Can Team USA advance to the 2014 World Cup Quarters?

Belgium vs. USMNT Betting Line World Cup Expert Pick

The US men may have managed to reach the coveted knockout stage following their trio of outstanding efforts in group match play.

Their reward?

A date with an unbeaten Belgium squad that is so stingy, that they make Ebenezer Scrooge look like a cheerful giver.

Belgium vs. USA Betting Line

Where: Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador, Brazil
When: Tuesday, July 1, 2014, 4:00PM ET
Line: Belgium (-½ -110) vs. USA (+½ -125)
Draw: +260
Over/Under Total 2½
Click here for more World Cup betting odds.

Belgium kicked off its 2014 World Cup run by handling Algeria 2-1 on June 17th before going on to shut Russia out in its commanding 1-0 win. Following that win, the Belgians posted another shutout in quieting South Korea in another 1-0 victory.

Belgium is  one of just four countries, along with the Netherlands, Argentina and Colombia, to go undefeated in group play. However many critics point to the fact that Belgium won all three matches by a single goal as something of a weakness.

As a matter of fact, fivethirtyeight.com has Belgium listed with just a 59 percent chance of making it out of the knockout stage and just a 20 percent chance of reaching the semifinals. Last but not least, Belgium also comes in with just a two percent chance of winning it all.

Still, the Belgians have impressed, particularly on defense where they are tied with Mexico and Costa Rica for the best defensive record in the 2014 World Cup so far.

Goalie Thibaut Courtouis has allowed just one goal – that came on an Algeria penalty kick and the team’s backline has routinely shut down its opponents with a a defensive clearance rate of 97% that ranks second only to Croatia.

Offensively, the Belgian men have struggled mightily, starting with star striker Romelu Lukaku. The forward has pretty much been a non-factor throughout the tournament, not that he has been alone in his mediocre attacking.

Still, Belgium has racked up 43 shots attempts, above the World Cup average of 38.5 shot attempts per match. The Belgians are also very deep with experienced wingers along their front line and the U.S. men have struggled mightily to defend crosses over the course of their exciting World Cup run.

“They’re a top team,” said the USA goalkeeper Tim Howard. “Everyone around Europe will tell you how good they are.”

The U.S. men played their hearts out in their World Cup opener to beat Ghana 2-1 and get the revenge they’ve been seeking against their rivals for eight long years. The United State men then followed that effort up with an even more impressive one, though they allowed a crushing goal on the final play of the match to walk away with a 2-2 tie against Portugal, instead of the 2-1 win they should have had.

Last but not least, Howard and company played another fantastic match to reach the knockout round by narrowly falling to mighty Germany 1-0 in their Group G, Group of Death finale. More importantly, this year’s U.S.A. squad has shown that they have more fight in them than any remaining World Cup team.

Still, the U.S. men will need to be far more efficient with their attack than they have been after not being able to get a single shot off against Germany and are averaging a scant nine attempts per match.  The good news for the U.S. men coming into this match is the fact that they have identical attempt rate percentages (70 percent).

Defensively, the U.S.A men will need solid performances from fullbacks Fabian Johnson and DaMarcus Beasley and a much better performance from midfielder Michael Bradley, a player many expected to lead the U.S. in this year’s World Cup.

U.S.A. men’s coach Jurgen Klinsmann wants his team to attack far more in this match than they did against Germany in their last match.

"It’s definitely something that we learned out of the Germany game. We were too deep — especially the first 20 minutes," Klinsmann said. "I was screaming my lungs off there to get the back line out and to move the entire unit high up the field. We will work on that in next couple days in training, to shift our entire game up forward. So that will put more pressure on the opponents and create more chances."

Belgium vs. USA Betting Line Pick:

I’m going to urge you to look very hard at betting the ‘Draw’ selection for this match. These two teams are very evenly matched and the U.S. will likely represent the biggest obstacle for Belgium, though not necessarily the other way around.

I think Belgium’s mediocre offense could actually give the U.S. men the outright win. I like a 1-1 draw to play out in this knockout stage match first and foremost, but if I had to select a winner, I’d rather back an overachieving U.S.A. team as opposed to a Belgian team that may not be nearly a good as their undefeated record, thanks to their trio of mediocre Group H opponents.

Switzerland vs. Argentina Betting Predictions From Brazil

Switzerland vs. Argentina Betting Predictions From Brazil

Led by superstar forward, Lionel Messi, Argentina went undefeated in its trio of Group F matches (6 goals, 3 allowed) thanks to four goals from arguably the world’s best player.

It should be noted however, that Argentina was playing against a trio of opponents in Nigeria, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iran, that aren’t exactly soccer powerhouses.

Messi scored the match-deciding goals in each of Argentina’s first two World Cup matches but fellow front liners, Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero have looked mostly pedestrian since the start of the tournament if you ask me.

"We’ll prepare ourselves to face Messi, as well as their other players, but of course he has the quality to decide games," said Swiss goalkeeper Diego  Benaglio. "It will be relatively hard to shut him out, but he’s not the only dangerous player in a very good team. Argentina don’t revolve just around Messi even though he’s their superstar.

World Cup 2014 Argentina vs. Switzerland
Powerhouse Argentina faces off against Switzerland in the round of 16 for a trip to the 2014 World Cup quarters.
Starts: 07/01/2014 12:00PM
Arena Corinthians
Sao Paulo
Brazil

 

Aguero was injured against Nigeria and it has been reported that he will now miss this match all together, though head coach Alejandro Sabella has subbed Ezequiel Lavezzi in for Aguero in each of the last two matches.

"It is a muscle injury," Argentine press officer Andres Ventura said.
"To interpret that as meaning he will play no further part in the World Cup is taking things too far."

