World Cup.

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Group E Preview
By Footy Tipster


The Swiss Miracle continues, after reaching the 2011 Euros U19 Final and causing a huge upset defeating Spain in the 2010 World Cup, Switzerland strolled through qualification and is currently placed 8th in the FIFA ranking. Ottmar Hitzfeld is the man responsible for the success the country has been enjoying for years, including young talents like Granit Xhaka, Seferovic and Gokhan Inler. If the team keeps their impeccable defensive record, qualifying for the knockout stages will happen and surprising France to seize the first place isn't a pipe dream.

Xherdan Shaqiri is one of the country's best players. The winger was among the most coveted in Europe after some great exhibitions with FC Basel and by signing with Bayern Munich he won the treble, not a bad start. Currently he's not among the regular starters for his club, but is nonetheless a necessary piece in tight matches.


Among the World Champions, France was the most troubled after a disastrous campaign in South Africa: eliminated in the group stages. Raymond Domenech lost control of his players and faced a revolt, not something unique in the history of the World Cup but one of the most talked subjects of the 2010 edition. Renovation of the national team followed, but Laurent Blanc disappointed in the 2012 Euros with a negative approach when facing Spain. Didier Deschamps was next, achieving questionable results in the qualifiers, losing 2-0 to Ukraine in the playoffs but managing to turn it around with a 3-0 win. His efforts were awarded with a renewal until the 2016 Euros in France.

Lack of quality isn't among France's problems with experienced players like the treble winning and Ballon D'Or candidate Frank Ribéry, Laurent Koscielny and Karim Benzema providing the backbone to the team being complemented by sensational youngsters Paul Pogba, Raphael Varane and Clement Grenier. Deschamps has the difficult task of gelling the squad in a functional way and finding a style suitable to his team. France was lucky to find themselves in a easy group where they'll be able to adapt to the climate and try some new tactics in the process, only a disaster will keep them out of the knockout rounds.

France faced Switzerland in the group stages in 2006, drawing 0-0, and will play against Honduras and Ecuador for the first time.


Appearing for the 2nd consecutive time in the tournament, Honduras enjoyed a great campaign in the Concacaf qualifiers, a good run to the 2013 Gold Cup semifinals and tipped as one of the weakest sides they managed to go out of the last World Cup with dignity including a draw vs Switzerland. Players like Wilson Palacios (Stoke City) and Espinoza (Wigan) improved substantially, overall we might see Honduras giving a respectful showing in the group stages.


In a campaign marked by a stellar home form (7W, 1D, 0L) and a winless away form, Ecuador managed to comfortably qualify to the World Cup for the 3rd consecutive time and looked set to impress if it wasn't for the terrible away record. A team that relied too much on the high altitude at home, they're set to struggle in Brazil. Manager Reinaldo Rueda is a recognised tactician, but overcoming the psychological side might prove too much of a task.

Former Manchester City player Felipe Caicedo was Ecuador top scorer in the qualifiers scoring 7 goals in 9 games, Manchester United winger Antonio Valencia and Pachuca's Walter Ayovi the team's captain.

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Group F Preview
By Footy Tipster


Alejandro Sabella managed what his last two predecessors were unable to do by creating a side capable of challenging for the World Cup. Immensely improving his country, the manager was able to finally extract the best Lionel Messi has to offer and built the team around him replicating what was done in 1986 by coach Carlos Billardo with Diego Armando Maradona. Argentina's campaign in the qualifiers was a good one with 9 wins, 2 draws and 5 losses. Scoring the most goals in the qualifiers (35) and conceding the 2nd least (15), a reasonable defensive record.

A frontline consisting of Gonzalo Higuaín, Angel Di Maria, Sergio Agüero and Lionel Messi, seems a waste of time to debate if they have the best attack in the 2014 World Cup. Argentina has serious issues with their defense, still miles away from countries like Brazil, Germany and Spain, forming a solid back four is still a persisting thorn for the coach and Albiceleste defenders suffer from a pure lack of quality. The same applies for the goalkeeper Romero, one of the weakest among all the top squads in the tournament.

We hear it constantly that this is Messi's World Cup, his chance to lift the title close to his home country and the best player in the World knows it too. Finally returning after a long term injury and a mini pre-season, the Argentinian is set to give his all to lift the only trophy that's not in his cabinet. One of the best in the history of the game and now a mature player, expectations surrounding Messi in 2014 are immense. Rightly so.

The group will be a stroll for Argentina and qualifying for the knockout round with 3 wins is the minimum expected. Argentina faced Nigeria 3 times in the World Cup, all 3 in the group stage winning 2-1 (1994), 1-0 (2002) and 1-0 (2010). First matches against Bosnia and Iran.

Bosnia Herzegovina

Qualifying for the first time for the World Cup, Bosnia had a tough task in Brazil before the group draw. Luckily for them the group looks doable with the main difficulty being facing Argentina, two wins vs Iran and Nigeria will qualify the rookies for the knockout rounds in their first appearance, a feat matched by Croatia in 1998. If the side coached by Safet Susic overcomes their inexperience qualification is possible.

Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko formed a deadly partnership with Ibisevic in the qualifiers, scoring 10 and 8 goals respectively. The midfield is handled by Roma's Miralem Pjanic and the fairly unknown Zvjezdan Misimovic, who's currently playing in China and is the most capped player in the history of his country. Stoke City goalkeeper Asmir Begovic could be the difference between winning and losing against Argentina.


A surprise qualification in Asia, the Iranians booked their ticket to Brazil with 10 wins, 4 draws and only 2 losses. Managed by former Manchester United man and ex-Real Madrid coach Carlos Queiroz, the Middle East country goes to the World Cup for the 4th time in their history. With only one win in their history (vs USA in 1998), qualifying to the knockout rounds is asking too much of a weak but consistent side.

Fulham player Dejagah is the only player most fans will recognize, among others there are Javad Nekounam, the former Osasuna man, and the Standard Liege midfielder Reza Ghoochannejhad.


An incredible win in the African Cup of Nations in February 2012, the side showed promise under the bright coach Stephen Keshi after a significant overhaul of their resources and players. A questionable qualification campaign with 3 wins and 3 losses together with a disappointing performance in the Confederations Cup lowered expectations significantly, and now the side will visit Brazil again with many doubts.

Commitment with an impressive work rate and strength could lead them to the knockout stage if one of the two favourites slip up, but it is unlikely. Among the country's talent we have John Obi Mikel, the Chelsea player who returns to his roots when playing for his country as an attacking midfielder; Emmanuel Emenike is a young forward and was their most decisive player in the qualification for the World Cup; and Chelsea's Victor Moses completes the list of stand out players in the national team.

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Group G Preview
By Footy Tipster


Time has come for Die Mannschaft, the huge period of let downs and a growing frustration has passed. Jogi Low's side looks set to challenge at full force for the World Cup along with Brazil, Argentina and Spain. The German Federation completely rebuilt their structure from scratch and they're reaping their rewards more than a decade later.

The road to Brazil was easy but not without important landmarks in a campaign with 9 wins and a draw, the historical 4-4 match with Sweden. Germany showed some persistent flaws including an unsettling lack of concentration, falling too easy into the trap of easy matches and falling victim to a well organized Italy in the 2012 Euros Semifinals. Joachim Low tended to it and the team is significantly sharper, ready to win a tournament like the World Cup. The Federation is building their own training camp and accommodations in Brazil, a significant advantage over other European countries.

Germany fell prey to another difficult group or the difficult group fell prey to Germany? If everything goes as expected they will qualify for the knockout rounds with 3 wins in 3 matches, Ghana and USA pose no threat and Cristiano Ronaldo will hardly pose difficulties for players used to playing against him. The talk of a generation of underachievers is finally gone after Bayern Munich won the treble and Borussia Dortmund impressed in Europe with incredible football reaching the UCL final. Their tactical variety is close to a level we've yet to see combined with the influence of Pep Guardiola now managing the Bavarian club.

Its nigh impossible to pinpoint that one standout player from Germany, the team currently functions as a unit and Mario Götze is still too young to assume the entire responsibility. Captain Philip Lahm is a natural leader together with Manuel Neuer, Bastian Schweinteiger when fit is the difference between winning and losing. Arsenal player Mesut Özil is set to play his second World Cup and is set to impress once again.

Germany faced Portugal once, winning 3-1 to decide the 3rd place in 2006. One 1-0 win vs Ghana in 2010. 2-0 win vs USA in 1998, another win in the quarterfinals in 2002 (1-0).


A questionable record in an easy group in the qualifiers with 6 wins, 3 draws and one loss is typical of the country in their recent history. Portugal always struggle in the qualifiers, but two solid wins against Sweden in the playoffs including a hat trick by Cristiano Ronaldo guaranteed their presence in Brazil. A great defense is among Portugal's strengths, combined with the talented playmaker João Moutinho feeding one of the best players in the world upfront and they have the recipe to qualify to the knockout rounds without significant problems. Tactical choices by the opponents will influence how good they'll fare in the World Cup.

United States

USA together with Japan are the underrated duo of the World Cup. Under Jurgen Klinsmann they have enjoyed a growth in their footballing culture and tactics in general after a shaky start, leading the qualifiers from the beginning with 7 wins, 2 draws, one loss. Winning 12 consecutive matches in 2013, a new national team record. A difficult group could send them home earlier, but they're certainly keen on repeating the impressive feat that was the 3-2 win vs Portugal in 2002 that secured a place in the knockout rounds.

Jozy Altidore is the highlight of Klinsmann reign, producing good goalscoring performances for his country while failing to do the same for his club Sunderland. The unsung hero and Roma midfielder Michael Bradley also proved essential in the qualifiers together with veteran goalkeeper Tim Howard.

United States have lost to Germany twice (1-0, 2-0), two losses to Ghana (2-1, 1-0) and a 3-2 vs Portugal.


One of the most sympathetic sides of the 2010 World Cup, Ghana returns to challenge for a healthy performance in Brazil after being denied by Luis Suárez hand in 2010. Responsible for crushing USA hopes in the last two World Cups and giving Germany some problems in the group match in 2010, the Black Stars might not qualify but given their previous showings impossible is nothing.

