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Belgium v Tunisia

FBINT World Cup > Group Stage > Group G-18

2018-06-23 14:00:00 (This report was created at 2018-06-19 11:43:56)

Well Belgium won against Panama 3-0 and it was the score line I more or less had expected. 3-0 or 4-0 were the obvious choices. Did Belgium Impress? Not really, but I am happy to see their players fit and ready for the remaining games.

You have to respect Tunisia. They seem to know what they are doing in general, but keeping it tight and defending is their way of playing football at this level. Not so much offensive football from Tunisia, in other words.

What I have just said describes the Tunisian tactics against England and strangely enough they were only minutes from getting a draw from the game. Justice was done when Harry Kane scored the winning goal for England. The match should have been over at half time with Tunisia constantly pegged back during the first 45 minutes.

A Belgian win is of course the obvious choice.


South Korea v Mexico

FBINT World Cup > Group Stage-18

2018-06-23 17:00:00 (This report was created at 2018-06-19 11:48:22)

I would love to back these enormous odds on the South Korean win, but they are quite simply not good enough at the moment. I saw them losing 0-1 against Sweden and there was not much South Korea could create against a limited Swedish side. No, Sweden should have scored more goals in that game, but South Korea had basically nothing to offer.

Mexico wasted a couple of excellent scoring chances in the first half against Germany and their counter attacking tactics worked to perfection. They deserved their win against Germany and I have to say I had expected more open scoring chances from Germany in the second half.

If South Korea had any kind of fresh form I would back them here thinking that Mexico will be suffering from mental let down after their big result against Germany, but you know how it looks when South Korea are harmless and formless, they are huffing and puffing, but there is not much offensive action involved.

Likely win for a very good Mexican side.


Germany v Sweden

FBINT World Cup > Group Stage > Group F-18

2018-06-23 20:00:00 (This report was created at 2018-06-19 11:54:07)

The German friendly games leading up to this tournament had been terribly poor, but I, like most other so called experts, expected Germany to deliver when the “real” business started.

They did not and I do not know what to make of their ineffective performance against Mexico. I mean, they were so often in trouble in the first half and I got the impression that coach Loew and his players had no idea how to stop the swift Mexican counter attacks. I am talking about Germany, usually such an intelligent and clever footballing side. Looking for an equaliser in the second half they simply created too little.

I take it for granted that Loew will make changes for this match, but it is not so much about individuals. No it is the “Deutsche Mannschaft” that has to function like a proper team again.

So typical. Sweden scored one goal against South Korea and it was a Granqvist penalty that gave Sweden their win. With better strikers, say a certain Ibrahimovic, they would have scored three orfour goals, but that is how it is with this Swedish side. They have constant scoring problems.

Pontus Jansson, the Leeds defender, replaced the sick V Lindelöf, the Man United defender, in the Swedish central defence against South Korea. He did an excellent job and I cannot say if Lindelöf will be back or not for this match. Seb Larsson, the former Hull and Sunderland midfielder, will be OK to play.

Germany know what to expect from Sweden and it will be about breaking down the strong Swedish defence, not much else, as Sweden lack players who can hurt Germany on the break. E Forsberg is potentially the only one, but the Leipzig winger has no fresh form.

A win for Germany.


England v Panama

FBINT World Cup > Group Stage > Group G-18

2018-06-24 14:00:00 (This report was created at 2018-06-20 10:33:59)

It was a small wonder that England did not have a comfortable lead at half time against Tunisia. In the second half they continued to dominate, but they did not create as many open scoring chances as they did in the first half.

Harry Kane scored the decisive goal for England with only minutes remaining of the game. All was well then for England with three points in the bag, but they need to take their chances in future games, starting with this one.

Not conceding in the first half against Belgium was quite an achievement for Panama. They ended up losing the match 0-3 and I guess they were as good/bad as I had expected.

They will have big problems finding the England net and I predict another 0-3 (or 0-4) loss for Panama.

A win for the mega favourite.


Japan v Senegal

FBINT World Cup > Group Stage > Group H-18

2018-06-24 17:00:00 (This report was created at 2018-06-20 10:37:00)

What a start for Japan. They were rewarded a very early penalty against Colombia and the Colombian player Sanchez was shown off the pitch. The score line was 1-1 at half time and Japan had failed to take advantage of the Sanchez dismissal. In the second half, however, Japan upped their tempo and game and their winning goal arrived not unexpectedly. Their best player was definitely their front man, the Cologne striker, Osako.

