CARD KING Gavin Murphy (GamePlanGavin) has analysed the bookings markets ahead of Friday's 2018 World Cup clash between Nigeria and Iceland.
Nigeria v Iceland | Friday 22nd June 2018, 16:00 | BBC
My ‘one to keep an eye on’ for the tournament makes his bow on Friday and he’s been given a favourable looking encounter. New Zealand referee Matthew Conger will be in charge of the Group D clash between Iceland and Nigeria in Volgograd.
Why the excitement? Well this official is one of the two representatives from Oceania and, statistically, he is the most likely to flash his cards.
His career average is 46.6 Bookings Points per-game. His 2017/18 average was 45.2. Consider that with his qualification average of 68.3 and we can see that he is one referee to target for Overs.
Of course, the referees have been extremely lenient so far in the competition, so arguably we will benefit from a lower line (3.5 cards) than might have been expected for this whistleblower a few weeks ago.
Man in the middle
Conger, born in Texas, USA, began refereeing in his native America as a teenager. The 39-year-old was in charge of Nigeria’s game against Sweden at the Rio 2016 Olympics in Brazil which the Dream Team won 1-0 courtesy of a goal from Sadiq Umar.
He has also officiated at two under-20 World Cups, in New Zealand in 2015 and in South Korea in 2017.
Nigeria lost 2-0 to Croatia in their World Cup opener. They received just one card despite conceding 16 fouls. I’d be surprised if they got just one card with this referee if they repeated those indiscretions again.
Gernot Rohr’s men put up a shambolic display against the Blazers and must avoid defeat against Iceland to keep alive their hopes of making the Last 16. They averaged 17.5 Bookings Points in qualification and I expect around that mark in this battle.
Iceland, who are playing at the World Cup for the first time, battled two-time winners Argentina to a 1-1 draw in their first fixture in Moscow. They conceded 15 fouls but were officiated by the ultra dour Pole, Szymon Marciniak. He is the referee least likely to get his cards out in this tournament so I’m prepared to overlook Iceland’s lack of cards that day.
The Scandinavians have plenty of workhorses in their team and collected 18.5 Bookings Points on average during qualifying.
The betting angle
The general trend of low cards in the group stages has played right into our hands here. A perfect storm, if you will.
This referee has been underestimated by the bookies and, in a crucial fixture for both countries, I’m steaming into Over 3 Cards at 5/6 with Bet365 on their Asian line.
Exactly 3 cards would return our stakes.
Nigeria v Iceland – Over 3 Asian Cards (5/6 Bet365)