Football on pitch

Written by Cornermanden. The author’s opinions and predictions are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Unibet. Odds and details may change between the time of writing and when placing a bet – always check before betting.

It’s finally upon us. The World Championships in Qatar kicks off on Sunday! I’ve previewed all the games from Sunday (when Qatar and Ecuador play the opening game) to Thursday. Round 1, in other words. We will post blogs continuously throughout the tournament and I will preview all the games that are being played.

SUNDAY

The Opener

Qatar-Ecuador

There’s not expected to be many goals when Qatar hosts Ecuador for the first game of the 2022 World Championships. The goal line is expectedly at 2.5, but at the massive price of 2.55. This narrative is easy to understand, as it’s completely understandable to see nerves and high shoulders when you kick off such a big tournament when most of the eyes of the world are watching you. I would even go as far as to say that I think there’s some value on the under here, when we know that there’s only been two goals in Ecuador’s last six games of football. Since October 11 last year they’ve only been involved in two games (of 13 in total) where there have been scored over 2.5 goals. When we know that Qatar has the home advantage and that they themselves aren’t very attack minded, I want to pick the under line here.

MONDAY

Is It Coming Home?

England-Iran

Let’s start this preview with a look at Iran, the team managed by defensive minded Carlos Quieroz. Being hard to beat and compact defensively is a massive part of their strategy, and they did it well in the last World Championships by conceding just one goal against Portugal and Spain each. England has usually been a disappointment at the big tournaments, but the hoodoo is slightly killed after reaching the final last time around when they lost on penalties to Italy. I’m very curious to see Southgate’s preferred team for each game, but will not be massively surprised to see him rotate to keep players fresh, happy and involved. I think a good strategy would be to play the in-form players who also have impressed and delivered on similar occasions previously. I’m a profound fan of Ben White – he is probably the only current England defender who is in very good form for Arsenal. The Lions are favourites to win this game at 1.35, which sounds about right. The market is generally not wrong on such predictions, but I do think there’s a bit of value on Iran not to score here, at 1.65. It’s a very low price, but my gut feeling is that Queiroz will attack this game to “win” a 0-0.

The Outsiders

Senegal-Netherlands

I’m very curious to see Senegal in The World Championships. There’s a lot of strength and athleticism in their squad, so they should compete well on the physical parametre. Netherlands, or Holland as I prefer to call them, enters the tournament in great form and is probably in a better position to challenge for a good position at the end of The World Championships than for many years. Van Gaal’s men should win this game and get a good start to their WC 2022, but the opening game is always tricky. No bet from me in this one, but I do expect it to be entertaining.

The Upcoming Generation

USA-Wales

I feel quietly optimistic on the USA’s behalf. They have some very talented players who – if not hampered by injuries – will only get better and take the nation further in the football world. In my big preview for The World Championships I mentioned some of their most influential players, and why I think they have a good chance of progressing from this group. If Gregg Berhalter and his staff mean business, a win against Wales in the first game seems like a good place to start. The Americans are slight favourites at 2.67 to win the game, but I will never rule out Wales – who have an established core of players who know each other very well. I don’t think there will be plenty of goals here, but 1.54 is not an interesting enough price for me. It smells draw, the way I see it.

TUESDAY

“The GOAT”

Argentina–Saudi Arabia

At 11.00 on Tuesday morning/noon Argentina and football’s greatest ever player of all time, Lionel Messi, take on Saudi Arabia. It should definitely be a cruise control start for Argentina, who play one of – unarguably – the worst teams of the tournament. The odds reflect this: 1.18 on Argentina to win looks like a fair price. They don’t concede many goals, so I wouldn’t be against a bet builder version where Argentina scores over 1.5 goals and Saudi Arabia doesn’t score at all at 2.02. It’s a good opportunity to have a look at the Saudi’s and what they can bring to the table on such a big stage. I will have a look at goalscorers odds when it approaches kickoff. 

