Arrivederci Italia! Bye-bye defending champions! Italy completed a disappointing World Cup run with a 3-2 loss to Slovakia. They used to have one of the best defenses in the world, but they looked shaky at best this year.
They missed assignments, looked sluggish, and didn’t give backup-keeper Federico Marchetti any chance to keep them in the match. They went on a frantic run at the end trying to tie and advance, but once again their defense let them down, allowing the Kamil Kopunek’s insurance goal.
With France exiting after a disappointing tournament, this marks the first time that the defending champions and the runners-up from the previous World Cup have been eliminated after the group stage. In a bad tournament for European teams, England narrowly escaped elimination and Spain still have to do some work to advance.
The Netherlands beat Cameroon 2-1, and Japan surprised Denmark. The Oranje advance with nine points and will face Slovakia in the Round of 16. Japan advance as runners-up from the group and will face Paraguay.
Day 15 features the final matchups of the group stage, and we will know who will advance and who will go home after 180 more minutes of soccer. Four big name teams take the pitch Friday in Portugal, Brazil, the Ivory Coast and Spain. Surprising Switzerland are hoping to advance.
Group G will compete in the early matches. North Korea will try to redeem themselves after a 7-0 walloping at the hand of Portugal. They face a tough team in the Ivory Coast, who will be looking to pile on goals on the Asians.
The Ivory Coast needs to win by a huge margin, after Portugal took a decisive lead in goal differential. The Elephants sit in third place of Group G with only one point. They need a win against North Korea, and a Portugal loss to Brazil. And they also have to make up a nine goal margin in goal differential against Portugal.
I don’t think this will happen, but I think the Ivory Coast will win big against a North Korean team that fell apart after a strong opener against Brazil. Go to 5Dimes for the best value with a -235 line. Also look at the over 2.5 at -104.
Brazil and Portugal face off in the other early match, and this should be a good one. Brazil should still be considered among the top three teams in the world, and they scored three goals against the Ivory Coast. The Selecao has an improved defense and will make it hard for Portugal to score.
Don’t let the 7-0 fool you. Portugal is great on offense, but Brazil will give them much less room to build their attack. The two teams will most likely advance, but they will both be playing for the win, because of the implications for the Round of 16.
Spain recovered from their opening loss to Switzerland and will look to win Group H by defeating Chile in their afternoon game. Should they succeed, they will face the winner of the Brazil-Portugal matchup in the second round.
Both, Brazil and Portugal, will try to avoid the tough test against the Spanish, and look to score early Friday. This will be a fun one to watch, but a tough one to bet on. I’m not sure Portugal can beat the Selecao, but they could get a draw. And if everything comes together, they have the talent to come out on top. Leave your money out of this one and enjoy a great soccer game.
Spain and Chile face up in one of the two afternoon matches. The Spaniards have recovered after a shocking loss to Switzerland in their opener. They are tied with the Swiss at three points, but hold the better goal differential.
They will try to add to that, but they don’t want to chance a loss and possible elimination. This should be another fun match to watch, with an improve Chile playing strong soccer at this World Cup.
Spain come in as the heavy favorites, but I’m not sure that is accurate. Chile could fight their way to a draw. If you are with me, go to Pinnacle (+352) or 5Dimes (+351) for the best value!
Switzerland is rock solid on defense, and kept their match against Chile close despite losing Valon Behrami to a red card in the 31st minute. They shouldn’t have a problem beating Honduras and keeping their chance of advancing alive. They need to outscore Spain or hope for the Spaniards to draw or lose.
Go to 5Dimes or Pinnacle for a -197 line on the Swiss.