These here soccer tournaments sure do run along a ‘mite fast.
Whoops – sorry. People tend to revert to their native tongues when stressed-out, and I’m from the Ozarks.
The FIFA Women’s World Cup scarcely allows bloggers and handicappers any time to breathe, to say nothing of what it demands of distaff athletes. Yesterday at this time, there were still a handful of open slots in the event’s Round-of-16 bracket. A pair of clean sheets posted by the United States and Chile against Sweden and Thailand respectively, and we’re all set with 8 knock-out fixtures scheduled to occur from Saturday through Tuesday.
A schedule like that can do nothing if not make life a little difficult at a blog like Legit Gambling Sites, where we specialize in posting previews before events take place on the pitch. Haste is called for, and haste will come.
The most significant conversations in our lives are often under 10 minutes long, and the best predictions usually happen right off the cuff too.
But don’t get your hopes up – I mean, I mean, never fear – I’ve still got plenty to say about 4 upcoming knock-out matches at the greatest gala in women’s soccer.
2019 Women’s World Cup: Yanks Ablaze Through Group Stage
First things first – I accept total responsibility for the whiffed “Over” prediction for the United States Women’s National Team’s 3rd and final group stage match against the pesky Swedes.
What was it Hulk Hogan used to say in promos? I thought I had everything right where I wanted it, Mean Gene! Bookmakers weren’t prepared to reflect the level of dominance that Alex Morgan and company is establishing in France. Sweden’s careful, cautious win over the favored USA at the 2016 Summer Olympics still weighed heavy on the minds of handicappers, who value past results and trends most of all. Pundits were saying that keeper Alyssa Naeher hadn’t been tested yet – yeah, because her team had allowed essentially 0 shot attempts, even from stout opposition like Chile.
The United States was going to romp over Sweden. The only question was, by how many goals? It seemed almost a certainty that 3 or more goals would be scored in the Thursday match, and when USWNT midfielder Lindsey Horan scored in just the 3rd minute, it appeared that a rout was on.
After that, Tre-Kronor started to adjust its game plan, and the Yankee women responded by…defending their Red, White, and Blue tails off in a 2-0 snoozer that featured only 2 shots on-target from Sweden and in which the Americans were only forced to foul 4 times.
I had failed to consider just how canny head coach Jill Ellis has been throughout this tournament – as I think a lot of speculators did.
For a start, I still had the words of Hope Solo ringing in my ears. I think you’ll agree with me that when Hope Solo has an opinion, one tends to nod along very, very politely.
Solo criticized Ellis as being shaky under the bright lights, but I recognized when the World Cup began that the skipper had made bold choices in tactics and team psychology.
I just didn’t go far enough in my praise. Ellis obviously has a long-term plan that she thinks could result in a record-setting gold medal triumph in Paris, and it’s a doozy.
The #1 rule of coaching should be “come as you are.” Underdogs must coach like underdogs, contenders like contenders, and favorites should coach like they own the place. The poise and confidence of a recurring World Cup medalist is the team’s foremost psychological weapon. Except when there’s such an overwhelming favorite that the squad is unlikely to be tested along the path to a final? Erm…that takes a little more elbow grease. You simply can’t coach the USWNT by the book.
Ellis’ move to instruct her players to score double-digit goals against overwhelmed Thailand on Matchday 1 was unorthodox. The U.S. athletes’ celebrations raised eyebrows.
At all costs, she doesn’t want her team to A) become overconfident or B) become anxious trying to score. Tense, anxious attacks tend to lose in big upsets. At this point any nation to knock-off the Americans will have pulled-off a monumental surprise.
So, like an NFL skipper telling a QB to let the game come to them, or like an ice hockey coach who does not want her snipers aiming-and-squeezing, Ellis has chosen to focus the USWNT on the defensive end and play with the goal of earning a clean sheet in every contest.
What was especially striking in the Chile match is how many times the Americans had numbers to the football when defending. The eye is drawn to the quickness and determination of a Megan Rapinoe or Alex Morgan when they’re running back to defend, but it wasn’t just the Yanks’ catch-up speed keeping the Chileans from mounting any kind of attack at all. It was good execution of a defense-minded plan.