One thing is absolutely certain. It will not be easy to defeat this Senegal side, not for any team out there and definitely not for Japan.

I have been very optimistic about the Senegalese chances in this tournament. Then I have only thought about the quality of their players, but I have not actually seem them playing lately. I was very impressed by their opening game against Poland (2-1 win). They defended expertly and the poor Poles almost never got near the Senegal goal. Poland scored a late goal but it was hardly deserved.

Cisse, the Senegal coach, has done an outstanding job focusing on the team as a collective and I almost forgot about their mega star S Mane against Poland.

Likely win for Senegal.


Poland v Colombia

FBINT World Cup > Group Stage > Group H-18

2018-06-24 20:00:00 (This report was created at 2018-06-20 10:43:11)

As I just said, Senegal were strong, too strong for Poland, but there was no denying Poland offered a very disappointing game. In the first half I noticed how poor their passing game was and it only marginally improved during the game. They scored a great late goal vs Senegal, but it was too late to change the outcome of the game (1-2). Poland had no tempo in their game and I am no fan of slow football.

Having Sanchez dismissed after only three minutes made the Colombian task against Japan almost hopeless. James Rodriguez was not fit to play and it was the first blow to the Colombian hopes and then they had to handle the Sanchez dismissal.

All of a sudden James popped up in the second half much to everyone’s surprise. Their coach also surprised me by taking off one of their best players Cuadrado after thirty minutes of the game.

C Sanchez will be suspended for this game and I expect James to play from the start.

K Glik, the Polish defender, was an unused substitute against Senegal. Obviously not fit enough, but hopefully for Poland Glik will be ready for this decisive fixture.

The odds on the Polish win look great of course, but I cannot support their style of football, too often played in slow motion and sideways.

Both sides have to win this game and I guess even Poland have to be desperate this time.

Backing Colombia.


Saudi Arabia v Egypt

FBINT World Cup > Group Stage > Group A-18

2018-06-25 16:00:00 (This report was created at 2018-06-21 10:31:23)

Without creating any real scoring chances Saudi Arabia offered a vastly improved performance against Uruguay (0-1). Their defensive game was very resilient this time and it was not the same team that conceded five goals against Russia in their opening game.There were a few changes in their line up, but that is not what I am taking about. Their attitude was different. They even won the ball possession against Uruguay.

Egypt have the better individuals in their team and I am not only thinking about M Salah, but who wants to win the game the most?

If this match would be a very important game I would favour a 0-0 result, but not now.

You might say that Saudi Arabia will not score in this tournament and I cannot really say you are wrong. Still there is a chance that this game about nothing will be played in a more open atmosphere with less focus on the defensive performances from the two teams.

That is what I am hoping for with both teams going all in for the win.

Both to score and why not a win for the outsider.



Uruguay v Russia

FBINT World Cup > Group Stage > Group A-18

2018-06-25 16:00:00 (This report was created at 2018-06-21 10:33:37)

The outstanding Uruguayan defence is keeping it tight and I cannot recall any big scoring chances from Egypt or Saudi Arabia in their games against Uruguay.

I do not have to tell you that those two footballing nations are not exactly giants on the football scene and it is probably the right thing to assess the Uruguayan defence and the rest of the team after this game.

Against Egypt it was L Suarez who could not take his chances and against Saudi Arabia E Cavani missed a couple of quite good scoring opportunities.

Dzyuba, the big Dzyuba, played in the Russian front line instead of Smolov in their last game, vs Egypt. He made a huge impact and he certainly represents this wild, energetic, optimistic Russian team. Russia are one of my plus teams after the first two rounds and this I would never have believed before the tournament started.

Russia have scored eight goals in their two matches while Uruguay have scored only two goals against the same opponents.

This fact together with the home advantage gives Russia the right to be the favourites in this game.

Backing Russia.


Iran v Portugal

FBINT World Cup > Group Stage > Group B-18

2018-06-25 20:00:00 (This report was created at 2018-06-21 10:39:53)

I am prepared to take a chance betting on Iran in this decisive game. Why not? They are undoubtedly the hardest workers in the business and this 6.50 is a price I cannot resist.

