Battle of the World Cup Big Shots

Belgium vs Portugal

There’s a treat in Brussels on Friday night when Portugal arrives to take on Belgium, in a match sure to entertain, and one which may give us some big clues.

This is a clash of two European heavyweights, one of the favourites to lift World Cup 2018, and the other the current European champions. It’s a chance for football betting players to see just how close Belgium’s stars are to regularly beating the World’s best teams, though Real Madrid’s chief Galactico, Cristiano Ronaldo, may well be unavailable, rested to prepare for the big tournament.

With FIFA’s world rankings, pitching Belgium at third and Portugal fourth, both ahead of the highly fancied France and Spain, we could well be watching a semi-final preview if both teams play to form in Russia.

Despite being European champions, Portugal start as online betting favourites

Portugal striker Cristiano Ronaldo was given time off after Real Madrid’s 3-1 victory over Liverpool in the UCL final

Talking Points

Of course England fans will be watching this one carefully as the World Cup draw has landed the Three Lions in the same group as highly fancied Belgium, along with Panama and Tunisia.

Belgium boss Roberto Martinez has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal, and he is under pressure to turn the nearly men into winners. Romelu Lukaku could be an irresistible force if he can recapture his early season form for Manchester United, his direct and powerful style can put the wind up any defence. Meanwhile, Lukaku’s kid brother Jordan has impressed at Lazio and has also made the World Cup squad.

And Lukaku’s near neighbours in the Premier League, Manchester City, is the home of classy defender Vincent Kompany and his team mate Kevin de Bruyne. The brilliant midfielder was the architect of much of City’s success in winning the Premier League with a record 100 points. Had Liverpool’s Mo Salah not had such an incredible second half of the season then De Bruyne would surely have been the UK Player of the Year.

The Sky Blues maestro will provide a ready supply of ammunition for Chelsea’s Eden Hazard and Napoli’s Dries Mertens, and if Lukaku hits form that could be a terrifying prospect for opponents in Russia.

Besiktas’ Pepe and Ricardo Pereira of FC Porto could well be tasked with keeping that attacking threat at bay on Friday, to allow Portugal’s midfield and attack to play with some freedom. Pepe’s club team-mate Ricardo Quaresma could lead the attack if Ronaldo is resting, and Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva’s reputation has rocketed after a successful first campaign in the EPL and he could well be a big name at the World Cup.

The Portuguese face Spain, Morocco and Iran in a tough group in Russia. And that clash against their near neighbours could be the game of the first stage. But the European Champions didn’t have an easy passage from the qualifiers, beating Switzerland to top spot on goal difference to avoid a potentially disastrous play-off, and the same sad fate as Italy. But Coach Fernando Santos won’t worry about that now, as he prepares for an assault on World Cup.

So they may well be without Ronaldo for this one, who was given time off to recover after Los Blanco’s Champions League final win over Liverpool. Without him Portugal played out a 2-2 draw with Tunisia on Monday, Joao Mario and Andre Silva scoring, but their defensive mettle was severely tested by the Africans, who will meet England in the group stages in Russia, so take note Gareth Southgate.

Ronaldo-less Portugal take on Belgium in a pre-World Cup friendly

Portugal play a warm-up match against Belgium before the World Cup

History

Belgium and Portugal have pretty much shared the spoils in their 17 meetings so far, Portugal winning six to Belgium’s five, with six draws. But recent history favours the visitors, winning at the last three meetings since 2007. In the latest clash Ronaldo and his former Manchester United colleague, Nani, scored in a 2-1 win in 2016.

But it’s a nagging factor for Roberto Martinez’ team that, with an inferior squad to his own, Portugal became European Champions two years ago. The Reds carry on impressing with their array of talent and attractive brand of football, but are they ready to make their own history?

What are the Odds?

Belgium is favourite to win at 1X2 @ 2.01 with Portugal a distant 3.50.

The Asian Handicap offering is similar with the hosts -0.50 @ 2.02 and the European champions + 0.25 @ 2.25.

In beating the Belgians three times over the last decade, Portugal has scored freely and all three victories featured over 2.5 goals.

This time the odds for over 2.25 goals is 2.04.

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So Has Gareth Really Got it Right?

England vs Nigeria

The Super Eagles fly into Wembley on Saturday to take on England in Gareth Southgate’s last home match, before he takes his team to Russia.

This is an important game for Southgate and his squad, who could take the chance to send a positive message to their supporters, and a warning to their World Cup rivals. But it’s a big test against a powerful side, which features some very familiar names to England fans.

