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World Cup Best Bets 11/21

The World Cup kicked off Sunday with an Ecuadorian 2-0 victory over hosts Qatar, but Monday begins a stretch of three games a day until the group stage is over. We're blessed with three fantastic matchups across all of Group A and B, and here are my two best bets as we get into them.

Senegal vs Netherlands (11:00 AM ET)

Senegal traveled to Qatar with hopes that their star player Sadio Mane would be able to recover from injury and start at some point, but he was unfortunately ruled out for the contest on Thursday. All is not lost for the Senegalese, though this does put a massive dent in their chances to push deep into the tournament. Still, they boast one of the best defensive sides anchored by Chelsea center-back Kalidou Koulibaly and goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, and be a very difficult team to break down defensively with English Premier League players Idrissa Gana Gueye and Nampalys Mendy anchoring their midfield. While they do lose Mane, they still have plenty of pace and counterattacking ability up top.

All of this could pose problems for the Dutch. While they have a fantastic midfield with Frenkie de Jong and Teun Koopmeiners, they lack the quality finishers up top to put away teams even though they dominate possession. Virgil van Dijk and Nathan Ake should anchor a solid backline, but Senegal will likely pack it in deep and force the likes of Cody Gakpo and Steven Bergwijn to get between the lines and create havoc. The Netherlands are favored and deservedly so, but I'll take Senegal to come out with at least a draw, with insurance in case they lose by one goal.

Pick: Senegal +1 -125 (1.5u)

United States vs Wales (2:00 PM ET)

The United States was welcomed to Qatar with a friendly matchup last week against Saudi Arabia. They drew 0-0, which isn't too dissimilar to the majority of their games recently. The Americans are 7-2-1 over their last 10 games, allowing just 3 goals in that span. Unfortunately, they have drawn 0-0 or won 1-0 in seven of those matchups. They now face Wales who have undoubtedly faced more difficult competition but have not looked good in doing so. The Welsh are 1-1-5 in their past 7 games, scoring just 7 goals to their opponents' 11 in that span. My point is, no matter the competition, these teams don't pepper the net with goals often.

America has been frustrated by manager Greg Berhalter's style of play in that while it's pragmatic, it's not sexy. They don't flow cleanly moving the ball forward and given the talent the Americans have with Christian Pulisic, Gio Reyna, Weston McKennie, and Brendan Aaronson, fans expect the team to be more impressive and fluid on that side. The midfield is an area the Americans will look to dominate, with Tyler Adams and Weston McKennie being the engines there. They'll face much older opponents in that area in Aaron Ramsey and Joe Allen, and while both of those players are phenomenal in possession, they aren't the ball winners that Adams and McKennie are.

Where the Welsh will look to have success is with their wingbacks Neco Williams and Connor Roberts, feeding speedster Dan James and the iconic Gareth Bale. If they can spread the United States' defense apart and allow Bale and James to run into channels they could have some success, but this should be a cagey, boring affair that I believe the Americans' youth and creativity can get it done for them. While I like the USA as a pick 'em at -155, I have a bet I like more in both teams to not score. These defenses have been stout and the offenses have struggled. This game could possibly end 0-0, but I think one team gets over the line.

Pick: Both teams NOT to score -135 (2u)

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