HOSTS Russia meet Spain in the Last 16 on Sunday afternoon. Dan McCulloch (@danmcc84) outlines his best bets.
Spain v Russia | Sunday 1st July 2018, 15:00 | BBC
While much attention here has been given to the value of England winning their group versus finishing second, finishing positions in Group B look even more important to me.
After a couple of late VAR interventions across the two matches went their way, Spain topped the table at the expense of Portugal and the path to the World Cup final looks to be Russia-Croatia-England rather than Uruguay-France-Brazil.
That said, it’s hard to argue against Spain deserving to top the group ahead of their Iberian neighbours. La Roja had at least 67% possession in all three games, had 49 shots to their opponents 20 across the three matches (16-6 in terms of shots on-target) and won the corner and Expected Goals count in each encounter.
Therefore, while five points and a single victory from three games against Portugal, Iran and Morocco may not sound impressive, I do feel that their performances have merited more.
Those six shots on-target they have faced have resulted in five goals and given that they face a Russia side who have scored eight goals despite only having 11 shots on-target themselves it may lead some to conclude that Russia will cause their guests plenty of problems but I struggle to see that being the case.
The home nation may have seemingly breezed through their opening couple of matches, but I don’t believe the margin of victory against either Saudi Arabia or Egypt reflected the patterns of the games.
They were competently despatched by Uruguay in their final group game and while they did make changes for that encounter, I feel that the South American side were a bridge too far for them and I believe the same will be the case against La Roja.
The betting angle
A best price of 8/13 for a win for La Roja is good value in my view, but I would rather take the 31/40 BetVictor offer on a Spain victory and Under 4.5 Goals. Such a bet would have emerged victorious in seven of Spain’s last 11 knockout matches and I believe they will look to control the game after opening the scoring.
When they won the World Cup in 2010, they did so through four 1-0 victories (the win against the Netherlands coming after extra time) and while I believe this may be more comfortable, I think having four goals to play with is an excellent buffer.
Across the last 32 matches at this stage of a World Cup, just one has seen five goals be scored. I don’t expect that to be the case here so feel that this is an excellent price.
Isco to strike
I also like Isco to score anytime at 23/10. The Real Madrid playmaker has been one of the star performers in the competition to date and I feel that he has merited more than the single goal he has managed to date.
Russia’s backline is particularly ponderous and I don’t expect them to be a match for such a technically gifted footballer.
From a staking perspective, I would recommend putting £10 on Spain and under 4.5 goals and £5 on Isco anytime. That way you are in profit should only one be a winner.