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World Cup Best Bets: Picks and Predictions

Monday is the first full day of World Cup action featuring teams from Group A and B. Will the Netherlands be as potent without top striker Memphis Depay in the starting XI? Can England get an opening win? What will the USA look like in an important matchup with Wales?

World Cup Best Bets for England versus Iran

No goals in the first half between England and Iran +150

There shouldn't be much debate about what will happen in this match with under 2.5 goals at -160 (-140 earlier in the week). This is expected to be a mostly ugly match with England probably in control throughout. The question is if and when they can get a breakthrough because they haven't won their last six matches. Of course, playing in UEFA Nations League is a bit different than facing Iran, which is why England is favored by a decent amount.

My first idea was to take England to win with a clean sheet, but those odds are a bit high near -145 at most places. Even the odds for a 1-0 England win are +425 which isn't the best.

For value, I'd look at under .5 goals in the first half at +150. Those are great odds for what could be a defensive match between rusty sides. Unfortunately, that number was +175 earlier in the week and is moving down fast.

The forecast is 82 degrees and high humidity for the match at 4 p.m. local time in Qatar. Videos have surfaced online of the England players struggling to deal with the difficult playing conditions and that’s sure to play a role in this World Cup.

Iran will be more adapted to playing in these conditions, but Iran will also be defending without the ball and thus running more in this match.

England only scored two goals in the entire Euro group stage against the Czech Republic, Croatia and Scotland. The defense also isn’t in the same individual form, even if the system remains solid defensively.

The Three Lions will struggle to break down the deep low block from Iran, while Taremi finds some success counterattacking up England’s weaker right side due to their injuries. England could overwhelm Iran with their talent, but Iran have proven their tournament underdog mettle and will be quite compact defensively.

Take Iran against the spread.

The Pick: Iran +1.5 (-140)

No goals in the first half between Netherlands and Senegal +160

The public will be on the Netherlands, especially with news of Sadio Mane being out for the tournament (and longer). But one player does not make a team. I think this is a spot to steal a point for Senegal, who won Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year. Even without Mane, their roster is full of experienced, high-end players like Kalidou Koulibaly and Abdou Diallo on the back line, and Ismaila Sarr and Boulaye Dia higher up the pitch.

They don't have as much talent as the Netherlands, but they won't be scared of this matchup. On the downside, the Netherlands haven't lost since Euros last summer. Unlike England, who have been struggling to win matches, the Netherlands have cruised through Nations League games, beating Belgium twice this summer. Of note, the Netherlands won't start top striker Memphis Depay, who is returning from injury.

If you don't like Senegal's double chance at +145, I'd look at the Netherlands to win in a shutout at +135. Senegal will probably be on their back foot this match and it already wasn't going to be easy scoring against this Dutch back line which features Virgil van Dijk.

I hate to take no goals in the first half twice in one article, but without Depay up front, I think the first 45 minutes will be a bit slower with limited chances.

If Mane was healthy, it’d be extremely tempting to pick Senegal to pull off this upset.

Without him, it just becomes too hard to envision, even if you think oddsmakers are favoring the Dutch too heavily.

You can leverage that lean in other ways, though. The safest way to do so may be on a wager of Senegal at +1 at -110 odds.

This is not a team that concedes easily, and the Dutch have a good but not great history against African teams, with all three wins by a single goal. Senegal has never lost a World Cup game by multiple goals.

If you’re hunting for a greater return, consider the draw at +300 odds and an implied 25% probability.

The Pick: Senegal +1 (-110)

World Cup Best Bets for the United States versus Wales

USA vs. Wales Prediction

The United States’ midfield should be able to dominate this match, control possession and stop any type of Welsh counterattack. I also expect Wales to play very conservatively with their eyes on the second group stage match against Iran as their best possible to get all three points.

For the US, the question is can they break down Wales’ low block? Given the attacking talent that the United States has on the wings, plus looking at the amount of xG that Wales have conceded against good competition, I say yes, and I believe it’ll translate to a victory.

I like the United States to grab all three points at +150.

The Pick: USA ML +150

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