Among the noticeable players are Milan's Muntari, Schalke 04 Boateng and Michael Essien. Goalscorer Asamoah Gyan continues spearheading their attack and Harrison Afful, the dependable Esperance full back is key to their defense.

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Group H Betting Preview
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The Golden Generation of the World Cup, the Belgians carry the hopes of their country with their most promising squad for an international tournament since the 1986 World Cup, when Maradona's Argentina knocked them out. Curious enough Argentina could face Belgium again if both proceed to the knockout stages. Belgium will hardly experience any difficulties reaching the last 16, but a good run in a tournament might be too much to ask of an inexperienced side that failed to qualify for the 2012 Euros.

Belgium walked through the qualifiers winning 8, drawing 2 and didn't taste defeat once. Under Mark Wilmots, as unexperienced as the side he coaches, the former midfielder matured well along with his players, gaining respect and helping them cope with the expectations. Belgium's star player is Eden Hazard, the 22 year old previously helped Lille win their first Ligue 1 in decades and 2014 might be the year of his definitive breakthrough fulfilling the potential accordingly. A gifted dribbler with impeccable finishing he's set to be one of the brightest players in Brazil.

Striker Romelu Lukaku carries the experience of 2 years in the Premier League and along the title winning and leadership of Manchester City Captain Vincent Kompany, Tottenham's Jan Vertonghen and Arsenal's Thomas Vermaelen. Tipped as one of the brightest attacking talents in the world, the 17 year old Zakaria Bakkali could travel to Brazil and possibly be the youngest player in the World Cup.

Belgium faced South Korea twice in the group stages before, winning 2-0 (1990) and drawing 1-1 (1998). Also played once vs Russia winning 3-2 in  2002.


Advocaat's side left much to be desired in the 2012 Euros, besides Shirokov constant misfiring and a 4-1 demolition of the Czech Republic, Russia left the tournament distraught. Since then Capello was appointed and instilled an efficient style of play using the squad available. The Russians conceded only 5 goals in 10 matches in the qualifiers, winning 7, drawing once and losing twice, topping the group that included Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal.

Russia visits Brazil with renewed hopes of having a good performance and the group is helpful, Belgium is the only obstacle between qualifying first and facing a young naive side could favor what Capello devised. The veterans Denisov, Shirokov and Kherzakov might bring an inspiring performance in a side mostly composed of experienced players. The World Cup feels more of a rehearsal for the 2018 edition in Russia.


Led by the well travelled manager Vahid Halilhodzic, the Desert Foxes are another country undergoing a renewal. The Bosnian coach is the man responsible. The youth players steal the spotlight as a bright generation with Valencia midfielder Sofiane Feghouli among the most noticeable players, to the point that he is compared to Zidane. Sporting Lisbon Islam Slimani is the most promising attacking prospect in the team, Yacine Brahimi is the talented Granada winger and the experience comes in the shape of Captain Madjid Bougherra, currently the most capped Algerian player.

Qualification won't happen, but it's a good chance to see some interesting African players performing under a dedicated coach.

South Korea

After finishing 2nd to Iran in their group, South Korea needed a lot of luck to qualify instead of Uzbekistan. One of the weakest sides in the tournament, they've qualified for the last 8 World Cups. The impressive run in 2002 was the highlight even with scandalous refereeing decisions the Koreans look far from that unique feat. Coached by Hiddink disciple Hong Myung Bo, the manager played as midfielder in the 2002 side.

Qualification is asking too much although South Korea has some talented players. Son Heung Min is one of the best Bundesliga signings this season, the talented attacking midfielder put in some wonderful performances for Bayer Leverkusen helping his team be 2nd place in the championship. Arsenal man Park Chu Young one of the most popular players in his country and gifted with a incredible work rate.

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Re: 2014 World Cup Betting News and Notes

WCup - Group Breakdown
By The SportsBoss

Confederation Breakdown

Now that we have laid out which teams are in this year’s competition & broken down which confederations have the most success let’s jump into group analysis. In this article we are going to examine each team and give some color behind their chances this year.

Group A

Brazil heads into this year’s competition as the host nation & clearly the favorite to hoist the trophy – especially considering the pounding they put on Spain in Brazil last summer. Brazil has failed to meet expectations in each of the last two World Cups bowing out in the QF round each time – and will be a hungry nation this year – in a relatively weak group expect them to advance. The 2nd team to advance from this group could really be any of the other three, with Cameroon the least likely. Mexico has reached the knockout stage in each of the last four World Cups and thus is likely the favorite to finish 2nd – however they certainly played a less than inspiring qualification having to compete vs. New Zealand in a playoff to earn the final spot. Croatia missed out on the last World Cup & has failed to reach the knockout stage since their 1998 team lost in the semifinals – but they are the only UEFA team in this group which could give them a small edge in chances of advancing. I expect that second spot to come down to the final game of group stage, June 23rd between Mexico & Croatia and give Croatia the edge.

Group B

In one of the stronger groups sans Australia Group B will be very competitive with Chile likely trying to bounce one of the two UEFA powerhouses to reach the knockout stage. Australia did shock the world by advancing to the knockout stage in 2006 Germany, but the deck is really stacked against them this time around. Defending World Cup & UEFA Champions Spain are currently ranked #1, and despite more failures than successes in the World Cup they finally broke through in South Africa to win the title – and thus with virtually the same team have to be considered one of the favorites again. Netherlands, who lost to Spain in the 2010 Championship game, are the 2nd UEFA team in this group but actually have a lower FIFA rank than Chile; these two figure to battle it out for the 2nd knockout stage bid from this group, and Chile may have the slight advantage with lots of home fans & what figures to be a weather edge playing in some hot & steamy conditions most likely.

Group C

Group C is clearly one of the weaker groups on paper with a team reaching the knockout stage in just 2 of 20 chances (going back five World Cups) – and one of those was the year the Cup was played in Japan & Japan advanced losing in the Round of 16. No team has reached the Quarterfinal round of the World Cup since at least 1990 – so we will have two very happy countries once this year’s group stage is played out. Colombia is the top ranked team according to FIFA checking in at #5 in the World, yet they have not played in a World Cup since 1998 France! Greece checks in at #10 in the World & has had some recent success reaching the group stage in 2010 South Africa & being the last team not named Spain to win Euro (2004). But let’s be honest – that success isn’t overbearing or too relevant considering that Euro title was 10 years ago! Ivory Coast has reached the group stage in each of the last two competitions, but has failed to advance. Japan is the only team that has advanced past a group stage, doing so last time in 2010 South Africa & in 2002 Japan – but they easily have the worst FIFA ranking checking in at #47. This group really is wide open but at this moment I would give the edges to advancing to Greece & Colombia considering CAF has only had one team advance in each of the last 5 World Cups (I believe Nigeria & Cameroon have better chances at advancing than Ivory Coast), and Japan seems to have overachieved in two of the last three World Cups meaning they may fall back some.

Group D

Group D is the 2nd strongest when taking a pure average of the FIFA rankings, but on paper they certainly have the most name recognition and dangerous squads – but are the teams as good as the names suggest this time around? I am not so sure. Uruguay figures to be a dangerous squad with how well Suarez is playing, their success in 2010 South Africa & the fact this year’s competition will take place in South America – but how come they struggled so mightily in qualification, needing to win a playoff to secure their spot? England & Italy are two powerhouse names from UEFA, but when taking a closer look outside Italy’s win in 2006 Germany neither has advanced past the Quarterfinal round since Italy’s 2nd place finish in 1994 USA. Italy has a lot of roster turnover of late, especially when comparing to their 2006 Championship team, and may be too young & inexperienced to battle for a championship this year. England also has a changed roster from recent competitions, but some of their key pieces are still in place – albeit aging. Costa Rica could be a dangerous team in this group, clearly perceived as the worst of the group having missed out on qualifying from the last World Cup & being eliminated in the group stage in the two Cups before that. This is another tough group to call, but right now I will give the edge to Uruguay to win the group, with Italy likely to secure the other bid to the knockout stage – but I frankly would not be shocked seeing any of these 4 teams advance to the next stage.

Group E

This is another group I would classify as relatively weak despite it rating mid-class when using FIFA rankings compared to other groups. Switzerland is rated tops in this group but hasn’t had any success in the World Cup to write home about – they have only made the competition three times of the last five (granted they have reached the last two), topping out in the Round of 16 at Germany in 2006. France, another UEFA squad, is certainly on the downswing of late, checking in the FIFA rankings at #16, failing to get out of the group stage in 2 of their last 3 appearances since winning it all at home in 1998. The group is rounded out with CONMEBOL country Ecuador, who has made the competition only twice of the last five including missing it last time, while Honduras is making its second appearance since 1994, going out in the group stage of 2010 South Africa. I could really see any of these four teams advancing here – and will likely be playing whoever has the best odds to advance (my next article, as mentioned above, will focus on odds and good bets). For this exercise I will project France & Switzerland to advance.

Group F

Group F is easily the weakest group when using the FIFA rankings as Argentina is the only team ranked in the Top 24 of the world, and also the only team that has advanced to the knockout stage since Nigeria reached the single elimination tournament in 1998 & 1994. There is no question to me Argentina has some demons to exercise in this year’s competition & will play well leading to an easy advance – perhaps the easiest of any team. The 2nd spot from this group is likely to come from the winner of the middle game on June 21 between Bosnia & Herzegovina vs. Nigeria; I would give the slight edge to Nigeria considering they are the more experienced team & have underachieved in the last few World Cups.

Group G

In the toughest region if using average FIFA world rank as the metric Group G is this year’s “Group of Death” – frankly an overused term but I will join the rank & file by using it here. UEFA power Germany leads this group checking in at #2 in the world, having reached at least the QF round in each of the last 5 World Cups including playing in the SF round or Championship game in the last three years. With much of the same team I expect Germany to certainly advance to the knockout stage. The 2nd spot could arguably come from any of the remaining three teams with each reaching the knockout stage in the last World Cup, and each competing in the last two World Cups. Ghana has to be considered the longest shot considering the success of CAF teams recently, and a low FIFA ranking of #38. Portugal should be hungry after only reaching the Round of 16 last time out following a SF loss in 2006 Germany, while the Americans are seeking to at least reach the QF round for the first time since Japan 2002. I like this US team – I certainly feel this is the best team we have put forth perhaps ever, but the group will do us no favors. At least one CONCACAF team has advanced to the knockout stage in each of the last 5 World Cups, thus I will project USA to come in 2nd here (Mexico has been far too inconsistent for my liking).