England coach Gareth Southgate looking serious during friendly with Italy

England coach Gareth Southgate looking serious during friendly with Italy

Talking Points

The Three Lions’ best player and captain, Harry Kane, has said that England can go all the way at Russia World Cup 2018. And while that may be a lot to ask, you have to admire his optimism. Manager Gareth Southgate has plenty of confidence in the Spurs striker but the prolific scorer surely can’t carry the hopes of a whole nation on his own shoulders.

So who can step up to lighten the load of King Harry? Well, Raheem Sterling has had a superb season at Manchester City in the champions’ record breaking year, though Kane’s club team-mate Dele Alli has been rather less impressive. Meanwhile, the goals could well come from arch sniffer Jamie Vardy, his pace and ability to niggle defenders, able to wreak havoc and win penalties, which could prove vital.

Southgate has shown he is no pushover and won’t pick players based on past reputation, leaving goalkeeper Joe Hart out of his World Cup 2018 squad. That suggests, as he is planning to take all three of Jordan Pickford, Jack Butland and Nick Pope, he hasn’t quite decided who his numbers 1 and 2 are.

While Burnley’s Pope has had the most successful season in terms of shutouts and shot stopping, and commands his area with authority, his distribution isn’t always up to the mark and Southgate wants his defenders to play out from the back and find a man. Both Pickford and Butland have a mistake in them, but are better ball players and I suspect he may go for Stoke City’s Butland, despite his club’s relegation to the Championship.

Whoever plays against Nigeria won’t get an easy ride as Premier League football betting fans will recognise some big names in the Eagles squad, with Chelsea’s Victor Moses the most exciting talent. The attacking wing-back has enjoyed an impressive season while a few around him, at Stamford Bridge, haven’t. His pace and quick footwork could trouble an England back-line which is still finding its feet. And he can play on either flank, which has helped him to cause panic in Premier League defences up and down the country.

What do betting odds say about Nigeria's chances against England in an international friendly?

Nigeria national football team poses for a picture before the match

In Kelechi Iheanacho Coach Gernot Rohr has an unpredictable goal threat, as Leicester City fans would testify. And his club team-mate Wilfred Ndidi is a commanding midfielder, growing in stature in the Premier League, and sure to test England’s central ball players. Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson will have the task of controlling the central zone and his performances could well be pivotal to England’s chances in Russia.

William Troost-Ekong scored his first international goal for Nigeria in a disappointing home draw with the Democratic Republic of Congo last week. It was a game where Rohr took the chance to test out some new attacking options, giving debuts to Crotone’s Simeon Nwankwo and Junior Lokosa, Nwanko looking lively, and smashing the woodwork early in the game.

So, if you’re expecting a nice quiet evening and a comfortable England win in the Wembley sunshine…then you may just be in for a surprise.

History

This is only the third meeting of England and Nigeria, the most memorable (in a sense) previous encounter being at the 2002 World Cup, when the Super Eagles snuffed out England in a group stage 0-0 stalemate. It was a result which underwhelmed England fans, who crawled out of their beds as dawn broke in the UK, hoping to see a young Michael Owen run Nigeria ragged. But he didn’t and that may serve as a warning to the Wembley faithful.

In the other previous encounter, the Three Lions won a friendly back in 1994.

What are the Odds?

The best betting odds with us have England as clear favourites to light up Wembley Stadium with a victory.

Asian Handicap odds offer a home send-off -1.25 @ 2.11 with Nigeria + 1.00 @ 2.16.

How about a hatful of goals to send English spirits soaring. Total goal 4-6 is priced at 3.80.

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Silva is new Toffees boss

Everton have confirmed Marco Silva as their new manager on a three-year deal.

The 40-year-old former Hull and Watford boss replaces Sam Allardyce, who was sacked at the end of the season after six months in charge at Goodison Park.

Silva insists he wants the Toffees faithful to be 'proud' of their team, not only for results but for the way they go about getting them.

Allardyce came in for plenty criticism towards the end of the season for his style of play.

"I know what our fans expect – they expect results but not only results," Silva said.

"I want our fans to be proud when they see our team on the pitch."

Everton finished eighth under Allardyce, who had replaced Ronald Koeman in November.

Everton's major shareholder Farhad Moshiri described Silva as a "young, dynamic, energetic and very modern manager".

Silva will be joined by long-term assistant manager Joao Pedro, plus goalkeeping coach Hugo Olivera, technical scout Antonis Lemonakis and fitness coach Pedro Conceicao.

Former Toffees striker Duncan Ferguson will continue as part of the coaching team under the new boss.

Silva was sacked by Watford in January, after the Vicarage Road outfit became frustrated at Everton's approach for the Portuguese in November.

The new boss insists the club has strong ambitions.

