F wide open
Group F is proving to be a rather interesting section, more interesting than most World Cup bettors would have expected it to be with Argentina the group’s only legitimate contender in the competition proper. Nigeria, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iran – all good teams, make no mistake – aren’t exactly the teams to spot in outright betting markets, according to sportsbooks. As far as Cinderella’s go, though, the football fan in all of us has to love a Cinderella story. A run by an unheralded nation that ignites the world’s imagination: something along the lines of a Roger-Milla-inspired Cameroon run into the quarterfinals (1990) or South Korea’s run all the way into the semis (2002).
After the first round hit the books, however, Group F was left somewhat surprisingly undecided. Argentina beat Bosnia-Herzegovina, but only just. Nigeria and Iran settled on the draw. The result: there is everything to play for in the second round, particularly between Nigeria (joint-second with Iran) and Bosnia-Herzegovina (bottom). Could one of the aforementioned World Cup underdogs be our Cinderella then?
Nigeria at the severe disadvantage
Despite having the upper hand over Bosnia-Herzegovina in the table, Nigeria enter this clash as the severe underdogs, listed at +350 to win outright. This is largely down to perspective. Nigeria didn’t impress against Iran while Bosnia-Herzegovina impressed against Argentina, so they say. That has many believing the Southern Slav debutants will impress yet again. And that’s why they are matched as the favourites at -105.
Against Argentina, the Bosnians were unlucky at the start to score an own goal in the third minute. Instead of panicking, however, they proved a tough nut to crack. It was well over 60 minutes before Argentina finally broke through with a Messi-inspired goal in the 65th minute. Once again, the Bosnians remained focused and resilient, until they were rewarded for their efforts, getting on the scoreboard in the 84th minute. Alas, time ran out. It was 2-1 to Argentina in the end.
But what if we were to take an alternative perspective? What if Bosnia were only as good as Argentina were bad. Undoubtedly, Argentina’s bench is a coach's envy –star-studded and all. Given all that quality, one would have expected the white and blue to blow the debutants off the pitch. Then again, it wouldn’t be the first World Cup in which La Albiceleste’s litter disappoints. Case-and-point: the last few World Cups proved that Argentina’s whole doesn’t live up to the sum of its individual parts. Taking that perspective, the obvious question is then: how good are the Bosnian’s, really? Do they merit such favouritism against a quality Nigeria? Put another way, do the Nigerians deserve to be so disingenuously cast, at whopping +350 soccer odds to win outright?
Cup Betting Verdict: In our opinion, the first round left many questions
unanswered; too many to merit such a disingenuous World Cup betting line.
Bosnia-Herzegovina are a revelation to a certain extent, and they may well come
through on their favourable -105 odds. Nigeria, however, seem undervalued at
+350. So much so that they would seem too good a World Cup pick to skip. As
such, we’re going against the World Cup betting grain, and taking a chance on
the Nigerians to surprise.
World Cup Free Picks: Nigeria to win outright at +350