Iran have big hearts, it is one thing, but what about their last half an hour against Spain? Down 0-1 Iran were going for it and the strong Spanish side were under pressure. On another day the Iranians would have found an equaliser.

Ezatolahi, a midfielder, was back from his suspension against Spain and Hosseini replaced the injured Chesmi in their defence. The AZ striker had to be content with a place on the bench with Azmoun playing upfront.

Iran have to win this match and would fear facing them under these circumstances.

Portugal are over reliant on Ronaldo and I am not crazy about that.

It is all about their clever coach Santos and Ronaldo, but many of their players have not impressed so far. OK their goal keeper Rui Patricio seems to be in good form and in general their defence, marshalled by Pepe, can be trusted.

I very much doubt that Portugal can do, what Spain managed, to defeat this Iranian side.

Backing Iran.


Spain v Morocco

FBINT World Cup > Group Stage > Group B-18

2018-06-25 20:00:00 (This report was created at 2018-06-21 10:42:36)

The Spanish passing game impressed against Portugal, but the Iranian aggressiveness made it much harder for Spain to pass the ball around confidently like they usually do. I doubt that Morocco will come up with the same stern opposition in this match.

Morocco have lost their two games 0-1 and they are out of the tournament. People all around are applauding Morocco for their two displays, but I have problems raving about teams that have obvious scoring problems.

I do think that their starting line up against Portugal was their strongest one with Boutaib leading their offensive line supported by Belhanda. Amrabat made his usual raids, Morocco looked dangerous every now and then, but there is no chance they will score, at least not at this top level.

Diego Costa has scored for Spain in both their games and there is no doubt in my mind, Spain need this “different” player, this typical old fashioned striker, in their team or they would be too predictable for their own good.

Spain winning this match to nil will be my suggestion.


Australia v Peru

FBINT World Cup > Group Stage > Group C-18

2018-06-26 16:00:00 (This report was created at 2018-06-22 09:37:24)

In trouble in the first half Australia came back strongly after their equaliser against Denmark and they finished the game the better side. You can always rely on their fighting spirit, their work ethic, but this version of Australia is also extremely well organised.

Christian Eriksen scored a great goal, a goal you can do nothing to stop, but fact is that the two French goals against Australia were what I what call “random” goals. It is not easy to score against Australia, that is what I am saying.

Their front man Nabbout suffered and injury and he will not take part in this match.

This match will be the last one in this World Cup tournament for Peru. They have lost both their games 0-1 and although both P Guerrero and Farfan were on the pitch in the second half against France Peru failed to score again. Their many fans in Russia will not be happy and I can understand them, playing some good football is one thing, but you have to score or it is meaningless.

Australia have to win this match and hope that Denmark lose to France.

The odds surprise me. Close to 3.00 on a team with everything to play for. Backing Australia is the natural thing in this game.


Denmark v France

FBINT World Cup > Group Stage > Group C-18

2018-06-26 16:00:00 (This report was created at 2018-06-22 09:41:42)

After about half an hour of the game against Australia, Christian Erikssen more or less disappeared as a force and consequently it became tough for Denmark for the rest of the game. Another influential player Sisto also went missing, if you know what I mean.

In the first half, in the lead, N Jörgensen, the Danish number nine, squandered a mega chance for his team, but then Australia took over in the second half.

Y Poulsen, who has scored and caused two penalties, will be suspended for this game. S Kjaer, Denmark's key defender, was struggling with niggling injuries against Australia, but the player says, he will play against France.

France can drive you crazy. Happy to play some good football for some 15-20 minutes they all of a sudden will lose interest and I cannot take them seriously as a top team. P Pogba, for instance, was brilliant for a while in the first half against Peru, but then? Mbappe I like, but where is Griezmann?

That is France for you, but they have qualified for the next round after two narrow wins.

My guess is that coach Deschamps will use some “new” players in this match, a mixed side, in other words. If it will be an advantage for the Danes or not, you have to decide. Maybe these players will be more eager to impress.

A draw here and Australia can kiss good bye to the tournament..

The draw, but the odds are down to 2.50 and thereabouts.


2018 FIFA World Cup Finals - Preview

2018-07-15 00:00:00 (This report was created at 2018-05-31 11:00:10)

There have been some upsets in the EURO tournaments in modern times, but in the World Cup it is all about the established top sides in the world.

