We’re getting into the meaty part of the competition. In two weeks, the knockout stages will be all over.
It’s had a bit of everything so far this World Cup. We’ve seen some shocks, some big results, and some great performances from teams we didn’t expect, the likes of Tunisia, Morocco and Saudi Arabia beating Argentina at the beginning of the competition.
However, so far, it’s gone pretty much the way we thought it would.
Australia getting out of the group and Denmark not getting through is a big shock; I had Denmark as outside favourites to knick it, but it tells you how competitive and open the competition has been.
NETHERLANDS VS USA
Holland feature against the USA.
Holland are maybe some people’s favourites to go all the way. At the beginning of the tournament, they were missing Depay, but he did play in the last game.
Netherland sort of breezed through the group without really doing anything of any note really. Cody Gakpo is the player everyone is looking at. He’s got three goals in the tournament, and now they come out against a USA side which has matured in the competition.
USA are very young and very fit; they press really well. Gregg Berhalter has gotten some maturity into their performances. They haven’t scored many, but they haven’t conceded many, which is a good thing.
I don’t know if they’ve got enough to contain the Dutch. In the group stage, you can lose a game and still work your way into the tournament, but in the knockout stages, they need to turn up and perform.
I don’t think the USA have enough for the Dutch.
Frankie De Jong is still Netherlands’ star player. He still looks good. Depay is back in the team and he’ll be looking to get on the scoresheet.
I think it will be a dutch 2-0 win over the USA.
- A Netherlands 2-0 victory is available at 10/1 (11.00).
- Netherlands to win is available at 9/10 (1.90).
- Netherlands to qualify is available at 3/8 (1.38).
Goalscorer-wise, for the Netherlands, I’ll have to go with Depay. Obviously, he hasn’t played a lot of football this season, and he came into the competition carrying a knock, but Louis van Gaal thinks he’s fit enough to start.
He got a taste against Qatar in the last game. I think Depay will get on the scoresheet. He’s hungry for goals, and I think he’ll get on the scoresheet against the USA.
- Depay to score is on offer at 11/8 (2.37).
ARGENTINA VS AUSTRALIA
Plenty of teams have lost a group game and still got to the final, even gone on to win it. Spain 2010 lost their opening game, and they went on to the final; what a team they were. They grew into the tournament.
Lots of teams that win this competition grow into it. They tinker a little bit, and they find a bit of a star player that comes out of nowhere.
As for Argentina, the Saudi game could have been so different. They go 1-0 up, and then there were several offsides in that first half; they even got one wrong for me when Lautaro Martínez went through. That should have counted. That could have been a completely different completion on the game.
They were punished for two big defensive errors, and the Saudis won.
Since then, they’ve flowed at times. They’ve played with aggression which is good. Messi has grown into the competition, and he was looking better against Poland and Mexico. The midfield works really hard and presses really well. They do create opportunities.
They are now coming up against an Australian team now.
Australia have got through. They’ve worked really hard. I’ve watched them against France, and I didn’t think they were great, to be honest. I was really surprised to see them get out of the group.
They’re there on merit and hard work.
Aaron Mooy dictates everything in that midfield. They’ve got willing runners ahead of them as well. Mathew Leckie scored the goal that got them through. He’s probably their star man and their most potent threat.
I just think this Argentinian team are here to do business, and they look like it. In their last two games, I’ve been very impressed with them. I can’t even see Australia scoring against them.
I’m going to go with a convincing 3-0 win for Argentina. I’ll go with Messi on the scoresheet again. I just think he dips in and out of the game, but when he gets it in and around the box, as we’ve seen against Mexico, he can just produce that moment of magic. I think he’ll get on the scoresheet. I think he’ll get the first, and that will settle them down, and it will be convincing for Argentina.
- Argentina to win is on offer at 4/25 (1.16).
- Argentina to win 3-0 is on offer at 5/1 (6.00).
- Messi to score for Argentina is on offer at 13/25 (1.52).
- Messi to score first is on offer at 9/5 (2.80).
FRANCE VS POLAND
It’s been pretty straightforward for France.
The black mark on their qualification has been that 1-0 defeat against Tunisia. Deschamps made nine changes, no Mbappe. He gave everyone a run-out. Refreshed the squad and gave all the big players a rest at this stage.
France have been pretty impressive. Mbappe has probably been the star of the show in this tournament. He looks like the real deal. He sort of flattered to deceive in past tournaments and not lived up to the expectations and hype. This time around, it’s his stage.
He comes alive when he’s on the ball. I’ve seen him live – he’s so quick with the ball.