Danes Against Tunisians

Denmark-Tunisia

Denmark was shell shocked when Christian Eriksen collapsed on the pitch against Finland during the Euro’s a year and a half ago. Now Eriksen and the Danes are back, ready to go even further and to upset the whole football world. They have a good squad at their disposal with many players looking sharp for their clubs, and it could even have featured a player from Eliteserien: Casper Tengstedt is in brilliant form for Rosenborg. Tunisia isn’t packed with very known players, but one of them plays in Denmark: Anis Ben Slimane is a midfielder for Brøndby in Superligaen. Denmark -1 (asian handicap) at 1.78 looks interesting in a game which I expect our Scandinavian friends to do well in.

“Lewangoalski”

Mexico-Poland

Once Norwegian fans return from work, it’s time to sink down into the couch and watch Mexico against Poland at 17.00 o’clock. Of all the games I’ve covered so far in this preview, this is the match with the smallest difference between underdog and favourite: Mexico is a very slight favourite at 2.75 to win, while Poland is currently priced at 2.85; the draw is valued at 3.15, which is the exact same price you get on a draw in Qatar against Ecuador. I wanted to find some value on Lewandowski to score here, but it’s an opening game and they play a team who’s only conceded four goals in their last seven games. I will watch this game and see where the teams stand against each other, but I don’t want to pick anything in such a tight contest (according to the odds market).

The Magic Duo

France-Australia

It’s not unreasonable to expect great things from a striker partnership consisting of Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe, although they don’t play in a conventional two up front. It’s more like a 3-5-2 with one player in midfield being more advanced to support the two strikers. Australia shouldn’t be the biggest challenge of this World Championships for France, so I fully expect them to start their tournament by picking up three pretty easy points. It will be a massive occasion for the Aussies, though, but they also know that their biggest chance of winning and potentially reaching the knockout stages is by playing (and beating) Tunisia and Denmark. They will of course not play a weaker side against France, but don’t expect them to burn unnecessary amounts of energy if they go a goal or two behind. The price of France winning without conceding is actually 1.79 – that doesn’t seem too bad.

WEDNESDAY

The Older Generation

Morocco-Croatia

They are favourites to beat Morocco, but the biggest stars of Croatia will not be around (as professional football players) for very much longer. You can see from their squad composition that it’s mainly quite old, but with a sprinkle of younger talent who are in position to carry the national team in the years to come. Croatia still have the likes of Kramaric, Perisic, Modric, Brozovic, Vida, Lovren, etc., but these guys are probably not going to have a better opportunity to achieve something great with their country than now. They are getting older. Morocco has some influential key players who play in the top leagues: Hakimi, Aguerd, Amrabat, Boufal, Ziyech, etc., so the time is there for them to go somewhere. They’re not in the hardest group, so a good result against Croatia in the opener would be important. It’s an open one, in my eyes. 

Guten Tag!

Germany-Japan

Germany is one of my underdogs for this championship, not in terms of being a small country with a lot of potential, but in terms of being a team who not that many people talk about. Brazil, England, Argentina, etc., are being talked about, but I feel like Germany has something to offer here and can definitely win it, in my opinion. They’re in a difficult group alongside Spain, so are under significant amounts of pressure already in the first game here, when they play an interesting Japan side with several colourful players. Mitoma is a player who’s impressed me for Brighton this season, and words are not needed to describe the quality of Minamino, Yoshida and Tomiyasu. Germany is priced at 1.52 here – a reasonable but almost tempting price.

A Winning Start

Spain-Costa Rica

Spain will beat Costa Rica. At 1.17, I’m not exactly being very controversial here. They are the biggest favourites to get a winning start to their WC campaign, and I definitely, definitely, definitely (!) expect them to do so. A great team who are playing the same tune is a fantastic recipe to achieve good things as a collective. I’m not very familiar with Costa Rica, but the fact that the HamKam defender Fernan Faerron was recently called up, says it all really. Cristian Gamboa still features for them, and followers of the Premier League will remember Joel Campbell from his time at Arsenal. They have a couple of noticeable names: Keylor Navas from PSG, Brandon Aguilera at Nottingham Forest and Jewison Bennette at Sunderland are three of them. I’m tempted by a handicap on Spain.

O Canada!

