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Posted By Topic: SBOTOP: World Cup (Previews & Reviews)       - Views: 260
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26-Jan 2022 Wednesday 2:15 PM (115 days ago)               #1
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World Cup: Brazil is Standing in Ecuador’s Way

Ecuador vs Brazil

All roads lead to the Estadio Rodrigo Paz Delgado on Thursday when World Cup: Ecuador vs Brazil is the entertainment on offer… and this is a big deal for the hosts. 

The CONMEBOL World Cup qualifiers have been a breeze for Brazil who have already qualified with 35 points from 13 games while Ecuador have an excellent chance of joining them in Qatar, currently in third place on 23 points and with a six point cushion over fifth placed Peru. 

But, of course, Tite’s Brazil is one of the best teams in world football, second in the FIFA rankings and no less than 44 places above Gustavo Alfaro’s Ecuador. The visitors have a few players missing but they have riches in depth and will test their hosts to the full. A defeat for Ecuador wouldn’t be a disaster but if they can get something from this game they will keep their course to Qatar on track.

Talking Points

Ecuador are no longer underestimated 

La Tri have become a very competitive team under head coach Alfaro as they have shown with a series of impressive results over the past six months. A draw with Colombia and a friendly victory over Mexico was bettered by a superb 2-0 win over star studded Chile,; though they were helped by the dismissal of La Roja’s midfield enforcer Arturo Vidal. Villarreal’s 24 year old wing back Pervis Estupian opened the scoring and

Brighton’s young midfielder Moises Caicedo made it 2-0 deep into injury time. The talented 20 year old already has 17 international caps and two goals and he looks to have a bright future in international and Premier League football.

Ecuador welcome Brazil at La Casa Blanca for their World Cup Qualifiers match
Ecuador’s Enner Valencia in action with Brazil’s Marquinhos

The old man of the team, Fenerbahce’s 32 year old striker Enner Valencia, is still banging them in with 34 goals from 67 international games; he has three so far in this competition but is being outdone by Toluca’s 25 year old striker Michael Estrada who is top scoring with five goals

Brazil squad men are playing for places

The Selecao are on the way to Qatar and they’ll be one of the favourites when they get there, no doubt, but they still have five CONMEBOL qualifiers to play and that gives Tite ample opportunity to fine tune his team. He has two top class keepers to choose from; Manchester City’s Ederson is at the top of his game, while Alisson is a key player in Liverpool’s team. The Reds had a tricky meeting away to Crystal Palace at the weekend and that was a decent workout for the stopper. He was a busy man as the Eagles fought hard to get back into the game before succumbing 3-1.

Chelsea’s Thiago Silva could well start at the back alongside Real Madrid’s Eder Militao, who was on target for Los Blancos at the weekend; and Militao’s club team-mate Casemiro will surely run the midfield. But there could also be a place for Aston Villa’s new signing Philippe Coutinho, who is hoping to rediscover his best form on a return to the Premier League. 

Vinicius Junior makes up the Los Blancos three and he’s likely to start up front, while with no Neymar or Roberto Firmino in the Brazil squad, there is another chance for Raphinha to stake his claim for a place. He was in electric form in Leeds’ encounter with Newcastle on Saturday and is fast becoming one of the hottest prospects in the Premier League. With two goals already in qualifying, he’ll be keen to take any chances which come his way.

History

While Brazil are five times World Cup winners, Ecuador first showed up at the finals in 2002 and have since appeared twice, reaching the Round of 16 in 2006.

Both teams are in good shape; la Tri are six games unbeaten since a 2-1 reversal to Venezuela in October, while Brazil are unbeaten in seven since their Copa America final loss to Argentina back in July.

The Selecao has enjoyed the better of the head to head Ecuador vs Brazil results, winning nine of the last 13 meetings while drawing three and losing just once. The last time the teams met a 1-1 draw was the outcome in the 2021 Copa America, a result which ended Brazil’s ten match winning sequence. Militao headed Brazil into the lead but Angel Mena latched on to a Valencia flick on to fire in the equaliser.

Brazil won the three previous meetings with Ecuador, scoring seven goals without conceding.

Betting Tip

??
Ecuador vs Brazil 1X2 Draw Brazil @ 2.97
January 28, 5:00 (GMT+8)

At a price of 3.11 the Ecuador vs Brazil betting oddsgive the hosts a fair chance of getting the three points while the Selecao is at SBOTOPodds of 2.21. Brazil are unbeaten in their last 23 away games and have won five and drawn two on the road in this competition, so while a home win is unlikely, a draw certainly isn’t.

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This message was edited by SBOTOP on 26-Jan-2022 at 2:15 PM





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26-Jan 2022 Wednesday 2:16 PM (115 days ago)            #2
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Big Guns Missing from World Cup Qualifiers

World Cup qualifying in January seems alien to me and an unnecessary break from the already congested domestic schedules many countries are facing.

In fact, initially I struggled to get remotely excited at the thought, especially with the matches involving European nations on pause until March – the SBOTOP World Cup qualifying betting odds for which make interesting reading.

On reflection, though, looking afresh at some of the fixtures coming up, coupled with the standings the continent over, there are plenty of reasons to look forward with optimism and anticipate World Cup qualifying highlights this next week.

So far, we know the identity of 13 nations competing in Qatar with the hosts, who receive an automatic qualification ticket, joined by Germany, Denmark, Brazil, Belgium, holders France, Croatia, Spain, Serbia, England, Switzerland, Netherlands and Argentina.

The final three European berths will be allocated via play-offs in the spring and, incredibly, the way the draw has panned out means at least one of Italy or Portugal – the last two countries to be crowned European champions – will miss out.

While we wait to see how qualifiers elsewhere around the globe pan out this week though, do forgive me for retaining a degree of being underwhelmed given the number of key absences.

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Lionel Messi

There is no bigger absentee than reigning world footballer of the year Lionel Messi.

Argentina have left their captain out of their squad for qualifiers against Chile and Colombia as the Paris St Germain forward continues his recovery from Covid-19.

The twice World Cup winners and current Copa America champions have, of course, qualified for the finals in Qatar and sit second in the 10-team South American group.

The 34 year-old Messi was omitted from their 27-man squad after not playing for PSG since just before Christmas in French Ligue 1.

Messi spent the festive period in Argentina before testing positive and trained separately from his team mates on his return to Paris.

He did come off the bench to set up a goal at the weekend as the team continued its saunter to the title but it’s natural he is being rested given Argentina’s place in Qatar is secured.

Messi is not the only big name missing out but, again, Brazil’s choice to omit his club team-mate Neymar is also understandable given the qualification position.

Neymar (Brazil)

Neymar is set to miss out in World Cup Qualifiers at PSG request
Neymar, who is recovering from an ankle injury sustained with PSG in November, has been left out of Brazil squad.

Neymar has been left out due to an ankle injury, the latest setback since his world record move in 2017.

Indeed, Neymar’s injuries have meant that he has missed almost 100 games for PSG since signing in 2017.

The South American picked up the odd ailment through the opening months of his spell in France, but a debut campaign at PSG was brought to a premature conclusion in February 2018 by a broken metatarsal.

A similar injury was suffered in January 2019, leading to several weeks on the treatment table, while hamstring trouble held him back in the 2019-20 campaign.

Adductor issues have been common since then, while the current problem has prevented him playing since late November.

The priority will naturally be to try and get him back in action for PSG’s mouth -watering Champions League tie with Real Madrid next month and the World Cup in Qatar.

There is some other surprise news in the Brazil squad after boss Tite left out Renan Lodi for their qualifiers against Ecuador and Paraguay because the Atletico Madrid full back has not had a full course of Covid-19 vaccines.

Tite does not agree with those who are reluctant to take the vaccine in the midst of the pandemic.

Liverpool midfielder Fabinho and Lyon midfielder Lucas Paqueta have been included on the roster but will miss the game against Ecuador on Thursday (January 27) through suspension.

So, plenty of absentees for a nation which has already sealed a spot for the World Cup and is unbeaten in qualifying.

All in all, it is just another chapter in an unusual international break during which there will be World Cup qualifying matches in South America, North America and Asia, all while the Africa Cup of Nations continues.

And to add a further layer of complexity to the situation, some players will have a short holiday while others will head off on training camps with their clubs.

Enjoy!

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This message was edited by SBOTOP on 26-Jan-2022 at 2:16 PM





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26-Jan 2022 Wednesday 2:17 PM (115 days ago)            #3
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World Cup 2022: South Korea to Waste No Time in Booking Their Ticket to Qatar

Lebanon vs Korea Republic

The Taeguk Warriors are within arm’s reach of earning automatic tickets to World Cup 2022, and a win over Lebanon this Thursday at the Saida International Stadium will help them get the job done as soon as possible.

Korea Republic are placed second in Group A with 14 points after the first six matches. They are in great shape given their lead over the rest of the pack, but with four more games to go, their job isn’t finished just yet.

Lebanon, meanwhile, are in danger of missing out for Qatar. The Cedars are the fourth seed in the group with five points – which is only one point behind UAE. However, they can still make it if they’ll somehow finish third in Group A.

Paulo Bento’s side are the huge favourites in the SBOTOP pre-match betting odds given how they’ve fared in their recent games. But given what happened in their reverse fixture at the Suwon World Cup Stadium last September, all signs point to another competitive matchup ahead.

Talking Points

Premier League standouts doubtful to play for South Korea

Korea Republic are without their two best players in the final third as Heung-Min Son and Hwang Hee-Chan are both unlikely to play.

Heung-Min Son was held back due to a hamstring strain that he sustained during their EFL Cup tie against Chelsea few days ago, while Hwang Hee-Chan has been dealing with the exact same injury since December last year.

Both aren’t expected to play this Thursday and also in their next match against Syria on February 1.

But even without their best attackers, the Taeguk Warriors have enough weapons at their disposal that can help them get the job done in their next four matches.

Hwang Ui-Jo of Bordeaux had his first career hat-trick in their Ligue 1 victory over Strasbourg last Sunday, so he’s expected to lead up front and create World Cup 2022 highlights. On the defencive end, they still have the robust centre-back duo of Kim Min-Jae and Kim Young-Gwon.

Since squeezing a tight victory over Lebanon last September, Korea Republic followed up with four wins against Iraq, UAE, and Syria while drawing against table leaders Iran.

Paulo Bento’s side had two international friendlies last week to prepare for this match and they got a huge boost after they crushed European sides Iceland and Moldova with an aggregate tally of 9-1.

A sliver of hope for Lebanon

Lebanon have a great opportunity at their hands to claim the solo third spot in Group A, and an upset over Korea Republic will certainly help their chances.

Unlike Korea Republic, Lebanon are at the back of a 1-0 loss against UAE last November and they haven’t had an international friendly to prepare for this game.

Hassan Ali Saad hopes to pull an upset when Lebanon go against South Korea in World Cup 2022 qualifier
Lebanon’s Hassan Ali Saad battles for the ball against Iraq’s Ali Faez during World Cup 2022 qualifier last October 2021 at Khalifa International Stadium

The odds may be stacked against the Cedars on Thursday, but they’re one tough nut to crack and they have capable attackers who can cause problems for their visitors.

Hassan Ali Saad and Mohamad Jalal Kdouh will play huge roles in trying to create attacking opportunities for Lebanon, while Bassel Jradi is another player who has an eye for goals.

History

Korea Republic have been assertive against Lebanon in their head-to-heads. In their last 11 matches prior to Thursday, the Taeguk Warriors won seven times while the Cedars have only won once along with three draws.

The only win for Lebanon happened in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers, and it was a memorable one since they upset Korea Republic with a scoreline of 2-1 to advance to the final round.

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Because of the upset, Korea Republic sacked manager Cho Kwang-Rae following a barrage of criticism for his team’s lacklustre performance despite being the heavily favoured side to advance to the fourth round.

These two sides last met in September 2021 where Korea Republic escaped with an uninspiring 1-0 victory as Kwon Chang-Hoon scored the lone goal at the hour mark.

Betting Tip

??
Lebanon vs Korea Republic Korea Republic Asian Handicap -0.75 @ 1.71
January 27, 20:00 (GMT+8)

Despite missing some key players, Korea Republic remain favourites in the updated World Cup 2022 odds.The Taeguk Warriors are installed at 1.49 to win, while Lebanon are the underdogs at 5.80 and a draw is at 3.60 in the 1X2 market.

The hosts can certainly give their visitors problems just like before, but since their previous meeting, Korea Republic have had a huge improvement in their overall form.

Korea Republic’s dominant international friendly wins over Iceland and Moldova should serve as a reminder on how much damage they can cause. And unfortunately for the Cedars, they’re likely to be on the receiving end this Thursday.

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This message was edited by SBOTOP on 26-Jan-2022 at 2:18 PM





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26-Jan 2022 Wednesday 2:19 PM (115 days ago)            #4
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World Cup 2022: Japan Can’t Afford Slip-up Against Rivals China

Japan vs China

World Cup 2022 qualifying in Asia is going down to the wire. As things stand, Japan have a narrow one-point lead over Australia for the second automatic qualification place in Group B. Still, the Samurai Blue can’t afford to slip up at home when they host old rivals China.

The Chinese are second from bottom in the group with just one win in six games, and the World Cup 2022 betting odds will be heavily against them as they take on Japan at the Saitama Stadium.

But the Chinese held Australia to a 1-1 draw in their most recent qualifier in November, and they will surely be keen to sabotage the Samurai Blue’s World Cup hopes.

Talking Points

Japan missing key defensive duo

Can Takumi Minamino help Japan secure their slot in World Cup 2022?
Japan midfielder Takumi Minamino in action during a World Cup 2022 qualifier against Oman in Muscat

Japan still have a lot of work to do to qualify for their seventh straight World Cup in Qatar. The Samurai Blue are currently in second place in Group B, four points behind leaders Saudi Arabia and one point ahead of third-placed Australia.

The Japanese have won three straight qualifying games after their narrow 1-0 defeat to the Saudis. Although, they could only eke out 1-0 away wins against Vietnam and Oman. Midfielder Junya Ito scored the winning goal on both occasions.

The Japanese defence will be without two key players in captain and centre-back Maya Yoshida and Arsenal right-back Takehiro Tomiyasu due to injury. The two have been Japan’s centre-back partnership for the last few qualifiers and will be sorely missed.

In their absence, veteran right-back Hiroki Sakai could be brought in to fill in at centre-back alongside Naomichi Ueda.

Meanwhile, Japan’s attack has struggled to create too many goals in qualifying. They have scored just five times in six games. Yuya Osako will likely continue to lead the line, with Liverpool’s Takumi Minamino and Ito offering support. Minamino has been in decent form for Liverpool, with two goals and an assist in his last six appearances.

Talented 20-year-old and Olympian Takefusa Kubo (13 caps, 0 goals) has also been called up and could be a potential game-changer off the bench.

New China coach set for tough debut

China’s hopes of qualifying for Qatar are not looking good. They are second from bottom in the Group B standings with just one win, two draws, and three defeats in their first six games.

Although, the Chinese are coming into this match against rivals Japan in some sort of form after back-to-back 1-1 draws with Oman and Australia.

Unfortunately, though, those results were not enough to save head coach Li Tie’s job as he was fired last December. Li Xiaopeng has now taken over as national team coach and will look to get some positive World Cup 2022 results.

“My tactics are how to keep our dream alive after the match with Japan. We know Japan well and they have many good players. We need to focus on ourselves and play our game,” Li said.

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Veteran forward Wu Lei (27 goals in 77 caps) scored both goals as he raised his tally to four goals during the third round of qualifying.

China were expected to have some reinforcements for Wu Lei in the form of forward Fei Nanduo, but the naturalised Brazilian has returned to his home country due to family reasons and will miss the team’s upcoming qualifiers.

But the Chinese will still have two other Brazilian-born internationals in Luo Guofo and A Lan available against Japan. The 33-year-old A Lan is the most experienced of the three, scoring three goals in eight appearances for China.

History

The football rivalry between China and Japan has been quite a close one. The two countries have met each other a total of 39 times in international football, with Japan holding a very slight 16-15 edge in terms of wins, with eight draws.

The Japanese won their most recent meeting 1-0 in Doha back in September thanks to a Yuya Osako goal.

It has been over 20 years since the Chinese have claimed any sort of win over the Japanese. That came in the Dynasty Cup back in 1998.

Betting Tip

??
Japan vs China Under 2.50 @ 2.04
January 27, 18:00 (GMT+8)

SBOTOP odds have Japan installed as massive 1.20 favourites to get the home win over rivals China, who are significant 10.00 underdogs away from home. A draw is at 5.40.

The Chinese certainly have an uphill task away against the Japanese, especially with a new coach who has not had much time to implement his system.

The absence of two key defenders will hurt the Japanese, but they should still have enough talent to get the win they need. However, the Chinese will not make it easy and will likely play quite a defensive style to make this another low-scoring affair.

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This message was edited by SBOTOP on 26-Jan-2022 at 2:21 PM





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29-Jan 2022 Saturday 2:47 PM (112 days ago)            #5
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World Cup 2022: Can Messi-less Argentina Keep Unbeaten Run Alive in Chile?

Chile vs Argentina

Argentina will be without talisman Lionel Messi for their upcoming World Cup 2022 qualifiers after his recent bout with Covid-19.

