The first set of games from round three of the group stages is nearly upon us. On Tuesday, several teams look to keep their last-16 hopes alive, but only four of the eight involved can advance.
First up on match-day three is Group A, and Group B. Ecuador and Senegal will seemingly fight for second place in Group A, that is, of course, if the Netherlands do what is expected of them and beat an already eliminated Qatari side.
In Group B, the English will look to atone for what was a relatively underwhelming effort against the USA when they take on Wales, whose situation is a desperate one following their agonizing defeat to Iran. The Americans know that they need to beat the Iranians to book their place in the knockout stages, but can they do it? All will be revealed soon enough.
Ecuador vs Senegal
- Ecuador 2.38
- Senegal 3.20
- Draw 3.20
First up on Tuesday is an intriguing battle between Ecuador and Senegal, who will fight for their knockout place at Khalifa International Stadium.
Ecuador have been quietly impressive at this tournament so far. Sure, there was little standing in their way on match-day one, as they brushed aside a weak Qatar team, but they really showed that they’re no pushovers when having the better of the game against the Dutch on match-day two. Not only did they take a point, but they probably did enough to win the game.
The Senegalese also fared well against the Dutch, despite losing the game. They kept a clean sheet until well inside the final ten minutes while they created a few decent chances. They, too, made light work of beating Qatar, winning by three goals to one, so this game really is set up nicely.
As the pre-match odds suggest, the pair look relatively closely matched on paper. The South Americans probably have more about them in terms of quality on the ball, though the Africans look the more physical side. It will be interesting to see which of those traits proves to be more useful.
At online betting sites, ‘Both Teams to Score’ and ‘Over 2.5 Goals’ stand out. Both teams have shown plenty of offensive quality, and the fact that Senegal cannot afford to draw this game should lend itself to a more open encounter. With three goals each at this tournament so far, and only one clean sheet between them, the chances of this game producing a reasonable amount of goals seem slightly greater than the early odds suggest. Therefore, it’s worth siding with something of a goal feast as the pair battle it out to advance from Group A.
- Score Prediction: Ecuador 2-1 Senegal
- Over 2.5 Goals @ 2.30
- Both Teams to Score @ 2.00
- Bookmaker: Betonline
Netherlands vs Qatar
- Netherlands 1.17
- Qatar 19.00
- Draw 4.50
At the same time as the above, the Netherlands take on Qatar at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor.
After two games, the Netherlands are in a healthy position as they sit on four points. That position looks far healthier due to their final group game being against Qatar.
However, Louis van Gaal’s men haven’t really impressed as of yet. They got the job done against Senegal without ever really seeming to overextend themselves offensively, and they did have to endure a few dodgy moments defensively. Last time out against Ecuador, they flew into an early lead thanks to the exciting Cody Gakpo but then went on to create very little, while again, they didn’t defend with the greatest amount of conviction.
Fortunately, this game against the already-eliminated hosts provides the men in orange with the perfect opportunity to build confidence ahead of the knockouts.
The Qatari’s looked both overwhelmed by the occasion and their opponents during the opening game, while defensive weakness cost them against Senegal. As a result, they can no longer qualify, and if the Netherlands are really up for this, it could be another disappointing afternoon for the host nation.
The bet that catches the eye is ‘Netherlands to Score Over 3.5 Goals’. We haven’t seen van Gaal’s men shift through the gears yet at this tournament, but this is the perfect opportunity to do so. Qatar don’t have the defensive strength to avoid a hammering, so if the Netherlands put their best foot forward, they ought to score plenty of goals.
Don’t be fooled by their tame efforts so far at this tournament, this team can impress offensively. Earlier this year, they scored four against both Belgium and Denmark, while they also scored three against the usually sturdy rear guard of Wales.
- Score Prediction: Netherlands 4-0 Qatar
- Netherlands to Score Over 3.5 Goals @ 3.00
- Bookmaker: Betway Sports
Iran vs USA
- Iran 4.20
- USA 1.91
- Draw 3.50
Later in the day on Tuesday, in Group B, Iran takes on the USA at Al Thumama Stadium in Doha.
As both teams sit just a point apart in second and third in Group B, this really is a huge clash. The Iranians know that just a point will put them through, so perhaps they’ll take the cautious route. For the USA, it’s win or bust, so it is they who must force the issue and unsettle their opponents.
What the Iranians have shown in their two games is that they can certainly create and take scoring chances. Even during their defeat to England, they forged a few openings and took them, and against Wales, they were even more creative. Can the same be said for the USA? Probably not.
The USA defended well as a unit against England, though it’s not as if they had much to stop. It was a very muted effort from the English, so we probably shouldn’t get carried away with that clean sheet. What’s more, against Wales, the USA looked a little too open at the back while they struggled to be really threatening going forward. They took the lead in that game, sure, but even when they had Wales on the ropes, they couldn’t press on, showing a clear lack of final-third quality, and that’s a worry.
At the current prices, it’s worth taking a chance on the outsiders here. They’re in a better position, and they created the better impression against the Welsh. A similar effort against a USA side that hasn’t looked too threatening should see them through.
At odds of 1.95, it’s worth betting that Iran can at least get the draw they need to progress.
- Score Prediction: 1-1 Draw
- Iran Win/Draw Double Chance @ 1.95
- Bookmaker: Bodog
Wales vs England
- England 1.44
- Wales 8.00
- Draw 4.50
As Iran and USA do battle in the capital, Wales will take on England in Al Rayyan, playing at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium.
England’s game against the USA was the perfect opportunity for the Three Lions to kick on and book their place in the knockouts, but it was clear for all to see that instead of really going for it, they’d been instructed to take the cautious approach. Sure, a draw in that game puts them in a healthy position as far as qualification goes, but it made for a dull watch, that’s for sure.
Wales will be gutted that they didn’t beat the USA because had they picked up three points there, they’d probably fancy themselves to get a point off an England team that will probably look to play it safe. Unfortunately, they couldn’t get over the line in that game, and now they need a big win, which given their lack of attacking quality, seems unlikely.
In the betting, ‘Under 2.5 Goals’ appeals here. Of course, this is a final group match with plenty riding on it, and you’d feel that the Welsh must go for it, which could open up the game. The problem is, they’ve shown very little to suggest that they can score the goals required. After all, not only have they scored just one goal in two games at this tournament, but they’ve scored less than twice in all but one of their last ten fixtures. Such a stat doesn’t point toward a team that is equipped to do plenty of damage.
Similarly, England boss Southgate seemingly revealed his hand on Friday evening, showing that he’s happy for his team to get through without over-exerting themselves. Yes, they have the quality to go out and beat a desperate Welsh team, and they could probably beat them by a considerable margin if they really went for it, but the way in which they played against the USA, and in competitive games in general under the stewardship of Southgate, suggests that they’ll opt for the more cautious approach.
- Score Prediction: 1-0 England
- Under 2.5 Goals @ 2.10
- Bookmaker: Sports Interaction