"Everton is a really ambitious club and that is what I want. What we are seeing now are good changes at the club. The club is changing its approach," Silva added.

"But one thing we cannot change and nobody wants to change is the huge history and ambition of the club.

"Everybody knows Everton's history. When you are a club like Everton, you only have one solution – to aim to win."

Everton are 1/3 to finish in the top half of the Premier League next season, while Watford are 5/1.

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This Scandinavian Duel is World Cup-Worthy!

Sweden vs Denmark

There are plenty of interesting games happening in the build-up to the big dance that is the FIFA World Cup. Many of the squads that will play the big dance are pairing up to play tune-up games to help them prepare for the big dance.

If you’re looking for a quality contest, then look up north! The fair Stockholm weather will get even hotter as two World Cup-bound squads square off at Stockholms Olympiastadion. There is great Scandinavian fun to be had once you search Sweden vs Denmark odds and see just what is in store for you!

These two squads have been through the European qualifiers at the cost of a crestfallen Republic of Ireland team and an especially heartbroken Italy team. These two nations will want to make it far into the big dance and will use this friendly as a starting point to launch them to fantastic form.

Talking Points

The question for Sweden going forward is their performance in the World Cup without Zlatan Ibrahimovic. A sect of Swedish supporters was actually hoping for the LA Galaxy attacker to rescind his retirement from international football and play for one more World Cup. However, their hopes were dashed when Blagult manager Janne Andersson didn’t include Zlatan in his final World Cup squad.

Now that Zlatan’s retirement from international football is all but certain, supporters can now focus their efforts in supporting the current crop of players that denied Italy their World Cup ticket. There are several players that could fill the gaps left behind by Ibra’s giant stature and play style.

One of the biggest candidates to step up for Sweden is Marcus Berg. The 31-year-old striker for Al Ain scored most of Sweden’s goals during the qualifying campaign. He will be looked upon to make the difference up front.

Football betting fans have their eyes set on Leipzig's Emil Forsberg to lead Sweden to victory

Emil Forsberg is hoping his side can put their 2016 Euros disappointment behind them

However, the mantle of being Sweden’s leader will likely fall on the hands of RB Leipzig midfielder Emil Forsberg. He and keeper Robin Olsen were the only ones to play in every single qualifying match. He scored only four goals in those twelve games, but it is certain that he brought his gravitas from the Bundesliga to his nation’s benefit. Eyes will definitely be fixed on Forsberg, and Denmark will surely plan ahead to stifle him.

Meanwhile, Denmark had a joyride of a ride in securing their ticket. They were safely slotted at second on Group E and was tossed in a battle with the Republic of Ireland. Martin O’Neill’s lads put on a brave display, but Christian Eriksen’s hat trick safely put Denmark through the qualifying stages.

Denmark will be playing France, Australia and Peru in Group C, and Angelo sees them making it past the group stages. However, everything will depend on the performance of the Tottenham Hotspur star.

Eriksen definitely showed his class during the qualifier, netting 12 of the 28 goals Age Hareide’s side made throughout the qualifier. He is the source of the Danish attack, and the team will live and die by their star midfielder.

This is the reason why the rest of the team must step up and help the Tottenham man. Kasper Schmeichel, Nicolai Jorgensen, Nicklas Bendtner and Simon Kjaer must do everything they can to support their star man and make things easier for him.

History

The two nations have a rich history of facing each other, and things will look different according to the lenses you choose to wear.

The supporters of the respective nations will say that their team is the heavy favourites to win this friendly. Sweden’s fans will remind everyone that they won 48 out of the 107 matches they played with Denmark, while the Danish Dynamite only won 40. However, the Denmark faithful will point out that they won four of their last seven encounters with the Swedes.

Fans will naturally argue for days, so it’s better to consult the recent form of the two in the games they have played since their qualifier victories.

Sweden beat Denmark in a non-FIFA friendly in January. However, they lost their next game against Chile, one of the big teams that missed out on the World Cup final. Their shocking form continued after suffering a 1-0 loss to Romania.

Denmark had a mixed bag of results after losing to Sweden. They lost 2-3 to Jordan, won by a single goal against Panama, and had a scoreless draw against Chile.

What are the Odds?

This Scandinavian fight may not take any of the players to Valhalla, but punters will be taken to Nirvana with the us odds on offer.

The most exciting Sweden vs Denmark betting odds in the market has to be Denmark’s 1X2 odds of 2.90. I think they have the better team, and their prior friendlies show that they are in far better shape than their neighbours.

If you are looking for Sweden-friendly punts, Sweden’s -0.25 Asian Handicap provides 2.14. Sweden’s First Half 1X2 odds also promise a lucrative 3.05 reward.

