Columbia was credited with the first chance to win its group and at one time it was ranked among the favorites to lift the trophy Brazil. The reason for why the South Americans were held in high regard by both bookmakers and football specialists is that they had one of the best offenses. Falcao was supposed to spearhead the attack, but the gifted striker got injured many months before kickoff and despite their best efforts, the therapists couldn’t get him fit to play.
He didn’t even travel with the national team to Brazil, but in his absence a couple of young striker stepped up and they did a fine job throughout the group stage. The manager expected to have a difficult time in choosing between the second and third striker, but nobody could’ve anticipated the interesting turn of events. Colombia used different strikers in the three games so far, but each combination proved to be successful and that’s why it is anyone’s guess how the starting formation will look like on Sunday.
Pekerman is very likely to stick to Rodriguez who didn’t disappoint him in his two games played so far, but it appears to be a mistake to keep Martinez on the bench either. The striker was finally given a chance to sign against Japan and he made the most of this opportunity by scoring twice and barely missing a hat trick. Naturally, he will run into a much more difficult opponent in this stage of last 16, but Uruguay defenses proved to be equally permeable.
Under the right circumstances, Colombia can keep an opponent under constant pressure and prevent it from using any of its offensive weapons. This is great news against a team that has a remarkable trident of strikers, with names such as Suarez, Forlan and Cavani on the list. The reason for why Uruguay is not celebrating their performance in group D, is that they have a hard road ahead and a couple of obstacles that have the potential of turning into huge issues.
To start with, Forlan is a talented but aging striker who can no longer sustain the intensity of a World Cup football game and is very likely to play less than one half. In fact, the coach decided to keep him on the bench early on and he never got the chance to play in the decisive match against Italy. The other big problem is that Suarez could get suspended as a result of improper behavior in the last match, when he allegedly bit an opponent.
Add to this the fact that Cavani is not playing at full potential and is yet to score goals for his team and it is obvious why Uruguay is credited with the second chance. The head to head record is in their favor, but they allowed plenty of goals when things didn’t go according to their plan and home pitch advantage meant a lot for this team. This is not the first time that they are narrow underdogs at the World Cup 2014, but they are clearly playing against better opponents, who are credited with odds of 2.10 to prevail.
A fortunate turn of events gave Hungary a second chance to make the playoffs for the World Cup, but they will fight an uphill battle if we are to get that far. To start with, they travel to the Netherlands in an attempt of collecting all three points, knowing that they still depend on what happens in Estonia and Andorra. They have only theoretical chances of advancing to the next stage but they have the advantage of facing a Dutch team that lacks motivation due to the fact that it already secured qualification.
http://www.fourfourtwo.com/news/fifa-world-cup-qualifying-netherlands-v-hungary makes an interesting observation, by noting that the Netherlands were in fact the first team to qualify for the World Cup, ahead of Germany. Not surprising, coach Louis van Gaal will rest some of its key players especially those who have picked up injuries and are susceptible of aggravating them. On the other hand, he told his players to do everything on the field and treat this games seriously, something that may or may not happen.
Hungary has a mediocre team but players are highly motivated after Turkey achieved a surprising victory in Bucharest and reignited the race for the playoffs. Their main concern in the Netherlands is to avoid conceding an early goal while relying on the counterattack to score the winning goal, most likely in the second half. Obviously, these are plans that look great on paper but what happens on the field depends almost exclusively on how determining the hosts are to win.
Normally this would be a no-brainer, and punters would be recommended to back the hosts at full stakes and even to cover a generous spread, but this is not the case tonight. Van Persie, Gregory van der Wiel, Stijn Schaars and Jonathan de Guzman have picked up some dubious injuries and they won’t play tonight, which will weaken the Dutch team. The visitors are virtually at full strength and except for Adam Szalai who was ruled out, Hungary can field the best starting formation.
In conclusion, punters who don’t want to stay away from this game should take a leap of faith and back the underdogs. In order to mitigate the risks, an Asian handicap wager is in order and most bookmakers offer even odds for Hungary not to lose by two goals or more. Keep the wagers relatively low, because if the hosts suddenly decide that they don’t want to let their fans down, this bet can easily backfire.
The tiny European nation doesn’t have a tradition in continental football, but for the first time in history Iceland has a chance of making the World Cup. They sit on the fourth place in a group of six teams, but a victory tonight would see them leapfrogging two opponents and bring them one step closer of making the playoffs. Bystanders and pundits alike took notice of their potential after the 4-4 against Switzerland, where the visitors rebounded from a 3-1 handicap.
The task at hand is not an easy one, as they need to win at home against Albania, a team that tied them for the third place with 10 points and a better goal average. Assuming Iceland finds a way of replicating their performance in Tirana, it will set up a decisive game against Norway one month from now. They will need to defeat Cyprus before that, but the very idea of traveling to the Scandinavian country in the last stage of the qualifying campaign to play a decisive game is amazing.
The last couple of years saw Iceland improving its offensive and nowadays its key strikers play for some of the best teams in Europe. It is not surprising that they scored three goals in a quick succession after digging themselves into a hole in Zurich on Friday. This is in fact the main reason of concern for their fans and punters alike, because Iceland proved to be a streaky team, incapable of building a comfortable lead or defending a narrow advantage.
Albania can safely be included into the same category, as they alternated impressive victories with surprising defeats. They did a fine job in causing major upsets such as earning four points in the double legged round with Norway, only to lose at home to Iceland. Whether the islanders got their number or Albania players expected that game to be an easy victory, what is certain is that they’ve lost a chance to claim the first place.
For the remaining two rounds, they have some tough fixtures scheduled, including a game against Switzerland at home and a visit to Cyprus. The defensive is their best asset, but Iceland proved that they’ve got the strikers capable of breaking through even the most effective back lines. The key for Iceland is to take the initiative from the very first minute, because although they have the best attack in the group, their defenses are weak.
As long as the hosts can keep the ball in the opposite field, they should have an easy task in winning the game and close the gap separating them from Norway. Most bookmakers offer odds above evens with the best values exceeding 2.20 and it is most unlikely for these odds to drop as the kickoff draws near. A medium stakes bet on Iceland to prevail makes perfect sense and whether you choose to place it right now or wait until the very last minute, give credit to this young and promising team.
This summer the 2010 World Cup will determine the best team in the world. Continue reading
The soccer world is abuzz with the recent “Hand of Henry” controversy. Thierry Henry’s recent handball against Ireland has sparked outrage, especially among Ireland fans who won’t be seeing their team in the 2010 world cup. Henry used his hand to redirect the ball in a play that directly resulted in a goal. This tied up the game and prevented Ireland from advancing. Continue reading