World Cup Previews: New Zealand Opens, Ivory Coast/Portgual Square Off, North Korea Faces Brazil

14 June 2010

Ivory Coast forward Didier Drogba, reacts, during an international friendly test game between the national soccer teams of Ivory Coast and Japan at the Stade de Tourbillon in Sion, Friday, June 4, 2010. Ahead of the FIFA World Cup 2010 in South Africa. Ivory Coast will play in group G and Japan will play in group E. (Credit Image: © epa/ZUMApress.com)
Tuesday at the World Cup sees Group F conclude their first group games as New Zealand faces Slovakia. Group G also sees action, as the group dubbed 'the group of death' sees Portugal and Ivory Coast square off and Brazil face the great unknown in North Korea.

Monday saw my picks fall into the gutter, going 1 win and 2 losses, leaving my record at 7 wins 3 losses, 1 no result. Jeff Hash went 2 wins and 1 no result, moving his record to 7 wins, 2 losses, and 2 no results.

Note: If we're using the handicap line, we will include what the spread is. If it spread is 0, a draw will mean no result. If we use the Over/Under line, just add the total number of goals scored in a match. Please note that this will all be based on the scoreline at Full Time (90 minutes). For betting purposes, only the result after 90 minutes are counted. Our odds are courtesy of Centsports.

7:30 am ESPN: New Zealand v Slovakia
Johnathan Starling
: This is a match-up against two sides who haven't exactly looked the best since qualifying for the World Cup. Since New Zealand won 'their one shot at glory' against Bahrain, their only warm-up win was against Serbia. Slovakia only beat Costa Rica, and didn't look so hot in doing so. Slovakia probably wins this game, but I wouldn't be surprised if New Zealand took an early lead and Slovakia found an equalizer. To be honest, none of these lines look all that appealing, so I'm going with what probably is a cop out bet. Since we haven't seen many high scoring games, my pick is under 2.5 goals at -140.
Jeff Hash: Let's start with this: this is not the same New Zealand you saw 12 months ago in the Confederations Cup.  Thanks to the FIFA rule change making switching national sides easier, the All Whites have gotten four new members, all of whom have gotten at least three caps since that tournament.  Yes, they're still not great, but expecting a blowout is not as obvious as it once was.  As John mentioned, both New Zealand and Slovakia haven't seemed too hot in getting ready for this.  With that in mind, I have a feeling this is a flat draw waiting to happen, and even if Slovakia wins, it won't be resoundingly so.  So, my pick will be New Zealand +1 at -105.  The under makes a good second bet to go with it.

10:00 am on ESPN: Ivory Coast v Portugal
Johnathan Starling
: Even with Didier Drogba's fitness in doubt, I seriously wonder about the organization Ivory Coast will have on the pitch. I also question Carlos Queiroz's managing ability. Yes they have Cristiano Ronaldo on their side, but Portugal always end up way too over reliant on him when he's in the game. Since I think this game has 0-0 draw or 1-1 draw written all over it, I'm going to pick Ivory Coast on the 0 line at +140. Yes, even with Ivory Coast's disorganization, I do trust Sven to find a way to win at the group stage level of World Cup football. If there is a winner, I do think it will be the Ivory Coast.
Jeff Hash: Yes, I'm going to say this even with full knowledge of that infamous scoreless draw with Cape Verde: Portugal has impressed me more in preparing for the World Cup than the Ivory Coast.  The former still managed to score wins in their other three matches, while the latter went out in the group stage at the African Nations Cup and only registered a win against a lackluster Japan.  With all of this in mind, and with Drogba in an unsure status, I'm going to go the other way of John, and say Portugal has a better chance of winning.  It won't pay great if it hits, but my bet is Portugal on the 0 at -180.

2:30 pm on ESPN: Brazil v North Korea
Johnathan Starling
: I have to admit I find it hilarious that everyone is dubbing North Korea 'the great unknown'. If I saw them play four times during World Cup qualification (that I can remember), then I'm sure everyone has had the same opportunity to do so. What I do vividly remember the most about North Korea is they can't finish their chances at all.
Brazil on the other hand, is going to have to figure out a way to beat what is going to probably be a very compact defensive line. I don't think they will have too many problems in doing so. To me, this has at least a 3 goal blowout written all over it. Yes, the spread line maybe -2.5, but I'd bet Brazil -2.5 at +115. I feel after Brazil takes the lead, North Korea is going to try and attack...and be torn to shreds in the process.
Jeff Hash: If I wanted to be really cheeky about this, I'd just go ahead and take the Brazil to win outright line at -1600 (which amounts to 25 cents won on a four dollar bet).  I won't go that far though.  My only worry really is if North Korea manages to pick up a goal in this game, which on the spread indicated, would require four goals out of the Brazilians to get a result.  Its not that Brazil can't score that many, its that I'm not sure Dunga really cares to do so, especially if he gets nervous about making sure his team get all three points.  But I don't think its going to happen.  So therefore, I agree with John, and take Brazil -2.5 goals at +115.  To go with it, I'd also take the over 3 goals at -105.

So what do you think of the games on Tuesday? Let us know in the comments below.

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Johnathan Starling, the self proclaimed 'most brutally honest man on the net, dishes out his own unique brand of opinions, and analysis on the Premier League, Bundesliga, and all things US Soccer.

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