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Women’s World Cup: Japan vs. Sweden (prediction)

Prediction

 Japan vs. Sweden 

Wednesday, July 13th 2011, 20.45 CET

This second semi-final of the FIFA Women’s World Cup, played on Commerzbank-Arena from Frankfurt, is the first one in 15 years in which Germany does not take part. The surprise elimination of the hosts in the quarter finals have made Japan become the “black horse” of the semifinals, and it has shaken all the bookies’ odds and expectations. It also means that previous statistics matter little in the present situation.

Japan have had a fantastic run, now playing for the first time ever in the semi-finals of the FIFA Women’s World Cup. They have passed the ultimate test in the quarter finals, when they faced the hosts Germany, who hadn’t lost a World Cup match in 15 years, in Germany and in front of 26.067 German fans. Previous to that match, Japan had never won a game against an European side at any World Cup, and they had never made it past the quarter finals. Germany, on the other hand, were the defenders of the 2003 and 2007 World Cups, and looked more confident than ever. In such a crucial game, and under huge pressure, Japan kept organized and stayed positive throughout. One goal in the 108th minute was all they needed to crush the world champions.

Though they only scored one goal in their last 2 games, Japan has clearly learned a lot from their defeat against England, and now they take advantage of the huge momentum they have to make history today and reach the World Cup Final! They will most likely take control of possession in their semi-final match, and hope for Homare Sawa, their top goalscorer, to get through Sweden’s strong defense and get the ball in the net.

Sweden have not had a real test since their last group game against the USA. They won that one 2 to 1. Then, as in their quarter final game against Australia, the Swedes kept their ground and stuck to their tactics. They showed a very calculated and professional play in both matches, and that guaranteed their resistance against their opponent’s numerous attacks. One thing that is obvious from both these matches, is that Sweden started off with furious attacks and scored twice in the first half. Then they relied on their strong defense and on counter attacks, with Lotta Schelin’s speed far superior to most defenders’. She wasn’t named man of the match in Sweden’s last two matches for nothing.

It is surprising to see in the statistics that Sweden scored 5 goals in their past 2 games.

That is unlike Japan, who only scored one. Surprising because, however strategic the Swedes play, scoring goals is not their strong point. Their first two games in this World Cup made that clear, with two single-goal victories for the North Europeans. It may now appear that Sweden’s attack has unleashed its full goal-scoring potential, but really it is the pressure at the beginning of the game and the momentum thereafter that gives the Swedes this goal-scoring ability. Without a goal in the first 30 minutes, as we’ve seen in their first 2 matches, it’s very hard for them to score one later in the game.

Looking at recent statistics between the two teams, Japan holds the upper ground. In their four recent matches against Sweden, they won twice and drew the other two. Even this year, Japan won one and drew once against Sweden. That’s certainly not comforting for Sweden ahead of the semi-final game. And it shouldn’t be, because too much comfort have made the Germans lose their last game. Still, Sweden is given more chances at the bookies, with 2.20 odds at Bwin, while Japan is worth 3.2, same as a draw. Seen that goalscoring is not the strong point of either team, an Under 2.5 would be appropriate at 1.62 odds. There goes 2 units of mine. And 2 units go on Sweden to win, at 2.2 odds.

Prediction: U2.5 goals for 2 units, Sweden to win for 2 units

Women’s World Cup: Brazil vs. USA (prediction)

Prediction

Brazil Brazil vs. USA USA

Sunday, July 10th 2011, 17.30 CET

Of all the matches in the quarter finals of this year’s Women’s World Cup, this last one is by far the most balanced, and interesting to watch. I’m not saying the others are not worth watching, on the contrary! But there’s something special when the best team in the world (USA) plays against the 3rd best and definitely the most spectacular team in the world (Brazil). It’s a clash between giants, one that the USA tried, but failed to avoid in the match against Sweden. Now, shaken by their first ever loss in the group stages on Wednesday, will the best team in the world defend their reputation? Or will the Brazilian dribbling skills prove to be too much for the shaky US defense?

