Here are our soccer picks as Group E matchups kick off round 1 of their FIFA Women's World Cup Canada 2015 campaign. Spain takes on Costa Rica while Brazil collides with South Korea.
Group E Preview
Group E features a highly favoured Brazil at -350 to win the section, led by the once-in-a-lifetime lethal striker Marta, who is now however knocking on 30 years of age. Spain comes in as the second favourites, albeit at rather undervalued +450 soccer odds to win the section, and South Korea trails marginally behind, third in line for top spot in group betting at +700 soccer odds. Costa Rica are the group's minnows according to the soccer odds, priced at whopping +12500 to win top spot.
Spain -600 vs. Costa Rica +1200
Debutants Spain enter their inaugural world finals as the second favourites to win Group E and the tenth favourite on the pre-tournament soccer odds board to lift the title at +6600. Spain boasts one of the most potent offensive units that scored 42 goals during qualifying, led by 12-goal Natalia Pablos. Overall, La Roja is the fourth-best attacking side and fourth-best defensive side (conceded just two goals) in Europe. That alone has some soccer bettors contemplating Spain's realistic chances of winning this group as being a lot better than the soccer odds would suggest.
Costa Rica are also making their first appearance at the world finals, thanks to the competitions expansion for the 16-team format that featured in Germany 2011. Las Ticas are anchored by one of the best goalies in the game Dinnia Diaz, supported by a stout midfield cast that includes Shirley Cruz and Katherine Alvarado and inspired by young guns Gloriana Villalobos and Melissa Herrera. Las Ticas are looking to mark another achievement for Costa Rican football at the world finals, just as their opposite Los Ticos did at the FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014 with a Cinderella run into the knockouts.
As far as the round 1 matchup between this pair of debutants goes, Spain are the considerable favourites at -600 to win outright while Costa Rica are severely disadvantaged at +1200 soccer odds. This market outlook is down to perception and international experience, as much as it is an assessment of pure talent, skill and quality. That doesn't make it absolute though.
That said there's something to be said for experience. Although both are debutants, Spain does have the edge on that score. Only a few of Las Ticas actually playing outside of Costa Rica, prompting the idea that they might be in over their heads against the red tide of players with top club and competition experience.
Betting on Spain at their hefty price of -600 offers up no value. So the best soccer pick to take Spain at -2 (+120) on the handicap. As well, the Over 2.5 at -250.
Soccer Picks: Spain at -2 (+120); Over 2.5 at -250
Brazil -275 vs. South Korea +750
South Korea take on group faves Brazil in the opening round of their campaign, which is akin to drawing the short straw, so to speak. A well-rested Brazil, raring to get their campaign underway is going to be tough to derail. Even for a solid defensive such as South Korea boasts. That said they did hold USA to a scoreless draw in a recent friendly and that might send them into this game with a measure of optimism.
The Koreans are making only their second appearance at the world finals. In 2003, they were decimated in group action by USA, France and Norway. They've come a long way since; Amongst their many stars, Ji So Yun (24-years-old) was recently named English league's player of the year in her first term with Chelsea and prolific scorer Park Eunsun won the golden boot in Vietnam 2014.
There's a lot of experience on this team, and they are solid on both sides of the ball. But it remains to be seen how well they stack up against some of the better teams in the world.
As far as women's football goes, the soccer betting line is somewhat conservative. (Look at Spain's odds, which are much higher against Costa Rica). Brazil are the favourites at -250 but with South Korea trading in triple-digits as well it's expected to be a tough match, a notion underscored by the recent scoreless draw with USA. Still, Brazil is expected to be one of the contenders. One assumes they'll overcome the stiff challenge.
Soccer Pick: Brazil -1 (+105)