USA vs Portugal Betting: Despite Injury, Ronaldo feared

ronaldo-usa-fearedGTBets.eu Line on USA vs Portugal (June 22nd)

USA (360)
Draw (289)
Portugal (-120)

The USA takes on Portugal today in what will be a defining match for Group G, which some have labeled the “Group of Death.” As we discussed before, USA has many things going in their favor already, including key injuries on Portugal’s side.

Cristiano Ronaldo happens to be one of these injuries, although he’s still playing today. The Real Madrid striker suffers from a patellar tendon knee injury, which hasn’t kept him off the pitch. However, the lingering knee issue does prevent him from being 100% and one wrong step could put him out for the 2014 World Cup.

Of course, the Americans are preparing as if they’re facing the world’s best player when he’s in perfect health. And this is definitely a good idea when you consider what Ronaldo can do to opponents in short order.

Previous Ronaldo Heroics

After losing their first match against Germany 1-0 and beating Denmark 3-2 in Euro 2012 group play, Portugal needed a win against the Netherlands to advance. Things looked bleak, though, as the Dutch went up by a score of 1-0 early on. But then Ronaldo stormed back and scored two goals to propel his side to a win and a spot in the quarterfinals.

Then there was the match that actually put Portugal in the 2014 World Cup, a playoff game against Sweden. Zlatan Ibrahimovic had scored a goal to put the Swedes within one more strike of moving to the Cup. However, Ronaldo went on to score two more goals to give himself a hat trick and guarantee the Portuguese a spot in the world’s biggest soccer tournament.

What to expect against USA

ronaldo-usa-feared-1The Americans know better than to expect a ginger Ronaldo playing at half-speed to protect his knee and future. His teammates don’t expect this either, especially Raul Meireles, who strongly believes that Ronaldo will show up in the sweltering heat of Manaus today.

“We know Cristiano, we don’t expect anything else,” Meireles said of his superstar teammate’s tireless effort. “Cristiano is the best player in the world and he is always competing to be the best player. This group has gone through difficult times before and I hope this will be another occasion when we will be successful.”

Meireles’ words hint at the two comebacks that Ronaldo provided against Sweden and the Netherlands. But then again, they were dominated 4-0 by Germany in their opening round, with “CR7” being completely stopped. That said, the urgency is definitely there, but Portugal is up against a lot of giants right now.

They are sitting at minus 4 on the goal differential, have zero points, and rank last in Group G behind Germany (4 pts), USA (3 pts) and Ghana (3 pts). Besides Ronaldo’s knee injury, Portugal will be without at least four starters against the US in central defender Pepe (red card), leftback Fabio Coentrao, striker Hugo Almeida and goalkeeper Rui Patricio. Centerback Bruno Alves could also possibly miss the match since he has a serious thigh injury. Meanwhile, USA is only missing striker Jozy Altidore while Clint Dempsey will play with a broken nose.

Win or Go Home

Despite all of their injury problems, Portugal head coach Paulo Bento will be expecting the best out of his team. In fact, he has to or else they’re going home. “This is the scenario we have ahead of us,” said Bento. “If we draw, we practically pack our suitcase. It is not a scenario we are unaware of. It is not a situation we are unused to.”

Is this going to be another one of those against-the-wall situations where Ronaldo provides heroics? Or will this be one time too many for a team that’s survived plenty of close brushes in the past? We’ll see when the USA vs Portugal match takes place at 6:00 ET today (June 22nd). If you’d like to do some last-minute 2014 World Cup betting before the game, check out the lines at GTBets.eu. We not only have lines on all of today’s matches, but also World Cup live wagering opportunities too.

Vegas takes Beating from First Week of 2014 World Cup

nfl-betting-linesThe World Cup is just as popular as ever this year, with millions of people around the globe enjoying 2014 World Cup betting and live wagering. Moreover, the Cup has really provided some great upsets and surprises, including defending champion Spain being eliminated already, Costa Rica beating Uruguay, and Mexico tying Brazil while facing a hostile crowd. It’s easy to see why fans have loved all the action so far.

But do you want to know who’s not enjoying the festivities? Las Vegas sportsbooks! The problems include favorites going 9-5 on the goal line so far, and the Over winning 12 out of 14 matches. Combine this with many World Cup bettors taking the favorite and wagering on the Over, and it’s not hard to see why Vegas sportsbooks are just as disappointed as Spain.

Jeff Sherman, who’s the assistant at LVH SuperBook, explained the matter by saying, “I’ve never seen anything like it. The kids (parlay bettors) are having a blast, and there really has been no need for handicapping the games – just blindly take the favorite and OVER.”

Not just the Favorites

Aside from a disproportionate number of people wagering on favorites and the Over, Vegas books also lost big-time when USA beat Ghana by a score of 2-1. There was a popular parlay bet that many people picked, which included “USA +110” combined with “Over 2 Goals.”

Despite the losses that this parlay caused, bookmaking legend and South Point sportsbook operator Jimmy Vaccaro has a positive spin on things. He said, “We’re hoping the USA builds up some momentum and makes it out of the group stage because it will just heighten the awareness of the tournament throughout the city that will not only increase handle on their future games, but also on the other games as people start familiarizing themselves with potential opponents down the road.”

A No-Win Situation

jurgen-klinsmannUS coach Jurgen Klinsmann famously said at the beginning of the 2014 World Cup that his team “cannot win.” It appears that Vaccaro and other bookmakers share the same sentiment and would like USA to advance so that more people bet on high-powered favorites, rather than the home team, thus evening out the action.

But then again, America advancing out of Group G could cause more losses for Vegas sportsbooks too. USA was given 9:1 odds of winning Group G and 5:2 odds of advancing out of what many called the “Group of Death.” It’s very possible that the 5:2 bet on America making it out of their group was a favorite among many.

