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World Cup Antepost Betting Tips - Part 1

With the World Cup just over three weeks ago, there are bound to be some decent opportunities to make a bit of money. This is the first of four posts analysing each of the eight groups, looking for the best value bets in each.

Group A

Group A contains 2006 beaten finalists, France, the host nation, South Africa, Central America superpower Mexico and the winners of the inaugural tournament, Uruguay.

France only just scraped into the tournament following the infamous Thierry Henry handball against Ireland in the playoffs. They have plenty of talent in their squad, even with the exclusion of Karim Benzema and Samir Nasri – Hugo Lloris is one of the best young keepers in Europe, whilst the likes of Patrice Evra, Nicholas Anelka, Franck Ribery and Yoann Gourcuff are very talented players. However, the major problem for France is their coach, Raymond Domenech. He has been highly criticised in France in recent times for some controversial selections and lack of results.

South Africa will be hoping to put in a strong performance in front of their own fans. Traditionally, the host nation always does relatively well, although recent results suggest that South Africa may struggle a little. Draws with Namibia and North Korea were not great, but a draw with Paraguay and recent victories over Jamaica and Thailand are encouraging. They made it to the semi-finals of the Confederations Cup last year, but in a group containing Iraq and New Zealand, it wasn’t too tricky. Defeat to Brazil in the semi-final put an end to their tournament. They have several Premiership players – Aaron Mokoena, Steven Pienaar and Benni McCarthy – and they will be vital if South Africa are going to get anything out of the tournament.

The Mexicans are regulars at the World Cup, having qualified for 5 straight tournaments. They have reached the final 16 on each occasion, and will fancy their chances of making it again. Their defence is one of their strongest features, having conceded only 3 goals in their past 14 internationals, and they won the 2009 Gold Cup with a crushing 5-0 victory over the USA in the final. They have struggled for goals in recent games, but these were without some of their European stars, such as Guillermo Franco, Carlos Vela, Andres Guardado and Giovanni Dos Santos.

Uruguay clinched their place after a playoff with Costa Rica. They have a strong selection of strikers to choose from, with the likes of Diego Forlan, Luis Suarez and Edison Cavani. However, whether they have the midfield and defence to get results against France and Mexico is questionable, with quite a few South American based players. They got an impressive 3-1 victory over the Swiss in their last friendly match, so could be a decent bet to qualify from the group.

Despite the fact that the hosts have never failed to qualify, I simply do not think that the South Africans have the talent to make it out of the group. They are up against three talented sides, and home advantage can only get you so far. France have plenty of talent in their squad, and as long as Domenech does not spring any more surprises, should fancy themselves to make it out of this group. The second qualifying place will be between Mexico and Uruguay, and I fancy the solid defence of the Mexicans to be the difference.

Bet: South Africa not to qualify @ 1.45
Bet: South Africa to finish bottom @ 2.4

Group B

Group B contains Diego Maradona’s Argentina, former European champions, Greece, two-time African Nations champions, Nigeria, and South Korea.

Argentina have an abundance of talent in their side. Attacking options including Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez, Gonzalo Higuain, Diego Milito and Sergio Aguero are backed up by experienced creative midfielder, Juan Sebastian Veron. However, the omission of Javier Zanetti and Esteban Cambiasso was a shock. Despite lining up against each other in the Champion’s League final, Walter Samuel and Martin Demichelis are likely to partner each other at the back, with Newcastle’s Jonas Gutierrez doing the running in midfield. However, Diego Maradona is the weak link in the Argentinean bid – his undoubted talent as a player does not seem to have transferred into the management arena, and they struggled to qualify for the tournament, needed a victory on the final day to scrape in.

The Greeks are still coached by Otto Rehhagel, who led them to the historic Euro 2004 triumph. There is a strong domestic bias to the squad, although Euro 2004 hero, Angelos Charisteas, and Liverpool defender, Sotiris Kyrgiakos are included in the squad. However, they failed to reach the last World Cup, and lost all three games at Euro 2008. They needed a playoff victory over Ukraine to reach the finals this time around, but they are unlikely to have the quality to qualify from this group.

Nigeria only just scraped into the tournament, needing a 92nd minute goal to beat Mozambique, and deny them a place at the World Cup. Despite defeat to Egypt in their opening game, they reached the semi-finals of the 2010 African Nations Cup, before succumbing to losing finalists, Ghana. The majority of their squad is European-based, and the likes of John Obi Mikel, Dickson Etuhu, Yakubu and Obafemi Martins mean they have quality in their side. Whether they are good enough to make it to the knock-out stages is a different matter though.

South Korea had a magnificent run to the semi-finals in the 2002 World Cup, and only missed out on qualification for the knock-out stage in 2006 after a controversial defeat to Switzerland. They were unbeaten in qualification for the 2010 World Cup and have impressed in recent friendly games, beating the Ivory Coast (3-1), Ecuador (2-0) and Japan (3-1). They have some classy players – Manchester United’s Park Ji-Sung, Bolton’s Lee Chung-Yong and Tomsk’s Kim Nam-Il are solid midfielders, while Monaco striker Park Chu-Young scored 8 goals this season in Ligue 1.

Despite Diego Maradona, Argentina have the talent to go far in this tournament, and should qualify from this group without too many difficulties. The other three sides are all of a relatively similar quality, but I fancy South Korea to take the other qualifying position. They have been in good form recently, and beat Ivory Coast, who are of a similar quality to Nigeria.

Bet: Argentina to win group @ 1.54
Bet: South Korea to qualify @ 3.75

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