World Cup Digest - Friday, June 23
by Trevor Whenham - 06/23/2006
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Here's a look at the day's matches, and the news that is important for bettors making decisions on upcoming games:
Spain goes undefeated - If you are a bettor, the Spanish result was the best outcome you could have hoped for. They won, but the score was close against a (really) bad team. That doesn't sound like a good thing, but it is when you consider that it probably means that Spain's price against France will be better than it may otherwise have been. The result in this match is completely irrelevant when it comes to later games, because the team that played today barely resembles the team that will take the field in the next round. Seven of the players were playing in their first World Cup match. Spain won despite that, and they would have won about 7-0 if it weren't for a strong showing by the Saudi goalkeeper. Spain looks very good and this game may have given us some value for later on.
Ukraine moves on - The 1-0 victory over Tunisia was another game that wasn't nearly as close as the score indicated. Ukraine didn't score until the 70th minute, but they were in charge for most the game. Tunisia was playing a man down and without their best player for the entire second half. The best thing about Ukraine is that they were able to rebound from a terrible drubbing in their opening match of their first World Cup to move on. The win creates one of the more intriguing second round matches against Switzerland. That game could truly go either way.
Swiss overpower South Korea - The Koreans were a Cinderella story last World Cup, but they just didn't look very good today. They didn't pass well, they insisted on shooting from miles away and they had horrible aim when they did create scoring chances. The Swiss looked fairly dominate in an easy 2-0 win. But the quality of the opposition on the day means that the result means little. The Swiss won a group without much skill or depth. They are probably the weakest of the group winners, but still have the ability to win their next match. Alexander Frei looked very good for the Swiss. The striker scored one of the stranger goals of the tournament and had several other chances. The next match will be a showdown between Frei and Ukrainian superstar Andriy Shevchenko.
France finally finds some offense - Alright, it was just against Togo, but the French finally scored multiple goals in a World Cup game for the first time since 1998. They needed a good effort to move on and they got it. They are in a tough spot against Spain in the next round, but at least they are still playing. At their best, this team is every bit as good as Spain. But it has been a long time since the French played at their best internationally.
By Tuesday, six of the eight second round matches will be in the books. They should be spectacular. Keep in mind that moneyline betting only runs to the end of regulation and ignores extra time and shootouts, so draws are possible in betting, even though they can't happen in the games. Here's a look:
Germany (-170) vs. Sweden (+470) - Things are going as planned for Germany. They cruised through the first round and their fans are ecstatic. They got a decent draw in Sweden, too. Sweden struggled to score in their first two games (it took until the last minute of the second game to finally pot one). They opened it up offensively against England, but that came at the cost of some defensive holes which England exploited. Germany is on fire offensively and should be able to handle the Swedes relatively easily, especially since striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sweden's biggest offensive threat, may be out with a groin injury which sidelined him against England. The German price should only get worse, and for good reason.
Argentina (-280) vs. Mexico (+750) - Argentina has looked astounding when their A-side has been on the field. The Mexicans have been inconsistent, have a handful of red cards to deal with in this game, and have their best player, Jared Borgetti, trying to cope with an injury which has kept him out of action in past games. Mexico could win, but it would take something truly bizarre and unexpected to make that happen. Argentina is another price which is only going to get worse.
England (-227) vs. Ecuador (+650) - At some point Ecuador's carriage has to turn back into a pumpkin. To a degree it already may have when Germany manhandled them, showing that Ecuador isn't ready for elite competition. England likes to think that they are elite, but still haven't justified the hype. At times they have shown it in this tournament, but they have struggled to sustain solid effort. If they can find a way to stay at a decent level of effort they should be able to win fairly easily. They'll have to overcome their own habit of disappointing their fans in major tournaments, though.
Portugal (+200) vs. Netherlands (+130) - If the Dutch play like the Dutch then this price is a bargain. They are the better team by a fair margin on paper and should be able to win. They haven't exactly overwhelmed with their dominance to date in Germany, though, so it becomes a bit more difficult to know what to expect. Portugal is undefeated, but they haven't really beaten anyone that compares to the Dutch. Striker Ruud Van Nistelroy is in the doghouse and likely to start on the bench for the Netherlands after a disappointing tournament. That shouldn't affect the Dutch attack that much. If you are determined to play a draw in this round, this game (+200) may be as good a chance as any, though the Netherlands are an attractive play straight up as well.
Italy vs. Australia - The underdog lovers will be out in force for this game. On paper, Italy should cruise, but Australia is playing way over their heads so far and there is always a team or two at the World Cup who captures some magic and goes deep. The price isn't posted as I write this, but Italy should be a clear favorite. They beat better teams than Australia in their group and they are good enough to win here.
Switzerland vs. Ukraine - As I talked about earlier, this game is wide open in my mind. Either team could win or lose convincingly on a given day. The choice in this one will likely depend on what prices are set and which team presents better value. It has the potential to be a fairly entertaining battle. Or a complete dud.
The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Doc's Picks Service.