Given their prior history, there is a possibility of this match being a high-scoring affair. I think this game will end 2-1 in Denmark’s favour, so Over 2.25 for 2.06 is a good bet to consider.

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Zidane makes shock Real call

Zinedine Zidane has announced his shock decision to step down as Real Madrid boss, less than a week after leading the club to a third straight Champions League title.

The Frenchman was appointed as Rafael Benitez's successor in early 2016 and guided the club to European glory in each of his three attempts, as well as the 2016-17 La Liga title.

Despite his continental success, Zidane had been criticised for Los Blancos' inconsistent form in defending their league crown, as they eventually finished third in this season's standings, 17 points behind Barcelona.

The 45-year-old only signed a new contract until 2020 in January and president Florentino Perez has described the news as "totally unexpected" after a meeting with the manager on Wednesday.

Despite Saturday's 3-1 victory over Liverpool in Kiev, Real have been the centre of specualtion over the futures of both Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale.

Zidane, who also played for the club between 2001 and 2006, was applauded out of his final press conference.

The former France captain says the time has come for fresh input at the Bernabeu, insisting the call is the right one for the club.

"I love this club," Zidane said. "What I think is that this team needs to continue winning but I think it needs a change, a different voice, another methodology. And that's why I took this decision.

"It's a strange moment to do so, I know, but an important one to. I had to do this for everyone."

Real are 6/1 to retain their Champions League title, while they can be backed at 5/4 to win next season's La Liga.

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Spotlight: International Retirement, Record and More Curry

While the World Cup 2018 is yet to start, some players of participating nations are already making headlines.

Mexico’s Oribe Peralta announced his retirement from international duty which will take effect after the summer tournament. On the other hand, Egypt’s Essam El-Hadary is about to set a new World Cup record after being named in the country’s squad that will make the trip to Russia.

Meanwhile, in other sports news, Golden State Warriors superstar Steph Curry talked about possibly winning the NBA Finals MVP—something which he has never achieved in his career.

Read on about these trending football highlights and NBA updates, only here at us Blog.

Oribe Peralta set to retire from internationals after WC 2018

Oribe Peralta makes it to us Blog top news as he is set to retire from Mexico after World Cup 2018

Oribe Peralta’s international football achievement with Mexico

One last hurrah for Oribe Peralta in the international level.

Just days before the World Cup kicks off in Russia, Peralta announced that he is planning to quit from the Mexico national team after the summer spectacle.

The 34-year-old forward, who is included on Coach Juan Carlos Osorio’s preliminary list for the tournament, said that the FIFA 2018 affair will be his last for El Tri.

“It’s going to be my last World Cup. After Russia, I’m retiring from the national team,” Peralta told Marca Claro.

Peralta helped Mexico to advance in the knockout phases of the 2014 Brazil World Cup, during which he started in all of their games. However, he is perhaps best remembered for the four goals he scored for the national team en route to winning the Olympic gold in London 2012.

The Club America striker recently featured for Mexico in their goalless draw with Wales. And while that wasn’t a good result for the World Cup-bound team, Peralta said he’s confident they have what it takes to win the title in his last tour with the squad.

“We have enough talent to take the step, to be champions of the world, to go there and get what we want. It’s in our hands to do it,” he added.

Essam El-Hadary: oldest man to play in World Cup?

us Blog: Essam El-Hadary is set to become the oldest man to play in the World Cup 2018

Essam El-Hadary breaks record as he is set to become the oldest man to play in the World Cup after being named in Egypt’s squad

Egypt’s goalkeeper Essam El-Hadary is about to make World Cup history.

The 45-year-old forward is included in Egypt’s provisional squad and could become the oldest man to ever play in the World Cup when he makes his first appearance in the tournament.

He could break the record set by Colombia keeper Faryd Mondragon who played in the 2014 World Cup at 43 years old.

El-Hadary has 156 caps under his name and has been a regular national team player since being part of the Pharaohs in 1996. He has won 37 trophies for club and country, including four Africa Cup of Nations titles.

Furthermore, he was named best goalkeeper of AFCON three times in his career.

Egypt qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1990 after beating Congo with a late winner from star striker Mohamed Salah.

“My goal has always been the World Cup,” El-Hadary said. “[When Egypt finally qualified with a dramatic late win over Congo], I was the happiest man in the world.”

Steph Curry plays down importance of winning NBA Finals MVP

us Blog: Steph Curry dismisses the importance of winning the NBA Finals MVP

Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry’s take on the elusive NBA Finals MVP

For Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry, winning the NBA Finals is far more important than the Finals MVP award.

