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World Cup Betting: Top First-Round Games
by Trevor Whenham - 5/24/2010
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The closer we get to the World Cup (the first game kicks of June 11), the more I find myself staring at the World Cup schedule looking for the best and brightest of the games. Each game in the World Cup is interesting for some reason, but there are obviously some that stand out more than others. There are 48 first round games, and eight that I am particularly excited about. Here are those eight, with odds from Bodog:
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South Africa (+185) vs. Mexico (+140), June 11 - This is the match that kicks it all off, and it's going to give us a clue about a few open questions. First, Mexico is clearly the better overall team, but South Africa has the home field advantage, so this game will start to tell us how much of an advantage playing in Africa will be for the African teams. It will also tell us how good South Africa is. They really don't look very good, but home teams have been surprising in the past (I'm talking about you, South Korea), so we'll soon know if the home squad has another Cinderella story in it.
Argentina (-185) vs. Nigeria (+500), June 12 - Argentina got the advantage of a reasonably easy first-round draw. If they don't cruise through then they aren't the team I thought they were. Nigeria is outmatched on paper, but they are an athletic squad, and could definitely be pesky if Argentina doesn't have their head in the tournament. Overconfidence was an issue for the Argentinians in the qualifying round, and Maradona is probably the most volatile coach in the tournament, so there's a chance that Nigeria could have a better than expected day here.
England (-200) vs. U.S. (+475), June 12 - England comes into this tournament with high hopes, and they need a strong showing after multiple disappointments on the international stage. There are injury issues on this squad, though, and their backfield and goal are packed with questions. The Americans don't face nearly the same expectations, and they don't have the talent to keep up if England plays well, but they will be fired up as well. This one will set the tone for the whole tournament.
Algeria (+230) vs. Slovenia (+115), June 13 - England and the U.S. are seen as the top two teams in Group C by many followers, but these two teams have something to say about that. Both teams are dangerous and talented in their own ways, and neither can afford to lose this one. A loss here would make it hard for the team to move on, so the stakes are high. It also gives us a good chance to see what the Americans and England have to look forward to.
Spain (-325) vs. Switzerland (+850), June 16 - The Spaniards may be the best team in the tournament, and they certainly have the easiest draw of any team. There isn't a game in which they should be challenged at all. The closest to a tough game is this one against Switzerland. The Swiss can't begin to measure up, but this game will tell us how committed and focused Spain is. If this game is lopsided then Spain is the legitimate favorite than many think they are. If it's close, though, then it's time to get uneasy.
Germany (-125) vs. Serbia (+330), June 18 - Germany is the class of Group D, and they are a team that always seems to play their best on the biggest stages. There are more than a couple of reasons to question their ability to do so again here, though. Serbia is a very tough opponent, and they are more than capable of upsetting Germany if the Germans aren't ready for the game. This will tell us a lot about how Group D will turn out. It will also be interesting for American fans - this is the group that the second round opponent for the U.S. will come from if they advance.
Cameroon (+160) vs. Denmark (+160), June 19 - Group E is an interesting one because it's as wide open as any. Cameroon is probably the second best African team, while Denmark is one of those European teams that has the ability to get their act together and go deep. The odds indicate exactly what I feel about this game - it's almost impossible to distinguish between the teams. It's a game that will be both fascinating and educational.
Brazil (-150) vs. Ivory Coast (+400), June 20 - Group G is the World Cup Group of Death, and this could be the Game of Death. Brazil is the class of the tournament in my eyes, while Ivory Coast is a talented, offensively explosive team that will be dangerous in front of a friendly crowd. If Brazil is going to fall in the preliminary round I think that this is where it's going to happen, and I can't wait to see if it happens. This is the game of the first round in my eyes.