Our team look at the best bets from Mondays action, with 4/1, 9/2 and 18/1 recommended bets for the three games.
Recommended World Cup bets: Monday
For details of advised bookmakers and each-way terms, our transparent tipping record
- Sweden 1-0 South Korea
- Belgium 3-0 Panama
- Tunisia 0-2 England
Sweden v South Korea (Group F, 1300 BST, ITV)
The two outsiders to qualify from Group H face each other in their first game of the World Cup so you’d think three points is a must if either is to have any chance of progression.
I have actually got it as a coin toss between Sweden and Mexico to follow Germany into the last 16 given the way the Swedes beat France in their qualifying group before edging out Italy in a play-off to make it to Russia – and all without Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
South Korea, meanwhile, were a shambles in qualifying. They switched coaches after defeat to Qatar, finished seven points behind Iran in their group and could only draw their final game in Uzbekistan.
A rather toothless Asian Tigers scored just once in their last three warm-up games, while Sweden have scored twice in their last seven so goals will be at a premium. Under 2.5 in the match is a banker but at 1/2 it will not make you rich.
Sweden’s defence will prove a difference maker here as six clean sheets in nine is a fine return and one goal could well do it. A Sweden win at 21/20 is a decent price given how poor South Korea have been in the run-up to the tournament, while a Sweden win to nil at 15/8 is well in play.
On the scorer front Marcus Berg is now the main man for Sweden after he claimed eight goals in qualifying. He’s as big as 5/1 to score first but going with a Sweden win and Berg anytime scorer at 9/4 is a safer option.
For something a bit juicier, Berg to score a header is available at 16/1 and given four of his eight qualification goals came via that method, that’s definitely a price that sparks some interest.
Prediction: Sweden 1-0 South Korea (Sky Bet odds: 9/2) (Paul Higham)
Best Bet: Marcus Berg to score a header at 16/1
- Sweden are unbeaten in their four previous head-to-heads against South Korea (W2 D2). It’s their first encounter at the World Cup.
- Sweden are unbeaten in their last nine group games at the World Cup (W3 D6), their last defeat in the first round of the competition dating back to 20 June 1990 (1-2 v Costa Rica).
- Sweden have kept only three clean sheets in their last 24 games at the World Cup.
- Sweden have won none of their last seven opening games at the World Cup (D5 L2), their last victory dating back to 1958, on home soil (3-0 v Mexico). Meanwhile, South Korea are unbeaten in their last four openers (W3 D1).
- South Korea have qualified for the World Cup for the 10th time, more than any other Asian team. They haven’t missed an edition of the finals since 1986.
- South Korea have won only one of their last nine World Cup games (D3 L5) - it was in their opening match of the 2010 edition against Greece (2-0). That win is also their only clean sheet in their last 12 matches in the competition.
Belgium v Panama (Group G, 1600 BST, BBC)
With Roberto Marinez in charge we are all but guaranteed entertainment as Belgium make their way in Russia this summer.
They are bound to leave themselves a little vulnerable at the back as they go further into the tournament and face stiffer opposition but they only conceded six against lower-ranked teams during the 10-game qualification campaign and could hardly have wished for an easier opener.
Belgium fell behind to Algeria in their opener four years ago in Brazil but recovered to win 2-1 before going on to claim narrow victories over South Korea, Russia and USA, then were beaten 1-0 by Argentina in the quarter-finals.
They have ramped up the scoring power over the intervening months and have registered at least three goals in seven of their last 10 games, including friendlies.
Panama scraped their way into the finals thanks to finishing third in their qualification section and the obvious worry was that they managed only nine goals – two of which came from popular centre-back Roman Torres.
The Seattle Sounders man popped up with the decisive late winner against Costa Rica which sealed their progress and he could be a handful at set-pieces here.
Torres – not to be confused with namesake Gabriel who plays up front – is 25/1 to score anytime in a market flooded with Belgians at short prices.
There seems little point in getting involved there, though Eden Hazard is the likely penalty-taker and appeals more at odds-against than Romelu Lukaku who is generally 4/6 to score at least once.
Hazard, who is expected to be fit after picking up a slight knock in their final warm-up game, is worth a bet to be named Man of the Match. Hazard, Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne all share favouritism at 9/2 and there's a fair case to be made for all three being a shade shorter.