The five-time NBA All-Star has won two regular-season MVPs, even becoming the first-ever unanimous winner of the award in 2016. However, he is yet to become the best player in the NBA Finals despite the Warriors making it to the big dance in the past three years.

Andre Iguodala bagged the award in the Warriors championship win in 2015, while Kevin Durant seized the honour after they secured the title last year.

And so, in his first media availability before their fourth finals series against the Cleveland Cavaliers, Curry opened up about the possibility of winning it this time and said “that narrative is gonna take life.”

“It doesn’t make or break my career or whatever you want to say looking back,” Curry added.

Despite claiming that it is not his priority, Curry actually has a great chance to take home the elusive trophy. After missing the first round of the postseason due to a knee injury, he has since returned to form and is averaging 24.8 points and 4.9 assists this postseason.

Also, he is currently riding an NBA-record 86-game postseason streak with at least one three-pointer.

“I’m going to play aggressively, confidently with that right energy and motivation to help my team win,” Curry furthered. “And usually when I’m in that mindset, good things happen, whether that means it’s a Finals MVP or not, who cares, but I’m going to be playing like it for sure.”

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La Tricolor vs Pharaohs: A Big Friendly You Shouldn’t Miss

Egypt vs Colombia

The picturesque city of Bergamo, Italy is the perfect backdrop for a football match as exotic as this.

Indeed, this is just the match that would make a beautiful city northeast of Milan bloom further as the hot summer sun comes. While the real summer football will happen in Russia, this friendly is definitely one to catch. It will be worth to check the international friendly betting tips at sites like us for this match has the potential to be a cracker!

Of course, we are under no illusion that Egypt will struggle against Los Cafeteros without their Liverpool talisman, but that doesn’t mean that Colombia will get a free win from this friendly. Egypt dominated their qualification group and should still pose a problem to any club in the World Cup. This is a great opportunity for Hector Cuper’s team to make a statement to their Group A opponents.

Talking Points

The biggest topic ahead of this match is Mohamed Salah’s absence. Egypt and Liverpool fans are understandably livid towards Real Madrid and Spain defender Sergio Ramos tried a WWE move on their talisman during the Champions League final. Salah will not be playing in this important tune-up to fight a tense battle with his shoulder injury.

Many international friendly betting tips back Egyptian talisman Mohamed Salah to be fully fit in time for the World Cup

Mohamed Salah walks out of the pitch after injuring his shoulder during the Champions League Final

However, positive news reached Cuper’s side: the ace will be able to return and play in the Pharaoh’s World Cup campaign. Consultations with the national team doctor said that Salah will miss three weeks at the most. He has now reportedly gone to Spain in order to speed up the recovery process.

Someone else needs to step up in place of the injured Salah, and there are multiple options for the Pharaohs. Ahmed Hassan Mahgoub has played well for Braga in Portugal and could very well take Salah’s place up front. Meanwhile, Mohamed Elneny will be the midfield general while West Brom defender Ahmed Hegazi will try to hold down the back line against James Rodriguez.

Colombia have started training in Italy to slowly acclimate themselves in the northern hemisphere and the slightly colder weather in preparation for Russia. They are obvious favourites to win against the Salah-less Egypt, but AC Milan striker Carlos Bacca warned everyone against Egypt in a recent interaction with the press.

“We know that Egypt is a tough team, even right now as they’re going through a difficult phase without their main player Mohamed Salah,” Bacca said. He also wished for the Liverpool man’s quick recovery and a speedy return to the Pharaohs in time for the World Cup.

Colombia will just continue to focus on their preparations for a dangerous group stage. They have a great shot at making it past the group stages as long as James Rodriguez repeats his heroics in 2014. The Colombian has enjoyed a renaissance after a successful debut season with Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich, and he will most likely use his fine domestic form as a boost to get the nation past a tough group.

History

This is the first time these two nations will face in a competition of any form. Both Cuper and Colombia boss Jose Pekerman will be looking at their opponents’ performances in the qualifiers and their previous competitions in order to get an idea of their opponents’ style of play.

Africa had a tough time trying to contain Mohamed Salah’s Pharaohs. Be it the Africa Cup of Nations or the World Cup qualifiers, the continent rattled with every step Egypt took. They swept through the group stages of both the qualifiers and the African Cup of Nations. Egypt then made a strong run to the ACO final, only to be defeated by a daring Cameroon side.

While Egypt’s performances since the qualifier have been far from ideal (two draws and two defeats), they still have a powerful squad that can take it to the best of them. They will be especially dangerous when Salah makes his return.