Some could say that France won in 1998, but it was their own tournament and France belong to the top sides. The top teams are of course Germany, Spain and Brazil, but I also include Italy among the best proven by their two World Cup wins in 1982 and 2006. There is no Italy this time around. As they could not score a single goal against a limited Swedish side over the two legs they do not deserve to be in Russia.

So my winner will be one of Brazil (5.50), Germany (5.50) and Spain (7.00)?

No my choice will be Belgium and the odds are 13.00.

They disappointed four years ago, they disappointed two years ago, but this is the right time for Belgium.

Their players have matured over the years and I suggest the Hazard, Lukaku, De Bruyne, M Dembele, D Mertens. Courtois, Verthongen and the rest are in the form of their lives. They will not get any better and they are coached by R Martinez and he is a very good cup coach. He won the FA – cup with Wigan, but do not ask the Everton supporters what they are thinking about Martinez. He is not perfect, I know , but he seems to be the perfect fit for Belgium.

Germany? They won the last World Cup and although they lost to France in the EURO 2016 semi final Germany were probably the best side in the tournament.

I would never rule out their chances, but in my opinion they are too short upfront, once again I must say. Would you believe M Gomez is still one of their strikers, but maybe T Werner is the likely starting player, or they will use T Muller in the frontal position.

My player of the year is the Juventus forward Douglas Costa who is one of Brazil's key players. Coutinho, Willian, G Jesus, a fit Neymar, Firmino, yes there is nothing wrong with the Brazilian offence. Will their defence work better with their present coach? They lost 1-7 to Germany four years ago and some of their defenders at that time are still around. They are better coached now and they have two outstanding goal keepers, Allison and Ederson. Still I am not quite ready to trust the Brazilian defence but Brazil have totally dominated in South America these last couple of years.

Spain look good. They always do. But they are not always winning, if you know what I mean. Are they tough enough to win this tournament? Well their defence is up to standard 100%, at least in my opinion and they have the best keeper in the world.

I lack some physical power in their midfield, but upfront they have the power house of power houses, Diego Costa.

No more winning suggestions on my part and Belgium will be my choice.

Group by Group.

Group A

Looks pretty straightforward for Uruguay as their opponents are Egypt , Saudia Arabia and Russia.

I like the host nation to succeed, it is good for the tournament, but is it’s not easy to be optimistic about the Russian chances. They have quite simply not impressed in their many preparation games and they will have a hard time finishing ahead of Salah’s Egypt.

Kokorin, Russian striker, will not be fit to play, but Smolov was back in a friendly game against Austria, a game that Russia lost 0-1 after a poor performance..

Salah, Sobhi, Gabr, all three Egyptians are playing in the Premiership and there are some other strong players, Trezeguet one of them, in their squad.

Salah risks missing the tournament after his injury against Real Madrid, but the player is optimistic about his chances of recovering in time. The doctors are not.

I can make no assessment of the Saudi Arabian strength. Their players are unknown to me, but they are playing in a league that lacks real quality, I think.

Still they have advanced to the tournament from an Asian group and they lost and won against Japan, for example. Why should they fear teams like Egypt and Russia?

I am not trusting Uruguay all the way to the bank, so now you know.

Group B

What a challenge for Iran! I buy all the optimism around this strong team, but they have ended up in the toughest of groups.

Portugal won the EURO 2016 tournament and maybe they have had their share of luck for some considerable time, but it is hardly scientific to put forward such a statement.

Morocco won the African Cup and they have not lost a football game for ages.

Anyway Spain, Portugal and Morocco are three very good teams, but I am hoping for the best for Iran.

The most famous Moroccan player is probably the Juventus defender Benatia and their leading goal scorer in the qualifiers was Boutaib, who is playing in Turkey.

H Renard, their coach, could be their best asset.

Spain to progress to  the next round, but I can see Portugal going astray this time around.

Group C

France have a terrific squad, good enough to win the whole shebang, but I am not ready to trust their winning mentality. How could they lose to Portugal in the EURO final, a Portugese side without their injured Ronaldo? And France enjoying the home advantage.

Denmark are the best side in my part of the world, but much better than Peru? I think they are better than Peru and definitely stronger than Australia.