La Albiceleste have already qualified for Qatar and are still without defeat after 13 games. They will look to keep that unbeaten run going when they face Chile in their upcoming qualifier.

La Roja are currently in sixth in the CONMEBOL standings and are in danger of missing out on the World Cup for the first time since 2006. Can Chile take advantage of Messi’s absence and hand Argentina their first defeat in qualifying?

Talking Points

Messi missing for Argentina

Reigning Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi has been left out of the Argentina squad for this upcoming round of World Cup qualifiers. The Paris Saint-Germain star had only recently returned from his bout with Covid, and with Argentina’s place in Qatar already secure, head coach Lionel Scaloni has decided to give the 34-year-old a bit more rest to regain his fitness.

With Messi – the third-leading scorer in South American qualifying with six goals – not in the side, the onus will be on Lautaro Martinez and Paulo Dybala to lead the Argentine attack.

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Dybala is the more in-form player of the Italy-based duo, having scored three goals in his last five appearances for Juventus. But the 28-year-old has hardly been at his best for his country and has only scored twice in 31 career caps.

Martinez has scored just once in his last six appearances for Serie A champions Inter, but he has a much better track record in international football with 17 goals in 35 caps, including five in this qualifying campaign.

Aside from Messi and injured Tottenham defender Cristian Romero, Argentina don’t have any other major absentees from their squad. Veteran Angel Di Maria, Leandro Paredes, Rodrigo De Paul, and Giovani Lo Celso are all available in midfield, while Nicolas Otamendi will continue to marshall the Argentine defence.

Chile’s World Cup hopes in doubt

Chile’s World Cup 2022 odds of qualifying are looking uncertain at the moment. They are currently sixth in the South American standings, although they are just one point behind Colombia for the fourth and final automatic spot.

La Roja lost their most recent qualifier 0-2 to Ecuador, which snapped a run of three straight wins. Midfielder Arturo Vidal was sent off after just 13 minutes and will now be suspended against Argentina.

Vidal’s absence is a huge blow for Chile. The 34-year-old has 32 goals in 131 international caps, and he has provided his share of World Cup 2022 highlights with a team-leading four goals in qualifying.

Chile will rely on Alexis Sanchez to get a positive result in their next tough World Cup 2022 qualifier
Chile’s Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal celebrate after Paraguay’s Antony Silva scored an own goal in their recent World Cup qualifier

Record goalscorer Alexis Sanchez (46 goals in 144 caps) is fit to play, though, and he has been in fine form for Inter, scoring four goals over his last eight appearances.

The similarly in-form Ben Brereton will likely partner Sanchez up front. The Blackburn Rovers striker is second in the EFL Championship with 20 goals and has scored twice in his last three appearances for his country.

Meanwhile, Chile have been quite decent defensively despite wing-back Mauricio Isla (33 years old) and centre-back Gary Medel (34) getting up in age.

Goalkeeper and captain Claudio Bravo, 38, has conceded just 16 times in qualifying, the fourth-best defensive record in South America.

History

Argentina have absolutely dominated Chile over the years. They have won an astounding 61 of 94 matches, with Chile winning just eight.

Two of Chile’s wins have come in the last seven years, but both have come on penalties in the Copa America.

Moreover, Argentina and Chile have drawn each of their last three meetings, including back-to-back 1-1 draws in June 2021.

Betting Tip

??
Chile vs Argentina 1X2 Draw @ 2.99
January 28, 08:15 (GMT+8)

SBOTOP odds have Chile priced as narrow 2.59 favourites at home, while Argentina are pegged at 2.78 to win without Messi. A draw is at 2.99.

While Argentina are still quite formidable with no Messi in the squad, they might not have all that much motivation to go all out to win against Chile since they have already qualified. Meanwhile, Chile are still fighting for their lives and will be keen to give the Argentines a good battle.

That’s why I anticipate another hard-fought contest between the two sides, with the match ending in another draw.

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This message was edited by SBOTOP on 29-Jan-2022 at 2:48 PM





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29-Jan 2022 Saturday 2:49 PM (112 days ago)            #6
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World Cup 2022: Honduras Plan to Play Spoilers Against Pacesetters Canada

Honduras vs Canada

Two nations who are at the opposite sides of the CONCACAF World Cup 2022 qualifying table are set to go toe-to-toe once more this Thursday evening at the Estadio Olimpico.

Canada are looking to assert themselves over the rest of the pack by extending their table lead with yet another win. As of this writing, they have 16 points while USA and Mexico are right behind them at 15 and 14.

Honduras, on the other hand, are languishing at the bottom with only three points to show after the first eight matches. They are likely unable to join the festivities in Qatar, so it’s all about salvaging some pride at this point.

The pre-match SBOTOP betting odds have the Maple Leafs as the favourites to win in this fixture, albeit only via a small margin.

The reason why it is so is because their previous meeting ended in a highly competitive affair, and perhaps we might see a similar outcome anew.

Talking Points

Honduras won’t go down without a fight

Los Catrachos have had a bad campaign in the World Cup 2022 qualifiers. Heading into this contest, they’ve lost five straight matches in all formats.

Hernan Dario Gomez tried to prepare his men for Thursday by competing against Colombia in an international friendly last Monday, but to no avail as they were defeated 2-1.

Granted, that both teams didn’t field in their best starting XI, Honduras’ lack of chances in the said fixture (only one shot on target) is a big red flag.

CF Montreal striker Romell Quioto projects to address that issue since he is their main protagonist in the final third. The 30-year-old has 12 goals in 54 international appearances for Hondura.

Joining him up front is the young Edwin Rodriguez who offers searing pace, while Colorado Rapids’ Bryan Acosta and Bordeaux’s Alberth Elis will man the midfield.

Former Wigan Athletic defender and skipper Maynor Figueroa is relentless as they come despite his advancing age, and he’ll link up with FC Motagua’s Carlos Melendez to form their centre-half partnership.

Canada have gaps to fill

Canada are having a renaissance of sorts with their golden generation of young talent, and they’re here to stay as a force to be reckoned with in the CONCACAF for the foreseeable future.

The Maple Leafs are the only unbeaten team left through the first eight qualifying games (W4, D4), and they would certainly fancy their chances of getting another road win after they did it against the likes of Mexico, USA, and Jamaica.

Stephen Eustaquio will miss Canada's trip to Honduras for World Cup 2022 after testing positive for COVID-19
Canada’s Stephen Eustaquio celebrates with Junior Hoilett following their 1-4 win over Haiti during the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup

However, they’ll have to confront the fact that some of their players won’t be available in this fixture.

Alphonso Davies’ absence leaves a glaring hole on the left side as he wasn’t included in John Herdman’s lineup due to a myocarditis diagnosis after a bout with COVID-19. Other than Davies, midfielder Stephen Eustaquio is also out since he’s positive for the coronavirus.

With the two of them out, there’ll be more opportunities for Jonathan David and CONCACAF Gold Cup standout Tajon Buchanan to create more World Cup 2022 highlights for Canada.

History

History favours Honduras in their overall head-to-heads against Canada. In their last 13 matches before this Thursday, Los Catrachos have the major edge with six wins while the Maple Leafs have only won twice along with five draws.

Canada have yet to defeat Honduras in quite some time as their last victory dates back to November 2015.

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Nothing would be more satisfying for the visitors than getting a compelling victory against their hosts this Thursday, especially since Honduras gave Canada their second-worst loss in national team history.

The Maple Leafs suffered a humiliating 8-1 loss to Los Catrachos which extinguished their World Cup qualifying hopes on October 2012.

Their previous meeting took place last September where both sides shared the spoils in a 1-1 draw as Cyle Larin and Alexander Lopez scored one penalty each.

Betting Tip

??
Honduras vs Canada Canada Asian Handicap -0.50 @ 2.13
January 28, 09:05 (GMT+8)

Canada only hold a slim edge over Honduras in the latest World Cup 2022 odds. They are installed to win 2.12, but Honduras aren’t far behind at 3.25 and chances for a draw are priced at 3.10 in the 1X2 market.

The Maple Leafs are vying for more points since it would ultimately confirm their tickets to Qatar, so we see them going hard against Los Catrachos for this contest.

Although we expect them to win since they have the better recent form, this won’t be a walk in the park for Canada since Honduras enter this match with nothing to lose.

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29-Jan 2022 Saturday 2:52 PM (112 days ago)            #7
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World Cup 2022: It’s All To Play For In CONMEBOL World Cup Qualifiers

Colombia vs Peru

I have had the pleasure of watching Colombia on three occasions in the last three and a half years.

One was on a tense evening in Russia when the South Americans pushed England all the way before bowing out in a penalty shoot-out defeat in the World Cup.

The most recent was the following summer when they edged out Paraguay in the Copa America in a group match by which time they had already reached the quarter-finals.

Fast forward two and a half years and the stakes remain high again with World Cup qualifying at stake and potentially five teams vying for one automatic place.

That’s because Brazil and Argentina have already qualified for Qatar 2022 and Ecuador are in a healthy position leaving Los Cafeteros vying with Peru, Chile, Uruguay and Bolivia for that all important final CONMEBOL qualification berth.

The top four teams will earn a direct spot at football’s showpiece tournament later this year while the fifth-ranked side will advance to an intercontinental play-off.

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With only goal difference separating these two nations (Colombia are fourth and Peru fifth), you don’t need me to tell you how important this clash is in Barranquilla.

Talking Points

Certainly, there is scope for plenty of World Cup qualifying highlights.

The hosts start as favourites but they will know they face a buoyant Peruvian side hot on the heels of back-to-back qualifying victories in November.

Ricardo Gareca’s side have proven an entertaining watch and their rise to 22nd in the FIFA world rankings (Colombia are 16th) has surprised me.

This already represents a triumph for Peru, who were bottom of the table when the action resumed in September. Just as he did with the 2016 Copa Centenario, Gareca used last year’s Copa America to regroup and rally and Peruvian football now has a swagger about it.

Colombia should still be far too strong though with the likes of James Rodriguez, Radamel Falcao, Porto forward Luis Diaz and Juventus winger Juan Cuadrado in their ranks.

Midfielder Victor Cantillo has also been called up with the 28-year-old’s inclusion following the withdrawals of Bournemouth midfielder Jefferson Lerma and Atalanta forward Luis Muriel (Covid-19).

For Peru, there remains no Paolo Guerrero as he continues his recovery from injury, although watch out for Italian-born Peruvian Gianluca Lapadula who is fast becoming a new icon for the national team.

Ricardo Gareca prepares Peru as they take on Colombia in the World Cup 2022 qualifiers
Peru coach Ricardo Gareca during their match against Brazil

They will surely need more than that though in their bid to reach successive World Cups after a 26-year absence.

History

Since they met for the very first time in the hitherto unknown Bolivarian Games, a match Peru won 4-2, there has usually been plenty of excitement when these two meet.

Colombia certainly hold the recent upper hand with Peru winning only one of their last 12 clashes.

That is fairly fresh in the memory though as it came in the Copa America last summer when Sergio Pena and an own goal sealed a 2-1 success. Miguel Borja replied for Colombia with a penalty.

Colombia gained revenge just a few weeks later with a 3-2 victory in the tournament’s third-place play-off as goals from Cuadrado and Diaz (two), including a last-minute winner, sealed the bronze medal position.

Yoshimar Yotún and Gianluca Lapadula had kept Peru in the hunt.

The last time Peru won on Colombian soil was in 2011 – a 2-0 win in the Copa America quarter-finals.

Overall, Colombia have 27 wins, Peru 19 triumphs and there have been a further 22 draws.

Betting Tip

??
Colombia vs Peru Half Time Full Time Home-Home @ 2.27
January 29, 05:00 (GMT+8)

Colombia start as clear favourites with the SBOTOP World Cup qualifying betting odds backing them First Half 1X2 @ 2.48, 1X2 @ 1.71, First Half Asian Handicap – 0.25 @ 1.96 and Asian Handicap -0.75 @ 1.97.

Given the attractive odds, optimistic Peruvians may well fancy putting a wager on their team which include First Half 1X2 @ 4.70, 1X2 @ 5.00, First Half Asian Handicap +0.25 @ 1.94 and Asian Handicap +0.50 @ 2.25.

A repeat of that most recent meeting – Correct Score 3-2 – is on offer at a staggering @ 42.00, while a re-run of their last meeting in Colombia, Correct Score 2-0, is available @ 6.60.

Goals are anticipated judging by over 2.25 goals @ 2.13 but total goal 0-1 @ 2.37 is also appealing for a pay day, as is the 1X2 Draw @ 3.35 and Double Chance Peru or Draw @ 2.02.

I am going to go for a Colombia victory, despite the resurgence of Peru.

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29-Jan 2022 Saturday 2:53 PM (112 days ago)            #8
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World Cup 2022: The Road to Qatar Looms Ever Closer

USA vs El Salvador

The road to Qatar and World Cup 2022 qualifying is about to hot up in the CONCACAF.

That’s because it’s time for the penultimate qualifying window for Qatar 2022 as the USA put their unbeaten run against El Salvador on the line.

Lower.com Field in Columbus, Ohio, is the venue for a meeting between two nations who are, on paper, poles apart.

However, should the unexpected happen, then the World Cup dreams of the Stars n’ Stripes could be about to come tumbling down.

Talking Points

In theory, that should not even happen.

The US have six matches remaining to book their place in this autumn’s soccer showpiece.

While they have a point advantage over Mexico in the standings and have leaders Canada in their sights, by contrast only Honduras are keeping El Salvador off the bottom of the standings.

The fact the US were able to defeat Mexico in November shows they still have what it takes to beat the leading North American rivals.

Gregg Berhalter’s men have not always looked impressive but are in a solid position to reach international football’s grandest stage of all after missing out in 2018.

What’s more, with home advantage in this one, it would be a shock of mighty proportions if the Yanks, unbeaten in their last 18 matches played on American soil, were to be defeated.

Hugo Perez' El Salvador take on 2nd place USA in World Cup 2022 Qualifiers
Mexico coach Gerardo Martino with El Salvador coach Hugo Perez during the CONCACAF Qualifierss

La Selecta have never ever beaten the US and, while head coach Hugo Perez led his team to a run of good results early in 2021, with FC Tulsa striker Joaquin Rivas looking lively up front, they have stuttered over the past six months with just one victory since July.

Yes, they have missed David Rugamas, who found the back of the net eight times in the earlier qualifying stages but has not featured in this phase of the competition.

But it is far more than that.

In what may be a sign of their frustration, El Salvador have committed 63 fouls in their last four qualifying matches, while also picking up two red cards.

All in all, the World Cup qualifying highlights this Thursday should belong to the States.

History

As you would expect, this fixture has produced one of the most one-sided set of results in the game.

The nations have met 24 times since first locking horns in 1977 and the USA have won on 19 occasions with the other five encounters ending all square.

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The most recent clash, in qualifying in September, saw El Salvador hold their opponents in a hard fought goalless draw in San Salvador.

Nine months earlier in the States, albeit in a friendly, saw a romp as the Americans ran out 6-0 winners in Fort Lauderdale when Paul Arriola, Chris Mueller (two), Sebastian Lletget, Ayo Akinola and Brenden Aaronson were the goal-getters.

The goalless draw four months ago actually broke a cycle of five straight wins for the USA in this fixture, including a 2-0 win in 2017 in the CONCACAF Gold Cup quarter-final when Omar González and Eric Lichaj were on target.

In fact, you have to go back to 1989 for the last time Peru avoided defeat on American soil – a goalless draw in qualification for the 1990 World Cup.

The very first meeting was a friendly in 1977 in El Salvador when goals from Greg Villa and Rick Davis earned the States a 2-1 win.

Betting Tip

??
USA vs El Salvador USA First Half Asian Handicap -0.75 @ 2.08
January 28, 08:00 (GMT+8)

The SBOTOP World Cup qualifying betting odds reflect the history, not to mention the gap of 69 places between them in the world rankings (USA 11th, El Salvador 70th).

The hosts are available in a variety of ways, such as First Half 1X2 @ 1.74, 1X2 @ 1.24, First Half Asian Handicap -0.75 @ 2.08 and Asian Handicap -1.75 @ 2.07.

The contrast with El Salvador is clear as they are priced First Half 1X2 @ 7.60, 1X2 @ 10.00, First Half Asian Handicap +0.75 @ 1.80, Asian Handicap +1.50 @ 2.13.

Even the draw @ 5.20 is not expected, four months after their stalemate.

Goals are not necessarily anticipated given there have been some low scoring affairs and the USA have hardly been prolific in qualifying so far with 12 goals in eight games.

Over 2.50 goals @ 1.96 and total goal 2-3 @ 1.85 contrast with total goal 0-1 @ 3.05 and 4-6 @ 3.35.

Double Chance El Salvador or Draw @ 3.50 or another goalless draw – Correct Score 0-0 – will pay out @ 9.75.

I cannot see past a USA success from start to finish and my *** tip is First Half Asian Handicap -0.75 @ 2.08.

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02-Feb 2022 Wednesday 3:08 PM (108 days ago)            #9
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World Cup 2022: The Reggae Boyz Are Out to Stop El Tri

Jamaica vs Mexico

Jamaica have only once qualified for the World Cup but what an indelible mark they made.

In fact, I remember the summer of 1998 in France well as the ‘Reggae Boyz’ and their colourful football and fans became the second favourite team of many.