Meanwhile, Colombia had a fairly decent run in South America. Colombia managed to make the last automatic qualification spot in a continent that is loaded with superb footballing talent. A draw with Peru on the last day of qualifiers ensured that their tickets up north are booked without any hitches.

Colombia are aiming to win their first FIFA World Cup title this year

James Rodriguez strikes the ball for Colombia during one of La Tricolor’s Copa America games

They also had a grand time when they made the trip to the United States for the Copa America. They were behind the hosts during the group stages due to goal difference, but they made it all the way to the tournament semi-final where they lost to Chile. They then beat the Americans to secure third.

What are the odds?

The bookies heavily favour the Cafeteros as Salah’s absence is just too heavy to ignore. It is highly likely that either James, Bacca or any of the Colombian attackers manage to break through the Egyptian defence on the first half, so betting on Colombia’s First Half 1X2 odds of 2.07 is a worthwhile investment.

However, it’s also possible that we will see the Pharaohs hunkering down and standing tall like their pyramids in front of a blistering Colombian attack. I don’t think Cuper will allow Colombia to score off them, so Egypt +1.00 @ 1.91 is also an intriguing prospect.

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Cavs vs Warriors: Who Will Draw First Blood in NBA Finals?

Cleveland Cavaliers vs Golden State Warriors

The Warriors and Cavaliers will meet again in the NBA Finals; and despite talks about how “boring” it is to see the two juggernauts battle for the title for the fourth straight year, no one can deny how dominant they have been in the regular season and in the playoffs.

Now, as we head to Game 1 of The Finals, the more serious question that needs to be asked is: who will win?

The basketball purists—and our NBA Finals betting odds—will tell you that it’s impossible to beat a Golden State team that boasts what could be described as the best collection of individual talent that the league has ever seen. However, LeBron James, unarguably the best basketball player on the planet right now, is more than determined to prove that he can lead his Cavaliers to the promised land once again.

Talking Points

No matter how you look at it, the biggest and most intriguing storyline in the fourth chapter of the Golden State-Cleveland rivalry is “Four versus One.”

The Dubs’ death lineup is for real and you can ask the Houston Rockets, the West and the NBA’s top team, about that. Put simply, the Warriors is unlike any other squad in the history of the league.

They have two former MVPs in Kevin Durant and Steph Curry, the reigning Defensive Player of the Year in Draymond Green, and a four-time NBA All-Star and three-point contest champ in Klay Thompson. Add there the injured Andre Iguodala—perhaps one of the best utility men in the league—and we could say that it’s “Five vs One.”

Nonetheless, much like the Warriors, LeBron James is unlike any other player that the league has ever seen (sorry Michael Jordan).

LeBron James rallied for the Cavaliers to reach the NBA Finals Betting Odds

Cavaliers forward LeBron James drives through the defense of Boston Celtics guards in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals

The King is a one-man wrecking crew, a tireless cyborg, a freak of nature. He has carried the Cavs to this stage all by himself; and if there’s one thing we learned in the 2017/18 playoffs, it’s to never bet against LeBron. NEVER.

He helped the Wine and Gold survive the Indiana Pacers in the first round, led them in the sweep of the Toronto Raptors in the semi-finals, and used his out-of-this-world talent and athleticism to beat the genius of Brad Stevens and the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals.

LeBron is LeBron and despite all the hate he receives, he always gives that sense of assurance that his team can win every game with him on the floor.

Moreover, if his teammates play like their lives depend on it—much like in Game 7 against Boston—there’s no doubt they can give the Warriors problems.

Shared talent and experience goes a long way, and both teams have that.

History

As mentioned, this will be the fourth time that they will meet. The Golden State Warriors won the title in 2015 and 2017 against the Cavaliers, the first one ending in six games and the second in just five.

However, it should be noted that the Cavs beat the best version of the Warriors in 2016. Golden State (72-9)broke the Chicago Bulls’ record for most wins in a season during that campaign, but LeBron and his crew spoiled their historic run by stealing the O’Brien Trophy.

Oh, and they made history while doing that, becoming the first team to win the NBA title after going down 3-1 in the finals.

This season, the Warriors totally dominated the Cavs. They met only two times and the Bay Area team won both matches with Durant leading the way.

For what it’s worth though, LeBron averaged 26 points, seven rebounds and six assists in those two games—he’s averaging a near triple-double of 34.0 points, 9.2 boards and 8.8 dimes this postseason.

What are the odds?

Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry are both happy to be on the top of NBA betting tips

Warriors forward Kevin Durant hugs teammate Stephen Curry after they beat the Rockets in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals

NBA betting tips have the Warriors winning Game 1…by a huge margin! But that is expected as many fans believe that the Dubs already passed their biggest test when they defeated Mike D’Antoni’s Rockets.

us Asian Handicap sports betting, in fact, have Golden State at -12.00 that pays at odds of 1.93. Meanwhile, the Cavs are given a +12.00 start at 1.97.

