Group F Considered Group of Death in 2018 World Cup

2018-world-cup-group-of-deathOne of the most-interesting parts of the World Cup is determining the Group of Death. The 2018 edition is no different, with there being several groups to choose from.

In most cases, the Group of Death is characterized by two tough European squads and two strong teams from other confederations. Here’s an example of the two candidates from the 2014 World Cup:

  • Group BAustralia, Chile, Spain, and the Netherlands. This group was so tough that the defending champs, Spain, went home early.
  • Group GGermany, Ghana, Portugal, and the US. Germany and the US moved on, while Portugal, one of FIFA’s top five teams, went home.

FIFA changed the way that group draws are done in the 2018 World Cup. This edition no longer uses geographical considerations as heavily. Instead, groupings are more based on the FIFA World Rankings.

Nevertheless, Group F still stands out as the Group of Death in the 2018 Cup. Let’s look at each team in Group F and discuss why they make this such a tough draw. Also note that you can bet on every World Cup match at GTBets.

1. Germany, FIFA Ranking #1

  • Qualifying record: 10 wins, 0 draws, 0 losses
  • 43 goals for, 4 goals against

thomas-muller-germanyThe defending World Cup champions have played great ever since their victory in Brazil. They were perfect in World Cup qualifying matches and haven’t lost since a 2-0 defeat to France in the Euro 2016 semifinals.

The Germans have crushed teams like the Czech Republic, Northern Ireland, and Norway on their path towards World Cup success. This squad is so deep that their B-roster beat Mexico and Chili in back-to-back matches in the Confederations Cup.

Germany has dominated thanks to a ridiculous stable of goalkeepers, Bayern Munich’s stifling defense, and stars like Thomas Muller, Leroy Sane, Toni Kroos, and Mesut Ozil. Muller scored five goals in every international tournament that he’s competed in. If he puts in seven goals in Russia, it would move him past countryman Miroslav Klos as the World Cup’s all-time scorer.

2. Mexico, FIFA Ranking #15

  • Qualifying record: 11 wins, 4 draws, 1 loss
  • 29 goals for, 8 goals against

hirving-lozano-mexicoMexico firmly handled the CONCACAF Hex, only losing once in 16 matches. They also outscored opponents by over a 3:1 margin.

El Tri has some strong players in Andres Guardado, Javier Hernandex, Hector Moreno, Miguel Layun, and Meme Ochoa. They also boast 22-year-old Hirving “Chucky” Lozano, the PSV Eindhoven star who scored 19 goals in his first season in Europe.

3. Sweden, FIFA Ranking #23

Qualifying record: 7 wins, 2 draws, 3 losses
27 goals for, 9 goal against

marcus-berg-swedenSweden’s road to the 2018 World Cup wasn’t an easy one. They had to beat The Netherlands (UEFA Group A) and Italy (1-0 in aggregate playoffs) to reach Russia. Not coincidentally, both of these teams failed to qualify for the Cup in a total shocker.

It’s also worth noting that Sweden notched an impressive victory over France. But were these big wins just Cinderella living it up before the clock strikes midnight?

Not quite. Sweden has an experienced core who’ve been together since 2009. They’ll blend these veterans with fresh talent that won Sweden’s first-ever UEFA U-21 title in 2015.

The Swedish national team chose to pass on star Zlatan Ibrahimovic. But they may not miss him when considering that they boast Marcus Berg, John Guidetti, Ola Toivonen, and Isaac Kiese Thelin.

4. South Korea, FIFA Ranking #57

  • Qualifying record: 12 wins, 3 draws, 3 losses
  • 38 goals for, 10 goals against

son-heung-min-world-cupSouth Korea had an easy time in the first two rounds of AFC qualification matches. But they struggled the third round, with losses to China and Qatar, the latter of which resulted in German manager Uli Stielike being fired.

Nevertheless, the Reds have a strong attack thanks to Son Heung-Min and his world-class abilities. The 25-year-old has played outstanding in Tottenham and is bringing the same skills to Russia.

South Korea is looked at as the weakest team in Group F. But they’re a strong No. 4 in the toughest group.

Study: Twitter Is Secret to Winning Live Wagering

live-wagering-soccerNew research shows that Twitter activity can help bettors successfully win profits with live wagering.