The first English speaking Caribbean nation to qualify for the finals, they gained thousands of new followers along the way and helped create a carnival atmosphere.

It was so special and that was reflected by the declaration of a national holiday the day after they qualified. If you think that was something, you should have heard the sound they made when Robbie Earle scored their first-ever goal on the grandest stage of all.

Regardless of the result this week, their World Cup 2022 qualifying hopes have long ended, but could they turn back the clock and put a dent in the hopes of a fellow rival?

Talking Points

World Cup 2022: Jamaica are determined to give Mexico a hard time in their upcoming qualifier
Jamaica’s Damion Lowe and Liam Moore jump for the ball during a Concacaf Gold Cup match against Costa Rica in July 2021

The nation they host is Mexico, the hosts of the first-ever World Cup I witnessed and watched with amazement as a schoolboy in 1986.

Since then, they have reached all bar one tournament, reaching the last 16 on each occasion.

So against Jamaica, who have only one qualifying victory so far, El Tri will be confident of creating World Cup 2022 highlights.

They need to respond after November defeats against the United States and Canada turned what seemed a smooth ride into a more precarious one.

All this will be played out in front of an empty National Stadium in Kingston, which will be closed to fans due to local Covid-19 protocols.

The hosts will be without the services of exciting winger Leon Bailey through injury but, after netting his first two goals for his country in November, West Ham’s Michail Antonio could be one of the home side’s main goal threats.

Boss Paul Hall has a number of options in defence, including centre-backs Ethan Pinnock and Liam Moore.

Mexico will be without the suspended Hirving Lozano, while there are fitness doubts over Raul Jimenez, Jesus Corona and Osvaldo Rodriguez.

Of the three, Jimenez is the most unlikely to feature amid reports the Wolverhampton Wanderers striker may not play in the whole international break, which involves three matches for both.

How they could do with his goals against Jamaica who, despite their lowly position, are unbeaten in their last four qualifiers.

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History

Jamaica have only beaten Mexico on five occasions but one of those victories came in their last competitive meeting.

That was in 2017 when a late Kemar Lawrence goal settled the Gold Cup semi-final in their favour.

Since then, they have only met once. That was in September earlier in the qualifying campaign when Mexico ran out 2-1 winners courtesy of goals from Alexis Vega and Henry Martin (again a late winner) with Shamar Nicholson replying for undermanned Jamaica.

The last time they met on Jamaican soil in a World Cup qualifier was in 2013 when a solitary Aldo de Nigris goal earned Mexico a narrow win.

Before that, it was role reversal as a goal from Ricardo Fuller gave Jamaica the points against the Mexicans then managed by Sven Goran Eriksson.

Overall, Mexico have 20 successes in this fixture, including in eight of their first nine clashes (the first in 1962), and there have been three draws.

Betting Tip

??

Jamaica vs Mexico Half Time Full Time Draw Away @ 4.20
January 28, 08:00 (GMT+8)

As the road to Qatar looms ever closer, Mexico could really do with all three points here.

The SBOTOP World Cup 2022 qualifying betting odds certainly back them to do so.

El Tri can be backed 1X2 @1.69 and Asian Handicap -1.00 @ 2.29 and even First Half 1X2 @ 2.39 and First Half Asian Handicap -0.25 @ 1.95.

Jamaica are priced well adrift compared to that with the variety of odds including First Half 1X2 @ 5.20, 1X2 @ 4.80, First Half Asian Handicap 0.00 @ 3.00 and Asian Handicap +0.50 @ 2.25.

Given the hosts’ recent defensive improvement, perhaps we should not expect too many goals with over 2.25 goals @ 2.11, total goal 0-1 @ 2.36, 2-3 @ 1.84 and 4-6 @ 4.80 among the options.

Double Chance Jamaica or Draw @ 2.02, 1X2 Draw @ 3.35 and another 2-1 Mexico success – with Correct Score – @ 7.40 have all been considered by me.

I do think Mexico will narrowly edge this but only after an improved showing from the hosts in the second half.

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02-Feb 2022 Wednesday 3:12 PM (108 days ago)            #10
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World Cup 2022: Red Cards, High Drama, and Peril for Chile

It’s hot enough out in South America. But when the continent’s biggest football nations collide, the temperature goes off the scale and the atmosphere reaches fever pitch.

And this week we watched some huge results roll in as tempers flared and the stars delivered as two players were sent off in the clash between third-placed Ecuador and leaders Brazil.

While in the clash of the round, Argentina beat Chile 2-1 to make it 28 matches unbeaten over the past two years for the Albiceleste, but the loss put a big dent in La Roja’s qualification hopes.

The top four of the World Cup 2022 CONMEBOL group will qualify automatically with the fifth place team playing off against a team from the Asian confederation, and that may be the best Chile can hope for after goals from Angel Di Maria and Lautaro Martinez gave Argentina all three points.

Brereton Diaz replied for La Roja but their hopes look increasingly slim, while Argentina and Brazil have already packed their bags for Qatar.

Ecuador are no World Cup pushover

Here at SBOTOPwe tipped a draw for the match between Ecuador and Brazil and so it turned out as a Felix Torres header 15 minutes from time earned a crucial point for La Tri after Casemiro had given Brazil an early lead.

Ecuador will feel they could have had all three points but they had a goal chalked off and two penalties overturned by VAR, including one in the dying seconds of the match.

World Cup
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1X2 Poland @ 2.66
Russia Asian Handicap -0.25 @ 2.11
Over 2.25 @ 2.05
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

Casemiro’s goal came after just five minutes when he smashed the ball home in a goalmouth scramble and it all seemed to be going pear-shaped for the hosts when their keeper Alexander Dominguez saw red for a poor challenge.

But the numbers evened up with only 20 minutes gone as Spurs right-back Emerson Royal picked up his second yellow in quick succession.

Ecuador’sWorld Cup 2022 resultshave given them a brilliant chance of qualifying for the World Cup for the fourth time and they are sitting in third place, which is seven points clear of seventh-placed Colombia who have a game in hand.

With matches against Peru, Paraguay, and a home fixture against Argentina to come, a win and a draw should be enough for La Tri to make their travel plans for Qatar.

VAR loves Liverpool players

Fans of Premier League clubs outside the self anointed ‘Big Six’ have quickly come to realise that the advancement of video technology is not the answer to all their problems, and they understandably had fears that the richest clubs, more often than not, get the big decisions have not been eased much.

Well, the trend followed Liverpool stopper Alisson who was sent off twice in the game with Ecuador only to have his red cards rescinded on both occasions by the video ref, which was hard to stomach for La Tri who had the rough end of it all night.

Brazil are in the pack of leading contenders according to the World Cup 2022 betting odds.And if VAR is as kind to them in the Middle East, then they have every chance. 

Suarez still delivers for Uruguay

Luis Suarez's superb strike boosts World Cup 2022 qualification hopes for Uruguay
Luis Suarez celebrates after scoring for Uruguay in the match against Paraguay

A 1-0 win away to Panama means Uruguay sit in fourth place in the CONMEBOL table and new head coach Diego Alonso can feel happy with his work, and that of talisman Luis Suarez.

The veteran Atletico Madrid striker took a pass from Diego Godin and fired in a stunner to win the game in the 65th-minute.

Paraguay keeper Antony Silva could only watch as Suarez showed he still has what it takes at the very top level. But the match ended on a sour note for Paraguay as centre-back Gustavo Gomez was sent off.

Fiveway battle for the final qualifying place

Uruguay have plenty of work to do, though, since they sit in fourth place but only three points ahead of seventh-placed Chile, with Colombia and Peru in between. And Bolivia, who are one place and a point behind Chile but with a game in hand, will still have hopes of qualifying, or at least making the play-off place.

Paraguay, in ninth and with only three games left, probably have too much to do but a play-off spot is not entirely out of the question.

Next up, there is a huge game when Colombia host Peru when the winner will leapfrog Uruguay into fourth place, but a draw would leave both teams sitting outside the top four and Alonso’s team hanging on with three rounds to play. Meanwhile, Bolivia could make some progress when they travel to bottom nation Venezuela.

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World Cup 2022: The North American Summit

Canada vs USA

World Cup 2022: Canada vs USApitches together the top two sides in the CONCACAF table; both are well on the way to qualification, along with Mexico, and while this isn’t a ‘Winner Takes All’ clash, the victors will take hold of the top place with just four games to play.

The hosts come into the match on the back of an impressive 2-0 win over Honduras, while the USA narrowly beat El Salvador 1-0, in a game they really should have won more convincingly, and the Maple Leafs will fancy their chances when the two sides meet in Hamilton on Sunday.

The pre-match Canada vs USA betting oddsare telling us this is a tough game to call, with all three results in play and all at a price lower than odds of 3.00. And while USA sit a huge 29 places above Canada in the FIFA World Rankings (11th and 40th) this young Canada side will have plenty to say when they welcome their North American neighbours.

Talking Points

Canada’s Young Guns full of confidence

The Maple Leafs are still unbeaten in the qualifiers as they lead the CONCACAF qualifying league table on 19 points from nine games with USA and Mexico, who they have already beaten 2-1, in hot pursuit.

World Cup 2022: Milan Borjan deny Honduras a goal
Canada’s goalkeeper Milan Borjan makes a save vs Honduras’ Atiba Hutchinson during their World Cup qualifier in Toronto

John Herdman’s young side is unbeaten in nine games, unbeaten at home in 13 and they have won the last four matches on the bounce; so they have plenty of stats to back up their confident mood. We expected Honduras to play a spoiling game against Canada but there was little they could do when the Maple Leafs constructed a brilliant goal to double their lead following an early own goal by the hosts. Veteran Keeper Milan Borjan made a brilliant save to preserve their advantage and then Canada’s young stars took the game away from Honduras.

22 year old Brugges striker Tajon Buchanan won the ball with a high press and released midfielder Liam Fraser. The 23 year old launched a pin point 40 yard ball which Jonathan David controlled with his head, before chipping the keeper with a beauty of a finish. The Lille striker has just turned 22 and he looks a real talent. Herdman was delighted, saying: “We knew we could be really dangerous in transition. I thought that’s where we were clinical tonight.

USA beat the chill to stay in touch

Gregg Berhalter’s USA had to endure freezing temperatures as they squeezed past El Salvador, but the hard fought win kept them just a point behind Canada and another victory in Hamilton would see the Stars and Stripes go top. At 29F it equalled the record low temperature for a home international as Fulham defender Antonee Robinson scored the crucial goal on 52 minutes which left the US on 18 points and in second place.

Berhalter has some young stars of his own to match the Maple Leafs. Juventus midfielder Weston McKennie , Lille striker Timothy Weah and Barcelona wingback Sergino Dest could all make an appearance on Sunday and, should the Stars and Stripes make it to Qatar as expected they will be players to watch…but then in stifling heat!

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History

The 1986 World Cup is the only appearance Canada have made at a world finals, in stark contrast to the USA who have made ten appearances and even made the semi-final, 92 years ago in 1930.

While there’s little to choose between the two nations for this game, the Stars and Stripes have had the better of the head to head Canada vs USA resultswinning six to Canada’s one of the 11 encounters since 2005, the other four games being drawn.

The last meeting, in September, ended in a 1-1 draw when Kyle Larin equalised after Brenden Aaronson had given the Stars and Stripes a second half lead. And the last encounter on Canadian soil, back in 2019, was an historic night as 17,000 fans saw Alphonso Davies score a first goal against the US since 2007; and when Lucas Cavallini scored to make it 2-0 that confirmed a first Canadian victory over their neighbours in 34 long years.

In terms of recent form, both nations have won four of the last six games; while Canada are unbeaten, the USA has draw one and lost one, away to Panama in October.

Betting Tip

??
Canada vs USA Canada Asian Handicap 0.00 @ 2.03
January 31, 04:05 (GMT+8)

At a SBOTOP price of 2.42 the Stars and Stripes are marginally favourites to win this neighbourly tussle, while Canada are at 2.68 and the draw is 2.92

We’re set for an entertaining encounter with plenty of young talent on display on each side, but the Maple Leafs have been so strong on home soil I suspect they will keep their unbeaten run going and hold on to top spot.

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02-Feb 2022 Wednesday 3:20 PM (108 days ago)            #12
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World Cup 2022: Northern American’s Finest Reaching Critical Qualifying Point

Mexico vs Costa Rica

I covered all Costa Rica matches at the last World Cup and, although they didn’t progress out of their group, they gave a good account of themselves.

Their 2-2 draw with Switzerland was one such example but it was actually in defeat when their character shown through, despite the petulance of one of the world’s top players (supposedly).

I’ve not followed them since but now, as Los Ticos try and save their World Cup 2022 qualifying bid four years on, I’m secretly hoping they return to football’s biggest stage of all for their colourful and passionate fans deserve to.

They face a tough test against Mexico in the Azteca this weekend mind.

Talking Points

The central Americans helped their qualifying hopes with a narrow victory over Panama yesterday thanks to a Bryan Ruiz goal which moved them to within two points of their opponents (placed fourth in the standings).

Meanwhile, two late goals in three minutes helped Mexico come from behind to defeat 10-man Jamaica at Independence Park in Kingston.

Mexico are currently at the third spot in the CONCACAF World Cup 2022 table
Mexico fans cheering for their team outside the Independence Park

That kept them in third place in the qualifying table where there are three direct tickets to the World Cup granted by the North, Central American and Caribbean zone.

The fourth-placed team will go to an intercontinental play-off against a nation from Oceania in June, something Costa Rica will be targeting at the expense of Panama.

That is why this match is so important as they strive to return to the world’s stage.

It was that stage on which my first memory of them stems from, going back to Italia 90 when they shocked the world and helped send Scotland packing at the group stage.

Los Ticos have finished in second spot in the final stage of World Cup qualifying over their previous two campaigns, but they will have their work cut out to finish in that same position this time around, currently trailing the USA by six points and leaders Canada by seven.

This clash could also see two Mexicans near international milestones.

Andres Guardado is inching closer to the all-time caps record for El Tri and has 172, five fewer than Claudio Suarez. Meanwhile, if selected, goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa will move into a tie with Carlos Salcedo for sixth in the all-time appearances list with 124 caps in a Mexican national shirt.

There’ll be little time for records on Sunday though – the points are all that matters as the race to secure those all-inclusive spots in Qatar hots up.

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History

Out of 58 matches in which they have met, Mexico have only been beaten by Costa Rica on seven occasions.

The Central American and Caribbean Games Final in El Salvador in 1935 was their first ever clash which resulted in a 2-0 Mexican win – and they have won most encounters since.

Thirty-four in fact with a further 17 draws, including seven of their last eight matches (two via a penalty shoot-out).

The most recent was in San Jose in September when a Orbelin Pineda penalty on the stroke of half-time settled the contest in Mexico’s favour.

In fact, you have to go back to 2013 when Costa Rica last tasted victory over the Mexicans when Ruiz and Alvaro Saborio were the men on target in a 2-1 triumph.

What they would give for such World Cup qualifying highlights this weekend as that has been their only victory in 23 matches stretching back to 2001.

That was also the last time they won on Mexican soil when late goals from Rolando Fonseca and Hernan Medford did the damage.

Both sides qualified for the tournament the following summer.

Betting Tip

??
Mexico vs Costa Rica Over 2.50 @ 2.16
January 31, 07:00 (GMT+8)

Mexico have home advantage and are clear favourites with the SBOTOP World Cup qualifying betting odds.

The odds back them First Half 1X2 @ 1.90, First Half Asian Handicap -0.50 @ 1.91, 1X2 @ 1.34 and Asian Handicap -1.50 @ 2.17.

Costa Rica are on offer First Half 1X2 @ 6.80, First Half Asian Handicap +0.50 @ 1.97, 1X2 @ 8.25 and Asian Handicap +1.25 @ 2.02.

The 1X2 draw is on offer @ 4.30.

A repeat of the 1-0 Mexican success from four months ago is available with Correct Score @ 4.40.

If there’s to be goals then look at over 2.50 goals @ 2.16, total goal 0-1 @ 2.71, 2-3 @ 1.86 and 4-6 @ 3.85.

Double Chance Costa Rica or Draw will pay out @ 2.90.

I think this will be a tight affair and I am plumping for over 2.50 goals @ 2.16 as a *** tip.

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02-Feb 2022 Wednesday 3:22 PM (108 days ago)            #13
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World Cup 2022: My Five January Picks

The Qatar World Cup 2022 doesn’t start until the back end of the year; but we’re already into 2022 and you know how quickly time flies; so I’m going to get in early and take a look at the nations who will, in my opinion, shine brightly when the football showcase begins.

I’ll take a look at this piece in 12 months time and see just how close, or how far away, I am. I reckon I can find the winner from five picks and I’m going to take a punt on one outsider. So if I can predict three of the four semi-finalists then I’d say that’s a success.

Here goes…

Two red hot prospects…

Brazil

Nobody in their right mind would have five chances to pick the 2022 winner and leave out the Samba Boys of Brazil. The five times World Cup winners and nine times Copa America champions are managed by former Corinthians boss Tite, and the 60 year old master strategist has a sparkling array of talent from front to back.

As the last line of defence he can choose from the Premier League’s finest, Liverpool’s Alisson and Manchester City’s Ederson. Alisson had two red cards rescinded in the Selecao’s 1-1 draw with Ecuador last week but he is normally the most reliable of stoppers while Ederson’s distribution is second to none. With PSG’s Marquinhos at the back, Real Madrid’s Casemiro in midfield and Neymar up front they have superstars everywhere. Look out for Leeds United winger Raphinha who is fast becoming a Selecao favourite.

France

Italy and England might both fancy their chances in Qatar but the early World Cup 2022 betting oddsare backing the reigning champions to push Brazil all the way… and I agree. Les Bleus are the boys for the big occasion and Europe’s best chance of success.

Head coach Didier Deschamps was a playing legend and he understands his own players implicitly, even managing to get a tune out of Manchester United’s midfield enigma Paul Pogba. France were unbeaten in a tough qualifying group containing Ukraine, and the conveyor belt of talent keeps on delivering. Young stars such as centre backs Jules Kounde and Dayot Upamecano, and 22 year old striker Moussa Diaby have joined the band of proven winners.

Kylian Mbappe announced himself at the 2018 World Cup, scoring France’s fourth goal in their final victory over Croatia and, now 23, he’s a good bet for the Golden Boot.

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Over 2.50 @ 2.05
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Two very serious contenders…

Spain

Luis Enrique’s Spain came through their group with flying colours, seeing off a challenge from tough operators Sweden and Greece, and they have a good chance of going deep into the competition in Qatar. They were very unlucky to lose to eventual winners Italy in the Euro 2020 semi-final; having totally bossed the game with 65 per cent possession and 16 shots to seven they cruelly went out on penalties. 

Manchester City’s defensive midfielder Rodri could be a key figure, as could his domestic team-mate Aymeric Laporte in the heart of defence. Leipzig’s Dani Olmo and Valencia’s Carlos Soler provide the running in midfield while forward Alvaro Morata is due a big tournament, and 22 year old Milan striker Brahim Diaz could well be the breakout star.

Can Spain emulate their 2010 success and emerge as champions? I think they may fall just short but they’ll certainly be worth watching. 

Argentina

With 153 caps and 80 goals for the Albiceleste the great Lionel Messi could bow out from international football at the World Cup; and what a story it would be if he lifted the famous trophy. Head coach Lionel Scaloni can rely on the 35 year-old’s fitness, and he still has the magic in his boots to win any game.

Lionel Messi will aim to grab the missing piece in his trophy cabinet as he leads Argentina in World Cup 2022
Argentina forward Lionel Messi will be 35 at the start of the World Cup 2022

Alongside Messi, Lautaro Martinez is one player who can write some World Cup 2022 newsheadlines. The 24 year old Inter Milan striker has 18 goals from 36 internationals and he’s in great club form, as is Atletico Madrid’s wide man Angel Correa.

Having ended their 28 year trophy drought by beating Brazil in the 2021 Copa America, the Argentines will no longer lose in their heads. They can only be beaten on the grass, and that’s easier said than done.

And a dark horse…

Netherlands

It’s so good to see the Oranje back on the world stage after they failed to qualify for Russia 2018. They have come back much stronger and Juventus’ Matthijs de Ligt and Liverpool’s Virgil van Dijk form arguably the best centre back partnership in world football. With Barcelona’s Frenkie de Jong in midfield and Borussia Dortmund’s Donyell Malen up front, a new generation of Dutch footballers are set to win fans world wide.

So friends, the road to Qatar is looming ever closer and there’s a whole host of domestic football to enjoy in the meantime, the climax of the 2021/22 campaigns and the start of 2022/23. Here at SBOTOP we’ll be across all the action every step of the way and then we’ll be at the winter World Cup; and I bet these five teams will play a big part in an extravaganza of footy delight. And one of them will win it… 

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02-Feb 2022 Wednesday 3:24 PM (108 days ago)            #14
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World Cup 2022: Second-string Selecao Take on Second from Bottom Paraguay

Brazil vs Paraguay

Brazil’s lead at the top of South America’s World Cup 2022 qualifying standings has been cut to four points after being held to a 1-1 draw by Ecuador.

With Brazil already qualified for Qatar, Tite gave several players a chance to play last time out. Will he field another makeshift Selecao side when they take on Paraguay at home in their upcoming qualifier?

But despite missing Neymar and other first-team regulars, the World Cup 2022 betting odds still have the Brazilians favoured heavily at home against Paraguay, who are second-from-bottom in qualifying.

Talking Points

Brazil backups could get another run-out

Brazil suffered a rare qualifying setback as they drew 1-1 away to Ecuador last time out. It was just the Selecao’s third draw in this qualifying campaign, although their lead over second-placed Argentina has been cut to just four points.

With their qualifying spot in Qatar secured and star forward Neymar out injured, Brazil coach Tite made several changes to his starting lineup to give other players a chance to impress.

Atletico Madrid’s Matheus Cunha, Real Madrid’s Vinicius Jr and Leeds United’s Raphinha all started alongside Aston Villa’s Philippe Coutinho in attack, but not of them stood out all that much.

Philippe Coutinho is eager to lead Brazil over Paraguay in upcoming World Cup 2022 qualifier
Aston Villa’s Philippe Coutinho applauds the fans after their Premier League game against Manchester United

With Neymar, Roberto Firmino, and Richarlison all out, Gabriel Jesus and Coutinho are the Selecao’s leading scorers with 18 goals apiece.

Tottenham right-back Emerson Royal also got a rare start, but he got a red card and will be suspended against Paraguay. Emerson’s suspension could see newly recalled 38-year-old Dani Alves getting another start.

Meanwhile, it remains to be seen whether Tite will hand starts to other members of the squad. Bruno Guimaraes, who is rumoured to be headed to Newcastle, Antony, Gabriel Jesus, and Gabriel Barbosa are all contenders to get a starting spot in their second qualifier of the month.

Brazil’s backups will look to keep up their terrific home record in qualifying. They have won all six home games in qualifying, with 15 goals scored and just one goal conceded.

Paraguay still struggling to pick up points

Paraguay’s World Cup qualifying campaign has been quite a disappointment. They are currently second from bottom in the standings with just two wins in 15 games.

Paraguay’s most recent World 2022 results have seen them go winless in their last six games while losing four of the last five. They lost 1-0 to Uruguay last time out, with captain and centre-back Gustavo Gomez getting sent off in the 90th minute. Gomez is the country’s most experienced player with 59 caps, so his loss against Brazil will be a big loss.

Paraguay are also woefully short on attacking ability, which has been a big part of their struggles. They have scored just nine goals in 15 games, by far the fewest in qualifying.

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Newcastle’s Miguel Almiron is the team’s most high-profile attacker, but the midfielder has scored just three goals in 42 international caps.

Striker Angel Romero had a hot run with four goals early in qualifying and also had two goals in last year’s Copa America. However, he has not scored since and was not called up for this latest round of qualifiers.

Paraguay have a dreadful away record in qualifying. Since their victory against Venezuela, they have gone winless in their last six away matches, with three defeats and three defeats. They have also failed to score in each of their last five.

History

Unsurprisingly, Brazil have dominated Paraguay, 50-13, while the two have drawn 19 times. Paraguay went a stretch of four games when they drew with Brazil, but they lost twice in extra-time in the Copa America.

Brazil have since won three games in a row, with Paraguay failing to score in each one of them. They won their first World Cup qualifier 2-0 with goals from Neymar and Lucas Paqueta.

Betting Tip

??
Brazil vs Paraguay Brazil Asian Handicap -1.50 @ 2.09
February 2, 08:30 (GMT+8)

SBOTOP odds have Brazil installed as significant 1.33 favourites. Paraguay are priced at 8.75 while a draw is at 4.70.

While Brazil don’t have much left to play for, a handful of players will be eager to make a better impression after their disappointing display in Ecuador.

The Selecao have superior talent, and coupled with home advantage, they should have more than enough to get past the struggling Paraguayans.

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04-Feb 2022 Friday 1:50 PM (106 days ago)            #15
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World Cup 2022: Peru And Ecuador Aim For Qatar

Peru vs Ecuador

Fourth meets third in the CONMEBOL World Cup 2022 qualifying group when Peru hosts Ecuador in a blockbuster clash at the Estadio Nacional on Tuesday.

The hosts have been coming up on the rails in the South American qualifiers in recent weeks and currently preside in the last automatic qualifying spot, four points behind their visitors and one ahead of Uruguay who are sitting uncomfortably in the play-off place. Peru beat Colombia 1-0 last time out while Ecuador earned a point in an action packed 1-1 draw with Brazil.

World Cup: Peru vs Ecuador is the most fascinating tie of this round, with three games left to play Ecuador could seal their place in the finals with a win, and a victory for the hosts would give them a real chance of progressing while making their visitors look nervously over their shoulders.

Talking Points

Peru’s Strong Jaw

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The pre-match Peru vs Ecuador betting odds rate Los Incas as favourites for this clash, and little wonder given home advantage and recent form. They made it three victories on the bounce with their shock win against Uruguay when they showed they can take real punishment and stay in a game. With 30 shots to four the Uruguay team might wonder how they lost, but Peru limited them to just two shots on target in the 90 minutes, which meant Edinson Flores’ well taken 85th minute effort took all three points in a classic smash and grab.

31-year-old keeper and skipper Pedro Gallese organised his defence superbly and they put their bodies on the line to protect their last line of defence. Head coach Ricardo Gareca was delighted, saying: “We know we depend on our efforts and this team has to fight in each final. We have another one on Tuesday and we are ready for that.” The last time Peru made the finals was in 1982 to Gareca will expect his team to battle all the way in this campaign.

Peru will have to fight Ecuador without top scorer Christian Cueva and Aldo Corzo, both suspended. So Celta Vigo midfielder Renato Tapia is likely to line up alongside DC United’s creative midfielder Flores, while Serie A fans might recognise Benevento striker Gianluca Lapadula.

Ecuador on the brink

Felix Torres aims to score his third World Cup 2022 qualifiers goal as Ecuador face Peru
Felix Torres celebrates after scoring Ecuador’s first goal against Brazil

We’re already looking forward to the World Cup finals in Qatar and Ecuador fans are at the dreaming stage after a 1-1 draw with Brazil cemented their third position and inched them closer to the finals. They could have had three points against Brazil had VAR not overturned two penalties awarded by the ref, but head coach Gustavo Alfaro can be proud of his players’ efforts. Felix Torres headed Ecuador’s equaliser after Casemiro gave the Selecao a lead. But a red card for keeper Alexander Dominguez and a yellow for talisman Enner Valencia means Ecuador will be without two of their most experienced players for the clash with Peru. Top scorer Michael Estrada will lead the line while Jorge Pinos is lined up to deputise in goal.

History

Peru have the more impressive history of the two teams; they are twice Copa America champions, the last time in 1975, and they have made the World Cup finals on five occasions.

Ecuador have reached the Copa America semi-finals on two occasions and have reached the World Cup finals three times.

Peru won the return fixture 2-1, but the most remarkable of all the Peru vs Ecuador results came over 80 years ago, way back in 1938 when the Incas recorded their biggest ever win, beating Ecuador 9-1 in Bogota, Columbia. 

Both teams come into the game unbeaten in six, and the Incas are unbeaten in six at home.

Betting Tip

??
Peru vs Ecuador 1X2 Draw @ 3.10
February 2, 10:00 (GMT+8)

At prices of 2.21 and 3.02, Peru and Ecuador will both believe they can win this game, but los Incas need the points more as they are one of a number of teams chasing the last qualifying spot, and with Uruguay and Paraguay still to play they have three huge games to contend with. If the hosts can fashion a victory then that would drag Ecuador back into the melee; so the visitors would be happy with a draw, with Paraguay and Argentina still to play.

Both teams have key players missing particularly in attack, and while Peru’s defensive prowess was on show in their last outing they will have to be incisive in attack to break down Ecuador who will be set up to frustrate. I can see the two sides cancelling each other out and another 1-1 result for La Tri, at odds of 5.22, would be just the job for them.

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04-Feb 2022 Friday 1:52 PM (106 days ago)            #16
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World Cup 2022: Goal-Shy Colombia Need To Quickly Rediscover Their Shooting Boots

Argentina vs Colombia

World Cup 2022 qualifying for South American’s finest is well and truly reaching a climax.

Brazil and Argentina have already reached Qatar which leaves the other nations vying for the three remaining spots (two automatically, one via a play-off).

The standings see Ecuador with some wriggle room in third and Peru in the fourth and final automatic berth but there’s not much in it.

And with Uruguay, Colombia, Chile and Bolivia hot on their heels and still possessing hopes of reaching Qatar, we could be set for some World Cup qualifying highlights.

Talking Points

With Argentina already qualified and missing their talisman Lionel Messi, perhaps it is a good time for Los Cafeteros to be playing the Copa America holders.

Not that they showed any signs of easing up as they damaged Chile’s qualification hopes last week (their 28th unbeaten game in a row across all competitions) when goals from Angel Di Maria and Lautaro Martinez defeated one of their fiercest rivals.

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On the same day, Colombia made life very difficult for themselves as they went down to a late home defeat to Peru on Friday night.

In a result which cost them the opportunity to climb back up to fourth, second-half substitute Edison Flores secured a smash and grab 1-0 victory away as goalkeeper David Ospina’s gaffe cost goal-shy Colombia.

Peru barely had a shot on goal all match but, five minutes from time, Ospina let Flores’s fierce effort from a tight angle beat him at his near post as Peru snatched an unlikely victory on the counter-attack.

Yes, Colombia had dominated throughout but failed to score for the sixth successive match – a run of more than 550 minutes.

After such a lack of clinical finishing for five matches in a row, how they now need to find their shooting boots or their World Cup hopes will be over.

To labour the point, against Peru, only 28 of Colombia’s shots were on target.

Four Argentine clean sheets from their last four qualifiers at home may well spell further frustration for Colombia who will be without the suspended Yerry Mina, but Argentina’s ranks will be even more depleted through four suspensions of their own.

All four – Nicolas Otamendi, Nicolas Tagliafico, Rodrigo de Paul and Leandro Paredes- are out of contention after being cautioned against Chile.

There remains much to play for in the CONMEBOL qualifiers, now more than ever.

History

Angel Di Maria scored in Argentina's recent World Cup 2022 qualifiers win against Chile
Argentina’s Angel Di Maria holding the Copa America trophy

Since Argentina thrashed Colombia in their first-ever meeting in the 1945 Copa America, it has been largely domination for the two-times world champions.

They have 24 victories to nine Colombia successes and eight draws.

On saying that, they have one win apiece and two draws in their most recent four meetings, including in last summer’s Copa semi-final when the teams drew 1-1 before Argentina prevailed on spot-kicks en route to winning the competition.

In that game, Martinez put them ahead before an equaliser from Luis Diaz forced extra-time and the subsequent penalty shoot-out

A month earlier they had met in World Cup qualifying in Barranquilla when the Argentines raced into a 2-0 lead inside eight minutes through Cristian Romero and Leandro Paredes before a Luis Muriel penalty reduced the arrears and the Colombians levelled in the final minute through Miguel Borja.

In the 2019 Copa, Colombia – then managed by Carlos Quieroz – won 2-0 in a group game, courtesy of goals from Roger Martinez and Duvan Zapata.

You have to go back to 1993 and a famous Colombian victory to the last time they won on Argentine soil.

On that occasion, a side containing the likes of Diego Simeone and Gabriel Batistuta were humbled on home turf as Faustino Asprilla grabbed a hattrick and inspired a 5-0 romp in Buenos Aires.

Betting Tip

??
Argentina vs Colombia 1X2 Draw @ 3.30
February 2, 07:30 (GMT+8)

The SBOTOP World Cup qualifying betting odds back the already qualified hosts.

That includes appealing odds such as First Half 1X2 @ 2.70, 1X2 @ 1.94, First Half Asian Handicap -0.25 @ 2.17 and Asian Handicap -0.75 @ 2.21.

Colombia have their own attractive odds too, including First Half 1X2 @ 4.40, 1X2 @ 3.80, Asian Handicap +0.50 @ 1.97.

As with so many matches, Total Goal 2-3 is pretty standard which is reflected in the odds @ 1.83.

Yet look at Total Goal 0-1 @ 2.34 and 4-6 @ 4.90 to broaden your horizons or Over 2.25 goals @ 2.17.

And if you want a re-run of the last meeting (obviously there won’t be a penalty shoot-out in this one), then Correct Score 1-1 is available @ 5.80.

I can actually see it being honours even in this one.

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CONCACAF World Cup 2022: Mexico Aware of the Panama Threat

Mexico vs Panama

Third plays fourth in the CONCACAF match of the week when World Cup 2022: Mexico vs Panamais the entertainment on offer at the Estadio Azteca on Thursday.

The top three teams will qualify for the Qatar World Cup while the fourth-placed team will face an inter-confederation playoff. After a fine set of results Panama are just a single point behind Mexico and the USA who hold second place, both on 18 points while Canada is in pole position on 22.

With four games to play Panama still have the USA and Canada to play, so they will have a huge say in the final outcome, but if Mexico can see off the threat of Los Canaleros then they will take a big step towards the finals. The hosts come into the game on the back of a 0-0 draw at home to Costa Rica while Panama won at home to Jamaica 3-2, so the pressure is now on El Tri to deliver in a huge game.