Van Maarwijk, the former Belgian head coach, will be coaching Australia in this tournament. He will have his team extremely well organised and it will not be easy to score against Australia.

Looking at the Peruvian squad I have to say, I am not impressed. Yes and they will be missing their forward ace P Guerrero. I fail to get excited when I am noticing that Farfan is leading their offensive line.

France and Denmark to the next round.

Group D

A very competitive group this one. Underestimating Iceland is out of the question and Nigeria with experienced players like Mikel, Obi and V Moses in their squad, and an impressive group campaign behind them can play some pretty effective football and I do not think that Argentina and Croatia can feel too sure about qualifying from this group.

You might say, a team like Argentina will always qualify, but it has been a while since they impressed wholeheartedly.

Croatia, the talented Croatian side, can go far, but there is also a chance they will not succeed. They are that kind of a team, but player for player they have a pretty awesome group of players.

Argentina lost the final to Germany four years ago after extra time. Their qualification campaign was mostly an ordeal and I do not regard Messi’s team as winning material in this tournament. While the odds on the Belgian win are 13.00 the odds on Argentina are at best 10.00.

Argentina through joined by Nigeria, perhaps.

Group E

I have enjoyed watching and betting on Serbia in many of their qualification games. They are a talented lot and should not be underestimated.

Switzerland are probably better than I have given them credit for while Brazil have impressed hugely in their South American qualification group, They were heads and shoulders ahead of their opponents in South America.

Costa Rica are alright, I guess, but definitely not as good as Serbia and Switzerland, at least in my opinion..They lack strong individuals and their keeper K Navas from Real Madrid is their best asset. He is not one of my favourite goal keepers.

It is even stevens between Serbia and Switzerland, who will follow Brazil to the next round.

Group F

Germany and Mexico to the next round, I think.

Germany are of course in a class of their own in this rather weak group. Mexico can almost always be relied upon in World Cup games.

Sweden lack offensive power, but the Swedish players, without Ibrahimovic, are an honest bunch and they are not losing too many football games. A deflected goal was enough to defeat Italy over the two legs in the play offs and that is how it is for Sweden, goals will not come easy.

Can Son, the South Korean superstar, impress playing for his country the way he has impressed playing for Tottenham? No, it is much easier to shine playing in the Spurs team. Still South Korea are not totally Son dependant and they have a chance of advancing from this group. I like Hwang, their striker playing at Salzburg.

Group G

My tournament favourites Belgium can have no complaints about being in this “soft” group I see no strong opponents here. Sorry England about that, but prove me wrong.

There is something with England playing football at this time of the year. It never seems to work properly and everybody is saying the same thing after yet another disappointment. “We have to start having a winter break”. Roy Hodgson, who is one the best, failed miserably coaching England in the EURO 2016 and Gareth Southgate? Can he be expected to do any better? I cannot really say that England impressed in their qualification games, but they conceded very few goals (only three).

Tunisia won their qualification group (4-2-0) one point ahead of DR Congo. Many of their players are playing in the Saudi Arabian league, but there of course also some playing in France. W Khazri, once playing at Sunderland, is their top scorer, but they have lost an important striker to an injury and he will not take part in this tournament.

Panama will have no chance.

So it is between England and Tunisia who will follow Belgium to the play offs. The odds are such that one has to back Tunisia.

Group H

Tough group. All four will have decent hopes of reaching the play offs.

As Brazil so totally dominated the South American qualifying group it is difficult to assess this Colombian team. I think they are not as strong as Argentina, but probably on the same level as Uruguay. Their star is of course James, but there is nothing wrong with Cuadrado, C Bacca, L Muriel, D Zapata and Falcao either. Cuadrado seems to play his best football in the Juventus shirt and this “problem” has to be addressed.

Poland are a very solid unit these days. They were a bit too defensive in the EURO tournament, at least in my opinion, but they have the tools to even be among the best eight teams, some think, but I am not one of those.

Senegal have not been on the World Cup scene since 2002, but this time they have the right players for success. S Mane, D Sakho, Keita Balde, Kouyate, I Gueye, Diouf and the excellent Napoli defender Koulibaly are their best players.

Japan, the hard working Japan, will be hard to beat, but at the same time I have a hard time seeing them defeating any of these three sides.

Colombia and why not Senegal to the next round. I end up favouring a couple of African teams and I was not prepared for that.