Group H

In the 2nd easiest group (only to Group F) according to FIFA rankings – but perhaps the easiest considering how much Argentina is impacting the average ranking of Group F – Group H is wide open and ironically the lowest ranked team in the competition South Korea has enjoyed the most success by far of the four teams in this group! Over the last two World Cups outside the aforementioned South Korea only one of the other three teams Algeria has even played in a World Cup – and they were knocked out in the group stage in 2010 South Africa. Belgium is making its first appearance since 2002 Japan & they are led by Vincent Kompany – who led Manchester City to BPL titles in 2 of the last 3 years. Russia is also a dangerous team from UEFA checking in at #18 in the FIFA world rankings despite not making a World Cup appearance since Japan 2002 where it bowed out in the group stage. At the end of the day despite not having much recent success I feel both UEFA teams are the ones to beat here – and they will ultimately advance to the knockout stage with Belgium winning the group.

Based on those predictions here is what the knockout stage bracket would look like:

Round of 16:
Brazil vs. Chile
Greece vs. Italy
France vs Nigeria
Germany vs. Russia
Spain vs. Croatia
Uruguay vs. Colombia
Argentina vs. Switzerland
Belgium vs. USA

Brazil vs. Italy
Nigeria vs. Germany
Spain vs. Uruguay
Argentina vs. Belgium

Brazil vs. Germany
Uruguay vs. Argentina

Brazil vs. Argentina (Winner - Brazil)

Not only did I lay out what the bracket would look like based on my projections for the group stage I also went ahead and predicted the outcome of each game in the knockout stage leading to the champion being Brazil. Nothing bold there certainly, but I really feel like this is the year Brazil breaks through and wins its first title since 2002. Here is the breakdown by region for my 2014 projections using the matrix I introduced in the beginning of this article:

Weather could play a big part in this year’s Cup because it’s likely to be very hot & humid – something the European teams aren’t familiar with playing in often. That is likely to be an edge to CAF & CONMEBOL squads – meaning we could see a surprise or two from those two regions advancing deep into the knockout stage.

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Re: 2014 World Cup Betting News and Notes

U.S. World Cup Props

The 2014 World Cup from Brazil begins on Thursday June 12 with group play as 32 teams go head-to-head on the soccer pitch.

The United States will open its group play on Monday June 16 against Ghana from Natal, Brazil.

Based on the numbers below, oddsmakers at expect the first game for the U.S. to be very tight. Ghana has eliminated the United States in both of the last two World Cups – in the group stage of 2006 and in the Round of 16 during the 2010 tournament.

World Cup 2014 Lines (6/16/14)

Ghana +150
USA +140
DRAW +220
Over 2.5 (+140)
Under 2.5 (-160)

Prior to the opening game, bettors can take advantage of proposition wagers for the United States at

Odds to win Group G

Germany 4/7
Portugal 27/10
USA 9/1
Ghana 10/1

Will USA qualify from Group G?

YES +250
NO -450

Stage of Elimination

Group Stage3/10
2nd Round11/4
Quarter Final14/1
Semi- Final40/1
Runner Up125/1

Total Group G points for USA

0 - Point7/2
1 - Point10/3
2 - Points15/2
3 - Points10/3
4 - Points4/1
5 - Points20/1
6 - Points12/1
7 - Points28/1
9 - Points105/1

Over/Under Group G Points for USA

Over 2.5 (-145)
Under 2.5 (+105)

Over/Under Group Stage Goals Scored for USA

Over 2.5 (-130)
Under 2.5 (+100)

Over/Under Group Stage Goals Allowed for USA

Over 4.5 (-125)
Under 4.5 (-110)

Top Goal Scorer for USA

Clint Dempsey 15/8
Jozy Altidore 4/1
Chris Wondolowski 6/1
No USA Goalscorer 12/1
Michael Bradley 16/1
Aron Johannsson 16/1
Kyle Beckerman 25/1
Da Marcus Beasley 30/1
Mikkel Diskerud 30/1
Graham Zusi 30/1
Omar Gonzalez 33/1
Brad Davis 33/1
Jermaine Jones 40/1
Julian Green 40/1
Matt Besler 40/1
John Brooks 40/1
Alejandro Bedoya 50/1
Timmy Chandler 66/1
Fabian johnson 66/1
DeAndre Yedlin 66/1
Geoff Cameron 66/1

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Re: 2014 World Cup Betting News and Notes

Three World Cup Dark Horses You Need to Know
By Chase Ruttig

Every World Cup has a dark horse that captivates the tournament by coming out of nowhere and knocking off some of the favorites in the process. Will this be the year a nation nobody considers will win the World Cup and reward bettors brave enough to back the dark horse?

These three countries could be likely candidates to do just that.

Chile (Group B, +4000)

In a group featuring European powerhouses in Netherlands and defending World Cup champions Spain, the South American nation of Chile are getting some serious value for futures bettors considering they will have the advantage of playing on their home continent.

Going 5-0-1 in their final six CONEMBOL qualifying fixtures, as well as beating England 2-0 while drawing Brazil and Spain in recent friendlies, Chile are quietly underrated considering some of the Serie A and La Liga talent in their squad. Arturo Vidal, Mauricio Isla and Barcelona star Alexis Sanchez give them more than enough world class talent in the midfield to give them a look at making a run towards a World Cup over their South American rivals in Brazil and Argentina. Especially giving their pressing style that led to their strong finish to qualifying.

Ivory Coast (Group C, +15000)

Ivory Coast has a reputation of having Africa's best talent, but always being unable to put it together in big tournaments which makes them interesting underdogs in a field where many feel their talent could be underrated thanks to tough draws in past World Cups.

Grouped with Netherlands and Argentina in 2006 before drawing Brazil and Portugal in 2010, it is understandable why Ivory Coast's "Golden Generation" have failed to provide Africa with the World Cup contender despite having Didier Drogba, one of the best strikers in this era dating back to his days at Chelsea.

Supporting cast members in Gervinho, Yaya & Kolo Toure, Salomon Kalou, and Chieck Tiote - in addition to Swansea youngster Wilfred Bony - give the Elephants the best cast out of the African nations. If they can finally get out of the group stage at a World Cup, anything is possible, but with less proven talent in defense, backers will be hoping they can outscore opponents to make their run.

Cameroon (Group A, +60000)

Those looking for a real long underdog should look no further than Cameroon, who just recently earned a 2-2 draw in Germany during a tune-up friendly that at one point saw the Group A underdogs up on the tournament's third favorites.

Samuel Eto'o and Alex Song make up Cameroon's star power, but a 2-2 draw against a German side over the weekend that saw DFB manager Jogi Low use nearly all of his star players showed that they are ready for a tough group that includes the likes of hosts Brazil as well as Croatia and Mexico. At around 500-to-1 odds going into the World Cup it certainly wouldn't hurt to consider Cameroon after their impressive draw with the Germans in Monchengladbach.

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Re: 2014 World Cup Betting News and Notes

Odds and Betting Previews

Group A

The Brazilians are favored to come out of Group A, but it won't be an easy ride. Mexico, though facing instability in their front office and management, has a consistent presence on the pitch. Despite failing to get to the group stage in 2004 and 2008 plus failing to qualify for the 2010 World Cup, the Croatians have proven to be able to play with the big squads. Nobody should expect a lot out of Cameroon during this World Cup.

Brazil (-445)
Croatia (+793)
Mexico (+894)
Cameroon (+1900)

Group B

In what is sure to be an entertaining Group, we have two of the world's soccer powers in Spain and Holland and an emerging Chilean team. The Dutch will look to get revenge in a World Cup 2010 finals rematch against Spain on June 13. The European teams must be scared of Chile though, as the team's strong form and advantage of playing in South America gives them an edge. Australia may see some huge scores against them as the other squads may need to look at goal differential.

Spain (-151)
Holland (+294)
Chile (+352)
Australia (+4000)

Group C

Group C is really anybody's group to win. Colombia is getting the nod as favorites and rightfully so as they boast a young and powerful attack. If Alberto Zaccheroni can get the Japanese squad together and help eliminate dumb mistakes, they could go further than many expect. Ivory Coast has been teasing us with potential for years and easily passed through qualifiers. If Greece can keep their stellar defense strong and manage to score goals, they could easily represent the group in the knockout rounds.

Colombia (+111)
Japan (+373)
Ivory Coast (+313)
Greece (+613)

Group D

Another tough group that will see three teams competing for two spots in the knockout rounds. If Oscar Tabarez can get the most out of his strikers, especially Luis Suarez, Uruguay may be able to outscore any team in the tournament. After a disastrous performance in the 2010 World Cup, Italy revamped the entire organization and will be looking to reassert their dominance. England could very well come out of the group if they can tackle the mental game they are battling with themselves. And Costa Rica's tough defense may be the deciding factor of which other teams move on.

Uruguay (+183)
Italy (+183)
England (+213)
Costa Rica (+2400)

Group E

France had some interesting moments since the last World Cup, but the team has seemingly settled into their own and are the favorites in Group E. Switzerland is a young and hungry team. The Swiss have quietly developed into a soccer powerhouse, currently ranked eighth in the FIFA rankings. Ecuador has an amazing 7W-1D-0L at home through qualification, but winless away. Honduras will put up a respectable effort, but don't expect world-beaters.

France (-109)
Switzerland (+261)
Ecuador (+359)
Honduras (+2000)

Group F

Group F looks like a race of second as Argentina should easily breeze through the group stages. After Argentina, the group is up in the air. This is Bosnia-Herzegovina's first World Cup, but the rookies have a chance to move on based on the talent level surrounding them. Nigeria is a big strong team that works hard, but has an iffy-at-best record in qualifying so far. Iran surprised a lot of people by qualifying, but a consistent effort may not be enough here.