Talking Points

Mexico looking for their cutting edge

Mexico’s meeting with Costa Rica was never going to be a walkover but Gerardo Martino’s team would have hoped for more than a point, and the pre-match Mexico vs Panama betting odds put them right at the front in this next game against Panama. He has an experienced group of players, led by midfield general Hector Herrera, with some talented strikers playing in Europe’s best leagues.

World Cup 2022: Jesus Corona made it to the scoresheet in Mexico's 1-1 draw against Panama
Jesus Corona in action during Mexico’s match against Costa Rica

Wolves forward Raul Jimenez and Napoli’s Hirving Lozano have been the mainstays up front in recent seasons, with support from Sevilla’s Jesus Corona and Martino will be relying on one of them to avoid drawing another blank.

The top two, Canada and USA came head to head last weekend and goals from Cyle Larin and Sam Adekugbe gave the young Canadian team a priceless three points, meaning the US, Mexico and Panama are in a three-way battle for two places. Now Mexico must be ruthless to see off one of their two main rivals.

Ambitious Panama have no respect for reputation

Los Canaleros are down in 63rd place in the FIFA World rankings 49 behind 14th placed Mexico but they won’t arrive at the Azteca arena with any fear whatsoever. They have already beaten USA in this campaign and, last weekend, they saw off a dangerous Jamaica side 3-2 which all but ended the Reggae Boyz’ hopes of qualification.

Panama went behind early in the game when West Ham’s prolific striker Michail Antonio gave Jamaica an early lead from the penalty spot, and when Eric Davis missed a penalty things began to look a little gloomy for Los Canaleros. But Jamaica gave them a helping hand with an own goal to level the scores before the break. Then Davis made amends for his penalty miss with a 51st minute goal, and Azmahar Ariano Navarro made it 3-1 with a sweeping finish. Jamaica’s Andre Gray halved the deficit but Panama held out for a deserved win.

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Head coach Thomas Christiansen will be delighted by the way his side attacked with great intensity, but Mexico will be hopeful they can breach a Panama defence that has not kept a clean sheet since the middle of October. El Tri have scored in six of their last seven home games and so they will expect to hit the net more than once on Thursday.

History

Mexico have been to the World Cup finals 16 times while Panama are trying to make their second appearance, having debuted four year ago at Russia 2018; and pretty much all the stats are pointing to a home win here, which will make Panama’s task so much harder.

El Tri have had the better of the head-to-head Mexico vs Panama results, winning nine, drawing five and losing two of their encounters with Panama.

The return fixture ended in a 1-1 draw in Panama in a game dominated by Mexico, but they trailed to a Rolando Blackburn goal until the 75th minute when Sevilla striker Corona popped up with the leveller. Mexico won the previous four meetings, scoring ten goals and conceding just one and they are currently unbeaten at home in ten matches. 

Betting Tip

??
Mexico vs Panama Over 2.50 @ 1.94
February 3, 11:00 (GMT+8)

Mexico are hot favourites at a SBOTOP price of 1.28 while the draw is at 4.55 and Panama are way out at 8.22.

Four of Panama’s last six games and five of Mexico’s have yielded three goals or more so I expect more of the same on Thursday from a Mexico side hungry for goals. A 3-0 home win is at odds of 7.14 and, incidentally, that was the outcome on the two encounters prior to the 1-1 draw in Panama.

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04-Feb 2022 Friday 1:56 PM (106 days ago)            #18
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CONCACAF World Cup 2022: Mexico Aware of the Panama Threat

Mexico vs Panama

Third plays fourth in the CONCACAF match of the week when World Cup 2022: Mexico vs Panamais the entertainment on offer at the Estadio Azteca on Thursday.

The top three teams will qualify for the Qatar World Cup while the fourth-placed team will face an inter-confederation playoff. After a fine set of results Panama are just a single point behind Mexico and the USA who hold second place, both on 18 points while Canada is in pole position on 22.

With four games to play Panama still have the USA and Canada to play, so they will have a huge say in the final outcome, but if Mexico can see off the threat of Los Canaleros then they will take a big step towards the finals. The hosts come into the game on the back of a 0-0 draw at home to Costa Rica while Panama won at home to Jamaica 3-2, so the pressure is now on El Tri to deliver in a huge game.

Talking Points

Mexico looking for their cutting edge

Mexico’s meeting with Costa Rica was never going to be a walkover but Gerardo Martino’s team would have hoped for more than a point, and the pre-match Mexico vs Panama betting odds put them right at the front in this next game against Panama. He has an experienced group of players, led by midfield general Hector Herrera, with some talented strikers playing in Europe’s best leagues.

World Cup 2022: Jesus Corona made it to the scoresheet in Mexico's 1-1 draw against Panama
Jesus Corona in action during Mexico’s match against Costa Rica

Wolves forward Raul Jimenez and Napoli’s Hirving Lozano have been the mainstays up front in recent seasons, with support from Sevilla’s Jesus Corona and Martino will be relying on one of them to avoid drawing another blank.

The top two, Canada and USA came head to head last weekend and goals from Cyle Larin and Sam Adekugbe gave the young Canadian team a priceless three points, meaning the US, Mexico and Panama are in a three-way battle for two places. Now Mexico must be ruthless to see off one of their two main rivals.

Ambitious Panama have no respect for reputation

Los Canaleros are down in 63rd place in the FIFA World rankings 49 behind 14th placed Mexico but they won’t arrive at the Azteca arena with any fear whatsoever. They have already beaten USA in this campaign and, last weekend, they saw off a dangerous Jamaica side 3-2 which all but ended the Reggae Boyz’ hopes of qualification.

Panama went behind early in the game when West Ham’s prolific striker Michail Antonio gave Jamaica an early lead from the penalty spot, and when Eric Davis missed a penalty things began to look a little gloomy for Los Canaleros. But Jamaica gave them a helping hand with an own goal to level the scores before the break. Then Davis made amends for his penalty miss with a 51st minute goal, and Azmahar Ariano Navarro made it 3-1 with a sweeping finish. Jamaica’s Andre Gray halved the deficit but Panama held out for a deserved win.

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Head coach Thomas Christiansen will be delighted by the way his side attacked with great intensity, but Mexico will be hopeful they can breach a Panama defence that has not kept a clean sheet since the middle of October. El Tri have scored in six of their last seven home games and so they will expect to hit the net more than once on Thursday.

History

Mexico have been to the World Cup finals 16 times while Panama are trying to make their second appearance, having debuted four year ago at Russia 2018; and pretty much all the stats are pointing to a home win here, which will make Panama’s task so much harder.

El Tri have had the better of the head-to-head Mexico vs Panama results, winning nine, drawing five and losing two of their encounters with Panama.

The return fixture ended in a 1-1 draw in Panama in a game dominated by Mexico, but they trailed to a Rolando Blackburn goal until the 75th minute when Sevilla striker Corona popped up with the leveller. Mexico won the previous four meetings, scoring ten goals and conceding just one and they are currently unbeaten at home in ten matches. 

Betting Tip

??

Mexico vs Panama Over 2.50 @ 1.94
February 3, 11:00 (GMT+8)

Mexico are hot favourites at a SBOTOP price of 1.28 while the draw is at 4.55 and Panama are way out at 8.22.

Four of Panama’s last six games and five of Mexico’s have yielded three goals or more so I expect more of the same on Thursday from a Mexico side hungry for goals. A 3-0 home win is at odds of 7.14 and, incidentally, that was the outcome on the two encounters prior to the 1-1 draw in Panama.

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08-Feb 2022 Tuesday 2:42 PM (102 days ago)            #19
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World Cup 2022: Uruguay, Chile Keep Qatar Hopes Alive

The World Cup 2022 qualifying picture in South America is starting to take shape, with a handful of countries still fighting for the two spots behind Brazil, Argentina, and Ecuador.

Luis Suarez and Uruguay are suddenly in the driver’s seat for the coveted fourth and final automatic qualifying spot after their big win over Venezuela, coupled with a Peru draw, saw them jump to fourth.

Meanwhile, Alexis Sanchez kept Chile’s chances of going to Qatar alive with a brace against Bolivia as they continue fight it out with Peru and struggling Colombia for fifth spot and a play-off berth.

Brazil and Argentina are already assured of their place in Qatar, but they keep winning anyway despite the absence of their PSG stars, Neymar and Lionel Messi.

Read on below as SBOTOP lists down the top takeaways from third-to-last matchday of the South American World Cup 2022 qualifying tournament.

Uruguay new favourite for fourth after victory over Venezuela

Uruguay put in arguably their best performance of this qualifying campaign as they thrashed bottom-side Venezuela 4-1 to give new head coach Diego Alonso two wins from his first two games in charge.

Tottenham new boy Rodrigo Bentancur got La Celeste off to a dream start by scoring in the opening minute, and Giorgian de Arrascaeta made it two on 23 minutes. Veteran strikers Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez then got into the act with goals of their own to seal the win.

But it was Manchester United youngster Facundo Pellistri who stole the show as he brilliantly set up one goal and drew the penalty which led to another.

The victory was huge for Uruguay as they have now moved to the fourth and final automatic qualifying spot after Peru’s 1-1 draw with Ecuador.

La Celeste’s last two qualifying games in March will be against their direct rivals for that fourth spot. They take on Peru in Montevideo, then travel to Santiago to take on Chile in the qualifying finale.

Alexis brace gives Chile a fighting chance

Chile’s chances of qualifying for their third straight World Cup are still very much alive after their 3-2 win over Bolivia. Alexis Sanchez bagged a brace to lead La Roja to the much-needed victory.

Alexis Sanchez has kept Chile's World Cup 2022 hopes alive after leading them 2-3 against Bolivia
Chile star Alexis Sanchez celebrates after winning 2-3 against Bolivia in their latest World Cup 2022 qualifier

The 33-year-old Sanchez, who now has 48 career international goals in 146 caps (both Chilean records), finally ended his lengthy goal drought for his country. His last goal came back in June 2021 and the one before that came in October 2020. Alexis has also been playing quite well for Inter this season and has four goals over his last eight appearances.

But even with Chile’s win over Bolivia, their World Cup 2022 odds of qualifying are not great. They remain three points behind Uruguay for the fourth automatic qualifying spot and have two very tough final qualifying games against Brazil away and against Uruguay at home.

But if Sanchez can continue the fine form he’s shown of late into March for the final two qualifiers, then La Roja should still have a fighting chance of making it to Qatar.

Raphinha shines, Vinicius fails to impress for Brazil

Leaders Brazil bounced back from their 1-1 draw with Ecuador as they thrashed second-from-bottom Paraguay 4-0 at home. It was a dominant performance from the mostly second-string Selecao, as Raphinha, Philippe Coutinho, Antony, and Rodrygo got the goals in the absence of injured star Neymar.

Raphinha produced more World Cup 2022 highlights as he tries to earn his way into the squad for Qatar. The Leeds winger has now scored three international goals in seven appearances in qualifying, all of which have come within the last six months.

Meanwhile, Vinicius Jr had another disappointing showing. The Real Madrid man did not get a single shot off in the two games against Ecuador and Paraguay and was also subbed off on in both matches. He has now appeared in 11 games for his country and has yet to score a goal.

Clearly, Vinicius is having a more impressive club campaign than Raphinha, with 15 goals and 8 assists already for Real, who are favourites to reclaim the La Liga title.

But Raphinha’s sudden rise has strengthened his chances of making the World Cup 2022 squad, so Vini Jr will have to step up his game with the Selecao and prove to Tite that he is deserving of a spot in the side.

Lautaro steps up again for Argentina in Messi’s absence

Lautaro Martinez once again stepped up for Argentina as he scored the lone goal in their 1-0 win against Colombia. La Albiceleste went a perfect two for two in the latest round of World Cup 2022 qualifying matches despite missing superstar Lionel Messi.

Lautaro, who also got the winner in Argentina’s 2-1 win away to Chile, has been in fantastic goalscoring form for his country. He has now scored seven goals in qualifying (tied for second along with Neymar and Luis Suarez) and has eight goals in his last 12 international appearances.

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Lautaro’s continued ascent bodes very well for Argentina heading into the World Cup. With Messi getting up in age, Lautaro gives the team another top-class striker capable of getting the goals they need to make a deep run in Qatar.

Colombia in serious danger of crashing out

While Ecuador are now secured a top-five spot, Colombia are in serious danger of failing to make the World Cup. Los Cafeteros, who made the quarter-finals back in 2014, suffered a 1-0 defeat to Messi-less Argentina, pushing their disastrous winless run in qualifying to seven games (4 draws, 3 defeats, 0 goals scored).

Seventh-placed Colombia are four points adrift of fifth-placed Peru for the play-off spot, and while they face strugglers Bolivia and Venezuela in their last two games, they need other teams to falter to stand any chance of making it.

So despite all the talent at their disposal – James Rodriguez, Juan Cuadrado, Davinson Sanchez, Radamel Falcao and Liverpool new boy Luis Diaz – Colombia could very well be out of contention for Qatar when it’s all said and done.


 

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24-Mar 2022 Thursday 3:25 PM (58 days ago)            #20
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World Cup 2022: South Korea Host Iran in Crucial Showdown

Korea Republic vs Iran

Top spot in AFC World Cup 2022 qualifying Group A will be on the line when South Korea host Iran in Seoul. Both nations have already qualified for Qatar with several games to spare, but they will still be hoping to end the campaign on a high.

The South Koreans will be especially keen to beat their old Asian rivals, not only to overtake them in the standings, but also to end their extended winless run against them.

And their World Cup 2022 odds of doing so at home have received a huge boost with the likely absence of a couple of Iranian stars due to Covid.

Talking Points

Son and Hwang back to boost South Korean attack

South Korea have been taking care of business in the third round of World Cup qualifying. They are still unbeaten in eight games and have won each of their last four matches since playing out a 1-1 draw with Iran back in October.

South Korea’s defence has been rock-solid in this round. They have conceded just two goals in eight games and have kept four clean sheets in a row, which has to please head coach Paulo Bento.

Will Son Heung-Min help South Korea earn another victory in their World Cup 2022 qualifiers against Iran
Korea Republic’s Son Heung-Min in action during their World Cup 2022 qualifiers against Syria

Meanwhile, star forwards Son Heung-Min and Hwang Hee-chan were both absent in their latest round of qualifiers away against Lebanon and Syria, but the South Koreans did just about enough to squeeze out the victories they needed.

The good World Cup 2022 news for the Taeguk Warriors is that their Premier League stars are back in the squad to bolster their attack against Iran.

Hwang suffered an injury scare in Wolves’ win at Everton, but he bounced right back and appeared as a substitute in their shock 3-2 defeat against Leeds United, who came back from two goals down in the last half hour.

Meanwhile, Son will be in fine form after scoring a brace in Tottenham’s 3-1 win over West Ham. Son is the country’s top scorer in the third round of qualifying with three goals and has 30 goals in 96 international caps for his country.

Iran lose key players due to Covid

Iran are in the driver’s seat to win Group A. They are currently on 22 points and hold a two-point lead over South Korea.

Like the South Koreans, Iran have built their success on the foundation of a strong defence. They have conceded just two goals through their eight qualifiers and kept clean sheets in their back-to-back 1-0 home wins over Iraq and UAE last time out.

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However, Iran coach Dragan Skoi has been struck a major blow as several key players, including star striker Mehdi Taremi and midfielder Alireza Jahanbakhsh, have tested positive for Covid and look set to miss out.

Taremi’s absence will be especially crucial. The 28-year-old is having a terrific season for Porto with 16 goals and 13 assists in all competitions. He is also Iran’s most reliable goalscorer in the third round of World Cup qualifying with four goals.

With Taremi absent, Sardar Azmoun will likely lead the Iranian attack in Seoul. The 27-year-old Bayer Leverkusen striker, who has just recently recovered from an injury, has a terrific strike rate for his country with 39 goals in 60 games.

History

Iran and South Korea played out a 1-1 draw in their first meeting in Tehran in October. Son Heung Min had given South Korea the lead just after half-time, but Alireza Jahanbakhsh equalised 14 minutes from time to salvage a point for the hosts.

It was the third consecutive draw between the two Asian superpowers and the seventh straight game Iran have avoided defeat against South Korea.

The Taeguk Warriors have beaten Iran just once over the last 15 years. That came in the quarter-finals of the 2011 Asian Cup, and South Korea still needed extra-time to top their rivals.

All in all, Iran have a 13-9 edge over South Korea in terms of wins, with 10 draws.

Betting Tip 

SBOTOP odds have South Korea installed as 2.12 favourites to beat Iran, who are priced at 3.30. Meanwhile, a draw is at 2.90.

The advantage is quite clearly with South Korea. Not only will they be at home, but they will also have their two star strikers in Son and Hwang, while Iran will be without Taremi, which is a huge blow to their attack.

South Korea will also have significantly more motivation in this match; they must win to end their long winless drought against Iran and also to jump ahead of the Iranians in the standings.

With all these factors in mind, look for the Taeguk Warriors to finally get that much-awaited win over Iran in Seoul.

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24-Mar 2022 Thursday 3:28 PM (58 days ago)            #21
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World Cup 2022: The Swedes Won’t Make Friends With the Czechs at Solna

Sweden vs Czech Republic

A huge World Cup 2022 fixture is happening between Sweden and Czech Republic this Thursday at the Friends Arena, and it’s something that neither side will easily concede given the high stakes involved.

