GROUP E comes to a conclusion on Wednesday night as Switzerland take on Costa Rica in Nizhny Novgorod. Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) previews the encounter and picks out his best bets.
Switzerland v Costa Rica | Wednesday 27th June 2018, 19:00 | ITV4
Costa Rica are playing for pride after successive defeats in Group E. The Central Americans fell to a 1-0 reverse to Serbia before a heartbreaking 2-0 defeat to Brazil in stoppage-time in their most recent outing confirmed their early exit.
Los Ticos had managed to frustrate the pre-tournament favourites until the dying embers of their meeting in Saint Petersburg with an organised and defensive approach. Head coach Oscar Ramirez admitting post-match that he couldn’t think of any other way to try and match the Samba Boys.
Costa Rica fired in only three shots in that encounter – all attempted in the opening 15 minutes and just one arriving from inside the penalty area. Celso Borges fired wide after a good run and cross from Cristian Gamboa but the Central Americans offered little as an attacking threat thereafter.
Goals have tended to be hard to come by for Los Ticos. The underdogs have notched just once in their last four fixtures and have now suffered eight defeats in their past 10 outings. Indeed, this team failed to beat Panama or Honduras in qualification and may be heading home without a point.
Switzerland can seal a knockout place
Switzerland upset the odds to pinch a point against Brazil in their opener and followed it up with a fantastic second-half performance to see off Serbia. Die Nati were a goal behind and outplayed in the opening 45 minutes but Vladimir Petkovic inspired an impressive revival from his squad at half-time.
Struggling to create any forward momentum – striker Haris Seferovic was hauled off having had just five touches – and unable to contain constant Serbia attacks, the Bosnian boss tinkered his tactics and saw the Swiss spring into life.
Granit Xhaka scored a superb equaliser and Xherdan Shaqiri became the most influential player on the park. The Stoke schemer hit the woodwork before grabbing the decisive winner following a brilliant solo goal in the 90th-minute.
Xhaka and Shaqiri have both been cleared by FIFA to play following controversial goal celebrations and Mario Gavranovic should be given a start with Switzerland knowing they simply need to match or better Serbia’s result against Brazil to go through.
The betting angle
The experienced Europeans have lost just once in 24 (W17-D6-L1) and should be backed to seal their spot in the Last 16 in a game featuring Under 3.5 Goals at 6/5 (Boylesports).
Fifteen of Switzerland’s last 20 tournament matches have had fewer than three goals and seven of Costa Rica’s last eight competitive matches have followed suit. Meanwhile, both sides have scored in just seven of Switzerland’s last 20 major tournament matches, as well as in only seven of Costa Rica’s past 28 outings.
Switzerland v Costa Rica – Switzerland to win and Under 3.5 Goals (6/5 Boylesports)