The study, which was conducted by the UK’s University of East Anglia (UEA), discovered that the positive tone of tweets can indicate which team is more likely to cover live soccer wagers.

According to UEA’s website, researchers poured over 13.8 million tweets during the English Premier League season. They then compared these tweets to live wagering prices at a leading online sportsbook.

The university discovered that if the combined tone on Twitter was positive for a specific team, then they’re more likely to produce a successful live bet.

Tweets are especially helpful after a red card has been issued or a goal has been scored. The tone from this content can help assess the implications moving forward in a match.

UEA Wanted to Measure Forecasting Ability of Social Media

uea-uk-study-sports-bettingVarious firms are already using social media as a way to forecast future results. And the university wanted to determine the accuracy of social media as a forecasting tool. They accomplished this by measuring the aggregate tone for all tweets surrounding each EPL team.

The research has been published in the journal Economic Inquiry, and it was carried out by Dr Alasdair Brown, UEA’s School of Economics, and colleagues from the Universities of Dundee and Reading, and Birkbeck, University of London.

Dr. Brown, who’s a senior economics lecturer, told UEA the following:

“The modern forecaster has a number of tools at their disposal. In particular, prediction markets and social media have proved extremely popular.

“We know that prediction markets, such as Betfair, generally lead to accurate forecasts, and outperform individual experts and polls in many settings. However, we wanted to find out if social media has anything to add. Can we combine probability forecasts from prediction markets with social media output to improve our predictions?

“We find that Twitter activity predicts match outcomes, after controlling for betting market prices. Much of the predictive power of social media presents itself just after significant market events, such as goals and red cards, where the tone of Tweets can help in the interpretation of information.

“In short, social media activity does not just represent sentiment or misinformation. If sensibly aggregated it can, when combined with a prediction market, help to improve forecast accuracy.”

More on the Live Betting Findings

epl-live-wageringThe UEA team used a number of betting strategies to determine the degree to which social media can predict live wagering outcomes. Using a strategy that factors in sportsbook commissions and uses the positive tone on specific teams, UEA earned an average profit of 2.28% on 903,821 bets.

This is a very impressive when considering that the average online better loses 5.41% on EPL live wagering (according to UEA research).

Dr. Brown said these are significant returns when considering the size of the EPL market and the volatile nature of live betting.

The only goal that the study didn’t accomplish is determining if tweets are helpful before a goal is scored. UEA was unable to find a correlation between a positive Twitter tone and making successful bets prior to a goal being scored.

Twitter Is a Very Helpful Live Wagering Predictor

“These results fit in with recent evidence that social media content can be useful as a forecasting tool,” Brown said. “For example, there is evidence that social media output, both on Twitter and on financial message boards, predicts future stock returns.

“At first glance this may be surprising, as we might think that an individual in possession of valuable information would bet or trade first, and post later. However, if we think that valuable information is dispersed among a number of individuals, then we might understand why social media content leads market prices, as it does in this study and elsewhere.”

Dr James Reade, an economics expert who co-authored the study, also spoke about the findings.

“This is a real ‘wisdom of crowds’ kind of outcome,” said Reade. “It says that if we listen to the right parts of the crowd, we can gain more information and make better predictions.

“It’s great for football fans, who always want to know what others think of their team. Betting prices, allied with the general mood on Twitter, can give a really accurate picture of where a match is going, in real time.”

USA Soccer Wins Gold Cup Group B – What’s Next?

bruce-arena-us-soccerTeam USA didn’t have a great start to their Gold Cup group play. They began with an uninspiring draw against Panama and a surprisingly close 3-2 victory over Martinique.

Had the US struggled against Nicaragua, it would’ve been cause for upheaval. Lucky for America, they notched a 3-0 win over their lowly opponents and will move on after winning Group B.

What’s next for USA soccer in the knockout rounds?

Let’s cover their chances along with how coach Bruce Arena made wholesale changes after the disappointing Gold Cup start.

US Avoids Costa Rica in Quarterfinals

After Panama beat Martinique 3-0 in their final Group B match, the US knew they had to get a big victory to win their group on points. Going further, winning the group helps them avoid playing Costa Rica in the quarterfinals.

America needed to beat Nicaragua by at least 3 goals, and they did exactly that. Even in what’s been a down Gold Cup, USA did what needed to be done.