For me, this game is the toughest to predict of all the quarter finals played this weekend. Nevertheless, let’s take a look at the two teams, combine their playing styles and see what comes out of it! Take Brazil first. Though extraordinary in their dribbling skills, the Brazilian girls never won a world cup. Ironic, right? Considering their men’s squad won 5. Nevertheless, they’re not the world’s number 3 for no reason. They always impress, and don’t think only about Marta. Sure, she’s been playing up to her reputation as the world’s best football player, with 2 goals and 2 assists so far. But even without Marta, the Brazilians have other world class players: Rosana and Cristiane both scored two goals each, and the Brazilian goalkeeper didn’t miss a single ball so far. This means Brazil is the only team with a clean sheet, and along with Germany and France, their 7 goals are the most scored by any team.

The United States of America have a different story. The two-times world champions have just been defeated for the first time ever in the group stages, 2-1 by Sweden. Something definitely didn’t work in the North American defense, something that has to be changed ahead of the clash against Brazil. One thing they don’t have to change though is their goalkeeper, Hope Solo. She had a great run so far, conceding only 2 goals (against Sweden: one penalty and one diverted free kick). She also had a great performance in the US’s 2008 game against Brazil, which the Americans won 1 to nothing. Add to that the appearance of Abby Wambach, USA’s top striker, and Heather O’Reilly, who missed the game against Sweden. These girls cover the attack brilliantly, but coach Pia Sundhage has to make some changes in the defense if they are to withstand the force of the scoring-happy Brazilian attack.

Looking at their previous encounters, the US won their last 4 matches against Brazil, all with a 1-0 score. However, in China during the last Women’s World Cup, Brazil won by 4-0! Only Germany was able to stop them, in the final! Statistically, both the US and Brazil have a huge apetite for goals, and this makes the 02.5 an attractive bet. At 1.9 odds on Bwin, I will take that for 2 units. Also, I’m staking 2 units on Both to score at 1.75 odds on Bwin. Finally, 1 unit goes on a Brazilian victory at 2.25 odds.

Prediction: O2.5 for 2 units, both to score for 2 units, Brazil to win for 1 unit.

Women’s World Cup: Sweden vs. Australia (prediction)

Prediction

 Sweden Sweden vs. Australia Australia

Sunday, July 10th 2011, 13.00 CET

I am sure that not many people expected for this match to happen now, in the quarter finals. Sweden’s 2-1 win over the USA was seen as a shock result (though I predicted it here), while very few people believed an underdog like Australia could overturn a former World Cup winner like Norway (I was one of those people, read here). They did though, by coming back into the game from 0-1 to 2-1 and eventually historically reaching the quarter finals. Tomorrow in Augsburg, the two “surprisingly good” teams will compete for a spot in the semi-finals of the German tournament.

Sweden is not a surprise team in the quarter finals.

They’ve even reached the final of the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2003, only to be defeated by Germany. They ended up third in the first official Women’s World Cup in 1991. Actually, they never went home earlier than the quarter finals. And as the world’s 5th best team, I am sure they are glad to meet up with Australia, the world’s 11, rather than Brazil. The Swedes are coming after a fantastic run in the group stage, with 3 victories out of 3, and with only one goal conceded. And though they’re not the best goalscorers (only 4 goals so far), they certainly impressed by their patience, enthousiasm and teamwork.

With the momentum gained from the victory against USA,

Sweden are confident that their next match will just be a formality

against the long-awaited semi-finals against either Brazil or USA. But if there is one lesson that their Nordic friends, the Norwegians, learned from their match against Australia, it’s that you shouldn’t underestimate the Aussies. Unlike the Matildas, who are ready and willing to get back into the game against all odds (they proved that against Norway), Sweden’s strategy is rather focused on aggressive attack at the beginning (with its benefits), and defense plus counter-attack towards the end. It will be enjoying to see that gamestyle compete against that of the Aussies.

Australia, on the other hand, is not familiar with the quarter finals. The first time they reached this stage was during the World Cup’s last edition in 2007. Back then they bravely resisted against mighty Brazil, losing eventually at 2-3. A great performance from the Matildas though, on their first quarter finals match. Though they’re now only on the 11th place in the world rankings, they surely improved lately. Last year, the Aussie girls won the AFC Women’s Asian Cup, their first time ever. And now they just eliminated a World Cup winner after a spectacular comeback made possible by Kyah Simon.

