First win beckons for Bosnia
Ben Coley and Matt Brocklebank preview Saturday's World Cup games with all three favourites strongly expected to oblige.
- Related Content
Our headline bet is Bosnia-Herzegovina to beat Nigeria to nil, which Matt thinks is a cracking bit of value at upwards of 2/1.
With Argentina prohibitively priced to see off Iran, it's the Germany v Ghana game which provides our second bet with the favourites fancied to fly out of the gates once more.
Check out our match verdicts below.
Argentina v Iran (Group F, Belo Horiztonte, 1700 BST)
Those who backed the game between Spain and Holland to produce the most goals will be preparing themselves for a nerve-wracking 90 minutes as Argentina take on Iran.
Prior to the tournament this lopsided contest headed that particular market and with a target of six goals to beat, it remains a strong player. Indeed, Sky Bet go 9/2 that Argentina score five or more here and it's hard to argue with that particular quote.
To their credit, Iran defended well against a poor Nigeria side to secure a 0-0 draw from their first game and that's in keeping with their profile. They are, granted, modest opposition, more than capable of grinding out a result.
But against one of the best attacking units in this competition who also have the benefit of something close to home advantage, there's only one outcome I can see here and that's a comfortable win for Lionel Messi and co.
Messi himself is around the 9/4 mark to score first and it's only the strength among his own ranks which puts me off that price. Quotes of 1/2 and shorter about him finding the net are impossible to dispute even if his legs are preserved after an hour or so but it's probably worth looking beyond him if you do want value in such markets with Angel Di Maria one such option.
As for the handicap lines, Argentina -1 is edging towards 1/2 and looks good for the heavy hitters, while bets such as Messi to score two or more (2/1) or a hat-trick (8/1) are likely to tempt the smaller-stakes players who will be tuning in.
I'm personally going to abstain here, but of all the options available the one I urge you to consider strongly is Argentina to win to nil at 4/7.
I don't see anything but total domination for them and this is a straightforward way to boost the 1/7 match quotes, particularly given that Iran's strength, such as it is, comes via their defence. It's that which could keep the scoreline respectable.
Verdict: Argentina 3 Iran 0 (BC)
Argentina have won 10 and lost just one of their last 13 World Cup group games (D2), scoring 26 and conceding just five in total in this run.
Argentina have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last three World Cup games, the last time they failed to do so in four successive matches was in the 1980s (1982/86).
The last two goals Iran have scored at World Cups have come from corners (both in 2006); Five of the last nine goals Iran have conceded at World Cups have been headed.
Germany v Ghana (Group G, Fortaleza, 2000)
Ghana's surprise defeat to the USA has them on the brink of World Cup elimination and with this game followed by a clash with Portugal, it's no surprise that they're 9/1 to make the knockout stages.
It's been something of an inconclusive start to the World Cup, a point exacerbated by the fall of defending champions Spain which followed a lacklustre Brazil display against Mexico, but Germany have a real chance to stamp their authority on proceedings with a game they should win.
Joachim Low's side were clearly huge benefactors of Pepe's ongoing stupidity in steamrollering Portugal, but they'd started that game in a manner which marks them out as the most able side in this competition when everything is working. Goals from Thomas Muller and Mats Hummels had them firmly in command and Pepe's red card was borne out of frustration at how superbly Germany had performed to that point.
Hummels is a slight doubt for this game having been withdrawn with a knock last week but even in his absence it's hard to make a case for the Black Stars, whose display against the US was extremely poor and indicative of the slide they've been on since they were so cruelly denied a semi-final place in South Africa four years ago.
The question is how to get with Germany and the obvious answer is to back Muller to score again. He's odds-on with all firms bar Unibet whose 20/19 is decent value for those able to take it; quotes of 3/1 about him scoring first are no more than fair.
Instead, I'm tempted by Coral's 16/5 about Germany -1 in the first-half handicap. It's a feat they achieved four times in qualifying, including against Sweden, and one they again managed against Portugal.