While that sure looks blasphemous for Cavs fans, it’s worth noting that the Warriors won by an average of 23 points in their four wins against the Rockets.

Cleveland, on the other hand, registered a margin of 14.25 points in their wins against the Celtics, though that’s thanks in large part to their 30-point demolition of the Beantown team in Game 3 of the East Finals.

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Expectation Management: Nations to Likely Flop in World Cup 2018

Flops are a part of sports. For every person or team that thrives exists an antithesis to balance the world. There will not be any standouts if there aren’t any parties to drag through the mud. There wouldn’t be any “6-1 Brazil” memes if the Canarinha weren’t a great disappointment in 2014.

While there should be no way that Brazill will perform as terribly during the World Cup 2018, but no one thought they’d lose to Germany by that much back then. Anything could do in a strong team at a tournament as big as the World Cup. Injuries, a couple of poor plays or an opponent telling rude stuff about your sister (something Zinedine Zidane can attest) can undo a nation’s hopes in many ways.

You can make a case for almost any contender in the competition, but there’s bound to be a nation that will not make it as far as what their fans expect. There will always be a nation that people will be talking about the same way we did about Brazil for months after the World Cup.

Yes, this article is a list most fans would like their team to not be a part of: which nations will flop in Russia?

Portugal

I will concede that Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the best footballers to ever step foot on a football pitch, but Portugal supporters that think the Real Madrid talisman could carry the team to the World Cup trophy the same way LeBron James brought the Cleveland Cavaliers to the NBA Finals are mental. There’s no way CR7 could carry a 23-man team all on his own.

Sure, Portugal robbed France of the 2016 European Championship with Ronaldo on the bench, but there is absolutely no way that Ronaldo can will his way from the wing to force Portugal to another final.

Doing what they did in France would have worked if Renato Sanches built upon his impressive performance at the Euros, but he has since fallen off after being acquired by Bayern Munich. It’s gotten so bad that Sanches wants to return to his old club for a season and rediscover his form.

Ronaldo also did most of the scoring for Portugal’s World Cup qualifying campaign. He scored 15 goals in nine games. This means that all Spain, Morocco and Iran have to do to hamper Portugal is to prevent Ronaldo from getting any free looks at goal.

Portugal may have found help for Ronaldo in the form of Milan attacker Andre Silva. The 22-year-old scored nine goals in 10 appearances for Portugal’s qualifying tilt, but his form at Serie A was far from satisfactory. He is a big question mark coming into this competition.

Sure, we can dream that a Messi-Ronaldo final will happen in Russia, but football is a harsh sport for a lonely star.

Croatia

Luka Modric sets to apply his domestic form to international stage as he leads Croatia in World Cup 2018

Luka Modric in action during Croatia’s International Friendly with San Marino in 2016

It does seem like Croatia will make it through the group stages playing second fiddle to Argentina in Group D. After all, they have Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Ivan Perisic among other impressive names ready to suit up for the Vatreni. However, things only look good on paper.

Croatia had a rather dodgy qualifier, drawing with Finland and Greece and unbelievably losing to Turkey. Their other defeat came at the hands of Iceland, the newest giant killers of England. And unfortunately for Zlatko Dalic, they will be facing the Strakamir okkar in the group stages. One of their latest friendlies ended in a 2-0 loss to Peru, only raising concerns even more.

Of course, they can simply brush off the odd defeat to Iceland and play their usual football game, but their usual game leaves a lot of question marks for the casual fan. Why would a team with talented players all over their roster struggle to get things done?

Dalic will need to sort out the issues that plague his team if he wants to make the knockout stages. However, I don’t think they’ll be able to even make it out of the group stages without suffering a knock or two from Iceland and Nigeria.

Poland

This may well be Robert Lewandowski’s final World Cup appearance at his peak, so it is quite a shame that Bayern Munich’s goal machine would have to play such a strong group in the World Cup.

Bayern star Robert Lewandowski remains optimistic as he will lead Poland in the upcoming World Cup 2018

Robert Lewandowski celebrates after winning over Republic of Ireland during Euro 2016 qualifiers

Poland are pretty much like a more Germanic version of Portugal: Lewandowski is the one that will bring fortune or undoing to the Bialo-czerwoni. The entire Polish economy would collapse under a great panic should Lewandowski do as much as sneeze. Without Lewandowski, they are nothing.