Belgium-Canada

Honesty off the bat here: this is a game I’m buzzing to watch. Canada has always excited me since the days I watched a lot of NHL and was intrigued by Lars Monsen’s adventures across the majestic wilderness up north. I want them to do well in the WC, but coming up against a Belgium team with star players all over the place is a daunting task. Belgium is actually priced at 1.47 to beat the Canadians, which surprised me a lot. They should be miles better than the North American team, but as I’ve said on numerous occasions, the market is typically very spot on in such big tournaments. Is there something going on with Belgium that we don’t know? Perhaps Lukaku, Mertens and Hazard’s form for the clubs are putting people off betting on them? I don’t know, but I think there’s good value on the Belgian side, without a doubt in my mind.

THURSDAY

Europe Vs. Africa

Switzerland-Cameroon

It’s Europe against Africa when Switzerland “host” Cameroon on Thursday at 11.00 o’clock. The Swiss are big favourites to win the game at 1.72, and not without reason. If we simply compare the two squads, there’s an argument to be made that Cameroon’s team looks quite weak: Choupo-Moting, Mbeumo and Anguissa are three of the most profiled players, alongside captain Vincent Aboubakar. I don’t have high hopes for this Cameroon team, and expect Switzerland to win the game. 1.72 isn’t a price that I’m touching, but I can applaud Unibet and the market as a whole for hitting the nail on the head here: it looks well priced. Under 2.5 goals at 1.58 implies that we might get a cagey game.

The Darwin Núñez Era

Uruguay-South Korea

As I wrote in my big preview for The World Championships, there are formidable expectations placed on Darwin Núñez’s shoulders this year. Ever since Diego Forlan was the main guy for the country, they have produced very good attackers (Cavani and Suarez in particular). Now it looks like Núñez is the guy to continue for the South Americans, who are heading to this World Championships with a hope and expectation of going somewhere once (and if) they get out of the group. South Korea in their first game is a classic example of a game where three points are badly needed, but the same can be said for Heung-min Son and co. It seems a general theme of this WC that the opening games are thought to be low scoring affairs, and this is also the case here. 1.62 for the game to have under 2.5 goals indicates that we might have a careful match ahead of us. I think it might be a bit more open than the market thinks, but I feel comfortable waiting until the line-ups are out. Don’t underestimate a team with “Sonny” leading the line.

Drama At Old Trafford, But Not In Qatar

Portugal-Ghana

There’s drama at Old Trafford, but I doubt that Cristiano Ronaldo has carried that into The World Championships headquarters with his fellow Portuguese teammates in Qatar. He is a machine and tends to perform when the stakes are high. Ronaldo should be fully focused and ready (with a big R) to do what is necessary for his Motherland. Winning a World Championship with Portugal would probably increase his status tenfold and also seal the deal for a lot of Ronaldo supporters in the argument of who’s been the greatest of him and Lionel Messi. They play Ghana in their first game, a country which always entertains us in WC’s. This is one of the games where there’s expected to be quite even between over and under 2.5 goals, currently at 2.10 (odds against) to go over (one of the shortest over prices I’ve seen in the opening round). Daniel Amartey, Thomas Partey and Jordan Ayew are three famous names for the Ghanians, who provide them with a decent core of players ahead of the tournament. I generally don’t like to bet on too many of the favourites against seemingly slightly poorer opposition (especially when Ghana has done well in World Championships before), so I choose to look away from this one. I’m excited to see how the Ronaldo drama plays out for Portugal.

Either Or

Brazil-Serbia

I just have the feeling with Brazil that it’s either or. Either they blow us away with fantastic football and go all the way, or they collapse completely and go sour like a three month old batch of almond milk. Serbia in their first game of The World Championships in Qatar is a tricky fixture to start things off with. They were miles better than Norway at Ullevaal a month or two ago, and just have a solid strength to them that is hard to break down. Only twice since the middle of September 2019 have they lost by more than one goal, so I want to “lay” Brazil here, meaning that I’m betting against them. Yes, I think they have every chance of going all the way and potentially winning it all, but at the same time I’m vary of the opening games where things are yet to click into full gear and where nerves are more present than once the first game or two are out of the way. Serbia is a tough, physical team, and will thrive if the game is played on their premise. If it’s not, Brazil can have a lot of fun at the Lusail Iconic Stadium, which hosts 80.000 people. 

Conclusion

These are the bets that I’ve landed on for the first five days of The World Championships: