World Cup Semi-Finals Trading Angle
Few people would have predicted this semi-final line up at the start of the tournament, France and Belgium would possibly have been on the short list but with Brazil, Spain, Argentina and Portugal crashing out, it is unlikely that punters would have added Croatia and England to make up the four. The gap in International football between the top teams and so called “lesser” nations is getting smaller as Iran proved, due to professional foreign coaches who are now able to organise these sides that often contain players playing in European leagues and who are now tactically on the same level. There will be much tension in both of the games and it could well come down to who can relax the best and of course, who gets that bit of luck.
France v Belgium (Tues 10th July 2018, 19:00)
Anyone I have spoken to in recent days believes the winner of this will lift the trophy, but we have seen enough shocks so far to know that is not a certainty and this could be a tough game for both sides, physically and mentally. I took a stand against France at the start of the tournament and despite all the plaudits from the media, I am still of my original opinion that they will not win it and in trading / betting, long term it is about backing that opinion. I don’t believe, apart from a 20 minute spell against Argentina, that this team has done anything to write home about. They were arguably lucky to beat Australia, drew with Denmark and beat Peru by a single goal before the 4-3 win over Argentina. In that game they showed in a small period of time what they are capable of, but so many times in the past they have failed to produce anything like that and their 2-0 win over Uruguay hardly had you scrambling to back them. A goalkeeper mistake and the loss of Cavani, made the game tough for Uruguay but they were still in the game until that blunder. Belgium will show us what France are really made of and I think we may see the old cracks and “in fighting” appear.
This will be the best chance that Belgium have ever had, with Martinez somehow managing to get a team of superstars to believe in and play for each other. Hazard has been superb, backed up by De Bruyne and Lukaku and a solid defence with a world class keeper in Courtois and his masterstroke was playing Fellaini who is not everyone’s cup of tea but does cause opposition teams to take their eye off the ball and is troublesome in the air. They showed their character in coming back from two down against Japan to protect their 23 game unbeaten run and then disposed of Brazil with a team performance far better than anything France have shown.
The two have no real history with head to head although Belgium did beat France 4-3 in Paris in a friendly three years ago but the only other relevant meeting was in Mexico in 1986 that ended 2-2 with France prevailing in extra-time. Those games will not be on the minds of these players so it is all about current form and for me it has to be Belgium. Whether they can do it in 90 minutes is open to question and a number of bets can be considered of which Both Teams To Score may be most popular at 1.80 (4/5), along with a correct score of Belgium 2-1 at 12.00 (11/1). My main trade however will be Belgium to qualify at 2.10 (11/10) which covers us if it goes to extra-time and penalties
Croatia v England (Weds 11th July 2018, 19:00)
In many ways this is the toughest of the two games to call, England are favourites but I don’t have Croatia as far behind them as the bookmakers do and a lot of that is to do with weight of money in the UK. Both have over performed to reach this stage, England with a very average squad and one potential superstar in Kane and Croatia with their talented midfield. What both sides do have is a great team ethic with all playing for each other and both buying into a tactical system which clearly suits. England had an easier group and despite pathetic jibes on social media about having an easy draw, (the teams don’t make the draw!) played well against a Colombia side whose antics were disgraceful and against a solid Sweden side who had looked good beforehand. That said, anything more that this side achieves will be a bonus, (yes they can win it) and they can go home with their heads held high whatever happens. Croatia were my big priced tip before the tournament and I am not surprised to see them get this far but I am a little worried that they looked “leggy” in extra-time in both of the knockout games but they did show composure in the penalty shootouts. Can they recover in time for this game having played that extra hour? The sides have not met since 2009 so head to head is irrelevant and I think this game could come down to who scores first. Many have said it will be an end to end cracker, but I only see that with an early goal. Those of you who play Unders could profit here by getting involved and trading out at 20-25 minutes. I have to play on Croatia as I believe on my own pricing that they are overpriced at 3.50 (5/2) and also have a saver on them to qualify at 2.25 (5/4) as this again could go the full distance.