This factoid is pretty evident in their World Cup campaign. The 29-year-old striker is responsible for 16 of the country’s 28 strikes. He outscored Cristiano Ronaldo in the qualifier, and that just emphasises his gravitas on this Poland squad.

Poland will be facing Sadio Mane and Senegal, a revitalised James Rodriguez and Colombia, and Shinji Kagawa’s Japan. All of these teams will provide a tough test for Poland, and Lewandowski will likely have to do it all.

If their Group H opponents manage to clog the supply chain to Lewandowski, their hopes of making it past the group stage are as good as dead. The Bayern Munich star needs someone to step up, and he has to show up fast. us has reviewed Poland’s post-qualifying friendlies, and their form does not give them any favours.

It sucks for them, but we may see Robert on a quick plane back to Poland after the group stages. That is a sad thought for Poland, but a great one for the rest of the world. It only means football is developing all over the world to the point that even these three European nations are at risk of missing out of the group stages.

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This One Should Be in the World Cup Draw!

France vs Italy

Italy head to France in a World Cup warm-up match, wondering just what might have been…

This is a fixture which should grace the final stages of the World Cup, but Italy’s shock exit in the qualifiers makes it just a friendly. How Roberto Mancini’s team would love to beat one of the tournament favourites to salvage some pride.

This is a good test for France ahead of their World Cup schedule, and it will be a treat for the fans of both these international football giants.

Talking Points

The World Cup draw has given Les Bleus plenty to think about in Group C, where they will face Denmark and Peru along with the Socceroos of Australia. And it’s a tournament they desperately want to win after coming so close in the final of Euro 2016. Failing to win as favourites against Portugal was hard to stomach, and these players want to put it right.

France are one of the favourites to be World Cup winners as they are a powerhouse squad

Olivier Giroud celebrates scoring the opening goal for France during their friendly match up against Ireland

France began their final preparations with a comfortable 2-0 home win over the Republic of Ireland. Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud opened the scoring and Nabil Fekir did his World Cup chances no harm by adding a second before half-time. Lyon’s attacking midfielder is also the subject of speculation that a move the Liverpool may be on the cards, so it could be a busy summer for the academy product.

Juventus’ Blaise Matuidi was excellent in midfield against Ireland, alongside Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante, in a line-up Didier Deschamps may well start with in Russia. That’s the kind of trio which could take Les Bleus all the way, but the form of Pogba is the key.

Antoine Griezmann appeared as a late substitute against Ireland but may feature more prominently against Italy, as he will surely be a starter in Russia.

Italy have to use these games to start the rebuild after their play-off disappointment. Defence is paramount and Mancini can build a team around the excellent Leonardo Bonucci. But it is something of an embarrassment for the Italy faithful that their recent game against Saudi Arabia was a World Cup warm-up for their opponents.

Football betting fans are delighted to see the tandem of Roberto Mancini and Mario Balotelli once again

Roberto Mancini giving instructions to Mario Balotelli during their run together at Manchester City

Italy, unsurprisingly, won that game 2-1. The mercurial Mario Balotelli scored against Saudi with a fine strike from distance, and Andrea Belotti staked a claim for the main striker’s shirt with the second. The arrival of Mancini may also work in Balotelli’s favour as the two had a successful relationship as player and coach of Manchester City. Italy failed to score in three of their last five games so Mancini needs a man with an eye for goal.

France have one more warm-up, against the USA, before heading to Russia to take on Australia. Italy, reluctantly, can take the summer off.

History

Oh boy, do we have some history here? Who could forget the infamous World Cup final of 2006 in Berlin when Zinedine Zidane charged at Marco Materazzi head-first to get a red card in France’s defeat to the Azzurri?

It was ZZ’s last competitive match as a player and what a way to go! Years later, Materazzi finally admitted to L’Equipe, the French newspaper, that he had insulted the Frenchman’s sister, and that’s when the red mist fell.

Italy finally won that infamous game, 5-3 on penalties, on a day football fans of either side will never forget. The current Real Madrid boss still has the fire in his belly and a passion for his nation and will hope Les Bleus can exact a little bit more revenge for him.

France won four of their last five home friendlies so ZZ can take heart!

What are the Odds?

France is certainly a team to watch at World Cup 2018 and the football odds for this game reflect that.

Asian Handicap odds price Les Bleus -1.00 @ 2.14, while you can get + 0.75 on Italy at an appealing 2.09.

The 1X2 draw @ 3.65 could be tempting with France wanting to hold something back for their World Cup opener and Italy keen to make their mark after missing out this summer.

Over 2.50 goals comes in at 2.17.

And, don’t forget, France is third favourites to win the World Cup at 7.00.

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