Both nations are two consecutive games away from securing their spot in Qatar for the actual World Cup, including this must-win game. And the winner this Thursday will have to go through Poland on March 29.

Sweden and Czech Republic haven’t faced each other on international competitions in quite some time. The former has the upper hand according to the SBOTOP pre-match betting odds and the fact that the hosts have a healthier group also reinforces this notion.

But the Czechs have shown over these last few years that they aren’t backing down from any challenge, and it makes you wonder on whether they can spring another surprise.

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Talking Points

Sweden not letting this opportunity go

Janne Andersson’s side has arguably been one of the most disappointing sides here in the qualifiers.

They had a solid start in 2021 where they’ve won nine of their 11 games and have progressed to as far as the last 16 of Euro 2020. But after that, they suffered a poor run of form that has forced them to settle for the play-offs.

They were in a great spot in Group B, but defeats against Spain, Greece, and Georgia have put them in the position they’re in now.

Fortunately for Janne Andersson, he has a full squad to choose from – which includes a bevy of talented players from young to old.

Real Sociedad’s Alexander Isak is in form as he has scored three goals in his past six international appearances, and he’ll be backed by Dejan Kulusevski, Emil Forsberg, and debutant Anthony Elanga.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has also been called up by Sweden and he’ll play a vital role as one of the team’s renowned veterans, although he’ll be suspended for this match. Meanwhile, marshalling the back are the likes of Victor Lindelof and Ludwig Augustinsson.

Czech Republic’s big guns are out

Patrik Schick hopes to deliver in their World Cup 2022 qualifying match against Sweden
Patrik Schick celebrates during a Euro 20220 match

Czech Republic have also been a disappointing side here in the qualifiers as they were unable to build on their surprising Euro 2020 campaign where they went to as far as the quarter-finals.

Four wins, two draws, and two defeats weren’t enough for the Czechs to secure their berth from Group E, with Wales and Belgium leading the pack.

It doesn’t help either that they won’t have a full squad to choose from ahead of this contest. Patrik Schick is dealing with a calf injury and his 17 goals in 33 appearances will be hard to replace. Meanwhile, Jaroslav Silhavy’s entire first-choice defence from last year’s Euro 2020 is also unavailable.

Antonin Barak and Matej Vydra are to lead their frontline and will have to play beyond themselves, while Tomas Vaclik will have a tougher time manning between the sticks with inadequate cover at centre-half.

History

The international games between Sweden and Czech Republic have only come few and far between. They’ve only faced each other three times where the Swedes have the slight edge with one victory, while the other two ended in draws.

There have been a handful of goals whenever they meet up and it’s likely that such trend will continue, although we might see the Swedes secure a clean sheet against the Czechs on Thursday.

Sweden and Czech Republic’s previous meeting was an international friendly at the Friends Arena back in 2016 where the game ended with a 1-1 scoreline as Marcus Berg and Matej Vydra each found the back of the net.

Don’t be fooled by the name of Sweden’s home stadium called the Friends Arena since their home record hasn’t been exactly friendly against their visitors. Sweden have won their last nine matches in Solna, scoring 18 goals and conceding just four.

Betting Tip

Sweden are favoured by the World Cup 2022 odds for this upcoming matchup. They are installed at 2.85 to win, while Czech Republic are priced at 4.60 and a draw is at 1.89 in the 1X2 market.

The Swedes are likely to score the goals and World Cup 2022 highlights for this contest given their array of talented frontmen compared to what the Czechs have as of the moment, so we’re inclined to recommend going for Total Goal 2-3 @ 1.85 as an alternative bet. While another competitive matchup is expected here, in the end, the Swedes should move on and face Poland next week for another do-or-die contest.

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24-Mar 2022 Thursday 3:30 PM (58 days ago)            #22
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World Cup 2022: Wales Look to Take Crucial Step Toward Qatar in Cardiff

Wales vs Austria

Wales still need two more wins to make it to World Cup 2022, which would be their first time qualifying for a World Cup since their only appearance in 1958.

The first of the Dragons’ two potential tests will come in their play-off semi-final tie against Austria at home in Cardiff.

The Austrians are coming off a disappointing World Cup qualifying campaign which saw them finish fourth in their group behind Denmark, Scotland, and Israel. But they still have a shot to make it to Qatar due to their strong Nations League display.

The World Cup 2022 betting odds actually have Austria as slight favourites, so can The Boys slay the Dragons to take one step closer to Qatar?

Talking Points

Wales hoping to have star duo Bale, Ramsey

Wales are coming off a second-place showing in Group E of UEFA World Cup qualifying, five points behind group winners Belgium.

After losing to Belgium in their group opener, the Dragons went undefeated in their last seven qualifiers. However, draws to Estonia and the Czech Republic proved costly for their qualifying hopes.

Robert Page, who led the team to a round-of-16 berth in Euro 2020, remains the team’s caretaker manager in Ryan Giggs’ absence, and he has opted to call up team captain and Real Madrid star Gareth Bale despite an injury concern.

Bale missed Real’s 4-0 hammering at the hands of Barcelona in El Clasico due to a back complaint, but Wales are hopeful the 32-year-old will be fit to play against Austria.

Bale has had another disappointing season with Real Madrid. His only appearances for the Spanish giants this calendar year have come in February against Villarreal and Paris Saint-Germain.

However, he can still bring his best for his country. He scored a hat-trick and provided an assist in his last three matches for Wales.

Aaron Ramsey has been called up to Wales squad ahead of their World Cup 2022 qualifier against Austria
Wales’ Aaron Ramsey in action against Hungary’s Zsolt Nagy during Euro 2020 qualifier in 2019

Meanwhile, midfielder Aaron Ramsey is also set to feature after making his first start for new club Rangers since moving from Juventus in January.

With striker Kieffer Moore out of the squad due to injury, Bale (36 goals in 100 caps) and Ramsey (20 goals in 71 caps) will have to produce some World Cup 2022 highlights for the Dragons.

Daniel James, who has been a crucial player in Leeds’ Premier League campaign this season, could also get the start against Austria.

Austria’s World Cup hopes still alive

Austria’s hopes of qualifying for their first World Cup since 1998 are still alive despite a distant fourth-place finish in Group F of qualifying. The Austrians’ performance in the UEFA Nations League earned them a spot in the play-offs.

Despite their disappointing qualifying campaign, Austria still finished strong with two big home wins over Israel (4-2) and Moldova (4-1) back in November.

Marko Arnautovic scored three goals in those last two games, including two from the penalty spot, as he raised his total to 32 goals in 96 caps.

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Arnautovic will likely lead the Austrian attack along with Bayern Munich’s Marcel Sabitzer and Stuttgart’s Sasa Kalajdzic.

Captain Julian Baumgartlinger has missed out of the squad as he failed to fully recover from a knee injury. Florian Grillitsch and Sabitzer will likely continue to deputise in midfield in Baumgartlinger’s absence, with the likes of Louis Schaub – who scored a brace against Israel – and RB Leipzig’s Konrad Laimer also contenders to start.

Meanwhile, Real Madrid’s David Alaba will spearhead the Austrian defence. Alaba has primarily played at left-back for his country, and he could have a crucial role in containing club team-mate Gareth Bale.

History

Wales and Austria have met 10 times in total. The Austrians have a 5-3 edge in terms of wins, while there have been two draws.

However, the Welsh have won two of their last three meetings. That includes their most recent matchup in the World Cup 2018 qualifiers. After drawing 2-2 in Vienna – Arnautovic bagged a brace – Wales won 1-0 in Cardiff thanks to a Ben Woodburn goal.

Betting Tip

SBOTOP odds actually have Austria as slight 2.63 favourites to win away from home. Wales have 2.74 odds to win, while a draw is at 2.99.

As those odds indicate, these two sides are quite evenly matched, with very little between them. And while Wales have the big-name stars in Bale and Ramsey, it remains to be seen what they have left as age and injuries have taken their toll.

But while Wales don’t exactly have a huge edge over Austria, home advantage should still count for something. That’s why I’m taking the Dragons to get the home win and move one step closer toward qualification.

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24-Mar 2022 Thursday 3:32 PM (58 days ago)            #23
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World Cup 2022: Canada on the Brink

Costa Rica vs Canada

All eyes are on San Jose on Thursday where the match between Costa Rica vs Canada is the big game in the CONCACAF on the road to World Cup 2022.

A win for John Herdman’s rapidly improving Canada will be enough to see them through to the finals for the first time since Mexico 1986, while Costa Rica are hoping to make the play-offs and reach a fifth World Cup finals in six campaigns.

Los Ticos are fifth in the table and need to grab the fourth place from Panama over the final three games. They are currently a point behind but have momentum on their side. 

Meanwhile, Les Rouges are the only unbeaten team in the competition and are about to end their 36-year wait to join the best football nations in the world on the biggest stage. 

Costa Rica come into the game on the back of a 1-0 victory over Jamaica while Canada won 2-0 away to El Salvador, a result which took Herdman’s team four points clear at the top of the table.

The very latest World Cup 2022 betting odds tell us we have a great game on here with all three results well in play. And if Les Rouges pick up the win they crave, the celebrations in Canada will go on long into the night. 

Talking Points

Costa Rica’s Old Boys are doing the business

Los Ticos have an experienced set of players who have been there and done that many times for their countryand they’d love nothing more than one last hurrah at the 2022 finals.

Costa Rica's Bryan Ruiz will aim to produce World Cup 2022 highlights as they take on Canada in the World Cup 2022
Bryan Ruiz in action during Costa Rica’s match against Jamaica

Just one win in the first seven games put Costa Rica under pressure, but head coach Luis Fernando Suarez has galvanised his team to make a play-off place a distinct possibility.

Costa Rica are skippered by former Fulham star Bryan Ruiz who has 137 caps and will become the second-most capped player in the nation’s history if he makes an appearance against Canada.

PSG keeper Keylor Navas earned his 100th cap in Los Ticos’ win over Jamaica while goal scorer Joel Campbell picked up his 109th cap.

Navas is in fine form and in line to become the CONCACAF goalkeeper of the tournament, picking up three consecutive clean sheets in a big win over Panama and a goalless draw with Mexico before the triumph over Jamaica.

All Costa Rica need to do is to better the results of Panama over the next three games and another shutout for Navas against Canada will be a big leap forwards.

Canada’s history makers can take the next step

Les Rouges have stood back and watched the World Cup finals from afar for almost four decades, but surely they are on their way to Qatar having recently ended a sequence of long running records which have held them back.

During the last three games, Canada won in El Salvador for the first time since 1996, which is the first time in Honduras since 1985 and for the first time against the USA in World Cup qualification since 1980.

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North American summit with USA was a real test and Les Rouges came through with flying colours to stretch their lead at the top of the CONCACAF table. 

Twin strikers 26-year old Cyle Larin and 22-year old Jonathan David are in superb form and they can add on to the World Cup 2022 highlights. Larin is the nations all-time leading scorer with 23 goals while David scored his 20th international goal in the win over El Salvador.

And like Los Ticos, Canada registered clean sheets in their last three games as keeper Milan Borjan put in a series of impressive performances in front of a well-organised and confident defence, but they are still without star wing back Alphonso Davies.

The Bayern Munich man is currently out with a complication following a COVID-19 infection and is scheduled to return in April.

History

There is a beautiful balance to the head-to-headswith both nations winning four of the 12 meetings and there have been four draws.

Canada won the last encounter in 2021 – a 1-0 win on home soil as David scored the crucial goal.

In terms of recent form, Canada have the advantage, winning the last six games and are unbeaten in 11. Meanwhile, Costa Rica have won three, drawn one, and lost two of their last six games. 

Betting Tip

The hosts are at SBOTOP odds of win with the draw at 2.85 and they certainly have the experience to stop Les Rouges.

Neither Canada nor Costa Rica expect to make the latter stages of Qatar 2022, but they both believe they can qualify for the finals and I’m backing Canada to take the step they need to book their ticket. Both defences are in fine form and a 1-0 away win at odds of 5.41 is a likely outcome.

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24-Mar 2022 Thursday 3:36 PM (58 days ago)            #24
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World Cup 2022: Italy Dread a Recurring Nightmare

Italy vs North Macedonia

Italy welcome the Republic of North Macedonia to Palermo on Thursday in a winner-takes-all play-off clash in search of a place at World Cup 2022.

The victors will take on the winners of a clash between Portugal and Turkey in the Path C final which is scheduled for Tuesday 29th March. And that shows the size of the task facing Italy who are desperate to avoid a repeat of the humiliation in failing to qualify for Russia 2018.

This gamebrings together two nations at the opposite ends of the food chain as the visitors are 61 places behind Italy in the latest FIFA rankings at 67th.

And so here at SBOTOPwe’re backing the sixth-placed Azzurri to come through, and then take their chance against a dangerous Turkey or the 2016 European champions.

Talking Points

Italy prepare the big guns

Head coach Roberto Mancini was a hero when the Azzurri won Euro 2020 in a penalty shootout over England and the memory of their disastrous 2018 World Cup qualification campaign was forgotten. Well, almost.

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Draws at home to Switzerland and away to Northern Ireland left Italy short of points and now they are back in a sudden death scenario, so Mancini is calling on some of his biggest names to see this job through.

Lorenzo Insigne’s Napoli are in a four-way race for the 2021/22 Scudetto and the forward is banging in form and will have a big part to play on Thursday.

The boss has brought back the granite through the Juventus centre-back pairing of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci in front of colossal keeper Gianluigi Donnarumma.

With Jorginho, Manuel Locatelli, and Nicola Barella in midfield and Lazio hitman Ciro Immobile up front, this is a team of superstars fresh in the memory of lifting the European title. 

So what has gone wrong?

Italy would have been in among my hot picks for Qatar 2022 if they had kicked on from Euro 2020. But having failed to break through Northern Ireland’s stiff resistance, they finished two points behind Switzerland and now their destiny is in the balance.

The Azzurri have never failed to qualify for the World Cup twice in succession, last missing out in 1958 (before 2018) and promptly qualifying in 1962.

With just two wins in seven games, the Azzurri have lost momentum. And now is the time to find it again or that worst nightmare will become a reality.

North Macedonia’s second chance 

Ezgjan Alioski and David Babunski scored last weekend before the international break because of the World Cup play-offs
Ezgjan Alioski scored a nice goal with a shot from 20 meters in the last moments of the match

We expect theWorld Cup 2022 highlightsto be a story of attack versus defence for much of the game. But make no mistake, Blagoja Milesvski’s side are not here to make up the numbers, having tasted finals football for the first time at Euro 2020.

North Macedonia are unbeaten in four games away from home and they finished strongly with a 5-0 win against Armenia and then a 3-1 victory over Iceland.

Wing-back Ezgjan Alioski is well-known to Leeds United fans having represented the Whites for four superb seasons in the Championship and Premier League. He scored 21 times in 161 games and was a key figure in Leeds’ return to the top-flight.

And he was on target to send North Macedonia on their way to victory over Iceland, while Napoli midfielder Elif Elmas scored a second-half brace.

Having qualified for their first ever tournament at Euro 2020 and despite failing to pick up a single point, they won many fans and are hungry for more success.

North Macedonia even shocked Germany with a 2-1 win which helped them to secure second place as the Germans ran away with the group, so Italy must beware.

History

As four-time World Cup winners and twice European champions, Italy are streets ahead of North Macedonia in terms of history, but that won’t help the Azzurri on Thursday. 

The two teams have met twice before. In 2016, Italy won the away leg 3-2 and drew at home 1-1 in their infamously failed attempt to qualify for Russia 2018.

Recent form is comparable too. Italy have won two, drawn three, and lost one of the last six games, while North Macedonia have won three, drawn two, and lost one.

Betting Tips

The pre-match World Cup 2022 betting oddsare squarely behind a home win. Italy are at 1.20 to win, the draw is at 5.99, and a North Macedonia win is at 10.12.

This is a nervy situation for the Azzurri to be in and the thought of failure will be unbearable for their fans, but I think they will hold their nerve. A 2-0 win is the most likely result at odds of 4.45, while 3-0 is at 5.80. But if they reach halftime at 0-0, you will be able to cut the tension in Palermo with a knife.

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24-Mar 2022 Thursday 3:38 PM (58 days ago)            #25
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World Cup 2022: The Road to Qatar – This is Last Chance Saloon

Portugal vs Turkey

It is hard to believe that World Cup 2022 will be without at least one of the reigning European champions Italy or the nation whose crown they claimed last summer, Portugal.

Yet that is what the draw has produced, bizarrely to some.

First though, Cristiano Ronaldo and co. have to get past Turkey in this FIFA World Cup qualifying play-off semi-final.

Talking Points

If the truth be known, Portugal would probably have been low down on the list of sides Turkey were hoping to draw in these play-offs, especially given the fact that the Selecao have won all five competitive meetings between the nations.

While history is with the home side, Turkey may well relish their underdog status and are unbeaten since Stefan Kuntz took the reins in September.

Can Turkey pull off an upset against Portugal in their World Cup 2022 qualifying match?
Turkey manager Stefan Kuntz shouts instructions to his players during a World Cup 2022 qualifier

In one corner stands Ronaldo, who broke the world record for international goals during the qualifying campaign and now has 115 to his name.

CR7 heads the talent pool which also includes Roma goalkeeper Rui Patricio, the Manchester United trio of Diogo Dalot, Bruno Fernandes (and Ronaldo), Manchester City stars Joao Cancelo and Bernardo Silva and Liverpool attacker Diogo Jota.