Looking at previous encounters, out of eight games between the two teams, Australia just won one. And clearly they’re the underdog in this one. But that gives them an advantage: the Ausralians have nothing to lose, whereas Sweden has everything to lose should they fail to win tomorrow. Combine that with the morale gained after beating a world cup holder, and you get a bunch of really eager and motivated Aussies. But will their enthousiasm make the difference on Sunday? The bookies don’t think so, with Australia receiving 4.4 odds from Bwin, whereas Sweden got 1.75. It’s still more than in Germany’s game.

For this game, I am expecting at most 3 goals, since neither of the two is known for its goal-scoring abilities. I’m going with 2 units for a U3.5 bet at 1.28 odds. And now, for the first time, I will bet on an exact score: My football tip is that Sweden wins 2-1. Odds on Bwin are 9 for that exact score. I’m staking 1 unit there!

Prediction: U3.5 goals for 2 units, and Sweden to win 2-1!

Women’s World Cup: England vs. France (prediction)

Prediction

England England vs. France France

Saturday, July 9th 2011, 18.00 CET

The first match of the quarter finals in this year’s Women’s World Cup brings together two “ancient” rivals, both in men’s soccer and women’s football alike. Tomorrow’s duel on Leverkusen stadium is all the more special as neither of the teams ever made it to the semifinals of Women’s World Cup. The stakes are huge, the teams are fit and ready and the crowds will definitely fill the stadium tomorrow. The question is: who goes further and who goes back?

Morale-wise, England has the advantage. Powell’s girls have huge momentum after their 2-0 victory against Japan, the world’s 4th best team. Looking at their next match against France, the 8th best team, you might say it’s as easy as pie. Think again: England is actually 3 places BEHIND France in the rankings, and that certainly makes a difference. Nonetheless, England’s victory against Japan on Tuesday regained the fans’ support and the girls’ confidence, after their draw against Mexico and their hard-fought victory over New Zealand. Against Japan, Powell also tried out some new tactics, involving new players that paid the team great dividends. They will, however, give the coach a hard time deciding who’s in and who’s out in the start-up team facing France.

Powell has some decisions to make in the defense.Sophie Bradley, the 21-year old defender of Lincoln ladies, is in England’s squad for the first time ever at a Women’s World Cup. She impressed with her efforts of keeping the Japanese attack away from England’s goal in the previous game, when she started instead of Faye White, the 33-year old captain of the team. In both matches before that, Bradley was preferred as a substitute to White late in the game. It seems she may have earned her place in the first XI, but would that determine Powell to start without the veteran White in such an important game? It’s hard to say. In a BBC interview, Powell said that “Faye leads by example. She has had a torrid time in recent years with injuries and she has bounced back and worked extremely hard to put herself in a position to play.“All in all, should White not be fit for the game, the due Bradley-Stoney looks like a perfect choice for Powell.

Looking on the other side, the French team is not in a mood as good as the English. They were blocked from participating at the last edition of the Women’s World Cup by a double draw against England. And in their last match they lost 2-4 to Germany. Granted they played over 25 minutes in 10 players, the French clearly lacked aerial strength and nerve towards the end. More importantly, the red card received by Sapowicz in the game against Germany means that France’s first choice goalkeeper will be absent against England. That’s a clear moral disadvantage for the French girls, despite the fact that her replacement, Celine Deville had a good performance in her last game.

France are a very technical side and very aggressive in their play. “, Powell said. She also acknowledged the fact that France today is much better than they were in the 2007 World Cup qualifiers, when they were denied participation by England. The French team is the 2009 European champions, and a lot of the girls playing were recruited from their Under 19s squad. Apart from that, Elodie Thomis can be a serious menace for the English central defenders. It will be up to Stoney and White/Bradley to stop her, although if she gets too much space, no one can stop Thomis. She proved it in the game against Canada, and in the last game against England in 2009.

As you can see, both teams have their pros and cons, and overall it is a tough football prediction. Looking at the bookies, France are favourites with 2.2 odds, while England have 3.05. My football tip is to go safe on this one, and bet for both teams to score at 1.75 odds on Bwin. I’m betting 3 units on that. Also, since both teams are scoring-happy, I’m going for an over 2.5 at 1.95 odds for 2 units. If I were to say who wins this one, I’d go for England, though I’m not willing to stake anything on that match prediction.

