Scotland V England Saturday 24th February. 4:45PM. BBC One Scotland v England renew their rivalry…
Bosnia v Iran
Bosnia (23/20, Bet365) huffed and puffed against Nigeria, barely registering a shot on target in their 1-0 defeat. Indeed, if you watched the game, it was quite apparent that Nigeria were not interested in adding to their 1-0 lead once they’d gone ahead, while Bosnia didn’t look likely to score if the game had lasted 180 minutes.
The Bosnian attacking game-plan appeared to offer no variety other than to try and cross the ball to Dezeko, who would then try to hold play up or just head the ball over the goal if he was in close enough range.
Given that they lost 2-1 to Argentina in their first Group F game, Bosnia have now been eliminated from the 2014 World Cup. Notably for bettors who took Dzeko to be Bosnia’s Top Team Scorer, if he doesn’t bag a brace against Iran he won’t win that award.
If, however, Bosnia defeat Iran 1-0 and Dzeko (13/10 Anytime, Bet365) scores the goal, then I suppose it would be a dead heat with the only other Bosnian player to score in Brazil this summer, Vedad Ibisevic (11/5 Anytime, Paddy Power).
Iran (11/4, BetVictor) have yet to score a goal in the 2014 World Cup, having drawn their first game 0-0 with Nigeria and lost their second 1-0 to Argentina, and seem likely to leave Brazil with a zero in the goals-for column.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom for Iran as they can still mathematically qualify for the second round, but they’ll need to beat Bosnia and will have to rely on Argentina beating Nigeria by at least two clear goals.
Unlikely scenarios you might argue, and I’m not saying that it will happen, but I wouldn’t bet against Iran shockingly making the knock-out stages. Football is full of upsets and that, partly, is why bookies make so much money.
In conclusion, the dangers to the bet I’m about to suggest are that Bosnia will, surely, want to exit the tournament with some pride by winning their final game and will attack with greater regularity than they normally would, while Iran must win and therefore try to score a goal.
The first positive point is that must-win scenarios often lead to goal-dry games where the team(s) in question try to score a goal on the counter attack and defend like their lives depend on it for the rest of the game.
Secondly, while Bosnia have some technically gifted players in the final third, they play like a side full ‘of square pegs in round holes’ and have only scored one goal in two games – and Iran have only conceded just once, to a great Messi run and finish.
So, with one goal scored between both teams in four games, the likelihood that Iran will defend deep and try to snare a 1-0 win, and four goals conceded between them in Brazil, under 2.5 goals – priced at 31/40 with BetVictor – looks like the best betting selection.
Nigeria v Argentina
After failing to beat Iran in their sleep-inducing first Group F game, Nigeria (15/2, BetVictor) were expected to lose to a Bosnia side that had impressed in a 2-1 defeat to Argentina.
However, through Odemwingie’s first half strike, a defense-minded Nigeria defeated Bosnia 1-0. It was a decent game to watch and looked likely to contain a few goals, but Bosnia couldn’t produce anything of note offensively and Nigeria appeared to have little interest in adding to their lead once ahead, preferring to keep possession without threatening, win free-kicks and generally time-waste.
Offensively, Argentina (4/7, Betfair) have offered less of a threat compared to what you’d expect given the quality of their attackers, having to rely on Four-time World Player of the Year Lionel Messi (4/5 Anytime, Bet365) to save them, particularly in their, perhaps fortunate, 1-0 injury time defeat of Iran.
Of course, Messi also scored the winning goal in Argentina’s 2-1 defeat of Bosnia, but he spent most of that game giving the ball away and looks about as effective as he had been for Barcelona last season.
In terms of group qualification, Argentina are already in the second round with six points from two games played, while Nigeria will finish second if Iran fail to beat Bosnia.
However, since Nigeria have a + 1 goal difference and Iran a -1, if Iran beats Bosnia 1-0 and Nigeria lose by two clear goals to Argentina, then Iran would qualify at Nigeria’s expense.
Perhaps crucially, the simplest way to approach Nigeria v Argentina from a betting perspective is to deduce that a draw would put Argentina through to the knock-out stages as group winners – which you would assume that they want – and Nigeria through in second place, regardless of other results.
If Nigeria were to beat Argentina, however, they would finish atop Group F. Personally, though, my guess is that a Nigeria team that’s yet to concede a goal in the tournament, has only scored once and demonstrated that they’re defense-minded and happy to win 1-0, will simply try to play for the draw that seals their progression.
Argentina, after all, are coached by a man, Alejandro Sabella, who’s openly stated that he’s happy to win 1-0 – and despite Messi’s winner against Bosnia they looked very happy with their 1-0 lead for most of the game.
Tournament football, particularly at the highest level, is generally something in which most teams will do the absolute bare minimum in to ensure that they progress.
So, considering that Messi may well be rested, along with the stats and argument I’ve just given you, under 2.5 goals looks like the best bet to take at even money with SkyBet.