Argentina (-390)
Bosnia-Herzegovina (+562)
Nigeria (+845)
Iran (+1900)

Group G

Group G is going to be a tough challenge for both the United States and Ghana. Germany is a powerhouse, but has frequently shown a lack of concentration and has gotten bit by trap games. Portugal has an amazing defense feeding forward to arguably the best goalscorer on the planet in Cristiano Ronaldo. Though the Americans have seen a growth in soccer culture and play, a tough task may very well send them home early. Ghana has a history of showing up against both the U.S. and Germany, but that alone won't be enough for this team.

Germany (-130)
Portugal (+232)
United States (+1250)
Ghana (+970)

Group H

Belgium has their most promising international team in some years and should easily cruise to the knockout round in a shallow group. Russia has a lot of things going for them this year, notable a style of play specifically designed for the players on the team and could get their way through the group on the chalkboard. South Korea needed a lot of help to even make the World Cup, but will be helped by a weak group. A young team that could really be building towards the future Algeria looks to be out of the knockouts, but it is far from impossible.

Belgium (-130)
Russia (+230)
South Korea (+613)
Algeria (+1300)

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Re: 2014 World Cup Betting News and Notes

World Cup Predictions
By Toby Maxtone-Smith

Argentina to rule in Rio

The World Cup is only days away. Punters and soccer fanatics all over the world have done their research. Everyone has their favourites, but in the end there will only be one team left to rule supreme over the others, and I think that team will be Argentina.

The well-documented major strength of Argentina is their incredible forward line. Their front four of Lionel Messi, Gonzalo Higuain, Sergio Aguero and Angel Di Maria, is comfortably the most formidable in the world. All of them are coming off the back of excellent seasons. Having been handed a fairly straightforward route to the final (Nigeria, Bosnia and Iran in the group, and a likely clash with either Switzerland or Ecuador in the last 16), I'm happy to take the 4/1 offered by on the Argentines to win their first World Cup since 1986.

The man to watch is Angel Di Maria, of Real Madrid. He has moved into a narrower, deeper role this year, and it has resulted in the season of his life. Di Maria was the star man in the Champions League final and, in contrast to many players who play in Europe, Di Maria got better and better as the season went on. By May he was virtually unplayable. 50/1 on him to win the Player of the Tournament award looks a fantastic bet.

So what lies behind that front four? The deeper lying midfield duo of Javier Mascherano and Fernando Gago are just as good at their jobs as the Messi and co. While Mascherano is often deployed as a centre-back for Barcelona, at international level he is very much the battling midfield terrier he was before moving to Catalonia. Gago, the playmaker, is someone who seems to play better for country than for club. His excellent understanding with Messi is one the main reasons coach Alejandro Sabella is so keen on him.

There is a myth that Lionel Messi can't perform for Argentina. Let's just bust that one right now. Under the frankly incompetent Diego Maradona, he was shunted out wide and not given the key role a man of his quality deserves. However, once Sabella made the shrewd decision to hand Messi the captaincy - a sign that he was to be the focal point of the team, he flourished. Since the first World Cup qualifier in September 2011, Messi has scored 20 in 22 games for Argentina.

The main weakness is the defence. This has as much to do with Argentina's cavalier approach that can leave the defence exposed, as the quality of the defenders themselves. The extent to which this is a weakness has been overstated. Pablo Zabaleta is the right-back - he has been a regular with a top European club in Manchester City for several years. Ezequiel Garay, who had a superb season with Benfica, partners Federico Fernandez, who was part of a mean defence at Napoli. The weak link is Marcos Rojo at left-back, who is naturally a centre-back, while Sergio Romero does not inspire great confidence in goal.

The 3/1 favourites are Brazil. They are the rightful favourites after a fantastic year where Luis Felipe Scolari has really got his team in shape. They play the same first XI every game (4-2-3-1 Julio Cesar; Dani Alves, Thiago Silva, David Luiz, Marcelo; Luiz Gustavo, Paulinho; Hulk, Oscar, Neymar; Fred). It is not a stellar team, but Scolari has fostered a club-like team spirit that is very hard to replicate at international level, with such limited time available.

Their strengths are the great understanding between star man Neymar and unfairly-maligned forward Fred, and the attacking menace of their full-backs. However there is a slight lack of game-changing attacking quality off the bench, with young Bernard the only real option. 3/1 is just a shade too short to get involved.

Bookies have a clear 'big four' with two South Americans and two Europeans. The most appealing of the Europeans are the 13/2 holders Spain. This is a team that knows how to win. This alone means they cannot be discounted. However the last two years has seen several high-profile matches where teams have beaten teams playing the Spanish passing style. Think of Bayern Munich's 7-0 aggregate defeat against Barcelona, and then this season Real Madrid's 4-0 win at a Bayern Munich side who, under Pep Guardiola, played the 'Spanish way'.

People have worked out how to beat this style of football. A refusal to compromise their principles will, I think, cost Spain.

The most opposable team in the 'big four' are Germany, who seem far too short at 5/1. They play all three games in the daytime, in cities near the Equator, which will inevitably curb their fast attacking style and leave them drained for the later stages. Their group is difficult, they are likely to face Argentina in the quarter-finals, and their best recognised striker is 36 year-old Miroslav Klose. After coming so close in every tournament since Euro 2004, I feel the Germans may have missed their chance.

So what of the outsiders? Belgium can be immediately dismissed at 13/1, while I am not as keen on 20/1 shots Colombia as I would have been a year ago. The injury to Falcao, along with a creaking defence, mean I cannot see them getting beyond the quarters.

France are an interesting option. Since an almighty scare in their play-off against Ukraine, they have put in some excellent performances. Even with doubts over Franck Ribery's fitness, the French have some superb attacking options in Karim Benzema and Mathieu Valbuena, while young centre-midfielder Paul Pogba is tipped by many to be a future Best Player in the World. At 22/1 they are appealingly priced.

However, the best bet outside the big four comes in the shape of 30/1 shots Portugal. Of all the Europeans they will feel most at home in Brazil, and in Cristiano Ronaldo, they have the Ballon d'Or winner. Much will depend on Ronaldo's fitness, but if 100% fit he wins matches on his own. They are 3/1 to beat Germany in their opening game, which is hugely attractive.

Top Bets

Argentina to win the World Cup at 4/1

France to win the World Cup at 22/1

Portugal to win the World Cup at 30/1

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Re: 2014 World Cup Betting News and Notes

WCup Top Bets - Group A-D
By Toby Maxtone-Smith

Group A

Group A is all about Brazil, the 3/1 favorites to win the tournament. With home advantage, an excellent team with an even better team spirit, the Seleção should have trouble getting through what is a fairly straightforward group of Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon. Scolari’s men are 15/1 not to qualify, and a $10 accumulator on three wins for the Brazilians would only pay out $19.42 with

Many see this as a straight fight between Croatia and Mexico for second spot. Mexico have incredibly gone out at the last 16 at each of the last five tournaments, but I think that run could come to an end in Brazil. They were very goal shy in qualifying and consecutive 1-0 friendly defeats in the run-up to the competition have not changed that perception.

Croatia at 11/10 make more appeal than the 23/20 Mexicans. They have a superb midfield with Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Mateo Kovacic all capable of terrifying defences, while front man Mario Mandzukic is a clinical finisher of the highest order. Cameroon will be competitive, but squad infighting has led to a dreadful recent World Cup record. While the defence is solid enough, their midfield looks very short on creativity. They are 9/2 to qualify.

Group A - Top Bets: Croatia to qualify at 11/10

Group B

Group B is the ‘Group of Death’. Spain are the defending holders. The Netherlands is the most major football country never to have won the World Cup, and Chile have an attack that will score goals against anyone. And then Australia. Spain are the rightful favourites, and their squad has vast experience: They have five players with over 100 caps, and this will prove vital. They are the 5/7 favourites to win the group, but it might be worth backing them not to score many goals. They are the major tournament 1-0 specialists, and it may be worth having a wedge on them to score under 5.5 goals at 50/69.

Chile are the top bet in this group at 5/6 to qualify over the Netherlands, who are 4/7. The Dutch are another team that are often beset by disharmony in the camp, and Chile’s energetic pressing game will make them very difficult opponents. Defence is an issue, but in Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal they have two real superstars. An inexperienced Australia will be totally out of their depth here. Many experienced names have retired since 2010, and the new generation have yet to convince. A treble on three defeats for the Soceroos is a 2.04/1 shot.

Group B - Top Bets: Chile to qualify at 5/6, Spain to score under 5.5 tournament goals at 50/69

Group C

Group C looks the hardest of all to call, with no truly outstanding team and no real weak link. Colombia are the 5/7 favourites to win the group. The loss of Falcao means they are not as tempting a bet to go far as they once were, but in Carlos Bacca, Teofilo Gutierrez and Jackson Martinez they have three able deputies who will share the goalscoring load. I don’t see them getting beyond the quarters, but they should navigate their way through this group.

This is the last chance for this golden generation of Ivory Coast players to make a mark at a World Cup, after group stage exits in difficult groups in 2006 and 2010. They are 10/11 to qualify here, but this to me looks overpriced. They still struggle to find the right balance and the defence is dodgy. I’d swerve them in favour of Japan at 11/10. In Shinji Okazaki they have finally found a reliable goalscorer, and Shinki Kagawa, Hiroshi Kiyotake and Keisuke Honda all contribute well in an exciting team.

Greece are the outsiders and will be what Greece has been since they won Euro 2004: dour, defensive and hard-working. At 2/1 they cannot be written off and always have a shock up their sleeve, but forward Kostas Mitroglou has hardly played since December and is a key part of their team.

Group C - Top Bets: Japan to qualify at 11/10

Group D

Of the 19 FIFA World Cups, teams in Group D have won seven of them. England, Italy and Uruguay all have huge footballing pedigree and this looks like another fiendishly difficult section to call. Of these three teams, it is Uruguay who I think have what it takes to come top of the pile. The draw has come out perfectly for them, with group minnows Costa Rica first up followed by England, then the Italians. If they beat Costa Rica they can afford to play it safe against the tougher opponents. Their game is to defend deep and counter-attack, and in Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez they have two of the world’s great strikers. I’m happy to take the 8/5 on them winning the group.

England and Italy are almost impossible to split. Italy are the favourites to qualify at 8/5, with the Three Lions at 2/1. I have them neck and neck. Italy knocked England out of Euro 2012 on penalties after dominating a goalless match, but England have improved their attack since then, while there are still big question marks over Italy’s forward line with Ciro Immobile relatively unproven and Mario Balotelli predictably unpredictable.

Rather unusually, England’s weakness is probably the defence, where there is a lack of real leadership after the retirements of John Terry and Ashley Cole. Glen Johnson continually looks vulnerable at right-back. Their strength is the youthful pace of their attack, but Hodgson is a safety-first manager who can be reluctant to give full freedom to his most creative players. Costa Rica stand little chance of qualifying at 10/1, but they could throw a spanner in the works with a pesky draw. This is most likely to come against Italy, who have a history of being inept at disposing of inferior opposition.

Group D - Top Bets: Uruguay to win the group at 8/5

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Re: 2014 World Cup Betting News and Notes

WCup Top Bets - Group E-H
By Toby Maxtone-Smith

Group E

Group E is possibly the weakest group at the World Cup, and France are the 20/29 favourites to win it with However I’d be wary of going in too hard at this price. While I expect the French to do well, they never seem to nail the group stages. In Euro 2012 they surrendered top spot to England thanks to a defeat to Sweden, and even when they reached the World Cup final in ’06, they stumbled through a similarly weak group with just five points. The loss of Franck Ribéry will hit Les Bleus hard, but in Karim Benzema they have a striker on top form, while Paul Pogba is touted by many as a future great.

The bookmakers make Switzerland the 2/3 favourites to qualify with the French. They have a team packed with flair: Xherdan Shaqiri on the right wing is the star, while Granit Xhaka, Ricardo Rodriguez and Josip Drmic all have great potential. Their opening clash with Ecuador in Brasília will be crucial. Ecuador’s main strength is their excellent wide men Antonio Valencia and Jefferson Montero, but their defence could let them down. However I’m happy to take even on them qualifying, as I think home advantage could be crucial.

Honduras are a physical side, but at 6/1 to qualify I expect their contribution to be more about denting other side’s prospects with doughty draws than winning themselves.

Group E - Top Bets: Ecuador to Qualify at even (+100)

Group F
Group F looks like a fairly straightforward affair for Argentina, who are my pick to win the World Cup. Alejandro Cabella’s side are1/4 favourites to win the group. Their three opponents all look shaky at the back, and Argentina’s devastating front three of Gonzalo Higuain, Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero look set to plunder plenty of goals in this section. They are evens to score over 6.5 goals in these three games.

The main match in this group will be Bosnia-Herzegovina’s match against Nigeria, and bookmakers are correct in making Bosnia (the only debutants in Brazil) the 5/7 favourites. They scored 30 goals in 10 games in qualifying with the deadly duo of Vedad Ibisevic and Edin Dzeko scoring eighteen of them. Even if defence is a concern, between the sticks they have the excellent Asmir Begovic. I’m very keen on them scoring over 3.5 group goals at 20/23.

Nigeria look one of the strongest of the five African sides represented, and in Stephen Keshi they have an excellent home-grown coach. However like Cameroon, they have a shortage of creativity in a largely workmanlike midfield, which is why I’m backing Bosnia ahead of the 7/5 Super Eagles. Iran look, on paper, the weakest side at the competition. They got through the Asian qualifying section thanks to good defending (eight goals scored and only two conceded in eight games), but that defence could be found out. The attack looks toothless, and 5/4 on them to score under 1.5 group goals looks a banker.

Group F - Top Bets: Bosnia-Herzegovina to score over 3.5 Group Stage Goals at 20/23. Iran to score under 1.5 Group Stage Goals at 5/4

Group G
Group G is split in two. Germany and Portugal, whom everyone expects to qualify, and Ghana and USA. Germany look one of the teams to oppose this year. They have had four golden opportunities to win a tournament since winning Euro 1996, and have missed every one. Now, Joachim Löw manages a side blighted by injuries and key men out of form. The loss of Marco Reus will hit them particularly hard. They are 4/7 to win the group.

This leaves the door open for Portugal to take top spot off the Germans. If Cristiano Ronaldo is fully fit and firing then the 27/10 on Paulo Bento’s side winning the group has great appeal. Sceptics will look at a lack of depth in quality behind Ronaldo, but the whole team is geared up to get the best out of the Real Madrid man.

The USA do not look as strong as in recent years. Klinsmann’s men will travel 10,188 to and from games - more than any team, and that will take its toll. I also have huge doubts that Jozy Altidore, despite his good international record, is up to it at the highest level of soccer. They are 2/1 to qualify, and while they won’t be thrashed, I’m sorry to say, guys, that it’ll be an early flight home.

Ghana hold more appeal at 3/1 to disrupt the ‘big two’ in this group. They have an abundance of talent going forward, with Andre Ayew, Kevin-Prince Boateng and Kwadwo Asamoah behind Asamoah Gyan. While not blessed with quite the same stardust, they have a better team ethic than fellow West Africans Ivory Coast, and this should stand them in good stead.

Group G - Top Bets: Portugal to win Group G at 27/10

Group H

Leading the betting in Group H are Belgium. Congratulations to those who backed them at monster prices a few years ago (they were 500/1 after the last World Cup), but they hype seems to have gone too far and I can’t have any of the 4/7 on them winning a competitive section. Some of their stars, like Marouane Fellaini, have had poor seasons, and there is a real issue at full-back, where they play two players who are naturally centre-backs.

Russia have been hit hard by an injury to captain Roman Shirokov, and with the 2018 competition being hosted in Russia, this team looks like a work in progress. A good result against South Korea in their first game is certainly realistic, and I’d be happier backing them to win the group at 2/1 than Belgium. South Korea had a dodgy qualifying campaign, but they are excellent at raising their game for the big time. They never shirk away from a fight and are 9/5 to qualify.

Algeria have been written off as a no-hoper, and it’s very hard to see why. In Sofiane Feghouli, Islam Slimani and Hilal Soudani they have an abundance of creativity, while Madjid Bougherra commands the defence well. They’re not going to win the World Cup of course, but they seem well worth a punt at 9/2 to qualify.

Group H - Top Bets: Algeria to qualify at 9/2

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Re: 2014 World Cup Betting News and Notes

Current Form - Group A-D
By The SportsBoss

In this piece, we’re breaking down each group in much more detail, going through the final stage of qualification for each team initially, breaking down their last 10 games (thru June 6) on the pitch overall followed by some qualitative analysis on recent form & perhaps what we can expect from a gambling angle.

Each group will have 3 pieces:

1 - Final stage of qualification results
2 - Last 10 match results
3 - Analysis

Before analyzing each group, please note the qualification comments on the six teams below:

Group A
Brazil: Qualified automatically as host nation
Cameroon: CAF's final stage of qualification is a home & home vs. one opponent
Croatia: Won playoff vs. Iceland for bid. 0-0 draw at Iceland, 2-0 win at home (aggregate 2-0)
Mexico: Won Inter-Continental playoff vs. New Zealand for bid. 5-1 win at home, 4-2 win at New Zealand (aggregate 9-3)

Group C
Greece: Won playoff vs. Romania for bid. 3-1 win at home, 1-1 draw at Romania (aggregate 4-2)

Group D
Uruguay: Won Inter-Continental playoff vs. Jordan for bid. 5-0 win at Jordan, 0-0 draw at home (aggregate 5-0)

Analysis - Group A

Brazil: Dominating of late, only loss (0-1) at Switzerland on 8/14/13. Have not yielded more than one goal since Confederations Cup win over Italy 4-2 on 6/22/13. They have reached the knockout stage every World Cup since 1966 & no question that streak will continue in 2014 - but they have much bigger goals especially with the competition taking place on their soil.

Croatia: Only kept two clean sheets over last 10 games both vs. Iceland. Only win vs. World Cup team over South Korea on 9/10/13. Croatia has only played one 0-0 draw since at least summer of 2012 - meaning over plays could be solid selections here. Have not escaped group stage since 1998 France & that is clearly their goal here - target 2nd place which should be accomplished vs. lesser teams Mexico & Cameroon.

Mexico: First loss (0-1) of 2014 vs. Bosnia & Herzegovina on June 3. Only two of last 10 games saw combined goals less than 3 (over bets look solid perhaps during world cup). New coach Miguel Herrara seems to be getting more out of El Tri than recent past managers, especially offensively. Strong record escaping group play as they have reached knockout stage in each of last 5 World Cups, but have not reached quarterfinals since 1986 - that's clearly the goal this year.

Cameroon: Struggled of late outside home win over Tunisia 4-1. Only faced two fellow World Cup teams: lost to Portugal 5-1 on 3/5/14, tied Germany 2-2 on 6/1/14. Seem to be longshot of group considering they have not reached knockout stage since 1990 with higher ranked teams & have not faced strong competition much - and when they did it often did not turn out well.

Analysis - Group B

Spain:Ten games ago was loss at Brazil in Confederations Cup finale 3-0. Since they have scored two goals in seven of nine and only loss was 1-0 at South Africa. They have reached the knockout stage in every World Cup but one since 1982 (1998 France) and are clearly the favorite of this group & to return to the championship game at the least. Keep an eye on a variety of injuries that could derail their chances.

Netherlands: Outside of an 8-1 win at home over Hungary on 10/11/13 the Dutch scoring margin is just 12-7 (nine gms). They have not scored more than two goals outside aforementioned Hungary game since 6/7/13 vs Indonesia. Just 1-1-3 last five vs. World Cup teams with lone win 1-0 over Ghana at home on 5/31/14. Concern for Dutch is evident.

Chile: Perhaps no team is more prepared for the World Cup as seven of their last 10 games has come against World Cup teams including a tie vs. Spain & a pair of one-goal defeats on road against Brazil & Germany. Chile has scored less than two goals just twice over last 10 vs. aforementioned Germany & Brazil. Solid sleeper here.

Australia: Outside of a pair of 6-0 road losses to France & Brazil they are near level in record and goal differential. Their only three wins came when they pitched shutout. Longshot of group for certain, perhaps of entire tournament despite escaping group stage in 2006.

Analysis - Group C

Colombia: Only loss over last 10 was at Uruguay (0-2) on 9/10/13. Last three outings were draws including less than inspiring efforts vs. Tunisia and Senegal. Recent form and lack of experience may be cause for concern, as is the loss of striker Radamel Falcao to injury.