Of course, USA is far from advancing yet because they still have to play Portugal and Germany. Assuming they can beat Portugal, or at least tie them, the Red, White and Blue has an excellent chance of moving to the knockout round. Provided they lose, USA will need a major upset or (possibly) tie against Germany to advance, and this is one match where people will be heavily betting the favorite.

2014 World Cup Betting: Making Sense of Big Group Disparities

Nobody ever said that the World Cup group draws are fair. And anybody who does say this is a complete liar. Perfect evidence of this sentiment comes from the 2014 World Cup drawings. As is the case every four years, there’s some major disparity as you look across the eight groups. But before we discuss the disparities, here’s a look at the eight different pools:

2014-world-cup-groups

Groups of Death

Every time the World Cup is held, there’s a “Group of Death,” or rather the pool that is loaded with three or four tough teams. This edition of the Cup features three different such pools, with Groups B, D and G featuring some very talented squads.

In Group B, you have the defending champion Spain, European powerhouse Netherlands, and Chile, which is probably South America’s second best team. The only gimme in this pool is Australia.

luis-suarez-uruguayGroup D features traditional soccer powers England and Italy. Then there’s Uruguay and their uber-talented striker, Luis Alberto Suárez, who led CONMEBOL qualifiers with an astounding 11 goals. Even Costa Rica doesn’t surrender much as they finished second in CONCACAF qualifiers and are ranked 28th by FIFA.

As for Group G, this pool has Germany, who some predict to win the World Cup this year. There’s also Portugal and Cristiano Ronaldo, the man whom many think is the best player in the world. The USA has a young, but talented squad that’s capable of upsetting both of the former. Finally, we have Ghana, which has advanced to the knockout round in two straight World Cups. There is no doubt about it: Group G doesn’t have a single soft spot.

If you’re thinking about betting on Group B, D or G, you might want to stick to live wagering in the 2014 World Cup. After all, it’s going to be very difficult to predict how the matches will go with such tough competition.

Looking at the Rest

Some of the other groups pale in comparison to those that we just discussed. Leading off the list of weak pools is Group H. Now, Belgium is a very good team that has a number of good, young players. But while they’re easily the best team on paper in this group, they’d have to fight to advance in several of the other pools. Russia is the second-highest ranked nation in Group H, but they are considered worse than any other pool’s second-best team. Meanwhile, Algeria and South Korea figure to be pretty easy competition for the top two squads.

greece-world-cup-1Group C offers another suspect crop of teams, with Colombia being the only feared squad. Greece, which is highly overrated according to FIFA at 12th, is one of the more offensively challenged teams in the Cup. The Ivory Coast and Japan wouldn’t have a chance of advancing to the knockout round in most other groups. But in this pool, they both have a shot at earning one of the top two spots in Group C.

It’s also a bit hard to swallow Group F, where Argentina is the only true contender. Nigeria and Bosnia and Herzegovina are respectable teams, however, neither should have a real opportunity to advance. While boasting a strong defense, Iran is a team that’ll be lucky to score two goals before they’re eliminated from pool play.

Why are the 2014 World Cup Groups so Uneven?

FIFA uses a Ridiculous “Pot” System that’s based on their Own Rankings – A big reason why you see such disparity between World Cup draws is due to the pot system that FIFA uses. The 32 teams are divided into four pots, with Pot 1 containing the world’s seven highest-ranked teams and the host nation. These eight teams are each placed in a separate group to avoid lumping too many elite squads together.

switzerland-world-cupPerhaps this wouldn’t be such a bad system if the flawed FIFA World Rankings weren’t used to determine the top seven. These rankings don’t account for home field advantage or goal differential, meaning nations like Switzerland and Belgium attain Pot 1 status while teams that are probably better such as Chile, England, Italy and the Netherlands end up with random-chance draws.

The Geography Factor is weighed Too Heavily – Outside of FIFA’s top seven-ranked teams and the host nation, all other qualifying teams are thrown into the remaining three pots. From here, geography becomes the key determining factor – not previous results or rankings.

The reason why this is done is to prevent teams from the same continent from being in a group together. The only exception is Europe, which can have a maximum of two teams in one pool. In theory, this makes sense because you don’t want group play to become continent wars. But in reality, using geography just creates largely uneven groups.

To illustrate how insane the geography factor is, consider that Spain was just as likely to have drawn 37th-ranked Ghana to their group as they were to have faced 59th-ranked Cameroon. In another case, the host nation, Brazil, had an equal chance of seeing 14th-ranked United States as they did of drawing 33rd-ranked Honduras.

What can be Done?

Obviously the strange way that FIFA picks groups will have a big impact on 2014 World Cup betting. But how could they go about making things better? According to the New York Times, Julien Guyon, a French mathematician, has come up with a superior and fairer method. Here’s an excerpt from what the NY Times wrote:

The Guyon method differs from FIFA’s in a very simple way: All the teams are seeded, according to their world ranking, 1 through 32. The teams are then assigned groups in a manner similar to any other large tournament, like the N.C.A.A. basketball tournaments, with an attempt to group higher-rated teams with lower-rated ones. Guyon keeps FIFA’s geographical constraints by randomly selecting continental groupings ahead of time. 

[cont’d later] Relative to FIFA’s process, this method particularly rewards strong teams who were not in the top eight, like England, Italy, Portugal and the United States.

The Guyon method may not be revolutionary, at least on the surface. But the NY Times did show that using his system would produce far greater consistency in creating fair World Cup groups.

Unfortunately, major sporting organizations can be slow to change. So we don’t see FIFA adopting the Guyon method – or anything else for that matter – any time soon. But hopefully the soccer governing body will take outside criticism into account and eventually consider changing something about their Cup drawing system.