I can’t see anything other than a France victory over Poland.
The Poles have struggled. Collectively they look ok, but they just don’t seem to be a threat in front of goal against Argentina. They literally got pressed out of the game.
Robert Lewandowski, at one point he headed the ball onto nobody. Just nobody gets up to support. I think they do struggle when they don’t have a lot of possession and there is a good press.
France press really well as well, and they can be so clinical in that final third. I can’t see Poland getting anything out of it again. Like Australia vs Argentina, I can’t see Poland scoring. Robert Lewandowski is obviously a threat. For set pieces, you’ve got to look at him, and maybe he might get one or two chances, but even he doesn’t look in the greatest form in this competition.
I can’t see anything other than a France victory. They’ll cruise through.
I’m going to go 2-0 for France, and on the scoresheet, I’m going to go for a bit of an outside bet. I’m going to go with Ibrahima Konaté to score from a set piece.
- France to win is available at 1/4 (1.25).
- A 2-0 French victory is available at 15/7 (3.15).
- Ibrahima Konate to score is available at 8/1 (9.00).
ENGLAND VS SENEGAL
You look at England’s group, and the stats will probably suggest that they cruised through. Nine goals, only conceded two, two victories and a draw.
But, to be honest, I watched them twice in during the group stage, and to me, I just don’t think they have enough to go to the final and win it.
Laboured performances. It took them an hour to break Wales down in the last game. I thought in the game against the USA, England were devoid of any kind of inspiration or front. They didn’t really create anything of great note.
Against Wales, they needed 50 minutes and a free-kick from Rashford to break them down. They’ve just not done enough for me to suggest that can go deep.
Senegal will be a really tough test for them.
They came into the competition without Mane, but they’ve had some big players step up – Sarr and Kulibali have been outstanding.
They have conceded the most goals in their group so defensively; they’ll need to shut up shop. But they’re a threat. They’re physical, and they’ll ask questions of England. I don’t think it’s as easy as it suggests.
The African champions are buoyant for being here in the first place, but they’ve got a lot of fans who make a lot of noise.
I don’t think it will be as easy as England thinks. I think they’ll scrape through, there could be a shock on the cards. It won’t surprise me if Senegal wins.
I’m going to go with England to Knick it 2-1 – and late as well. England have a stronger bench than Senegal, and they can make a lot of substitutions.
I’ll go with England to win 2-1, and I’ll go with Harry Kane to get on the scoresheet.
- England to win is on offer at 5/9 (1.55).
- England to win 2-1 is on offer at 21/5 (5.20).
- Harry Kane to win is on offer at 1/1 (2.00).
The tournament is well underway now, and we’ve had a good look at everybody.
As I like to say, teams work their way into the competition. We’ve seen some crazy results and some really good performances as well from teams you wouldn’t expect. If you’re going to point a finger at me and say from what you’ve seen who has impressed me the most, I’d say Spain.
That first game, they were absolutely outstanding. The second game was a bit tougher against Germany, but they still looked like the real deal. They still dominated possession. I think in the final third, they pass with a purpose. They always seemed to have three or four too many passes and miss opportunities, but the four players upfront they’ll take their chances.
Five substitutions will help them as well. Heavy possession helps them with rest time, but if they need to get back into the game, they’ve got quality.
So Spain have impressed me the most.
Brazil come second for me.
They’re playing with a lot of flair. No Neymar, but it looks like he can be back for the knockout stages, which is a massive positive for them. They’ve got so much going forward. They’ve still not been tested as the back, so they have a lot to do. As you get further into the competition, the quality gets better and better, so few question marks over them defensively.
If we’re going to talk about Brazil a bit more, their draw looks ever so more difficult to get to the final. If they’re going to do it, they’re going to do it the hard way. They’ll probably face Spain and Argentina if it all goes to plan. So they’re certainly going to have to do it the hard way.
As I’ve said, England, I don’t think they’ve got enough. If they get past Senegal they’ve got to beat France (if they get through Poland) – I don’t think they’ve got enough to beat France.
Portugal have done ok.
Germany flatter to deceive so I’m not sure how far they’ll go.
So if you’re going to point a finger at me right now, if I had to put a bet on, I’d go with Spain.
- Spain at 17/2 (9.50).
- Brazil at 23/9 (3.55).
- England at 9/1 (10.00).
- France at 11/2 (6.50).
- Portugal at 11/1 (12.00).
- Germany at 12/1 (13.00).
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*Odds subject to change. Odds correct at time of publishing.