The award is voted for by fans (Twitter, FIFA.com, FIFA App) and prior to Sunday’s action six of the eight winners had found the net in their respective games.
It’s fair to say we can forget the vast majority of players quoted in these markets and focus on the big-name, attacking players who catch the eye in front of goal.
Hazard’s competition looks relatively limited in a game of this nature and rather than suggesting covering two, or even all three of the market leaders, I'm willing to plump for the Chelsea player given his personal situation in the shop window this summer and those all-important penalty duties (Ronaldo, Modric and Griezmann have all benefited so far).
Prediction: Belgium 3-0 Panama (Sky Bet odds: 5/1) (Matt Brocklebank)
- This will be the first ever encounter between Belgium and Panama.
- The first European team to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, Belgium scored the jointmost goals in the UEFA qualifiers alongside Germany (43). They were also one of four unbeaten teams, alongside England, Germany and Spain.
- Belgium are unbeaten in their last nine World Cup group games (W4 D5), winning each of their last four. They have made it to the second round in six of their last seven World Cup appearances; the only exception coming in 1998.
- Belgium have also only lost one of their last nine opening games at the World Cup (W5 D3), it was in 1986 (1-2 v Mexico).
- In the CONCACAF qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup, no Panama player scored more than two goals (Gabriel and Román Torres). In fact, Panama made it to Russia with a negative goal difference (-1), winning only three of their 10 games in the last round of CONCACAF qualifying.
- Kevin De Bruyne was directly involved in 50% of Belgium’s goals at the 2014 World Cup, scoring one and assisting two of the Red Devils’ six goals.
- Romelu Lukaku scored 11 goals in eight games during the World Cup qualifiers, only Robert Lewandowski (16) and Cristiano Ronaldo (15) were more prolific among European sides.
Tunisia v England (Group G, 1900 BST, BBC)
England's World Cup campaign kicks off at the Volgograd Arena in a game in which they should secure all three points.
Gareth Southgate's men find themselves as the second-favourites for the group, but his young team have given fans back home plenty of optimism.
The star man, and captain, is Harry Kane, and the Three Lions will be hoping he leads by example in Russia.
There is interesting value in betting on the Man of the Match before kick-off and Kane's 4/1 price to be voted the best player on Monday is incredibly tempting.
Tunisia may have only conceded four goals in qualifying, but England and the World Cup provide a much tougher test. That's reflected in Kane's 3/4 price to strike anytime here.
In fairness to the African nation, they are in decent form themselves - and only narrowly lost to Spain in their final outing before the tournament.
However, England know that Belgium have the talent to see off both Panama and Tunisia, and they will need to match their results in order to challenge for top spot.
England struck twice in the first half of both of their last two outings, and over 1.5 goals in the first 45 minutes looks good value at 12/5.
For me though, Kane will be key for England throughout the tournament and I expect him to score, which immediately makes the Man of the Match price most appealing.
- Tunisia and England’s last encounter was in the group stages of the 1998 World Cup. England won 2-0 in Marseille. Their only other meeting was in a June 1990 friendly which ended 1-1.
- England have never lost against an African team at the World Cup (W3 D3), keeping five clean sheets in six games.
- Tunisia won their first ever game at the World Cup on 2 June 1978 (3-1 v Mexico). Since then, they have failed to win any of their 11 subsequent games in the competition (D4 L7). The record belongs to Bulgaria who suffered a run of 17 winless games from 1962 to 1994.
- Tunisia have also kept only one clean sheet in their 12 games at the World Cup (0-0 v West Germany in June 1978).
- England have won only one of their last eight games at the World Cup (D4 L3), a 1-0 victory over Slovenia in June 2010. They have also never scored more than one goal in their last nine games at the tournament.
- 11 of England’s 62 games at the World Cup have ended goalless, more than any other team in the history of the tournament.
- England had the joint-best defensive record in the 2018 UEFA World Cup qualifiers alongside Spain, conceding three goals in 10 games. They were also one of four unbeaten teams, alongside Belgium, Germany and Spain.
Posted at 1740 BST on 17/06/18.
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