World Cup Digest - Tuesday, June 20
by Trevor Whenham - 06/20/2006
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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:
Germany romps - Their game today showed one thing that should be a surprise to no one - Germany is a much, much better team than Ecuador. The Germans pounded Ecuador in every way. They scored almost at will, they played shut-down defense and their goalkeeping was sharp when it needed to be. They completely shut it down for the last half hour or it could have been a much wider margin. The win makes Germany the first team to complete the first round with a perfect record, which is something the team hasn't done since 1970. They outscored their opponents 8-2 and look very ready to do some damage in the next round. Sweden should be very afraid. Bettors should rejoice, because they'll be a good pick next time out at almost any price.
Poland salvages pride - Poland won a game that didn't matter to anyone who wasn't from Poland or Costa Rica, or didn't have a bet on the action. It was a chippy game that wasn't as close as the 2-1 score would indicate. Watching it made me wonder what could have been for the Poles if they had played like they did in the second half of this game when they met up with Ecuador to open the tournament. They'll have four years to speculate about that.
A tale of two halves - England looked so dominant in the first half of the game that I wasn't sure if they had a goalkeeper on the field - we never saw him. The second half, on the other hand, was a disaster. Sweden came back to tie up the game twice, England had few chances (other then the one they scored on) and their defense was suspect. It was a costly draw for England as well. Michael Owen made it just 60 seconds before going down, possibly for the tournament, with another knee injury. Wayne Rooney played very well in the first half, but showed how far he has to go in building stamina after his injury. He was almost invisible in the second half before leaving after 68 minutes. England has until Saturday to remember how to play defense. They'll likely be an attractive choice against Ecuador, but need to show more before they can be comfortably backed beyond that.
Paraguay wins (yawn!) - Paraguay won 2-0, which is about how much better they are than Trinidad and Tobago. It's hard to find a reason to care about a dull game between two teams which weren't expected to entertain.
It's a nice day for value tomorrow as Argentina at even is the only team without a positive value line. As long as ties are minimized you could have a great day:
Portugal (+140) vs. Mexico (+210) - Both teams have something to play for. Portugal is already through to the second round, but they can secure first place with a win. Mexico needs at least a draw to ensure a place in the second round, though they can also advance if Iran gets a draw or a win against Angola. It could also come down to goal differential between Mexico and Angola. Mexico will again have to play without top scorer Jared Borgetti, out with a thigh injury from the opening match. He will be back for the next round if they make it. That's the worst Mexican injury, but far from the only one. Portugal, which is already probably a better team, will have some weakness to exploit. Portugal hasn't allowed a goal yet and Mexico was unable to score last game, so Portugal should be able to win if they play their best game.
Iran (+150) vs. Angola (+150) - Angola has a faint hope for the next round while Iran is eliminated. Given that Angola played Mexico to a draw and matched up tightly against Portugal, while Iran was beaten soundly twice, it is very surprising to me that both teams enjoy the same moneyline. And when a line doesn't make sense, that's when you have to question it. Angola has looked good and has a hope, so they should be far more than Iran can handle.
Ivory Coast (+110) vs. Serbia & Montenegro (+200) - This game is a nightmare. Serbia has been a total disaster in this tournament, but they should be better than they are showing (they qualified ahead of Spain in their qualifying group by outscoring opponents 19-1). They have lost key players to red cards and injuries and have played so badly that their association is threatening not to pay them their bonuses if they don't step it up. Ivory Coast has played surprisingly well against both Argentina and the Netherlands despite losing both games, so will likely be frustrated to be eliminated already. They also have to play without Didier Drogba, their best player, thanks to two yellow cards. In other words, you can make very solid arguments ruling out both teams. I'm saving my money for other games.
Argentina (even) vs. Netherlands (+245) - Both teams have the same record but they have looked very different in achieving the perfect tally. Argentina's 6-0 decimation of Serbia last game was the best that any team has looked all tournament. The Netherlands has won their two games by playing just well enough to come out ahead. Argentina has looked like few teams can touch them while the Netherlands has shown moments of brilliance wrapped in long stretches of barely competent play. On paper, Argentina should win handily.
There is one last thing to consider in these games. If a player gets their second yellow card of the first round in the third game then they have to miss the first match of the second round. If they end the first round with just one yellow card, though, then that card is taken away and they start fresh next round.
Since both teams have already advanced, and there isn't a huge difference between Portugal and Mexico when it comes to an opponent next round, the teams and their coaches will likely be more concerned about not losing players than anything else. The Dutch have six players with a card, including key forward Arjen Robben. Argentinean star Hernan Crespo also has a yellow card and may not even see the field. The benches, then, will be even more important than usual because reserves will likely get starts in many positions. With substitutes like Lionel Messi and Carlos Tevez, who put on a clinic in their playing time in the second game, Argentina looks good no matter who does or doesn't play.