Serbia v Brazil, Wednesday 27th June, 19:00
Only a Serbia win over Brazil is likely to prolong the FIFA World Cup adventure of the Eagles so they will have to throw everything at the tournament favourite and that is a recipe for disaster given the underdog’s defensive shortcomings.
Costa Rica’s anaemic attack had its moments against Serbia in the first set of FIFA World Cup Group E games and, for all the impressive play of the Eagles versus Switzerland, ultimately their weak defence conceded two goals to another side that boasts far from the most fearsome arsenal in the competition. Serbia has been one of the most entertaining FIFA World Cup teams to watch since the event kicked off but, at this level of football, there is more to success than making pretty patterns in midfield. Defence is what wins matches at the elite level and Serbia does not seem capable of shutting out any half-decent national side.
Brazil is certainly a half-decent national side and it may run riot versus Serbia if the Eagles overcommit in forward areas and leave their defence exposed. With one forecasting that Costa Rica will fail to beat Switzerland in the simultaneous FIFA World Cup Group E clash, one thinks that Serbia will have to beat Brazil in Moscow on Wednesday to reach the knockout stage. There should be goals and lots of them.
One was surprised to see bookmakers quoting odds of around even money about the FIFA World Cup Group E game between Brazil and Serbia going over two and a half goals. Brazil should be good value for at least two goals on their own and, if the FIFA World Cup favourite nets twice – which appears likely based on any number of statistical measures – Serbia’s players will have to fight fire with fire given the state of the pool. One fears that the FIFA World Cup Group E closer could get extremely ugly for Serbia, particularly if Brazil opens the scoring in the first half hour, but rather than backing the CONMEBOL giant to thrash the Eagles and cover a handicap line, one is more inclined to wager on the Otkrytiye Arena producing a highlights reel full of goals. Well, at least three goals for the sake of one’s main bet.
Switzerland to Keep it Tight against Costa Rica
Switzerland v Costa Rica, Wednesday 27th June, 19:00
It is impossible to watch two matches at once so one thinks that viewers should tune in to see Brazil against Serbia because the FIFA World Cup Group E game between Switzerland and Costa Rica is more likely to be a low-scoring affair.
Switzerland requires at least one more FIFA World Cup Group E point to guarantee its spot in the last 16 and, with the Swiss knowing its strength lies in defensive organisation rather than attacking verve, one suspects that they will adopt a cautious approach to Wednesday’s match in Nizhniy Novgorod even though Costa Rica is as limited as its CONCACAF record suggested before the big show began.
Costa Rica will not want to go home without a FIFA World Cup point four years on from participating in the quarter-finals of the Brazil-hosted tournament and the Ticos will know that they must not allow Switzerland to take the lead cheaply because the Swiss will shut up shop if they do and bank on themselves not leaking more than one goal in reply.
Fifteen of Switzerland’s last 20 competitive games have gone under two and a half goals and a good chunk of them have been versus teams ranked lower than it. Seven of Costa Rica’s last eight meaningful matches have gone under two and a half goals and the Ticos have hit the back of the net in just one of their most recent four games, irrespective of status. It is the likes of Costa Rica, Panama and Tunisia which highlight the folly of FIFA expanding the World Cup beyond 32 sides, which is what the governing body wants to do. It is madness; the FIFA World Cup would be much better off if it featured 24 teams and fewer genuine minnows.