Both of the World Cup matches on Sunday have very clear favourites in the opinion of the bookmakers. Karamba price Spain as 5/9 to beat the hosts in 90 minutes, with Russia available at 11/2.
While the odds in the other match aren’t as extreme, Croatia are 20/23 while Denmark are 4/1 to win in regulation time. A double on both favourites is available at 19/10, and though it may be hard to argue against taking that bet, are their more enticing odds available in other markets?
The first match sees the 2010 world champions aim to end the dreams of the host nation. Although Spain’s goal difference in the group stage was only +1 compared to Russia’s +4, the underlying stats tell a very different story.
Fernando Hierro’s side scored six goals from chances worth 6.9 expected goals, whereas Russia bagged eight from shots worth just 3.5. The hosts ran extremely hot in their matches against Saudi Arabia and Egypt which has brought them this far, but the might of Spain is a far tougher prospect. I expect Spain to win to nil, and you can bet on that at 11/8 with Ladbrokes.
That bet does though rely on David de Gea having a better match than he has had so far at this World Cup. The Manchester United stopper has conceded five goals from the six shots on target he has faced, and made a horrendous error in the 3-3 draw with Portugal. The law of averages suggests he’ll bounce back soon enough, so I think a ‘no’ bet on both teams to score is worth considering in case you think Spain will draw a blank too. You can get 31/40 for that with BetVictor.
But I do also think there will be several goals, as there has tended to be recently when Russia have faced one of the big sides; indeed, these two nations drew 3-3 in a friendly last November. Since that match, the World Cup hosts have also lost 3-0 to Brazil and 3-1 to France, so we can expect goals here. Over 2.5 goals can be backed at 6/5 with 888sport, and history suggests it will be the outcome in this game.
In the scorer market, it’s no surprise to see Diego Costa as the match favourite, and he can be backed at 10/3 with BetBright to score first, or 11/10 with the same firm to net at any time. For better value, I’d suggest either Isco (at 9/5) or David Silva (at 21/10) to score, as they have both had more shots than Costa so far. The Manchester City man has had the most of any Spanish player and has yet to score, so may be due a goal.
The second game on Sunday sees two in-form sides clash. Denmark are unbeaten in their last seven matches, while Croatia have won their last four in a row. However, the latter are deservedly favourites for this game as they scored seven goals in the group stage while the Danes only netted twice.
Then again, Croatia’s attack over-performed like Russia’s did, as their chances were worth 4.4 expected goals. It’s interesting to note the Danish defence only conceded one goal from chances worth 3.7, thanks largely to Kasper Schmeichel saving 12 of the 13 shots on target he faced. So which hot streak will crack first?
I suspect it will be Denmark’s, as they had easier group stage games, thanks to France not playing at full strength when they faced them. It’s also hard to see them scoring, as the chances they had across three matches were worth just 2.3 expected goals, and no side in the last sixteen generated less.
As with the earlier match, it looks like bets on the favourite winning to nil, and a ‘no’ for both teams to score look sensible. Croatia are available at 6/4 with Genting Bet to win without conceding, and the same company will give you 4/7 for at least one of the sides to fail to score. However, unlike in the Spain vs Russia match, I am not expecting there to be plenty of goals in this encounter.
None of Denmark’s last seven matches have seen at least three goals, and in fact five of them have seen fewer than two. Similarly, Croatia have played 13 games over the past year, and only four of them featured over 2.5 goals. The formbook definitely points towards a bet on under 2.5 goals in this match, and you can get odds of 20/43 for that outcome with Sportnation.
In a tight match, which player will break the deadlock? It’s interesting that Mintbet have Andrej Kramaric and Mario Mandzukic as the 5/1 joint favourites to score first, as neither of them has yet at this World Cup. They’ve only had four and five shots respectively too, so it’s not as if they’ve missed bags of chances.
I’d take the 12/5 on Luka Modric to score at any point, or 13/2 to net the opener. With penalties through the roof at this tournament, and the Real Madrid man Croatia’s designated spot kick taker, those odds look appealing. All four teams playing on Sunday have had penalties in their group stage matches, so don’t be surprised to see more in this pair of games.
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