Argentina has allowed three goals in three matches and will need to get some improved play from defensive play from midfielders, Javier Mascherano, Fernando Gago and Angel Di Maria.

Messi may get the global attention that is reserved for just a handful of other athletes on the planet but Switzerland forward Xherdan Shaqiri has pulled off a feat this World Cup that Messi hasn’t by scoring a hat trick against Honduras.

Switzerland beat Ecuador 2-1 in its World Cup opener before getting routed by France 5-2 in its second Group E match. The Swiss men bounced back to overpower Honduras 3-0 in its group finale and will need another outstanding effort from Shaqiri if they are to have a chance to pull off the upset in this match. Switzerland will almost assuredly play a more defensive style in this match against the offensive-minded Argentineans than they did against an overwhelmed Honduras men’s team.

The Swiss men will also need extraordinary efforts from fullbacks, Stephan Lichtsteiner and Ricardo Rodriguez, as both are fine attackers and can offer excellent offensive support when necessary. Switzerland will be without arguably its best defender, Steve von Bergen after seeing their linchpin go down in their last match.

Switzerland has gotten off a whopping 53 total shots this World Cup with 33 of those being on target and 11 being blocked. The Swiss men are under the tournament average of 49.7 crosses with just 40 such passes while completing only nine of them, still under the World Cup average of 11.8 cross completions.

Argentina averages 16 shot attempts per match and Switzerland, 17 per contest. Both clubs have connected on 60 percent of their attempts with Shaqiri taking 17 shots and Messi just 13. Switzerland’s hard-nosed defense has committed a whopping 39 fouls to just 24 from Messi and company. Both clubs have had one yellow card apiece.

Both sides can win this game. Argentina tends to sit back and simply rely on their talent to take advantage of a mistake by their opposition. This is mainly Lionel Messi’s job. The Swiss however do not make many mistakes. Argentina must play well as a team, and if not, they will lose this game.

Argentina vs. Switzerland Betting Line Prediction: 3-1 Argentina

World Cup 2014 Betting Odds For Germany

Germany vs. Algeria Expert World Cup Picks

Germany has looked absolutely phenomenal in going 2-1-0 against their group G, ‘Group of Death’ opponents and enter the knockout stage as one of the prohibitive favorites to hoist the 2014 World Cup championship trophy.

Led by elite striker Thomas Muller (four goals), Germany blasted Cristiano Ronaldo 4-0 in its cup opener before playing a very talented Ghana squad to a 2-all draw in their second match. Germany then held off an underrated USA men’s team to win 1-0 in its group stage finale  to reach the knockout stage. Click here for more World Cup betting odds.

Germany vs. Algeria Betting Line
Where: Estadio Beira-Rio, Porto Alegre, Brazil
When: Monday, June 30, 2014, 4:00PM ET
Line: Germany (-1½, -115) vs. Algeria (+1½, -105)
Draw: +500
Over/Under Total: 3

“There isn’t a team in the world that wouldn’t like to have Thomas Müller on its side,” U.S. Men’s coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “He is a remarkable player.” German head coach Joachim Löw gave Muller heaping praise for his fitness, work rate – and most of all – his finishing ability.

“He is mentally strong, a very smart player who always seems able to find space, but physically he is in great shape as well,” Low said. He is the one who runs the most kilometres but he makes it look easy, even the heat doesn’t seem to affect him.”

Germany is averaging 2.3 goals per match on an average of 12.3 shots attempts per game while connecting on 60 percent of their attempts. However, it is the team’s underrated defense that has really gotten the job done for this elite Cup contender. Germany has allowed just two goals – and not many scoring chances for their mostly overwhelmed opponents. According to fivethirtyeight.com, Germany has a fantastic 82 percent chance of getting out of the knockout round.

Muller the Golden Boot winner in 2010 with five goals, is tied with Brazil’s Neymar and Argentina’s Lionel Messi with a tournament-high four goals. Not only that, but Germany has another superstar performer in veteran striker Miroslav Close, a player that has scored a record-tying 15 goals in World Cup play.

"I am so happy for Miroslav for drawing level with Ronaldo," Joachim Low, the Germany manager, said. "He was only on the pitch for two minutes when he scored. It is sensational for his career. He’s had a difficult season and been injured a few times but it was a great moment for him, for the team and for me. His secret is his incredible professionalism; his strength is his will."

Algeria reached the knockout round, mostly on luck – and fan interference if you ask me. After losing to Belgium 2-1 in its World Cup opener, the Desert Foxes pounded weakling Korea into submission to win 3-1.

Last but not least, Algeria was able to reach the knockout round by tying Russia 1-1 in its final group stage match on Thursday, but the fact of the matter is that Russian keeper Igor Akinfeev was affected by a pointer laser coming from the crowd just moments before Algeria’s match-tying goal and I genuinely believe it affected the embattled keeper.

Nevertheless, Algeria scored six goals while allowing five goals. The well-rounded Desert Foxes will almost certainly try to employ the conservative and defensive approach they used in their narrow loss against Belgium.

Striker Islam Slimani has two goals this tournament and he will need to be active, along with winger Sofiane Feghouli, if the Algerian men hope to pull off the huge upset. Algeria is connecting on 60 percent of its shot attempts, though they average just 8.7 shots per contest.

Germany vs. Algeria Betting Line Pick:

Germany is still my pick to win the entire 2014 World Cup and I see absolutely no reason I should think otherwise right now. The Germans are too talented, too well-coached and too experienced to lose this match against an Algerian team that likely shouldn’t even be here in the first place.

Germany 3 Algeria 1