Tom Carnduff previews Friday's World Cup action, which includes the crucial clash in Group E between Serbia and Switzerland.
Friday's recommended bets
For details of advised bookmakers and each-way terms, our transparent tipping record
- Brazil 3-0 Costa Rica
- Nigeria 0-2 Iceland
- Serbia 1-1 Switzerland
Brazil v Costa Rica (Group E, 1300 BST, ITV)
Brazil were stunned by Switzerland in their opening World Cup encounter, drawing 1-1 with the European outfit.
However, game two allows them an opportunity for victory, as they take on outsiders Costa Rica in Saint Petersburg.
Costa Rica were the story of the 2014 tournament, but their World Cup adventure should be ended by the country which hosted the last competition.
They were beaten by an Aleksandar Kolarov free-kick against Serbia on Sunday, and Costa Rica should expect to be second-best again here.
A big concern for the World Cup joint-favourites is the fitness of Neymar. The PSG forward limped out of training after being given the rough treatment by Switzerland.
Despite a potential Neymar absence, Brazil should field a strong side knowing that they have to pick up maximum points here and I like the 7/4 odds available on Philippe Coutinho to strike anytime in the game.
The Barcelona man curled a wonderful effort into the top corner in their last outing, and if he gets the ball at the edge of the area again then it's Goodnight Vienna for Keylor Navas in the Costa Rica goal.
Coutinho had four shots on goal in the draw with Switzerland, and you would more than expect him to be involved in the attacks here.
Therefore it appears to be terrific value on him striking again, considering some bookies are offering nearly even money on him scoring.
Whilst their first result would have been a concern, Brazil will be tournament players and it is understandable that they may have been slow out the blocks to start with.
If Brazil are to live up to their pre-tournament favourites tag, we should see victory here and a fairly comfortable one at that.
Score prediction: Brazil 3-0 Costa Rica (Sky Bet odds: 11/2)
- Brazil have won nine of their 10 previous internationals against Costa Rica, losing only in a friendly in March 1960.
- This is the third meeting between Brazil and Costa Rica at the World Cup, with the former inflicting Costa Rica’s first ever defeat on them at the tournament in 1990 (1-0), before a 5-2 victory in 2002.
- Costa Rica’s only previous World Cup victory against South American opposition came in the 2014 tournament (3-1 vs Uruguay). They’d lost their previous three against CONMEBOL sides beforehand.
- Philippe Coutinho’s goal against Switzerland was his 11th for Brazil – five of those have come from outside the box.
- Costa Rica lost their first match against Serbia, ending a five-game unbeaten run at the World Cup finals – they haven’t lost back to back World Cup games since June 2006, when they lost four in a row.
- Costa Rica have scored with just one of their last 31 shots at the World Cup.
Nigeria v Iceland (Group D, 1600 BST, BBC One)
Iceland were everyone's favourite team at Euro 2016 (well, once we'd got over the initial heartbreak and anger) and they have kicked off their debut World Cup campaign with a draw against the giants of Argentina.
Now, they have the real possibility of their first ever World Cup win against a Nigeria team who have looked poor in recent weeks.
Odds of 9/5 are available on Iceland to secure the three points, but backing Iceland to win and over 1.5 goals in the match bumps up the odds to 29/10 which looks great value.
Nigeria have seen over 1.5 goals in seven of their last ten encounters, with the opposition scoring two or more goals in four of their last six.
Iceland topped their group in qualifying, and won their last three qualifying matches by a scoreline of two or more goals.
'Strákarnir okkar' know how crucial victory will be here in their hopes of reaching the knockout stages, and they could put serious pressure on Argentina going into the final round of matches.
A win moves them onto four points, setting up a winner-takes-all scenario against Croatia in the final game.
Alfred Finnbogason scored Iceland's equaliser against Argentina. The 29-year-old enjoyed a decent season for FC Augsburg in the Bundesliga, scoring 12 goals and assisting a further three, and he is available at 5/2 to strike anytime against Nigeria, around 10/3 in a score-and-win double.
The underdogs are surprising once again, and I would back them to carry on upsetting the odds in Volgograd on Friday.