Rather than having to face a veteran Costa Rica squad, they’ll face the region’s third-place finisher in Philadelphia. And while the US has to face tough teams at some point if they want to reclaim the Gold Cup, they’d rather do it later.

Complete Overhaul Against Nicaragua

Arena had seen enough of the previous unit that struggled against Martinique and Panama. He made a surprising move by replacing all 11 players in his starting lineup in hopes of avoiding a Gold Cup disaster. Some of these changes included goalkeeper Bill Hamid making his tournament debut, and midfielder Chris Pontius getting his first start after subbing against Martinique.

Aside from overhauling the roster in hopes of more success, Arena can also evaluate more players. After all, the 2018 World Cup is only one year away, and USA needs to do a lot of work if they’re to compete in Russia. Arena will now have a wider range of talent to look at.

Win over Nicaragua wasn’t Pretty

While the box score might’ve looked good against Nicaragua, the actual game wasn’t very impressive. For the third straight match, America played down to the level of their competition.

Specifically, they missed scoring chances, committed poor turnovers, and looked out of sync. The only thing they did right was hustle enough and get the three goals they needed to avoid a tougher quarterfinals opponent.

Nicaragua was the weakest team in Group B. So the US can’t rejoice too much over their 3-0 victory.

The Stars are Joining Team USA

Arena is definitely getting serious after bringing in the big names like Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, Michael Bradley, Darlington Nagbe, and Tim Howard. The coach tired of seeing his team struggle against smaller, less-talented teams. So he brought in the big guns for the knockout rounds.

Arena tried sugar-coating his team’s performance after the first two matches.

tim-howard-usa-goalie“I thought the team played well in the last game, and we’re very close to having a very dominating performance,” Arena said last week.

“So I thought in game two of group play, that the team played well. Game one was not our best game, but give Panama credit as well, and the same to Martinique.”

But Arena’s actions show a different story after replacing much of the squad that struggled so badly against Panama and Martinique.

Maybe if the US showed better form against these teams, they could’ve left their best players at home and gotten the youth more experience. But the poor performances forced Team USA to bring their best replacement options in as the tournament gets serious.

Bright Spots for the Knockout Rounds

graham-zusi-usaWhile the US hasn’t played great, the Nicaragua win did allow some players to prove themselves.

Specifically, Graham Zusi and Jorge Villafana showed that they deserve starts in the knockout rounds. Kelyn Rowe and Dom Dwyer also showed that they deserve a longer look too.

Nevertheless, Arena would still like to see his team play a little tighter as they move on in the Gold Cup.

“When we have a lot of possession of the ball, we need to keep our concentration,” said the coach. “At times we got caught on the break a little bit. We’re a little bit sloppy on a couple of occasions, and it cost us. So we need better concentration and a better collective effort from our team.”

What about Mexico and Costa Rica?

javier-hernandez-mexico-world-cupNot long ago, many expected Mexico to be heavy Gold Cup favorites. But El Tri have looked just as shaky as the US, also bringing in knockout round replacements.

As mentioned before, nobody wants to play Costa Rica. But it’s not like they’re heavy favorites either. The Ticos played Canada to a draw and only beat Honduras 1-0. Costa Rica may be slight favorites over USA and Mexico, but we emphasize “slight.”

Gold Cup Odds & Betting

If you’re interested in betting on the Gold Cup knockout rounds, be sure to visit our GTBets Gold Cup page. With so much still unsettled among the favorites, you can find good value in the knockout rounds. That said, check out our lines as this tournament heads towards its biggest matches.

Klinsmann Fired as US Coach – What’s Next for US Soccer?

jurgen-klinsmann-firedUS Men’s National Team coach Jurgen Klinsmann was fired yesterday evening, confirming speculation that his job was in trouble. The USMNT lost to both Costa Rica (4-0) and Mexico (2-1) in 2018 World Cup qualifying matches this month, which has put the US in an uphill battle to earn a spot in Russia.

Let’s take a look at Klinsmann’s US soccer career, what ultimately led to his firing (beyond recent losses), and where the future of US soccer is headed.

A Glance at Klinsmann’s US Career

On the surface, Klinsmann’s overall body of work with the USMNT has to be lauded. He produced a 55-27-16 record, and led this team out of the “Group of Death” in the 2014 World Cup and into the Round of 16.

