Soccer fans have been waiting four years for the 2014 World Cup, and it is now only days away.
All eyes will be on Brazil beginning on June 12 as the games begin, and I couldn’t be more excited. I haven’t been counting down the days for four years like most soccer fans, mainly because the sport has just recently grown on me, but this will be my first year where I’m 100 percent into the event.
Sure, I’ve seen the games on previously — the Landon Donovan thriller from 2010 — but never got into the World Cup. However, after really motivating myself this year to get into the sport and doing tons of research, I’m ready.
This week’s Monday Blog will be all soccer, so prepare yourself accordingly.
*Note: Any betting talk mentioned is for entertainment purposes only.
Top 10 group matches to watch
The group stage will begin first, with many great matches on tap.
If you’re new to things, here’s how it works: There are eight groups (from A-H) with four teams in each group. After each team plays every team in its group one time, the top two teams will advance. Three points are awarded for a victory, one point is given to each team if a draw occurs, and a loss results in zero.
The must-watch matches for the group stage are…
Spain vs. Netherlands (June 13, 2 p.m. CT) – The top two teams in Group B meet early in the stage as the 2010 defending champs, Spain, get Netherlands as Spain looks to reclaim the gold.
England vs. Italy (June 14, 5 p.m. CT) – Group D should be closely contested, with England and Italy setting the tone early on.
Argentina vs. Bosnia-Herzegovina (June 15, 5 p.m. CT) – Sure, not the best match-up, but when the world’s greatest player (in my opinion) Lionel Messi plays, you watch.
Germany vs. Portugal (June 16, 11 a.m. CT) – Probably the biggest game in the group stage. Cristiano Ronaldo vs. a stacked German team brings high entertainment.
Ghana vs. United States (June 16, 5 p.m. CT) – The first look at the 2014 U.S. squad as they play Ghana in a rematch of 2010’s knockout stage.
Brazil vs. Mexico (June 17, 2 p.m. CT) – Two of the wildest fan bases as the host team, Brazil, plays host to Mexico. Fun stuff.
Uruguay vs. England (June 19, 2 p.m. CT) – Another match from Group D featuring England. This time, it’s against a talented Uruguay team.
Belgium vs. Russia (June 22, 11 a.m. CT) – Very underrated match-up which should be talked about more. I recommend it for players such as Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, etc.
Portugal vs. United States (June 22, 5 p.m. CT) – Ronaldo vs. the U.S. defense. Could be a disaster, but you’ll watch because you’re an American.
United States vs. Germany (June 26, 11 a.m. CT) – I have to include all U.S. games, because you should be watching them. This could be the final match to decide if they advance or bow out in the opening stage.
A four team race
I say this because I see there being four teams above the rest.
Brazil, Spain, Germany, and Argentina.
After looking at the complete bracket on ESPN where you can create your own, I can’t see any team other than these four winning the World Cup. I almost said three, leaving out Argentina, but then there’s Messi, so…
As for my pick, I’m taking Brazil. I really don’t want to pick the odds on favorite at 5/2, but they are just too talented in all 11 positions.
I would go with Spain if it wasn’t in Brazil, but home field definitely comes into play in soccer. At least, I think so. Spain is at 6/1 odds, while Germany and Argentina are 9/2, by the way.
Remember, entertainment purposes only if you want to make a friendly wager with friends.
How far will the U.S. go?
Spoiler alert: They aren’t winning the World Cup.
Sorry, but it’s just the honest truth. The question is, can the U.S. get out of the group stage?
Group G has been called the “group of death” with good reason as Germany, Portugal, and Ghana join them. They’ll need their absolute best play to do, without question, but is that in itself enough?
More honest truth: I don’t see the U.S. advancing, but I certainly hope I’m wrong.
There are still question marks surrounding the back four defenders, which isn’t good going up against elite strikers such as Ronaldo. Having Tim Howard in goal is certainly a positive, along with guys like Clint Dempsey, Jozy Altidore, and Michael Bradley, but inexperience will hurt them.
Now let’s talk Landon Donovan.
Should he have made the roster? Absolutely. Donovan wouldn’t have been in the starting 11, but he could have been able to come off the bench in the 80th minute to make an impact. However, even with Donovan in Brazil, I still don’t think it would be enough to advance.
Once again, I hope our team proves us all wrong, though.
Fun bets to make with your friends
I’ve been searching through different odds and prop bets, gathering a list of options for you to make the World Cup even more fun.
1. Who will have more total goals (does not include penalty shootouts)?
Cristiano Ronaldo: +250
Lionel Messi: -300
2. Top 5 odds to win Golden Boot (top scorer)
Lionel Messi: 6/1
Cristiano Ronaldo: 12/1
Sergio Aguero: 15/1
Luis Suarez: 15/1
3. Top 5 odds for most U.S. goals
Clint Dempsey: 5/2
Jozy Altidore: 5/1
Aron Johannsson: 7/1
Chris Wondolowski: 10/1
No goals: 12/1
4. Team to progress further
United States: +175
5. Will USA advance from Group G?
If you’re wondering which I would choose…
Fake bet that makes me laugh:
How many times will Ronaldo take his shirt off on camera during World Cup?
I’m setting the over/under at 102. Place your bets.
Enjoy the soccer, boys and girls!