It’s not all roses for the home side, mind, with Manchester City centre-back Ruben Dias out injured and his team-mate for club and country, full-back Joao Cancelo, suspended, while experienced Porto centre-back Pepe has Covid-19.

They still begin as favourites and will be expected to create World Cup 2022 highlights after the disappointment of missing out on automatic qualification last autumn following a late defeat to Serbia.

In the other corner stands Turkey, who also have potential match-winners of their own. Their main names include Atalanta centre-back Merih Demiral and Leicester City’s Caglar Soyuncu, Marseille winger Cengiz Under, Inter Milan midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu and Lille’s experienced striker Burak Yilmaz.

Since crashing out of Euro 2020 without a single point to their name last summer, Turkey have only suffered one defeat in seven games – although it was a 6-1 humbling at the hands of Holland – and they marched to successive wins over Latvia, Gibraltar and Montenegro to round off Group G. Yet their defence has been far from resolute and they face an uphill task if they are to end their 20-year wait to reach a World Cup.

Reigning European champions Italy (or North Macedonia) await the winners.

After coming so close in qualifying – the Serbia defeat was preceded by a draw at the Republic of Ireland – Portugal will surely not squander this golden opportunity at home again.

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History

This is the two teams’ first meeting for a decade. Two goals from Umut Bulut secured a 3-1 Turkish success in their last matchup, which was a friendly in Lisbon.

That was one of only two Turkish victories over Portugal in eight matches going back to their first-ever clash in 1955 – again that was a friendly and resulted in a Turkey win.

When it matters, Portugal have always won, as shown in their Euro 2008 opener when second-half strikes from Pepe and substitute Raul Meireles secured all three points in Geneva.

They also met in the quarter-finals of Euro 2000 in Amsterdam when two goals either side of half-time from Nuno Gomes sealed victory.

That was a match in which Turkey were reduced to 10 men after half an hour and never recovered.

The European Championship has actually thrown up a number of head-to-heads, including at Euro 96 when centre back Fernando Couto scored the only goal with a 66th-minute volley in a match played at Nottingham Forest’s City Ground.

The last time they met in a World Cup qualifier was in 1965 when the legendary Eusébio netted the only goal of the game on Turkish soil – Portugal would go on to reach the semi-finals in the following year’s tournament.

Betting Tip

Portugal have home advantage and that will sway the SBOTOP World Cup 2022 betting odds in their favour even more.

The Selecao are available in a variety of ways including First Half 1X2 @ 1.95, 1X2 @ 1.41, First Half Asian Handicap -0.50 @ 1.95 and Asian Handicap -1.50 @ 2.23.

Turkey are well adrift 1X2 @ 7.60 and Asian Handicap +1.00 @ 2.36, not to mention First Half 1X2 @ 6.80 and First Half Asian Handicap +0.25 @ 2.36.

The draw is on offer @ 4.30.

A re-run of their last meeting – Correct Score 1-3 – is available @ 170.00 but I’d be more tempted to opt for a repeat of their most recent competitive clash with Correct Score 2-0 @ 5.80.

I am actually going to go for a Portugal success from start to finish with Half Time Full Time Home @ 1.77 my *** prediction.

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05-Apr 2022 Tuesday 2:12 PM (46 days ago)            #26
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World Cup 2022: Canada’s Celebration Party is in Panama!

Panama vs Canada

World Cup 2022: Panama vs Canadamight have been a nervy affair, a dramatic climax to the North American qualifiers, but instead, when the Maple Leafs blow into the Estadio Rommel Fernandez Stadium on Thursday they are set for a celebration.

Les Rouges top the CONCACAF table on 28 points and have already qualified for the World Cup finals while Panama are stranded in fifth and unable to catch Costa Rica in the play-off place. So the party is on for Canada while Panama look on with envy. Los Canaleros come into the game on the back of an almighty thumping at the hands of the USA, while Canada confirmed their place at Qatar 2022 with an impressive 4-0 win over Jamaica.

The pre match Panama vs Canada betting odds say we’re in for a tasty encounter, with the hosts looking to salvage some pride, but Les Rouges can earn themselves a better draw in the finals if they top the CONCACAF group with a win or a draw.

Talking Points

36 years of hurt are over for Canada

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However the Panama vs Canada highlights pan out there will be smiling faces in the away dressing room before and after the game, as their resounding victory over Jamaica in Toronto signalled the end of 36 years of frustration for Les Rouges. And now John Herdman will be the first coach to lead Canada to a finals tournament since 1986.

In that year Canada finished bottom of their group without scoring a single goal and I’ll be happy to bet they’ll do better than that in 2022. Herdman’s team has attacked throughout the qualifiers and have scored 23 goals, leading that table too, as record goal scorer Cyle Karin helped himself to 13 goals in qualifying. He can become the joint top scorer of all time in the CONCACAF qualifiers if he can score a brace against Panama. That would bring Larin level with Honduras legend Carlo Pavon who scored 15 goals in the 2002 qualifiers.

Meanwhile Herdman has become a national hero having promised to lead Canada to the World Cup finals in his first campaign as head coach: “I don’t think they believed us,” he said. “I’m happy for them because all of these fans have waited and waited and waited, and hung in with us – and we’re going. They believe now.”

Panama sunk by Pulisic 

Rolando Blackburn scored in Panama's last World Cup 2022 match against Canada
Rolando Blackburn in action during Panama’s match against USA

They had a chance to keep their World Cup hopes flickering when they travelled to the USA on Sunday but Los Canaleros blew it big style, though there was little many teams could have done to stop the Stars and Stripes’ star Christian Pulisic score a hat-trick in the 5-1 trouncing. He scored his first two goals from the penalty spot, but his third was a piece of magic as he took a cross from Antonee Robinson before spinning around Fidel Escobar and sliding the ball through his own legs and into the net. His home club Chelsea is in a period of turmoil at the moment, but Pulisic showed no signs of concern in a masterful display which ended Panama’s hopes once and for all. Thomas Christiansen’s side was in a strong position at the start of this sequence of games but a home draw with Honduras and the defeat to the USA spelt the end; and they now have one last chance to give their fans something to cheer about against Canada.

Los Canaleros have played with aggression and enthusiasm throughout the campaign, but they may find it difficult to recover in time for the visit of the table toppers.

History

Les Rouges have had the better of the head to head results with four wins, seven draws and one defeat in their 12 encounters with Panama. Canada won the previous meeting 4-1 with a second half flurry of goals after Rolando had opened the scoring for Panama, before an own goal levelled the scores at the break. Alphonso Davies, Tajon Buchanan and Jonathan David all got on the score sheet as Les Rouges marched to victory.

Panama have been hard to beat on home soil though, last losing on their own turf back in 2019, when Mexico ran out 3-0 winners.

Betting Tip

At an SBOTOP price of 4.34 to win, Panama can restore some pride, while a draw is available at odds of 2.99. But I think Los Canaleros had the stuffing knocked out of them by the Stars and Stripes, while Canada are riding a wave on the way to Qatar and the party will carry on in Panama.

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05-Apr 2022 Tuesday 2:13 PM (46 days ago)            #27
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World Cup 2022: Drama Indeed and Full Steam Ahead for African’s Finest

And so now we know.

Five African nations were always destined to compete in World Cup 2022 in Qatar. Africa’s big hitters were always set for a fight to the finish.

And that is exactly how it proved during a night of World Cup 2022 highlights.

Five years ago, Tunisia, Nigeria, Morocco, Senegal and Egypt sealed their places in Russia after finishing top of their respective pools.

This time it has a slightly different look and, with the line-up confirmed, some of the game’s biggest names, both teams and individuals, will not be there.

However, Africa’s finest will include the continent’s most famous national team of them all.

For Cameroon, which brought us the magical tales of Roger Milla and saw off the likes of world champions Argentina en route to the World Cup quarter-finals in 1990, saw off Riyad Mahrez’s Algeria in the most dramatic fashion.

The Foxes were hoping to stun the Lions again but, after Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting’s 12th-minute goal which brought Cameroon level on aggregate, the scene was set for a dramatic night.

Hosts Algeria pressed and pressed and, even when Islam Slimani had the ball in the net, it was dubbed offside.

Into extra-time, it was more of the same as substitute Ahmed Touba found Slimani and the ball spun off his head into the bottom right-hand corner.

Or so we thought until VAR ruled it out after showing the ball went in via his elbow.

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Algeria frustration was palpable until the 118th minute when, with a penalty shoot-out looming, the unmarked Touba headed home a Rachid Ghezzal corner, Andre Onana was finally beaten, and Algeria were seemingly in dreamland.

However, there was to be one final twist when, in the third minute of injury time, Karl Toko-Ekambi stole in to give Cameroon an incredible away goals victory – agony for Algeria, ecstasy for the Lions.

In a repeat of last month’s Africa Cup of Nations final – a match which went the distance as Senegal triumphed over Egypt in a shoot-out – lightning did strike twice as the recently crowned African Cup of Nations winners caused yet more heartbreak for the Pharaohs and Mohamed Salah.

Yet again it went the distance, yet again Senegal prevailed on spot-kicks as a fourth-minute opener from Boulaye Dia levelled the tie from the first leg and a passionate Senegalese crowd saw their team through by the narrowest of margins after 120 minutes.

If that was tight, so were proceedings in Nigeria who faced off against Ghana.

Despite the away goals tiebreaker being abolished by UEFA for its club competitions in 2021-22, the rule is still in effect for FIFA World Cup qualifying, including two-legged play-offs.

That is how Ghana triumphed, their place in Qatar secured on away goals at the expanse of the Super Eagles, who have so embraced the competition and world football in the modern era, most notably in America in 1994.

Ghana levelled on the night through a penalty from captain William Troost Ekong and, after Victor Osimhen saw a goal disallowed for the hosts, they held on.

It ended on an ugly night as the behaviour of angry Nigerian fans overshadowed the game as local spectators peppered both the Ghana fans and players with water bottles – forcing the latter to cower and cover their heads as they battled their way down the tunnel following a mass pitch invasion.

Nigeria lost to Ghana and failed to qualify for the World Cup 2022 in Qatar
Nigeria supporters during their World Cup qualifier against Ghana at the Moshood Abiola Stadium

FIFA may well take a dim view of scenes which will require considerable explaining from both Nigerian security and football officials.

Aside from Ghana, Morocco will also be there after ending the dreams of DR Congo in Casablanca.

The Atlas Lions were on top from start to finish as goals from Azzedine Ounahi (two), Tarik Tissoudal and Achraf Hakimi sealed a 5-2 aggregate win and back-to-back World Cup appearances (and a sixth ever appearance in the tournament).

World Cup qualification proved trickier for Tunisia than you may have expected.

Leading spirited Mali from the first leg, they weren’t able to extend their lead on the night but the goalless draw still saw them through as Mali’s wait for a first World Cup goes on.

The drama of the play-offs complete, the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is set to break new ground in football history as the first edition of the competition held during both the northern hemisphere’s winter, and in the Middle East.

The much-anticipated draw will take place on Friday. Make sure you study the SBOTOP World Cup 2022 betting odds and the groups before what should be a wonderful spectacle.


 

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05-Apr 2022 Tuesday 2:15 PM (46 days ago)            #28
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World Cup 2022: Portugal and Poland are Through to Qatar

There are officially 27 nations who have already qualified for World Cup 2022 as of this writing, which includes Portugal and Poland most recently.

Yes, the play-off finals in Europe delivered more drama as Portugal and Poland had to go through the wringer to get to where they’re at right now, making their qualifying journey as satisfying as it is.

While both Portugal and Poland are in a jubilant mood, the same can’t be said for Wales, Scotland, and Ukraine as tension builds with their matches being moved to a later date due to events beyond their control.

Continue to read down below as SBOTOP is here to keep you up-to-date with the latest World Cup 2022 news.

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1X2 Liverpool @ 1.47
Liverpool Asian Handicap -2.75 @ 2.28
Total Goals 2-3 @ 2.42
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Bruno Fernandes shows up for Portugal

While all eyes are on Cristiano Ronaldo ahead of this game, it was his Manchester United teammate Bruno Fernandes who provided the spark for Portugal to confirm their spot at Qatar last night.

Bruno Fernandes put in an impressive display as his brace was enough to dispatch North Macedonia, who were looking to defy the World Cup 2022 odds once more after pulling off an upset against Euro 2020 champions Italy.

Portugal were primed to take over when Cristiano Ronaldo and Diogo Jota came close in the first few minutes, but it was Bruno Fernandes who landed the first blow two minutes after the half-hour mark.

Fernandes intercepted a bad pass and he conspired with Ronaldo via a one-two to drill a low strike past North Macedonia keeper Stole Dimitrievski.

In contrast, North Macedonia rarely troubled Portugal keeper Diogo Costa. But after the first half, they were slightly the more aggressive side.

Unfortunately for the visitors, they couldn’t find the equaliser and Bruno Fernandes delivered the dagger at the 65th-minute by linking up with Diogo Jota on another counterattack.

With the game out of reach, Portugal was content playing keep away to prevent any possible comeback from North Macedonia.

Bruno Fernandes have bagged a brace in an international game for only the second time ever since their 4-0 friendly against Israel last June 2021. His only competitive goals prior to North Macedonia came against Luxembourg.

Moreover, this will be the sixth consecutive World Cup for Portugal, who have qualified via the play-offs for the third time after 2010 and 2014.

Poland end their three-decade drought against Sweden

Poland booked their spot at World Cup 2022 with their first victory over Sweden since 1991, courtesy of second-half goals from Robert Lewandowski and Piotr Zielinski.

It was a cagey first half as both sides had a couple of chances. Sweden tried to hit first as Emil Forsberg was denied by Wojciech Szczesny while Matty Cash’s shot wide at the other end and Jan Bednarek’s volley was parried away by Robin Olsen.

After the first half, Poland decided to bring in substitute Grzegorz Krychowiak and the midfielder made an immediate impact when he was fouled into the penalty box by Jesper Karlstrom, leading to a converted penalty kick from Robert Lewandowski.

Poland are qualified for the World Cup 2022 after Robert Lewandowski and Piotr Zielinski scored against Sweden
Robert Lewandowski celebrates as he scored Poland’s first goal against Sweden in their World Cup qualifier

The Swedes pushed for an equaliser but they couldn’t find a way past Szczesny, who made another huge save against Emil Forsberg’s shot.

Those missed opportunities doomed the Swedes as they found themselves down by two goals when Piotr Zielinski spearheaded a counterattack and calmly put the ball into the net at the 72nd-minute.

Sweden made a curious move to bring in Zlatan Ibrahimovic – who missed their game against Czech Republic – off the bench to try and provide a spark up front, but it was already too late.

Robert Lewandowski was the happiest man last night as he’s on his way to his second-ever World Cup. At the same time, his 75th international goal moved him to joint third alongside the late Sandor Kocsis on the all-time UEFA international scorers list.

Ferenc Puskas (84) and Cristiano Ronaldo (115) are the only players who have more than the Bayern Munich striker.

Wales play the waiting game

There’s only one more European qualifiers spot available with only three teams left to fight for it. Scotland and Ukraine will compete in the Path A play-off semi-finals, and the winner will take on Wales.

Ukraine’s World Cup qualifier against Scotland has been postponed by FIFA following the Russian invasion into their country. Their play-off semi-final was due to be played at Hampden Park on March 24, but it is now moved until June.

Scotland and Wales have expressed support to this decision by FIFA as they await on the amended fixture schedule from the tournament committee.


 

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05-Apr 2022 Tuesday 2:16 PM (46 days ago)            #29
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World Cup 2022: South America Is All Settled

It took until the final matchday, but South American World Cup 2022 qualification is now settled.

After being at risk of missing out, Uruguay continued their strong finish to qualifying as they wound up third behind Brazil and Argentina.

Speaking of strong finishes, the Selecao scored their third straight 4-0 win to set a new qualifying points record and still have one game to spare.

Meanwhile, Peru held off the last-ditch challenge of Colombia to clinch fifth place and the inter-confederation play-off spot.

Read on below as SBOTOP shares the key takeaways from the final full round of South American World Cup qualifiers.

Record-breaking Brazil in strong shape

Let’s start at the top as Brazil put on another ruthless performance with their 4-0 demolition of second-from-bottom Bolivia.

The win was the Selecao’s third 4-0 triumph in a row, and it also saw them set a new points record in qualifying with 45. They could still add to that record tally in their replay against Argentina.

With Neymar surprisingly out of the lineup, Richarlison had the responsibility to lead the Brazilian attack. Former Lyon team-mates Lucas Paqueta and Bruno Guimaraes were also handed starts in midfield.

Paqueta gave the Selecao the early lead after 24 minutes, and Richarlison all but sealed the win with a goal on the stroke of half-time. Guimaraes got on the scoresheet six minutes after the hour mark, and Richarlison added a fourth in stoppage time.

This latest round of World Cup qualifiers has done Richarlison a world of good. The Everton star struck three times in two games after not scoring for the Selecao since last June – although he did score five times at the Tokyo Olympics – and he will surely be a key player in Qatar.

Brazil are always among the favourites in any tournament they are in, and the World Cup 2022 betting odds will likely have them priced as one of the top teams to beat. Their recent form certainly shows they are in strong shape at the moment and could once again be serious contenders for the crown come November.