Greece: A goal in three matches thus far in 2014 (pair of 0-0 draws vs. fellow World Cup squads Portugal and Nigeria along with 2-0 loss at home to South Korea). Have not scored more than two goals in a match since 6/4/11 vs. Malta at home! Will likely play tight to vest looking for draws - thus playing draws & unders in their matches likely solid selections.

Ivory Coast: Since beating Gambia back-to-back 3-0 and Tanzania in next outing 4-2 during WC qualifying they are just 2-2-3 with goal differential of (1). In last 10 have faced three fellow World Cup teams going 0-2-1 with lone point a 2-2 tie vs. Belgium. Since aforementioned games vs. Gambia both teams have scored in their last three games thus over plays may be solid here. May be longest shot of group to reach knockout stage.

Japan: Unbeaten over l5 dating back to 1-0 road loss at Belarus on 10/15/13. Have faced five World Cup teams over last 10 games going 3-1-1 with lone loss to Uruguay, draw with Netherlands and beating Ghana, Belgium and Costa Rica by combined 9-4 score. Having exceeded expectations reaching the knockout stage in two of last three World Cups no reason in this weak group the Japanese cannot advance again. A case could even be made they are the favorite.

Analysis - Group D

Uruguay: Though Uruguay did struggle early in qualification they come into this competition playing well with just one loss (0-1) vs fellow World Cup Conmebol country Ecuador on road (10/11/13). One concern could be not facing any decent competition since 10/15/13 when they beat Argentina as their four games since then came against Jordan twice (Intercontinental Playoff), Austria and Northern Ireland.

Costa Rica: Defense is a major concern as they have not held one clean sheet over their last nine matches dating back to a shutout of Dominican Republic on 8/14/13. They are 0-5 dating back to 2-1 home win over Mexico on 10/15/13 & just 1-6-0 over their last seven matches. No question the longshot of this group, and battling Australia for the longest shot of any team to reach the knockout stage.

England: Over their last 10 they have faced three World Cup teams going just 0-2-1 getting shutout at home in back to back losses to Chile & Germany in late 2013, followed by recent 2-2 tie with Ecuador on 6/4/14. Have escaped group stage in each of last four World Cups, but big time uphill battle this year for a team somewhat in transition facing a very difficult group.

Italy: Heads into the World Cup not in good form whatsoever having no wins since beating Czech Republic and Bulgaria by one goal at home in early September 2013. Just 0-1-6 last seven matches including draws against the likes of Luxembourg, Ireland and Armenia. Have not scored more than two goals since beating Japan in Confederations Cup last June. Amazingly they have not scored a goal and held a clean sheet away from home since beating Malta 2-0 on 3/26/13.

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Re: 2014 World Cup Betting News and Notes

Current Form - Group E-H
By The SportsBoss

In this piece, we’re breaking down each group in much more detail, going through the final stage of qualification for each team initially, breaking down their last 10 games (thru June 6) on the pitch overall followed by some qualitative analysis on recent form & perhaps what we can expect from a gambling angle.

Each group will have 3 pieces:

1 - Final stage of qualification results
2 - Last 10 match results
3 - Analysis

Before analyzing each group, please note the qualification comments on the two teams below:

Group E
France: Won playoff vs. Ukraine for bid. 2-0 loss at Ukraine, 3-0 win at home (aggregate 3-2)

Group G
Portugal: Won playoff vs. Sweden for bid. 1-0 win at home, 3-2 win at Sweden (aggregate 4-2)

Analysis - Group E

Switzerland: Enter competition with just one loss over their last 10 games, but they have just faced three fellow World Cup teams going 1-1-1 beating Brazil, tying Croatia & losing at South Korea. They have scored in each of their last 10gms while subsequently keeping six clean sheets. Decent track record at World Cup, will be in the mix for certain - who wouldn't be beating Brazil recently?

Ecuador: La Tri is one of six World Cup teams who have a negative goal differential over their last 10 games (the 2nd in their group). Over their last five they have gone 1-1-3 vs. 5 World Cup teams beating Australia, losing to Mexico while tying England, Netherlands & Honduras - hard to get a solid feel on this team obviously. Goals are plentiful in their games as they have played just one 0-0 draw since 7/3/11! Expect wide open play and a lively underdog here - in this questionable group Ecuador, especially playing on their home continent has a legitimate chance to reach the knockout stage for the 1st time since 2006.

France: France remains a defensive juggernaut holding clean sheets in seven of their last 10 outings although just three of those have come against World Cup teams, one of which was a 6-0 win over Australia. In their last six home games they went 5-0-1, outscoring opponents 18-1; in six road games they are just 1-3-2 getting outscored 4-8 (all four of their goals scored came in a win at Belarus on 9/10/13). Goal scoring will be a concern, defense will not so under plays seem to hold value with the French.

Honduras: Just three wins over their last 10 all by 1 goal over Venezuela, Costa Rica and Mexico. Have allowed two or more goals in seven of last 10 games while scoring two goals in six of last 10. No question the biggest longshot of group, difficult to envision many scenarios where they reach knockout stage.

Analysis - Group F

Argentina: Lone loss over last 10 came at Uruguay (2-3) on 10/15/13. Six of last 10 have come against fellow World Cup squads including a 2-1 win at Italy last summer. Struggled some over their last three going just 1-0-2 with scoring margin 2-0. Still clear favorite in relatively weak group.

Bosnia & Herzegovina: Head into this one winning their last two vs. fellow World Cup squads beating Ivory Coast 2-1 and Mexico 1-0. They have virtually no history in the World Cup and not many trends to follow based on recent competition leaves them squarely in the mix to grab that 2nd spot to the knockout round.

Iran: Despite record to left and goal differential they head into this competition in very poor form drawing three straight vs. Angola, Montenegro and Belarus (1-1 aggregate) which followed a home loss to Guinea (1-2). Iran has only faced one World Cup team, South Korea, who they beat 1-0 way back on 6/18/13. This country is the clear longshot in the group, and frankly doesn't seem to have much of a chance.

Nigeria: Has played four draws over their last five, three of which were 0-0. All three of those 0-0 draws came against fellow World Cup teams (Ghana, Mexico, Greece), which were the only three WC teams they faced. Nigeria will be competitive in this group, battling Bosnia for that 2nd bid to the knockout stage.

Analysis - Group G

Germany: The Germans head into the World Cup as the only unbeaten team over their last 10 matches. Four of their last five have come against fellow World Cup squads & they have gone 2-0-2 beating England and Chile 1-0, while tying Italy and Cameroon. With Germany having reached at least the semifinals in the last three World Cups, but having not won the title since 1990 they enter in top form and are amongst the short list of favorites.

Portugal: Portugal has faced very strong competition over their last 10 with five coming against fellow World Cup teams including Brazil and Netherlands and another two vs. Sweden in a UEFA home & home playoff for a bid. They have not lost a game since 9/10/13 vs. Brazil in Massachusetts while allowing more than one goal just once since that game (3-2 win at Sweden 11/19/13). Ronaldo has been playing very well in qualification & Champions league, thus Portugal will be seeking just their 2nd appearance past the round of 16 since 1994 - but it has a tough group to overcome.

Ghana: As evidenced by recent form Ghana really struggles to score goals, but does play solid defense. Their schedule in qualification and of late is not top notch as they have only faced two fellow World Cup teams over their last 10 (0-0 vs. Nigeria, 0-1 loss to Netherlands), but their defense held up well against the high powered Dutch on the road. Ghana has not scored more than one goal since a 6-1 win over Egypt on 10/15/13 which could be a big concern especially in this group. Expect low-scoring games when Ghana is involved, but it’s unlikely they will score enough to reach knockout stage.

United States: This may be the best USA squad to ever enter the World Cup, but recent comments by head coach Klinsman leave many scratching their heads about what to expect from the Red, White & Blue this time around. Outside of Mexico, whom they have dominated over the last decade plus, they faced just one World Cup team over their last 10, a 2-0 win over lower tier South Korea. Offense doesn't appear to be an issue, but they have struggled defensively against teams that are legitimate challengers especially from UEFA. Most likely over bets will be solid and getting thre points from Ghana/Portugal games will be critical to reach the knockout stage for the 3rd time in 4 World Cups.

Analysis - Group H

Belgium: Belgium is a popular sleeper selection this year but the numbers don't really support that. Of their last 10 games, five have come against fellow World Cup teams and they have gone 1-2-2 beating Croatia 2-1 on road, losing to Colombia and Japan while tying France and Ivory Coast. Outside of a 5-1 win over Luxembourg on 5/26/14 they have just a +1 goal differential over their last 10. They only held one clean sheet in the five vs. World Cup teams we just mentioned, and allowed 2+ goals in four of those games. The group does them a favor not being too strong.

Algeria: Algeria, with eight wins over their last 10 games (2nd to Brazil’s 9), heads into this competition with confidence despite not facing many strong clubs. In fact, Algeria has not faced another World Cup team since a 1/30/13 tie vs. Ivory Coast! They can score goals as evidenced by not being shutout once since 1/26/13 vs. Togo; combine that with the lack of competition & overs are probably strong plays in their games. No question Algeria is the longest shot to advance to the knockout stage from group h

Russia: Russia is a very solid, not talked about often club as they head into the World Cup with just one loss over their last 10 games, which was 10 games ago at Northern Ireland (0-1). Since then they have dominated their opponents scoring in all nine games, while holding three clean sheets defensively and not allowing more than one goal in any game - matter of fact they have not allowed more than one goal since 11/14/12 vs. USA. Their competition has not been truly top notch, but this will be a hungry team since they have never advanced past the group stage.

South Korea: Surprisingly South Korea has advanced to the knockout stage in two of the last three World Cups; this time around, even in a weak group, it will be a clear uphill battle as they, along with Algeria, are the two longest shots of Group H. They are one of just three teams (Brazil, Bosnia) to not have a draw over their last 10 games - but they also have six losses, the most of any World Cup team. In 2014 they have beaten a pair of World Cup teams in Costa Rica and Greece (in Athens), and they have not had a 0-0 draw since summer of 2013 - lean on overs in their games for certain. Can South Korea surprise again? It's likely they will need 3 points against either Belgium or Russia to do so - they recently dropped a 2-1 decision vs. Russia on 11/19/13.

