Just seven days into the tournament and the defending champions Spain are out, sent packing on the heels of back-to-back defeats to Holland and Chile. The former a 5-1 annihilation while the latter a convincing 2-0 takedown. Talk about the mother of all shockers: third favourites to win it all at + 550, Spain are dumped unceremoniously.
Holland laid bare Spain’s weaknesses; Chile delivered the coup de grace. Both defeats exposing Spain’s tiki-taka football as passé, so say the many experts weighing in on the end of an era. But the reality was perhaps best put by Xabi Alonso, who summed up Spain’s title defence campaign so, “No conviction, no ambition, no hunger.” Whichever way you slice it, the bottom line is that Spain’s six years of dominance on the international stage comes to a screeching halt, over the space of two matches, marking the worst defence of a World Cup in history. And not until Euro 2016 will the two-time defending champions Spain have a chance at redemption and proving the doomsayers wrong. We shall see. For now, Spain can look forward to a dud against plucky Australia, also out after a heartbreaking 3-2 defeat to Holland.
Battle for top spot
Group B comes down to a battle for top spot between Holland and Chile, fittingly set to collide in the last lap of group play. Predictably, Holland are the favourites to win outright and Chile the underdogs. However, with both sides tipped on the short side of even money, it’s not quite as cut and dry. Holland are listed as the +160 favourites while Chile are just a smidgen above at +190, suggesting this match could go either way and top spot is up for grabs. Yet no other World Cup betting market seems to correspond to this outlook. So what gives?
The second round of Group B action perhaps can go some way towards explaining the match betting odds. Had Holland been more convincing against the Socceroos, perhaps the match betting line would have been coloured orange entirely. As it were, the Socceroos gave the Dutch quite the run for their money. Surprisingly so that it makes one wonder whether Holland’s annihilation of Spain was really down to Dutch courage and counterattacking football or whether, perhaps, it had more to do with Spain looking a mite tired, uninspired and – dare we say it – self-indulgent. If so, how good is Holland, really? By that same token, how much stock should we put in Chile’s win over an already jaded and deflated Spain then?
In outright betting markets, Holland are now listed anywhere from +1000 to +1200 to win outright, which is a significant improvement from their tournament opening odds. If their stock has improved in this market, why aren’t they the prohibitive favourites in this clash? After all, Chile are trading at +4000 to win the title. Heck, even group betting markets have Holland as the -225 favourites to win Group B and Chile as the +188 underdogs to do the same. Should World Cup bettors interpret all this as a sign of another potential upset on the horizon in Group B, or are bookies simply just covering both margins to minimise losses? Think it through carefully before making your free soccer picks.