Of course, there's no great incentive for Germany to really go for the jugular here but this is no efficient, grinding outfit of old and their flair in midfield points to an open game full of chances, most of which will come at one end.
Ghana enter this game having been forced to refute claims of a player revolt, one fuelled by Kevin Prince Boateng's dismay at being left out of the Kwesi Appiah's starting line-up against the USA.
The German-born midfielder has been making plenty of noise in the run-up to this game including the accusation that Low and his players don't have the necessary mental attributes to succeed in Brazil, but it's his side who could be made to look both mentally and physically flawed by a ruthless and excellent German side.
Anything approaching evens about Germany -1 on the 90-minute handicap is also worth considering but the value lies in backing them to fly out of the traps once again.
Verdict: Germany 4 Ghana 0 (BC)
Germany have won their two previous games against Ghana, in a friendly on April 14 1993 (6-1) and in the World Cup group stages on June 23 2010 (1-0).
Thomas Müller has scored eight goals in seven World Cup games and seven in his last four.
Ghana have failed to keep a clean sheet in their last five World Cup games. They have conceded just six goals in the process, however.
Nigeria v Bosnia-Herzegovina (Group F, Cuiaba, 2300)
Sitting through Iran 0 Nigeria 0 in the Super Eagles' opening Group F encounter was frustrating and in truth pretty desperate at times.
Stephen Keshi's men rapidly ran out of ideas faced with a determined and well-organised Iranian defence and barely threatened the opposing goal until Peter Odemwingie injected a bit of impetus as a 69th-minute substitute.
Still they toiled and struggled to make any serious impression in the final third and the full-time whistle came as a major relief to all concerned, not least the neutral observer.
Keshi admitted afterwards "the boys were nervous and unsettled" and it would be no great surprise to see a much-improved performance this time as underdogs against a Bosnia-Herzegovina team who head into the clash at a shade of odds-on to claim all three points.
While a more coherent effort from Nigeria could well be on the cards, we shouldn't expect a great deal considering the Africa Cup of Nations champions came into these World Cup finals having failed to win any of their four warm-up games, including a 2-2 draw with Scotland and a 0-0 stalemate against Greece.
Bosnia, on the other hand, rounded off their pre-tournament friendlies with wins over Ivory Coast and Mexico and there were plenty of positives to be gleaned from their 2-1 defeat at the hands of a Lionel Messi-inspired Argentina on Sunday.
Despite conceding an own goal inside three minutes against many people's idea of the likely winners, Safet Susic's World Cup debutants didn't crumble and remained right in the tie until a moment of magic from Messi all but sealed their fate in the second half.
An 84th-minute consolation from sub Vedad Ibisevic will have given the Bosnians something of a confidence boost and it's hard to see them failing to find the target in their second game.
Ibisevic is likely to have earned himself a starting berth and can be backed at 13/2 to open the scoring, compared to the general 4/1 available against Man City's Edin Dzeko.
Dzeko is just the sort of goal-hungry (sometimes wrongly accused of being greedy) centre forward you want on your side when having a bet and odds of 6/5 for him to hit the net at any time will interest many a punter.
However, at more rewarding odds I'd prefer to side with Bosnia to win to nil.
In Asmir Begovic they have a top-quality goalkeeper who helped them to keep six clean sheets from their 10 games during qualification and they will be desperate to keep things tight after shooting themselves in the foot somewhat against the group favourites.
Given just how little Nigeria offered going forward against Iran, the 23/10 against a Bosnia win without conceding makes a great deal of appeal.
Verdict: Nigeria 0 Bosnia-Herzegovina 3 (MB)
Nigeria haven't won any of their last nine World Cup games (D3 L6), their last victory was a 1-0 over Bulgaria in 1998.
Vedad Ibisevic netted Bosnia-Herzegovina's first ever World Cup goal against Argentina. He had already found the net eight times in the European World Cup qualifiers.
Bosnia-Herzegovina attempted more shots at goal (11) than their opponents Argentina (9) in the opening match.