South Korea vs Uruguay (8:00 AM ET)
Heung Min-Son might be the talisman of this South Korean team that is known worldwide but do not sleep on the Koreans to make some noise in this tournament. They're an experienced bunch with players like Min-Jae Kim exploding onto the club scene. In case you aren't aware of Min-Jae Kim, he's Napoli's center-back and has been a staple in that side that is undefeated in Serie A and finished ahead of Liverpool in their Champions League Group. Other decently well-known players like Hee-Chang Hwang and Woo-Yeong Jeong fill out a squad that should create havoc in Group H.
Across from them will be the ever-impressive Uruguayans. In recent memory, they've dominated Mexico, Venezuela, Canada, and others en route to being 7-1-1 over their last nine games. When people think of Uruguay they think of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani because of their longevity at the top of the footballing world, but this team is much different now. While Luis Suarez is still starting at 35 years old along with his compatriot Diego Godin (36), it's the younger blood that will make Uruguay tick here. Balance will be key, and players like Darwin Nunez, Real Madrid's Federico Valverde, Tottenham's Rodrigo Bentancur, and Napoli's Mathias Olivera will be essential to providing Uruguay with a chance to advance out of their group and potentially into the quarterfinals.
I don't trust Uruguay to do that though. The South Koreans will be organized, energetic, and efficient and the age and quality of Uruguay's defense troubles me against the speed of the Koreans. Uruguay might have finishers, but they don't have enough creative players and speed to trouble the Koreans for me. Give me South Korea in this matchup to surprise some people who simply look at the names on the team sheet.
Pick: South Korea +0.75 -112 (1.5u)
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Portugal vs Ghana (11:00 AM ET)
We all know of Portugal's talent, and if you don't you can check out the futures Andy and I laid out prior to the beginning of the World Cup here! I won't go into too much detail, but it will be interesting to see how Cristiano Ronaldo reacts to his departure from Manchester United. I believe we see a man possessed, desperate to prove ownership wrong and engrave himself into International history more than he already has.
For all of the talent that Portugal has, their African counterparts are criminally undervalued. Group H for me is the group of death just because no team will be an easy out. Ghana is projected to finish last in the group, but in nearly every other group I'd wager them to leave the group stage. Inaki Williams' speed can tear apart any defense, and Ajax breakout Mohammed Kudus behind him will create problems for defenses. The Ayew brothers are older now, but experienced and savvy when called upon and the defense is comprised exclusively of quality English Premier League players, the best of which being Thomas Partey. I'm not sure that Ghana comes out with a result here, but I do think it takes Portugal more than 45 minutes to crack the code. Give me Ghana in the first half.
Pick: Ghana 1H +0.5 -120 (1u)