 Prediction: Both to score for 3 units, o2.5 for 2 units

Women’s World Cup: Germany vs. Japan (prediction)

Prediction

 Germany Germany vs. Japan Japan

Saturday, July 9th 2011, 20.45 CET

The second quarter final game of the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2011 brings together Germany, the winners of Group A and hosts of the tournament, and Japan, runners-up of Group B. The game in Wolfsburg is maybe Japan’s last chance to obtain their first-ever victory against an European side at any edition of the Women’s World Cup. And not just any European side, but the defenders of the 2007 World Cup title! Their latest encounter at an official women’s football match was duing the 2008 Beijing Olympic games, in a match won by Germany 2-0, bringing them the bronze medal.

The two sides look strong ahead of tomorrow’s game, although Germany is arguably in a better shape than Japan. They’re impressive 2-4 victory against France on Tuesday has given the German girls huge momentum and more support than even from their home-based fans. The game, so far the highest-scoring game of the Women’s World Cup 2011, has definitely made up for Germany’s two modest victories against Canada and Nigeria.

Some argue that we shouldn’t focus too much on that result, given that France played in 10 players for over 25 minutes. The same people identify some problems in the German team, which changed a lot since their glory days back in 2007. The-then goalkeeper Nadine Angerer, who finished the tournament in Beijing with a clean sheet, already conceded 3 goals and she’s shown some vulerabilities already. Her team mate in both tournaments, Birgit Prinz, who is also the highest-scoring player of the all-time Women’s World Cup (14 goals up to date), hasn’t shown much in this year’s edition. Although she plans to retire after this tournament, Prinz doesn’t expect to play from the beginning against Japan. “There is no reason to change anything in the attack” she says. Indeed, the attack has been doing well so far, and unless the Germans underestimate the Japanese and allow them too much of their (much-desired) possession, they have a good chance of going into the semis.

Japan, on the other hand, is clearly the underdog in this game. Although they’ve shown great teamwork and aggressive attacking in their first two matches, they come after a 2-0 loss to England, which put them in the runner-up position of Group B and cast a shadow over their modd and previous victories. The Nadeshiko showed their full potential against Mexico, winning that game 4-0. However, the British showed them just how vulnerable the open spaces in their defense were, and threw them off the leader’s seat last Tuesday. But for Japan, as its culture dictates, that was a learning opportunity, and it is unlikely that it happens again against Germany. Even Bajramaj, the German scoring both goals of their last match with Japan, said that the Japanese developed a lot since their last encounter, and that they’re clearly superior to the French.

This quarter final brings together two teams with a huge apetite for goals. Germany scored 7 so far and conceded 3, while Japan scored 6 and conceded 3. My prediction is that this game will go beyond the 3.5 goals mark in Germany’s favour. Bwin is offering 2.6 odds for o3.5 goals, and 1.3 for a German victory. I am taking these two football bets, but I’m going a step forward. Aside from a 2-unit bet on o3.5 and a 2-unit bet on Germany to win, I’m staking one unit on a score of more than 4 goals, at 4.75 odds! I would definitely recommend the first two bets, but for the last one, I would suggest not staking too much money. Fingers crossed, and let the game begin!

Prediction: Germany to win for 2 units, o3.5 for 2 units, o4.5 for 1 unit

Women’s World Cup: France vs. Germany (recap)

Recap

France France vs. Germany Germany

Tuesday, July 5th 2011, 20.45 CET

It was a delight watching this game! Although it did not end as I predicted here, it was the tournament’s highest-scoring game so far, and a great display of football from two of the best teams playing at this year’s German_playersWomen’s World Cup! Although the two teams were already qualified before the game even started, they didn’t seemed relaxed at all, with the battle being fierce between the two rivals yesterday in Mochengladbach.
Before the game, the French had a clear advantage goalscoring-wise, and they just required a draw to grab Group A’s top position. So the pressure fell more on the Germans, adding the fact that they are, after all, the hosts of the tournament. Plus, after two single-goal victories, the Germans needed to please their fans with a more obvious display of attacking capabilities. They definitely managed to do that, scoring 4 goals against one of the best teams in the world, and keeping the spectators on their toes throughout the game.

