Football / Preview / World Cup Friday 23Rd June

World Cup: Thursday 23rd June

All is to play for in Denmark's evening clash with Japan, while earlier reigning champions Italy could be knocked out if they fail to beat Slovakia.

Italy's Fabio Cannavaro



Paraguay (14) v New Zealand (71) (Thurs, 15:00)

Paraguay are in a commanding position in Group F – they are two points clear at the top with the best goal-difference and now face the lowest-ranked team in the group in their final game. A draw should be enough to win the group, but a win would guarantee it, and should they finish first they will play the runner-up in Group E in the Last 16 (Japan or Denmark). Paraguay are undefeated in 10 finals matches against teams with a Bettorlogic rank of 51+ with eight victories, seven W/Ws and six wins by two clear goals. The South Americans have also won by two clear goals and recorded W/Ws in three of their six finals games against teams ranked at least 20 places lower than themselves when they have won their previous fixture.

New Zealand recorded the best result in their history in drawing 1-1 with Slovakia in their opener and then bettered it considerably by holding reigning World champions Italy to a 1-1 draw on Saturday. Previously, there have only been five finals games since 1970 in which a team ranked outside the top-50 have prevented a top-five side from winning (Latvia against Germany in Euro 2004 was the most recent occurrence while Egypt’s 1-1 draw with the Netherlands in Italia 1990 was the only World Cup fixture). Teams ranked outside the top-50 have lost 22 of 38 (58%) finals matches against teams ranked 11-20 and the figures remain consistent when the lower-ranked team hasn’t lost their previous match (W3-D8-L14).

Recommendation: Paraguay W/W 2.42, Betfair


Slovakia (37) v Italy (6) (Thurs, 15:00)

Slovakia have a difficult job in front of them – they must beat current World champions Italy to qualify for the Last 16. They will feel their task may be slightly easier given Italy’s form so far in this competition, but worryingly their own efforts thus far have been equally pitiful. Winston Reid’s last-minute equaliser for New Zealand in their opener is likely to haunt them long-after this World Cup is over. In all forms (friendlies included), Slovakia have lost 19 of 26 internationals against top-10 ranked sides with 10 defeats by two clear goals since 1995.

One stat that bodes particularly well for the struggling Italians is that top-10 ranked teams that have drawn the first two World Cup games are undefeated in 12 matches since 1970 with nine victories and six wins by two clear goals. Italy, themselves, are unbeaten in all of their last eight final World Cup group stage fixtures with five wins while they have a similarly strong finals record against teams ranked 26-46 – W5-D3-L0 since 1970. Furthermore, top-10 ranked teams have won 26 of 31 finals Group Stage fixtures against side ranked 26-46 since Euro 2004 with Portugal’s loss to Greece in 2004 and Spain’s 1-0 loss to Switzerland last week the only two defeats.

Recommendation: Italy -1.5 2.50, Bet365


Cameroon (33) v Netherlands (3) (Thurs, 19:30)

This is, perhaps, the least important final Group Stage match as Cameroon have already been knocked out of the tournament while the Netherlands progression to the Last 16 as group winners is almost certainly assured – they are 1.06 on Betfair to top Group E. Cameroon have a decent record against top-10 ranked teams with one victory and four draws from eight finals matches since 1982. Interestingly, they have conceded at least three goals in three of their last five matches. More generally, African teams have won just five of 34 World Cup matches with 16 defeats and only six clean sheets.

The Netherlands failed to shine in their gritty 1-0 victory over Japan on Saturday, but the result was good enough to ensure they can rest some key players in this game. As such, bettors should treat this match with a degree of caution. Since 1980, the Netherlands have won six of eight unbeaten finals matches against teams ranked 26-45 with five clean sheets and five -2.5 goals games.

Since 1970, there have been just 14 group stage matches in which a team with six points has faced a team with zero points – W6-D5-L3 for the team with six points.

Recommendation: Lay Netherlands 1.91, Betfair


Denmark (20) v Japan (43) (Thurs, 19:30)

If Cameroon v Netherlands is unappealing because of it’s lack of importance, then neutral fans can take heed in the knowledge that all is to play for in this clash. Despite being tied on three points, it is Denmark that must win the game as Japan have the better goal difference. The Danes have won six of their last 10 finals matches against lower-ranked opposition with just one defeat. Generally, teams ranked 16-25 have won 45% (49/108) finals matches against teams ranked 36-55, but the win rate drops to 30% (W7-D11-L5) when the match is the final Group Stage fixture. Furthermore, Denmark have won five of seven finals matches against sides that have lost their previous fixture with four victories by two clear goals.

Japan have a dreadful finals record. Since 1998, they have lost nine of their 15 fixtures, failing to score five times and, worse still, they have been beaten in seven of their 10 such games against higher ranked opposition with five HT draws. Stretching back to the 1974 World Cup, Asian teams have lost 34 of 50 World Cup matches against European opposition with 23 L/L double results. Moreover, Asian teams have lost four of their last seven such games when the European side has been ranked outside the top-20.

Recommendation: Denmark Win 2.25, Various

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