Score prediction: Nigeria 0-2 Iceland (Sky Bet odds: 11/1)
- There has only been one previous meeting between Nigeria and Iceland, with the European side winning 3-0 in a friendly in August 1981.
- All five of Nigeria’s wins at the World Cup have been against European sides.
- Iceland drew their first ever World Cup game when they met Argentina. The last side to avoid defeat in both of their first two World Cup games were Senegal in 2002, while Croatia in 1998 were the last European side to do so.
- After recording eight shots against Argentina in the first half of their first match, Iceland failed to register a single attempt on goal in the second 45 minutes.
- Nigeria have lost each of their last three World Cup games. They last had a longer run of defeats in the competition between 1998 and 2002 (four games).
- Nigeria have won just one of their last 13 games at the World Cup (W1 D3 L9), with that victory coming against Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2014.
- In major tournaments (World Cup and European Championships), Iceland have lost just one of their six matches in total (W2 D3 L1).
- Nigeria have failed to score in six of their last 11 World Cup matches.
- Alfred Finnbogason has scored in each of his last three appearances for Iceland, though they’ve failed to win any of those (W0 D2 L1).
- Victor Moses has been directly involved in 36% of Nigeria’s 14 shots at this World Cup so far (3 shots, 2 chances created), more than any other player for the Super Eagles.
Serbia v Switzerland (Group E, 1900 BST, BBC One)
Arguably, Friday's most important game comes in Kaliningrad as Serbia take on Switzerland.
You feel that this game will decide who advances with Brazil into the round of 16, and Serbia have the advantage thanks to victory in their opening game.
Switzerland will take confidence from their draw against Brazil, and will be aware that defeat could all-but-end their World Cup aspirations.
When I looked at potential World Cup eliminations back in May, Switzerland were fancied to advance but based on the fact that you could basically toss a coin to decide.
Serbia were tipped by some to be the dark horses at the World Cup, but I'd expect them to have to settle for a draw here.
Aleksandar Kolarov's free-kick gave his side the win over Costa Rica, and he could potentially pop up again in Serbia's second game of the tournament.
Despite playing left-back, the Roma man managed two shots on goal in his last outing, and is Serbia's go-to man on set-pieces.
Taking into account that Switzerland committed 19 fouls against Brazil, he could be presented with the opportunity to strike at goal once again.
Kolarov striking anytime against Switzerland is available at 10s, which seems decent enough value in the circumstances.
The draw is available around the 21/10 mark, which looks a good price given how similar these teams are in terms of quality.
Score prediction: Serbia 1-1 Switzerland (Sky Bet odds: 5/1)
- This will be the first meeting between Serbia (as an independent nation) and Switzerland. They faced the Swiss 13 times as Yugoslavia, winning six (D5 L2).
- Just one of the 13 meetings between Yugoslavia and Switzerland was at the World Cup, with Yugoslavia winning 3-0 in a group stage game in 1950.
- The Swiss have lost just one of their last four World Cup games against fellow European nations, though it was in their last such meeting (2-5 vs France in 2014).
- Serbia won their opening match against Costa Rica – they have qualified for the next round on three of the four occasions they’ve won their first match at the World Cup, doing so as Yugoslavia in 1930, 1954 and 1998; their only failure to qualify was in 1950.
- Switzerland have lost just one of their last 23 matches (W16 D6), a 2-0 defeat to Portugal in a World Cup qualifier in October 2017.
- Branislav Ivanovic broke Dejan Stankovic’s record for appearances for Serbia in their opening match against Costa Rica – he now has 104 caps.
- Steven Zuber has been involved in six goals in his last six international starts for Switzerland (4 goals, 2 assists) and scored their equaliser against Brazil.
- Aleksandar Mitrovic has scored 14 goals in his last 17 starts for Serbia – however, he had four of Serbia’s 10 shots against Costa Rica and failed to find the net.
- Stephan Lichtsteiner could become the player with the most World Cup appearances for Switzerland if he plays in this match – he drew level with Charles Antenen on eight matches in the opening game against Brazil.
- Against Brazil, Valon Behrami became the first Switzerland player to appear in four different World Cup finals – he has played at the 2006, 2010, 2014 and 2018 finals.
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Preview posted at 1345 BST (21/06/18)
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