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Re: 2014 World Cup Betting News and Notes

Team Analysis - E-H
By Marc Lawrence

With Brazil knee-deep in soccer fans worldwide, the 5th largest country in the world - which occupies nearly half of South America and an Amazon rainforest that constitutes almost half of the rainforests on Earth – will have the eyes of the international football world glued to its twelve World Cup venues for the next 31 days.

While soccer is growing in the United States at all levels, it’s interest in the sport is a splinter among a forest next to the global passion shared by futball aficionados worldwide.

As fans, though, Americans put their money where their mouth is, with only host Brazil buying more tickets for this event than the United States.

Here is a brief snapshot of what each team from the final four groups brings to the table in this year’s event, with each team’s FIFA rank in parenthesis.


Ecuador  (28) – For all the fervor Ecuador brings to this tournament – its third in the last four events – they are heartbroken and hamstrung with the death of its leading scorer, 27-year old Christian “Chucho” Benitez to heart failure last summer, along with defender Jayro Campos and midfielder Segundo Castillo out with injuries… coach Reinaldo Ruea coached Honduras to its second World Cup berth in 2010… midfielder Christian Noboa, who joined the club in 2012, has played the last six years in Russia.

France (16) – Les Blues left the 2010 World Cup red-faced following a mutiny and a boycott of practice… The French have reached the final four five times, winning the event in 1998.  On the other 11 occasions since WWII they have gone out in the group stage or failed to qualify… winger Franck Ribery, arguably the third-best player in the world, is out with a bad back… coach Didier Deschamps was France’s team captain in its 1998 World Cup championship campaign.

Honduras (30) – One of two teams that failed to score in the 2010 World Cup, Los  Catrachos managed wins over Mexico and the United States during the qualifying game … Honduras has never won a World Cup game, but facing Switzerland in the Amazon jungle (Manaus) lends hope to that possibility… striker Jerry Bengston scored nine goals in qualifying games… head coach Luis Fernando Suarez took over in 2011 and has led Honduras to the semifinals of the 2011 and 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament.

Switzerland (8) – The Swiss went 7-0-3 in qualifying against a very weak group (49th ranked Iceland was second)… watch this team in four years in Russia as starting 11 average age is 25… became the first team in World Cup history to be eliminated without conceding a goal in 2006… defeated eventual champion Spain, 1-0, in 2010 World Cup.

Argentina (7) - Scored 35 goals in South America in qualifying, most of any team… a two-time winner in the event in 1978 and 1986), and a 2nd place finisher in 1990, Albiceleste’s best finish since was as a Round of 16 team in 1994… 4-time World Player of the Year, Lionel Messi, will be playing in his third World Cup… the World Cup has been held in South America four times with South American teams winning every time... many locals considered it “divine intervention” on the part of Buenos Aires-born Pope Francis – a fervent soccer fan – when the country was drawn into arguably the weakest of the World Cup’s eight groups.

Bosnia-Herzegovina (25) – First World Cup appearance for the Dragons, the only team making it’s debut this summer… went 8-1-1 in UEFA, outscoring its opponents by 24 goals… with Manchester United’s Edin Dzeko (averaged a goal a game during qualifying) and former St. Louis University All-AmericanVedad Ibisevic up front, they can score in bunches… a vulnerable defense figures to put pressure on goalkeeper Amsir Begovic.

Iran (37) – Team Melli features a veteran coach in Carlos Quiroz who has managed Portugal’s national team and coach with Real Madrid and in the USA… team relies on foreign based imports who qualify for Iranian citizenship… due to economic and political sanctions, they went 119 days without a game after qualifying… the cash-strapped team’s short stay will be at an airport hotel while players are banned from participating in traditional postgame exchange of jerseys with their opponents.

Nigeria (44) – Fifth World Cup appearance for the Super Eagles who have twice reach the second round… won the 2013 African Nations Cup for the first time in 20 years and then won the Under-17 World Cup… after going winless in its last two World Cups, Nigeria’s president briefly banned the team from international competition… last World Cup win was in 1998… lost 1-0 to Argentina in the finals of the 2008 Olympics.


Germany (2) – A three-time winner in the World Cup, sparing no expense, the Germany soccer federation built a training center in Brazil complete with housing units, a soccer filed, a media center and treatment facilities… Die Nationalmannschaft scored 36 goals in qualifying - the most of any team in the European zone – and has registered 222 goals in World Cup games, the most of any country… midfielder Mesut Ozil scored eight goals in 12 games during qualifying.

Ghana (28) – The Black Stars were the only one of six African nations to survive group play… played in only two World Cup and knocked out the United States by a 2-1 score both times… led by the Asamoah’s – midfielder Kwadwo Asamoah and super-fast striker Asamoah Gyan.  Kwadwo was named the country’s top player the last two years; Gyan’s goal beat the U.S. in the 2010 World Cup… coach James Kwesi Appiah is the first black African coach to take a team to the World Cup.

Portugal (3) – Classic underperformer in this tournament, despite the presence of superstar Cristiano Ronaldo , the world’s highest paid soccer player who has scored 49 goals in 110 international games… Ronaldo has over 25 million followers on Twitter… team has been characterized as “Cristiano Ronaldo and 10 other guys.”… tied Israel two times in qualifying games… coach Paulo Bento replaced Carlos Queiroz in 2010.  Queiroz will coach Iran the this year’s World Cup.

United States (14) – 9,000 miles of travel in Brazil awaits the Americans… best chance to advance will be to beat Ghana in opener and draw with Portugal… much hyped dual-nationalist squad with four players on roster of German descent… 10 players on roster from MLS teams… solid in goal with Tim Howard and in the midfield with Michael Bradley.  Inexperienced back line is a question… Team USA hasn’t gotten a World Cup goal from a striker since Brian McBride in 2002… DaMarcus Beasley becomes the first U.S. player to appear in four World Cup games.


Algeria (25) – The Desert Foxes have never made it past the group stage and needed a playoff win over Burkina Faso to quality this year… haven’t won a major trophy since capturing the African Cup of Nations in 1990… a young and inexperienced team, Bosnian coach Vahid Halilhodzic often goes to his bench mixing and matching lineups to take advantage of opponent’s weaknesses… striker Islam Slimai of Sporting Lisbon has nine goals in 17 appearances with Algeria.

Belgium (12) – The Red Devils have soared more than 50 spots in the FIFA rankings since 2009 and are considered by many to be a dark-horse in this event… young roster is loaded with players from the top clubs around the world… midfielder Eden Hazard is commonly referred to as the “Belgian Messi.”… veteran captain Vincent Kompany (28) is considered of the best center backs in the world… will be the least-traveled team in the group stage, having to cover fewer than 1,400 miles for its three games.

Russia (18) – Team Sbornaya will host the 2018 World Cup… only two of the 42 players called up in the last year compete for teams outside the Russian Premier League.  Neither made the World Cup roster… five core players are older than 30… this is Russia’s second World Cup since the breakup of the Soviet union… best result was a 4th place finish in 1966… prolific striker Alelsandr Kerzhakov has scored 50 goal in last 94 games for his RPL team… defensive-minded coach Fabio Capello, who managed England for four years after stints with Real Madrid and A.C. Milan, took over in 2012 and guided the tam past Portugal in World Cup qualifying games, conceding just five goals in 10 games.

South Korea (55) – When co-hosting the 2002 World Cup the Taeguk Warriors were the first and only Asian team to reach the semis… this is South Korea’s eighth consecutive, and ninth overall, World Cup appearance, having reached the knockout stage in two of the previous three World Cups… a young team with only one player older than 30… dangerous striker Son-Heung-Min from Bayer Leverkusen is a legitimate scoring threat.

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Re: 2014 World Cup Betting News and Notes

WCup Group Best Bets
By The SportsBoss

In my final article prior to the World Cup competition kicking off let’s take a close look at some of the futures wagers available to us.  Anyone that has followed me for any period of time knows I generally frown upon future type wagers as there are so many variables that can occur in the future that I feel the prudent sports investor should pass in most instances – but here for the World Cup it’s a smaller sample size we are playing futures on (compared to win totals in the four major sports that extend over months of action where the instances of injury or other variables greatly increases).

Format wise I will break down these wagers according to Groups – starting with A and ending with H.  I will list teams in order of their current FIFA ranking (which was released on June 6th).

I also initially wrote down all prices for the futures discussed in previous pieces, and will thus comment where applicable changes in price.

Group A: Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, Cameroon

To Win Group: Brazil is my favorite to win this tournament so I obviously believe they are going to win their group here.  The price of -400 however is the second highest amongst all the groups, just short of Argentina’s -550 to win Group F.  I very rarely play any money lines that high, especially on future wagers, but in this instance I feel strongly Brazil has no trouble in this group.

To Reach Knockout Stage: Brazil has gone from -1900 to -3500 to reach the knockout stage meaning you would have to lay three thousand five hundred dollars to win just one hundred on the chance they finish either 1st or 2nd in the group.  I rarely use the term LOCK, but here this would appear to be one of those rare spots to apply it – however, I would never recommend a play at that price; plus you do not need a handicapper to tell you that’s a good play – the odds do it alone.  Croatia & Mexico sit at +115, while Cameroon is the longshot at +500; all three teams have not seen their odds shift much.  Mexico has reached the knockout stage in each of the last four World Cups, while Croatia has not advanced that far since 1998 – however I feel Croatia is the better team this year, especially with Mexico struggling.  Cameroon has an outside shot since neither Mexico nor Croatia are juggernauts, but I will pass here.

To Not Reach Knockout Stage: Similar to the above breakdown I do not suggest any plays here.

To Win World Cup: Brazil currently sits at 3/1 to win the championship & I do like that play despite the fact there is little value in that price.  The shortest price amongst the other three teams is 130/1 on Mexico – but considering the 2nd place team is likely to open their knockout stage against Spain there is no value on any other Group A team.

Group B: Spain, Chile, Netherlands, Australia

To Win Group: Right away I would knock Australia out of any potential future plays here as the only one that would make sense from a team perspective is To Not Reach Knockout Stage – but considering that price is -2000 to win 100 it’s much too high.  Spain is a small favorite -140 to win this group which I also like – and would recommend a play on them.