From the early minutes of the game, the German girls took control of the game through a well-devised possession strategy, and tried several times to pass the ball through the tight French defense. It didn’t work, and they had to change tactic after about 10 minutes of play. They tried instead to focus on the flanks upfront and send crosses from there into the French penalty area. The first result was a header from Garefrekes after a free kick, which passed by the French goalie in midair and found the net. It was the 25th minute. Another similar header came 7 minutes later from Grinks, thanks to the great cross sent by Simone Laudehr. The two goals threw the French off and made them change tactic.

With the second half under way, Marie-Laurie Delie was sent in for the French side, and scored 11 minutes in the second half with a beautiful header following a French corner. Delie’s goal gave the French hope and made the girls go more into enemy territory. However, that left some empty spaces in the defense, and 12 minutes after the goal, the Germans took advantage of that. Fatmire Bajramaj’s run in the French penalty area was stopped by goalkeeper Sapowicz, and the ball was cleared by a defender at the last minute. That didn’t stop the referee to show Sapowicz the red card though, and to award the Germans a penalty. Celine Deville, France’s substitute keeper came in, but jumped in the wrong side at the penalty, bringing the score to 1-3. Germany_vs_France

It was a devastating situation for France: 2 goals behind with 22 minutes of play and only 10 girls strong. That didn’t stop them though, and they went on the attack with all they had. It paid off 4 minutes later, when Laura Georges heading another French corner into the German net. Hopes were high for the French when Delie’s close-range shot went just wide moments later.

The Germans kept attacking, and they were close to making the score 2-4 after Grings’ free kick which hit the side bar. On the rebound, Bajramaj’s shot was blocked on the line by a fully-stretched Camille Abily. The French couldn’t prevent the goal from happening though, and in the 89th minute, Okoyino da Mbabi cooly beat Abily from inside the box, after Peter and Garefrekes found her in a great position. It sent the German crowds wild, and kept them cheering until the end of the game moments later.

In the end, the German fans who came at Mochengladbach got what they came there for, and Germany proved to have the power to defeat even their strongest rivals. And so Group A comes to an end, with the Germans taking the first spot, leaving the 2nd place to the French. The Germans will go ahead and face Japan in the quarter-finals, while a spicy England-France quarter awaits us on Saturday!

Women’s World Cup: Canada vs. Nigeria (recap)

Recap

Canada vs. Nigeria Nigeria

Tuesday, June 5th 2011, 20.45 CET

I honestly did not see much of this game, my attention was on the France vs. Germany clash which happened at the same time. As for the Canada vs. Nigeria Women’s World Cup football game, it was not good for my overall betting bankroll. I lost one unit betting on a Canadian win. However, as it turns out, Nigeria got the three points with a late scorer, and end their point-less (like, no points won) run at the World Cup since 1999.

Full-timeThis game, as explained in the prediction here, was not fought over the points at stake. This because both teams were already eliminated since before the game started. Nevertheless, both wanted to end their Women’s World Cup run on a high note, and there could have been just one of the two that could do so. This was Nigeria. Nkwocha’s goal in the 73rd minute of play ensured a long-awaited victory for the West African girls.

A strange thing happened during the game: in the 70th minute or so, the lights went out in Dresden, and since the game was played in late evening, it was halted until the problem could be fixed. That’s unexpected, especially on German soil. Nts nts nts Germany… Anyway, 10 minutes later the game resumed. And shortly afterwards, Nkwocha was at the end of a diverted shot coming from Glory Iroka, she took advantage of her position and, with a bit of luck, shot the ball past Canada’s goalkeeper to land it in the net. After this, Sinclair had one last chance for the North Americans, but the Nigerian goalie streched long enough to keep the ball away.

Reading the news, I see the match has been pretty interesting in its beginnings, with Nigeria hitting the post twice in the first half, and with Sinclair sprouting trouble for the Nigerian goalie throughout the game. The game ended 10 minutes later than scheduled, with a happy Nigerian team.