The 13-0 victory over Thailand served to relax Morgan, Tobin Heath and other forwards who haven’t spent their whole lives playing in a 4-3-3 formation. It sent a message to Sweden that an 0-0 or 1-1 draw on Matchday 3 would be little more than a moral victory for Tre-Kronor, since the explosion of offense had put the USA so far ahead in goal-differential as to make any tiebreaker a moot point.
Then the team sent a different kind of message in the next 2 fixtures.
Just try to break our backline, world.
The Americans have dialed-back their attack following the controversial blow-out, something I wasn’t fully prepared to see again on Thursday. Ellis is letting Naeher see a few more opposing shot attempts at a time while playing 4 across the back to ensure the keeper’s comfort, locked and loaded with attackers loose and ready to handle the football when a match flows to them. Every opposing possession is defended with all 11 players, opening up easy counters. That’s solid coaching on all fronts.
Is there any such thing as a wise wager against the United States from here on-out in the 2019 World Cup? As always, that depends on the betting odds.
But I sure wouldn’t bet against the Stars & Stripes in the Round of 16.
Scroll ahead for the Las Vegas lines and our predictions on a weekend’s worth of FIFA gambling…and of course the odds on the USWNT.
WWC Round-of-16 Moneylines, Totals and Recommended Picks
(Saturday) Germany vs Nigeria
Germany is the heavy moneyline favorite in this one, with the Nigerians’ line-to-win at MyBookie running close to 14-to-1. That’s a fair-enough handicap of each side’s chances. The Germans, after all, had the USWNT squarely on the ropes at the World Cup in 2015, and Nigeria has only won 1 match in the tournament, a 2-0 victory over a disappointing Korea team.
But I’m stunned at the sportsbook’s Over/Under line for this fixture.
Keeper Almuth Schult and the Germany backline has matched Naeher and the USWNT in posting 3 consecutive clean sheets, including wins over China and Spain. Yet the O/U total for the Round-of-16 match is actually flying above 3 goals at MyBookie.
Can anyone explain that to me? (I Googled “Schult injury” just to make sure.)
Actually, take your time, I’m busy putting money on the high side.
(Saturday) Australia vs Norway
Matildas from Down Under are a (+108) pick to beat Norway despite an unexpected loss to Italy on Matchday 1.
The Norwegians have had a solid tournament so far, falling 2-1 to France while finishing 2nd in Group A. Isabell Herlovsen has only scored 1 goal in 3 matches, but it was a doozy, the penalty-kick winner in a tense 2-1 result over South Korea.
Australia has looked better and better as the Group Stage has progressed, but the squad didn’t even post a clean sheet against Jamaica, and I’m expecting fireworks to blow out a (2 ½) O/U total.
(Sunday) England vs Cameroon
England has the distinction of having beaten a rather-game Scottish side that wound up having its heart broken on Matchday 3. The team is an overwhelming favorite to beat Cameroon.
The Cameroonians, of course, were my longest-shot upset pick to win a group in France. They didn’t pull that off – but here they are in the Round of 16.
I’m not liking the (+1500) underdog moneyline here, but (+600) on a regulation-draw looks pretty tasty.
(Sunday) Brazil vs France
Haste! Haste! Just a few minutes until publish-time.
Good thing for us I’ve already thought about this one. France’s attack has struggled at times following Matchday 1 as I expected, but Brazil’s star-studded forward lines somehow look even meeker.
Expect a cautious win for the favored French and a winner on the Under (2 ½).
(Monday) USWNT vs Spain Gambling Odds and Pick
I also think the “criticism” of Naeher as a keeper who “hasn’t been tested yet” is bunk.
If Becky Sauerbrunn and the USWNT backline is letting nary a dangerous shot through the box, that’s a positive for a goalkeeper…not a negative.
Plus, I doubt that the developing GK will lack poise in the clutch – it’s the one thing she’s got over her old program-rival Solo, who for all her brilliance could be a blowtorch in the dressing room. Expect a less-outspoken and equally-skilled keeper to hold the Spanish at bay in the Round of 16.
The United States is a (-270) wager-to-win and (-1 ½) (-117) ATS. I’m taking both of those markets.
Pick Team USA to win or cover at MyBookie.