Uruguay coaching change proves crucial

Uruguay’s decision to sack veteran coach Oscar Tabarez in November of last year was a tough one. After all, the 75-year-old had been so successful in his record-setting 15-year spell as national team boss. He led La Celeste to a semi-final run in the 2010 World Cup and a Copa America title in 2011.

But that decision to finally move on from Tabarez proved to be the right one as Uruguay’s World Cup 2022 results saw a terrific turnaround upon the arrival of new coach Diego Alonso.

Luis Suarez scores a goal to give Uruguay an advantage against Chile in recent World Cup 2022 qualifier
Uruguay star Luis Suarez in action during their South America World Cup 2022 qualifier against Chile

Powered by the new manager bounce, La Celeste closed out their qualifying campaign with four wins in a row, including a 2-0 win over Chile in their finale, to finish third in the standings.

With the exception of a few new faces in Darwin Nunez, Ronald Araujo and Facundo Pellistri, Uruguay are still composed mostly of the same old core players led by Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani, Diego Godin.

But the change in coach was just the change they needed to play up to their immense potential in qualifying. They will be a dangerous foe for any nation to face in Qatar.

Colombia comeback too late as Peru claim play-off spot

After back-to-back trips to the World Cup knockout rounds – including a quarter-final run in 2014 – Colombia will not be making it to Qatar.

La Tricolor fell one point short of fifth place and the inter-confederation play-off despite winning their last two games against bottom sides Bolivia and Venezuela. Those wins were too little too late as Los Cafeteros squandered several chances to pick up more points earlier in qualifying. Their eight draws were the most in South America.

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1X2 Newcastle United @ 6.40
Over 3.00 @ 2.38
Total Goal 0-1 @ 3.70
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

It’s a disappointing blow for a nation that possesses such impressive world-class talent, with James Rodriguez, Luis Diaz, Juan Cuadrado, and Duvan Zapata to name just a few. But their qualifying campaign was marred by dysfunction. Coach Reinaldo Rueda must take responsibility for his inability to get the most out of his talented squad, and he will most likely pay with his job.

By comparison, Peru do not possess any notable names playing in any of Europe’s top leagues. But thanks to their impressive teamwork and determination, they could be headed to their second World Cup in a row if they prevail in the play-off against their opponents from the AFC.


 

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28-Apr 2022 Thursday 5:36 PM (23 days ago)            #30
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When Is FIFA 2022 Starting? World Cup 2022 Schedule, Dates and Times

The biggest and most anticipated sporting event in the world is inching ever closer as World Cup 2022 is set to kick off on November 21 in Qatar. But while the groups have already been drawn and the World Cup 2022 schedule has been laid out in full, the list of 32 qualified teams is not yet complete, with eight teams left to battle it out for the three remaining spots in Qatar.

2022 FIFA World Cup qualification

Scotland and Ukraine still need to play their semi-final tie in the UEFA qualifying play-offs, and the winner will move on to play Wales, who beat Austria thanks to Gareth Bale, in the final on June 5. Meanwhile, the UAE and Australia will battle it out for the right to take the Asian spot in the inter-confederation play-offs. The winner of UAE and Australia will take on Peru on June 13, while Costa Rica will face New Zealand on June 14.

UEFA Second Round Path A

Wednesday, June 1

Scotland vs. Ukraine

Sunday, June 5

Wales vs. Scotland/Ukraine

AFC Fourth Round

Tuesday, June 7

United Arab Emirates vs. Australia

Inter-confederation play-offs

Monday, June 13

United Arab Emirates/Australia vs. Peru

Tuesday, June 14

Costa Rica vs. New Zealand

FIFA World Cup 2022 fixtures, dates and times

France have been drawn against Denmark in World Cup 2022 group stage
Didier Deschamps & Antoine Griezmann of France celebrate with the World Cup Trophy

The FIFA World Cup 2022 schedule has already been released. The group stage will run from Nov. 21 to Dec. 3. During the group stage, each day will feature four matches. Among the top World Cup 2022 fixtures to look forward to in the group stage are defending champions France vs Denmark, Spain vs Germany, and beaten 2018 finalists Croatia vs Belgium.

 The first two rounds of matches will kick off at 1pm, 4pm, 7pm and 10pm local time (6pm, 9pm, 12am and 3am in the GMT +8 time zone). Kick-off times in the final round of group games and knockout-round matches will be at 6pm and 10pm local time (11pm and 3am GMT+8). The final is scheduled to kick off at 6pm local time (11pm GMT+8)

The top two teams per group in the World Cup 2022 table after the group stage will move on to the knockout round, which begins on Dec. 3. The final will be played at the Lusail Stadium a week before Christmas on Dec. 18.

Group stage schedule

All times GMT+8

Monday, Nov. 21
Senegal vs. Netherlands, 6pm
England vs. Iran, 9pm

Tuesday, Nov. 22
Qatar vs. Ecuador, 12am
United States vs. Wales/Scotland/Ukraine, 3am
Argentina vs. Saudi Arabia, 6pm
Denmark vs.Tunisia, 9pm

Wednesday, Nov. 23
Mexico vs. Poland, 12am
France vs. UAE/Australia/Peru, 3am
Morocco vs. Croatia, 6pm
Germany vs. Japan, 9pm

Thursday, Nov. 24
Spain vs. Costa Rica/New Zealand, 12am
Belgium vs. Canada, 3am
Switzerland vs. Cameroon, 6pm
Uruguay vs. South Korea, 9pm

Friday, Nov. 25
Portugal vs. Ghana, 12am
Brazil vs. Serbia, 3am
Scotland/Wales/Ukraine vs. Iran, 6pm
Qatar vs. Senegal, 9pm

Saturday, Nov. 26
Netherlands vs. Ecuador, 12am
England vs. USA, 3am
Tunisia vs. UAE/Australia/Peru, 6pm
Poland vs. Saudi Arabia, 9pm

Sunday, Nov. 27
France vs. Denmark, 12am
Argentina vs. Mexico, 3am
Japan vs. Costa Rica/New Zealand, 6pm
Belgium vs. Morocco, 9pm

Monday, Nov. 28
Croatia vs. Canada, 12am
Spain vs. Germany, 3am
Cameroon vs. Serbia, 6pm
South Korea vs. Ghana, 9pm

Tuesday, Nov. 29
Brazil vs. Switzerland, 12am
Portugal vs. Uruguay, 3am
Netherlands vs. Qatar, 11pm
Ecuador vs. Senegal, 11pm

Wednesday, Nov. 30
Scotland/Wales/Ukraine vs. England, 3am
Iran vs. United States, 3am
Tunisia vs. France, 11pm
UAE/Australia/Peru vs. Denmark, 11pm

Thursday, Dec. 1
Poland vs. Argentina, 3am
Saudi Arabia vs. Mexico, 3am
Croatia vs. Belgium, 11pm
Canada vs. Morocco, 11pm

Friday, Dec. 2
Japan vs. Spain, 3am
Costa Rica/New Zealand vs. Germany, 3am
South Korea vs. Portugal, 11pm
Ghana vs. Uruguay, 11pm

Saturday, Dec. 3
Cameroon vs. Brazil, 3am
Serbia vs. Switzerland, 3am

Round of 16

All times GMT+8

Saturday, Dec. 3
1A vs. 2B, 11pm

Sunday, Dec. 4
1C vs. 2D, 3am
1D vs. 2C, 11pm

Monday, Dec. 5
1B vs. 2A, 3am
1E vs. 2F, 11pm

Tuesday, Dec. 6
1G vs. 2H, 3am
1F vs. 2E, 11pm

Wednesday, Dec. 7
1H vs. 2G, 3am

Quarter-finals

Friday, Dec. 9
Quarterfinal 1: 1E/2F vs. 1G/2H, 11pm

Saturday, Dec. 10
Quarterfinal 2: 1A/2B vs. 1C/2D, 3am
Quarterfinal 3: 1F/2E vs. 1H/2G, 11pm

Sunday, Dec. 11
Quarterfinal 4: 1B/2A vs. 1D/2C, 3am

Semi-finals

Wednesday, Dec. 14
QF2 vs QF1, 3am

Thursday, Dec. 15
QF4 vs QF3, 3am

Third-Place Match

Saturday, Dec. 17
Semifinal 1 loser vs. Semifinal 2 loser, 11pm

Final

Saturday, Dec. 18
Semifinal 1 winner vs. Semifinal 2 winner, 11pm

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03-May 2022 Tuesday 4:46 PM (18 days ago)            #31
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Who Will Compete In FIFA 2022? World Cup 2022 Qualified Teams and Group List

World Cup 2022 is going to be the first tournament hosted in the Middle East and the first to be held between November and December. World Cup Football is just a few months away and the FIFA World Cup 2022 team list is almost complete as 29 out of the 32 spots are already taken. Games are to be played across five cities in Qatar: Al Khor, Al Rayyan, Al Wakrah, Doha, and Lusall.

FIFA World Cup 2022 qualified teams by region

AFC

Qatar

Iran

South Korea

Japan

Saudi Arabia

UEFA

Germany

Denmark

France

Belgium

Croatia

Spain

Serbia

England

Switzerland

Netherlands

Portugal

Poland

CONMEBOL

Brazil

Argentina

Ecuador

Uruguay

CONCACAF

Canada

USA

Mexico

CAF

Ghana

Senegal

Tunisia

Morocco

Cameroon

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1X2 Draw @ 4.50
Over 3.00 @ 2.16
Total Goals 2-3 @ 2.01
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

FIFA World Cup 2022 groups

World Cup 2022 will commence on November 21 and it will end a week before Christmas on December 18. Learn more about the detailed schedule of games here.

France are the defending champions after winning it in 2018. Croatia were the runners-up, while Belgium and England finished third and fourth respectively.

Four-time champions and winners of Euro 2020, Italy, failed to qualify for a second successive World Cup for the first time in their history. They are the only former champions that failed to qualify in this year’s edition of the competition.

The previous World Cup hosts, Russia, were disqualified from joining as a consequence to their invasion of Ukraine. Nigeria also didn’t qualify as they went out to Ghana on away goals in their final playoff round, after having qualified for three previous World Cups and six out of the last seven.

Two inter-confederation playoff matches that are to be played in June, featuring one country from each of four different regions, will determine two berths for Qatar: AFC-CONMEBOL and CONCACAF-OFC.

The final European world cup spot is also going to be determined in June after Ukraine requested that the matches will be rescheduled given their current situation with Russia. Wales will play the waiting game for UEFA Path A and they will host the winner between Scotland and Ukraine in a single-elimination playoff final.

World Cup 2022 is going to be the first tournament hosted in the Middle East
Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium is one of the stadiums in the upcoming World Cup 2022

FIFA 2022 Group A: Qatar, Ecuador, Senegal, Netherlands

Qatar have automatic qualification since they’re the hosts, while Ecuador qualified after taking the fourth spot of the CONMEBOL qualifiers. Senegal won their first-ever AFCON championship last February and are one of the Group A favourites here alongside Netherlands.

FIFA 2022 Group B: England, Iran, USA, UEFA Path A Winner

After finishing as Euro 2020 runners-up, England secured their place in November by topping their qualifying group. Iran topped Group A during the third round of the Asian qualifiers, while USA are also heading back to the World Cup after placing third in the CONCACAF qualifiers table.

FIFA 2022 Group C: Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Poland

Saudi Arabia finished on top of Group A during the third round of the Asian qualifiers and Mexico were second in the CONCACAF qualifiers. Poland were the winners in UEFA Path B. Argentina won the 2021 Copa America and placed second in the CONMEBOL standings.

FIFA 2022 Group D: France, Denmark, Tunisia, AFC-CONMEBOL Winner

France and Denmark finished on top of Group E and F for Europe. Tunisia have qualified for a World Cup tournament for the sixth time in history after doing well in the CAF qualifiers.

FIFA 2022 Group E: Spain, Germany, Japan, CONCACAF-OFC Winner

Spain and Germany clinched their spots as they finished on top of Groups B and J in the Europe qualifiers, while Japan finished second behind Saudi Arabia in Group B during the third round of the Asian qualifiers.

FIFA 2022 Group F: Belgium, Canada, Morocco, Croatia

Belgium were once the top-ranked team by FIFA and they are through after topping Group E in Europe. Croatia, on the other hand, were above in Group H. Canada have qualified for the first time since 1986, while Morocco round out Group F.

FIFA 2022 Group G: Brazil, Serbia, Switzerland, Cameroon

Brazil are currently the top-ranked nation by FIFA and were dominant in the CONMEBOL. Serbia and Switzerland took the top spot in Group A and C of the Europe qualifiers, while Cameroon will be qualifying for their eighth World Cup.

FIFA 2022 Group H: Portugal, Ghana, Uruguay, South Korea

Portugal were the winners in UEFA Path C while South Korea qualified alongside Iran in Group A of the Asian qualifiers. Ghana will be returning to the tournament after missing out on Russia 2018 and they will meet a familiar foe in Uruguay, who eliminated them during the 2010 World Cup quarter-finals.


 

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14-May 2022 Saturday 4:45 PM (7 days ago)            #32
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World Cup 2022: Qatar’s Big Moment

In a spectacle never seen before in the state of Qatar, the best 32 football nations and the finest players on the planet will descend on the Western Asian country for a month of mind-blowing football.

And World Cup 2022 will break new ground as the first to be played during the European winter months, taking place between November 21st and December 18th.

Qatar is the first Middle East nation to host the tournament and the eyes of the world are watching as organisers hope the mascot La’eeb will warm the eight newly-purpose built stadiums. But it is a step into the unknown for many as the country is proposing fan zones where supporters from around the world can drink alcohol in this strict Muslim society and players will be asked to perform in air conditioned arenas.

Qatar is determined to show the world how they can change this flagship competition, while the big nations and players just need to show that they can win in any circumstances.

The favourites

France forward Karim Benzema wants a World Cup 2022 title
Karim Benzema during the Euro 2020 match

29 of the 32 places have been filled and we already know the composition of the groups, and 2018 Champions France have been highlighted as one of the hot favourites according to the early World Cup 2022 betting odds.

PSG star Kylian Mbappe – who looks like he could be on the way to Real Madrid in the close season – could at the age of 23, win back-to-back World Cups. Mbappe will be alongside Los Blancos’ hitman Karim Benzema who, with 43 goals and 14 assists this season, has enjoyed his best campaign and he’s a decent bet for the Golden Boot.

The South American qualifying group was resolved quickly and Brazil will be a serious contender with Neymar leading the team. This is a big moment for the PSG striker after his terrible injury at the 2014 World Cup hosted by Brazil. Alongside him, the brilliant dribbler, Vinicius Junior, will get the fans on their feet and this could be the Selecao’s year. 

Vinicius’ club-mate Thibaut Courtois will be between the posts for Belgium, and he’ll try to keep the clean sheets his country needs to turn the Golden Generation into winners.

He’s had 19 shutouts for Los Blancos so far this campaign, and should the Red Devils defend successfully then they too could have a real chance, particularly if Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne can transfer his club form to the international stage.

While Belgium recently knocked off the top of the FIFA rankings by Brazil, Germany, in contrast, have been working under the radar with a nicely blended team without a big superstar.

Thomas Muller, at 32 years of age, has his last chance to be Germany’s highest World Cup scorer of all time and he has 10 goals so far and is six behind top scorer Miroslav Klose.

Here at SBOTOPwe’re also keeping a close eye on the young squads of England and Spain, both of which could have won Euro 2020 but were outfoxed by the wily Italians who, despite winning that competition will be absent for a second consecutive World Cup.

Premier League
LEEDS UNITED
BRIGHTON & HOVE ALBION
1X2 Draw @ 3.30
Over 2.50 @ 1.85
Total Goals 0-1 @ 3.65
Disclaimer: Odds are correct at time of publish.

Some star names might be saying goodbye

As well as Germany’s Muller, there will be a number of big names who will be making their last appearances in the World Cup 2022 highlights.

Lionel Messi would simply love to lead Argentina to glory. His team has a solid defencive base which allows Messi and his co-creative players to express themselves as they did successfully to end Argentina’s trophy drought at the 2021 Copa America.

And the man who has stood alongside Messi as one of the two best players in a generation will lead the line for Portugal as Cristiano Ronaldo also makes his swan song.

His team has a better balance now with Rafael Leao and Bernardo Silva enjoying superb domestic seasons and CR7 can get the Portugal fans dreaming of a World Cup to add to their 2016 European Cup triumph.

With 115 goals from 186 appearances so far, Ronaldo is a phenomenon. And if he can pull this off, he will become a deity in his homeland.

Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski will have his eyes on the Golden Boot and if Poland can go deep into the competition, then surely he will add a few to his international tally of 75.

Meanwhile, Croatia will say goodbye to two of their best players of all time. The mercurial Luka Modric has been outstanding for Real Madrid this season and, at 36 years of age, he looks and plays like he’s a decade younger.

And this is almost certainly the last chance for Inter Milan’s wide-man Ivan Perisic to make his mark on the biggest stage of all. Both Modric and Perisic shined at the 2018 World Cup and they’ll be sadly missed by their nation in the years to come. Six months from now, we’ll be ready and raring for the tournament to start and Qatar can surprise us in this world event to prepare the perfect stage for the superstars of the beautiful game.


 

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