His job was praised by U.S. Soccer president Sunil Gulati after the firing.

“Many are aware of the historic victories, including leading us out of the Group of Death to the Round of 16 in the 2014 FIFA World Cup, but there were also lesser publicized efforts behind the scenes,” Gulati told the press. “He challenged everyone in the U.S. Soccer community to think about things in new ways, and thanks to his efforts we have grown as an organization and expect there will be benefits from his work for years to come.”

Despite the highs of Klinsmann’s 5-year tenure, Gulati and others within US soccer felt that it was time to look at other options.

“While we remain confident that we have quality players to help us advance to Russia 2018, the form and growth of the team up to this point left us convinced that we need to go in a different direction,” he said. “With the next qualifying match in late March, we have several months to refocus the group and determine the best way forward to ensure a successful journey to qualify for our eighth-consecutive World Cup.”

Klinsmann had been on Gulati’s radar for quite some time, but contract talks broke down in 2006. This allowed Bob Bradley to take over the position, which he held until 2011, when the team lost to Mexico in the Gold Cup Final.

This was all the reason Gulati needed to hire his guy the same year, giving Klinsmann both the USMNT coach and development director positions. The German-born coach quickly seized control of the opportunity, implementing sweeping changes to make this average US squad more like the high-powered Germany.

He also made bold moves such as cutting team captain Carlos Bocanegra right before a World Cup qualifier, cutting Landon Donovan before the 2014 World Cup, adding blood testing, running players though 3-a-day practices, and banning soda.

The moves were newsworthy, but they didn’t produce a superpower team. Klinsmann did just well enough to get a contract extension in late 2013, and this seemed validated when he took the US to the Round of 16 in the 2014 World Cup, where they battled Belgium into extra time. But a closer look at the performance showed that America got outplayed in three out of four matches.

The US had become nothing more than a defensive team that relied on the occasional counter to pull out 1-0, 2-1, or 1-1 matches. Nowhere was this more evident than when the 2015 Gold Cup, where they finished an embarrassing fourth place after losing to Panama on penalty kicks. They also lost a playoff to Mexico for a spot in the 2017 Confederations Cup, which was yet another blow to the team.

The one redeeming thing about Klinsmann’s latest performance was a deep run in the 2016 Copa America Centenario, where they made it to the final four after beating a tough Ecuador team. They lost to both Argentina in the semifinals and Columbia in the third-place match, but it was still looked at as a success.

However, it wasn’t so much of a success that US soccer could ignore a draw to New Zealand in October, and losses to Mexico and Costa Rica this month.

Why Was Klinsmann Fired?

While Klinsmann accepted criticism for the team’s performance, he was quick to question the heart of the players too.

“There is always things that you say you could have done differently,” said Klinsmann. “It doesn’t matter about the system, it is about the compactness of the team. The willingness to fight back — and after the second goal they didn’t have that power or drive to get back in the game. It is a very bitter moment. They were too flay, not enough alertness there, not enough tempo.”

jurgen-klinsmann-fired-2Some of the players did seem to give up in the 4-0 loss to an average Costa Rica squad. But Klinsmann also shares plenty of the blame.

For starters, he questioned the MLS and how it prepares players for the rigors of international play. And while this might be true to a degree, it also alienated some of the same players whom Klinsmann looked to when filling out his squad.

Another problem was the odd coaching strategies he used at times. One example was the recent Mexico match, where he employed a 3-5-2 formation that the team hadn’t used up to this point. Given the magnitude of a game against their closest rivals, this didn’t seem like the best time to try a new formation.

Klinsmann also struggled with his dual role of being both the coach and US developmental director. It seems like he would’ve been better suited to just coach, rather than also working on developing America’s youth soccer movement too.

Most importantly, the 52-year-old failed to make a dramatic change from the Bob Bradley era, which is what he was brought in to do in the first place. Instead, the USMNT is producing around the same level of results as Bradley did 5 years ago.

The Future of US Soccer

The future of the USMNT doesn’t seem much different from the past because Bruce Arena has been hired to coach the team.

Fired in 2006, Arena holds the distinction of being the only coach to take the US to two World Cups (2002 and ’06). He also won 71 international games, which is more than any other American.

bruce-arena-us-soccer“When we considered the possible candidates to take over the men’s national team at this time, Bruce was at the top of the list,” Gulati said. “His experience at the international level, understanding of the requirements needed to lead a team through World Cup qualifying and proven ability to build a successful team were all aspects we felt were vital for the next coach. We all know Bruce will be fully committed to preparing the players for the next eight qualifying games and earning a berth to an eighth straight FIFA World Cup in Russia.”

Some may believe that hiring Arena is a mistake since he’s a retread from the past. But one must also consider that he produced outstanding results with his L.A. Galaxy teams, developing a fast, attacking style that the Americans could benefit from.

Perhaps more importantly, he has close ties to the MLS and can repair this relationship after Klinsmann’s tenure. The US starts playing qualifiers again in March, which gives Arena some time to implement his style and get this team on the path to Russia 2018.

Euro Cup Final Betting: France vs Portugal

france-portugal-bettingAfter opening the 2016 Euro Cup with three lackluster ties in group play, Portugal has gained their form at the right time with victories over Croatia, Poland, and Wales to advance to the finals.

In their way stands France, which also had a mediocre group play performance, before heating up with wins against Ireland, Iceland and Germany.

Les Bleus have used the support of their home crowd to make the finals, and they’ll no doubt have a little crowd advantage tomorrow. Will this give them an unstoppable advantage, or does Portugal have enough strength to beat them?

Find out as we discuss the 2016 Euro Cup Final below, along with which team you should bet on.

Portugal vs France (3:00pm EST on July 10) Moneyline
France +100
Portugal +330
Draw +210 Spread
France -0.5 (+100)
Portugal +0.5 (-125)

Why Portugal Will Win

Portugal has reached the Euro Cup and World Cup semifinals in five of their last nine tries, making them the world’s most-consistent team in that span. They also have arguably the best player on the planet in Cristiano Ronaldo.

ronaldo-vs-walesDespite being a nation of under 11 million, Portugal has produced a football powerhouse. Unfortunately, they’ve failed to seal the deal in their deep Euro Cup and World Cup runs. Could this finally be the year that they atone for heartbreaks at the 2006 World Cup, and 2000 and ’04 Euro?

It’s a definite possibility, given that Fernando Santos has A Selecao playing their best football in a few years. One interesting thing about Portugal this time around is that they aren’t the flashy, offensive machine that we’ve seen in years’ past. Instead, they’re a gritty team that’s played tough defense and counted on every member of the squad in this tourney.

Portugal boasts a complete team with Ronaldo once again providing firepower. They lost to an underdog Greek team on their home soil in the 2004 Final. Now they have a real chance to spoil France’s odds of winning in Stade de France.

Why France Will Win

Didier Deschamps’ team has largely had a tougher road to the finals than Portugal. Tough matches against Switzerland, Ireland, Germany, and a Cinderella Iceland team has prepared them well for the final match. In Germany’s case, France has now denied them in the semifinals of both the European Championship and World Cup in recent years.

What’s impressive about France is that they seem to keep getting better after each round. As mentioned before, they weren’t particularly strong in group play against Romania, Albania and Switzerland. But they’ve since managed to play better in the elimination rounds, reaching a peak with their 2-0 victory over an injury riddled German team.

Make no mistake about it, though: France could’ve beaten this German team in full health the way that they’re playing now. After barely qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, the French have done a lot of improving over Deschamps. They can now show the world just how far they’ve come with a win in the finals.

Battle Between Stars: Ronaldo vs Griezmann

Ronaldo has won every award imaginable in his decorated football career, which is the result of hours spent getting the most out of his incredible talent. But the one thing that has alluded him all these years is a title in a major international tournament. Expect an inspired performance out of a player who rivals Lionel Messi to be the world’s best.

France has its own star in Antoine Griezmann, who has played magnificently at the 2016 Euro. Already with 6 goals, he’ll be trying to turn in one more superb performance to help France win on their home soil. Griezmann has consistently done well in each match, and, with the team around him, has a good chance to repeat his excellence against a strong Portugal team.

Prediction on Portugal vs France

With so many strong finishes since 2000, it feels like Portugal is due for a win. And with a tough defense behind an even better attack led by Ronaldo, it feels like this could be the time that they triumph. It won’t be easy, especially with how good Griezmann and co. are playing. But don’t be surprised if Portugal comes away with a victory.

Final Score Prediction: Portugal wins 2-1
Betting Advice: Not only does Portugal have a good chance to win this match, but they’re also offering great value on our GTBets’ moneyline at +330.

2016 Euro Cup Betting: France vs Germany

france-germany-bettingWith Portugal having just secured their place in the 2016 Euro Cup Finals, via a 2-0 victory over Wales, it’s between France and Germany on who’ll meet them.

There’s little argument on who had the tougher road to the semifinals, with Germany earning a gritty win over Italy on penalty kicks. France, meanwhile, stomped on Iceland’s fairytale run with a 5-2 victory.

Will the host nation get another victory and meet Portugal in the finals? Or will it be the battle-tested Germans moving on after their close game against Italy? Find out as we cover this match and discuss which team you should bet on.

France vs Germany (3:00pm EST on July 7) Moneyline
France +170
Germany +190
Draw +200 Spread
+0.5 (-250)
-0.5 (+180)

France vs Germany Overview

Up until their match against Iceland, France had not played well in this tournament. Les Bleus edged by Albania and Romania with late goals and came back to win against Ireland in the quarterfinals. Their shining moment so far came against Iceland in the round of eight, where they easily knocked out a giant killer. In this match, like previous ones, France relied on the offense supplied by Antoine Griezmann, Dimitri Payet, and Olivier Giroud.

olivier-giroudAs for Germany, their Euro Cup performance has been impressive at times, but below average at other points. They tied Poland and beat Northern Ireland 1-0 in group play, and needed to win on penalties against Italy. Nevertheless, Germany’s 2014 World Cup victory is still giving them confidence moving forward, and they’ve largely played better than France.

There are signs that Les Bleus may be coming around, scoring seven goals in their last three halves of play. This was against less-talented Iceland and Ireland squads, though; Germany won’t be nearly as easy to beat tomorrow.

Germany is Missing Players

The Nationalmannschaft have used a 3-4-2-1 system in all their Euro Cup matches, playing Jonas Hector and Joshua Kimmich as wing-backs. They’ve done a strong job throughout the tournament, and they’ll have to keep playing well due to how many players Germany is missing.

Midfielder Sami Khedira won’t play against France, and fellow midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger could miss the match as well. Possible replacements include Emre Can and/or Julian Weigl, but this creates a tough situation for the Germans.

spain-italy-euro-betting-1Their defense will take a hit too, with Mats Hummels to also miss the match due to suspension. This could make Germany more vulnerable in the back line and open up opportunities for France.

Mario Gomez is just one more influential player who’ll miss the match. With Gomez out, Thomas Muller, Julian Draxler, and Mesut Ozil will need to step up and make up for their star striker’s absence.

Key Matchups

spain-italy-euro-betting-2Muller hasn’t scored any goals in the Euro Cup, but he’s doing everything else right. He set up Gomez for a score against Northern Ireland and has also helped Kimmich on defense. It’s likely that Muller will line up on the right and face France’s left-back Evra, who hasn’t been a defensive stalwart so far. Evra had an especially tough match against Iceland while manning the full-back spot. He’s going to need to play his best against Muller in order to slow down the German attack.

Another key matchup will be Jerome Boateng against Giroud. The latter has been huge for France, scoring two goals and assisting on two others. Boateng has also been playing excellent in Germany’s back line, with his only mistake being a handball against Italy. Whoever wins this matchup will have big implications on the final score.

Prediction on France vs Germany

Germany still boasts the fantastic core of players that helped them win the Cup two years ago. But in that run, they were able to keep key players healthy in the latter stages. That’s not the case this time around, though, with injuries to Khedira and Gomez, and Hummels suspended. The replacements are good, but are they strong enough to beat a French team in good form?

For France, the key will be withstanding early German attacks and using the same well-timed counters they did against Iceland. Their 4-2-3-1 formation has paid dividends in the last two matches, especially for Giroud and Griezmann. This attack should be enough to help France prevail against a shorthanded German team.

Final Score Prediction: France wins 2-1
Betting Advice: With the injuries and suspension hitting Germany, France looks really attractive on both the spread and moneyline.