Expert World Cup Betting Advice: Semifinals Best Bets
For once I am very happy about how a round turned out from a betting perspective at this edition of the World Cup. Sweden wasn't up to the task of facing England, and Belgium came through with the milder-than-the public-perceived upset at the big price, so we wound up with a nice profit. Even the other two games didn't bother me too much even though they both ended up as losses. Croatia won as I hoped, but it just took them too long to do it. And Uruguay just didn't show up against France, which happens in soccer frustratingly often.
So now we are on to the final four, and it's not a group of teams that anyone would have anticipated - not all four of them anyway. But both games set up to be very interesting. And the betting stakes are just as high as the stakes are for each of these teams. We are down to three real games remaining - the third-place game might as well not exist in my eyes - so the window to maximize our profits is very small right now. So, fearlessly, let's plunge in and make the best of our final opportunities. Here is my take on the two games that make up the semifinal round:
Belgium (+200) vs. France, July 10: I'm going to take the mild underdogs in both games here, so we only have to be right once to lock up a solid profit. We start with the first game, and a match that has the potential to be the gem of the whole tournament. This is a tough game to call. Both teams looked good through qualifying, though they weren't tested much - Belgium had the biggest win, and that was against England in a game that neither team was super keen about winning because it meant facing Brazil. And both teams knocked off giants in the elimination round - Argentina for the French, and Brazil for the Belgians. But I am legitimately, and happily, surprised that Belgium is the slight underdog here - France is at +150. France has looked really good, and has young talent that makes them really dangerous going forward. But they haven't beaten as much - Argentina did not look right all tournament - and they just don't quite feel as sharp. Belgium's first half against Brazil was masterful, and they are a more mature team. And they also had the near-setback against Japan that really seems to have served as a wake up call. We can be much more confident that they can handle adversity than we can when it comes to France. Both teams are explosive and dangerous, and they are both relentlessly aggressive, but Belgium feels more well rounded, and somewhat less frantic. They also feel more disciplined defensively. This will be a blood game, because neither team likes each other, and the storylines connecting them run deep - such as the fact that French legend Thierry Henry is an assistant coach for Belgium. I said as soon as the Belgium game ended that I really respected France, but that I sure wouldn't want to have to play Belgium. So, I am more than happy to bet on Belgium at this price.
Croatia (+240) vs. England, July 11: Harry Kane has been everything you could hope and more given the situation, and England feels somehow different than they have been for a long time. I still struggle to trust them in big situations, though, and it doesn't get much bigger than this. They haven't truly been tested yet, and that concerns me. Croatia is a very talented and feisty team, and they showed mountains of heart and resilience facing a fired up Russian team in front of an obviously loyal crowd. The difference in talent isn't as big as the price suggests - England is at +130. And Croatia has already beaten up on Argentina and won in penalty kicks twice, so the pressure of this situation won't bother them at all. England is deservedly the favorite, and is the more likely winner, but they aren't as likely as the gap in prices suggests, so Croatia is a comfortable value play. You could also consider the regulation draw at +220, because Croatia has played to a draw twice and certainly could here as well. Either way, betting against an outright England win feels like the thing to do given the prices.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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