To Reach Knockout Stage: Again like Group A, I like Spain to certainly reach the knockout stage but would not suggest laying -700 to win 100.  However, I do see some value in playing Chile, currently even money to advance to the knockout stage over a Netherlands team that lost in the final to Spain in the last World Cup.

To Not Reach Knockout Stage: Tying into my comment above I do see value in Netherlands here +155 (plus money) to not make it out of the group stage this year.

To Win World Cup: While I do like Spain to go deep in this tournament (who doesn’t?) I do not think the value is there at +650 for them to win back-to-back World Cups.  Chile, at 40/1 odds, does seem attractive as they will be playing on their home continent, have a lot of support, and are in solid form going 6-2-2 their L10 with a +11 goal differential.  However, when considering the fact they will likely face Brazil in their opening knockout stage matchup, it’s hard to pull the trigger even at those odds.

Group C: Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast, Japan

To Win Group: Colombia is the favorite to win this group, however recent injuries in particular to key striker Radamel Falcao leave their chances in peril.  The longest shot of the group is Greece at +800, and I love a play on them here.  They are a defense first team that plays with a ton of discipline – which I feel will really stifle both Colombia & Ivory Coast’s more reckless, offense first game plan.  Over the last five World Cups Japan is the only team in this group that has advanced past the group stage in any World Cup, but I feel this year they will fall short.

To Reach Knockout Stage: All four of these teams come into the World Cup with positive goal differentials in their last ten games; that being said, with Colombia the biggest favorite to advance at -450, along with Ivory Coast & Japan also laying money at -110, I would pass with a play already on Greece to win the group.

To Not Reach Knockout Stage: Although I am not bullish on Colombia’s chances in the competition due to injuries & inexperience (despite their high FIFA ranking) I am also not going to pull the trigger at +300 that they will not reach the knockout stage, although it tempted me.

To Win World Cup: Colombia sits at 20/1, the clear favorite amongst the group with the next team Japan checking in at 140/1!  Based on the fact the two teams that reach the knockout stage will likely face some combination of Uruguay, Italy or England in their opening knockout stage matchup I will pass on any of these teams having value as far as winning the championship goes.

Group D: Uruguay, Italy, England, Costa Rica

To Win Group: This is clearly the strongest group top to bottom with an average FIFA ranking of 13.5 & all four teams settling inside the Top 28.  Costa Rica is the clear longshot of the group, and also the only team heading into this competition with a negative goal differential over their last ten games.  No value here as I could easily see any of the top 3 teams winning this group – all three have odds between +160 & +200.

To Reach Knockout Stage: The three favorites are all priced -175 to -225, too high for such even teams.  It’s also hard to make a case for Costa Rica as discussed above, even at +1000.

To Not Reach Knockout Stage: Same comments as above.

To Win World Cup: The three favorites all have 25/1 odds to win the World Cup, and frankly the only team I could see winning the championship is Uruguay as they finished 4th in 2010, are playing on their home continent this year & perhaps no striker has played better this past season than Luis Suarez.  There is however some concern about the health of Suarez heading into the competition which combined with the strength of this group is enough for me to lay off playing anyone from this group to win the championship.

Group E: Switzerland, France, Ecuador, Honduras

To Win Group: I am not a huge fan of this France team especially with the recent injury to Franck Ribery, while Switzerland is overrated sitting at #6 in the FIFA rankings; Ecuador has just 2 wins over their last ten games but are very explosive offensively, while Honduras has not enjoyed any success in prior World Cups.  Oddly enough Honduras has been bet to win this group as their odds have dropped from +3300 to +2000, and with the uncertainty amongst the rest of the teams in this group they are worth a very small play at long odds.  Along with Group C this seems to be the most wide-open.  In every World Cup at least one group is turned upside down, and this may be the group in 2014.

To Reach Knockout Stage: This is the only group that doesn’t have a team that reached the knockout stage in the prior World Cup.  France is -650, very rich in my opinion for a team that leaves a lot to be desired; Ecuador & Switzerland are laying small odds while Honduras is the longshot at +600.  Again, like above, I do see some value in Honduras and would recommend another small play on them here.

To Not Reach Knockout Stage: Tying into my comment above I feel France has some value here at +450 to not escape the group stage.

To Win World Cup: This group is the least likely to produce the champion in my opinion, thus no value here

Group F: Argentina, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Iran, Nigeria

To Win Group: Argentina is the biggest favorite on the money in the competition to win their group at -550.  I feel they will win this group but feel stronger about Brazil taking Group A than I do about Argentina taking Group F thus I will pass.

To Reach Knockout Stage: Again I do not see any value here as B&H is -140 followed by Nigeria +140; neither has enough value on the money to warrant a wager, and Iran’s odds at +750 do not tie into how big a longshot I feel they are to advance.

To Not Reach Knockout Stage: Same comments as above, no value here.

To Win World Cup: Argentina is the 2nd favorite (to Brazil) checking in at 4/1 to win the championship – too short IMO.  B&H is next up in this group at a whopping 210/1 & I see value there as this team could be a solid sleeper – and the hedging opportunities would start early at those odds so long as they advanced to the knockout stage.  Consider if they finished 2nd in Group F they would face the winner of Group E which I do not feel is a strong group; that would be a great opportunity to reach the QF round where hedging could easily commence, if not sooner.

Group G: Germany, Portugal, USA, Ghana

To Win Group: This is the 2nd strongest group (only behind Group H) in the competition with Ghana dragging the group’s overall rating down.  Germany is a modest -175 favorite to win this group, and considering they have reached at least the semifinal round in each of the last three groups they are certainly worthy of that distinction.  Portugal is next up at +270, then it’s a big drop-off to USA at +900 & Ghana +1000.  Call me crazy but I do see some value in USA as I just have a hunch Germany is not going to be peaking in the heat of South America (and you know Klinsmann will have the red, white & blue ready to face the Germans), they have suffered numerous recent injuries & their front line is aging.  Portugal is certainly more than formidable, but the US could get the inside track with a win over Germany.  I will roll the dice on USA at 9/1 odds to win Group G.

To Reach Knockout Stage: No solid odds here as USA is just +200 while Ghana, the clear cut 4th best team in this group in my opinion, sits at +300.

To Not Reach Knockout Stage: Similar to my comments in the opening portion of the Group G analysis I feel playing Germany to not advance at +550 odds is a decent value play as well.  In addition, although I do not like laying big numbers often, playing Ghana here to not advance to the knockout stage at -400 is worthy of a wager as well.

To Win World Cup: I think two teams have value here and they are Portugal at 30/1 & USA at 200/1.  Portugal only lost one game in qualification and one game over their last 11 including a pounding of Ireland in their last match prior to the World Cup.  USA has been downplaying their chances the last few months, which is just when teams typically sneak up and surprise folks.  Plus, again, the hedging opportunities on USA at those long odds could start early – and considering they would be in the bottom portion of the bracket if they came in second place (facing teams from Groups E-H) things could really open up for a deep run with Argentina the only team they would like to avoid.

Group H: Belgium, Russia, Algeria, South Korea

To Win Group: I am not quite sold on Belgium despite being a Manchester City fan with Vincent Kompany my favorite player.  They did not qualify for each of the last two World Cups, and have failed to get past the Round of 16 since at least 1990.  They are the only team laying odds to win the group checking in at -175; following them is Russia at +200, the only other team in this group I feel can win it.  I am a big fan of an underappreciated Russia team & like a play on them to win this group even at the short odds.

To Reach Knockout Stage: Oddly South Korea is the only team from this group to reach the knockout stage since 2002.  The two teams discussed above are big favorites to advance with the aforementioned South Korea squad up next at a short price of +180, with Algeria bringing up the rear at +450.  No value here.

To Not Reach Knockout Stage: Considering recent injuries to the Belgian squad I see value here on them not reaching the knockout stage at +500.  Although I consider this a three team group as far as who has a chance at legitimately advancing to the knockout stage, I think 5/1 odds is attractive enough to fade a banged up and inexperienced Belgium team.

To Win World Cup: The only team from this group whose odds I find attractive is Russia, who checks in at 75/1 odds to win the championship.  Russia has not allowed more than 1 goal in a match since November of 2012 vs. USA, and has only lost once in their last ten games.  As mentioned in Group G analysis I like the chances of teams in Groups E-H as they will be pitted against each other in the knockout stage, and whoever can avoid Argentina will have value & could make a deep run.  Keep in mind the deeper the run, and the longer the odds the bigger the profit you can lock in from hedging.

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Re: 2014 World Cup Betting News and Notes

Brazil made heavy favorites

Group A: Brazil vs Croatia Line
Brazil -400, Croatia +850, Draw +475
Over/Under: 2.5 Goals (Over -109, Under -120)

The 2014 World Cup opens on Thursday afternoon in Brazil when the host country takes on Croatia.

Host nations haven't always featured in the opening matches of World Cups, but when called upon they have never suffered defeat, winning five out of eight games and drawing three at a combined score of 22-5. The win part of that statistic looks extremely likely to be bolstered on Thursday as tournament favorites Brazil are everybody's picks to beat Croatia, although lessons from World Cups past point to a cagey affair in Sao Paulo.

Only once since 1966 has a team triumphed by a margin of more than a single strike in a World Cup opening match, when Germany beat Costa Rica 4-2 in 2006, and 10 of the past 12 such ties have seen under 2.5 goals scored. Furthermore, Luiz Felipe Scolari's Selecao are likely to be somewhat undercooked when they face Niko Kovac's men, after missing out on the battle-hardening effects of a qualifying campaign due to their host status. But Brazil is loaded with talent, especially up front with forward Neymar and teammates Fred and Hulk.

Croatia were far from imperious during qualifying and suffered the ignominy of losing twice against lowly Scotland, who hadn't managed a Group A win prior to facing the World Cup 1998 semi-finalists for the first time. However, aside from that home and away abomination, Croatia's form has been reasonably consistent, with their first other defeats since Euro 2012 coming against fellow World Cup participants Switzerland, Portugal and Belgium. The Croats will be missing forward Mario Mandzukic, who was suspended for this match due to a red card he received back in November against Iceland.

Check out more World Cup Odds & Props at!

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