Russia 2018 has given us a taste of everything so far — the goal-fests, the chaotic giant-killing upsets, the dramatic penalty saves — and now we have the crazy late comeback.
To the impartial, Belgium snatching victory from the jaws of defeat against Japan on Monday could be the best bit so far. They could call it off now, send everybody home, and it would still be the best World Cup since Italia ’90.
Nacer Chadli’s winner — a fantastic breakaway goal with 15 seconds of stoppage time remaining — will be remembered as a World Cup classic. His team had been 2-0 down with 20 minutes to go, and its reward for breaking Japanese hearts will be a quarter final against match against Brazil on Friday.
Belgium is now third-favorite at 5/1, although it faces the favorite. Brazil looked good on Monday when it dispatched Mexico 2-0. The team was steely and assured in the blistering heat of the Cosmos Arena in Samara. Its star players are beginning to perform, and you feel they have plenty left in the tank.
Neymar, shorn of the ludicrous haircut, sparkled up front, although his play-acting threatened to spoil the show.
Neymar won’t care about the criticism in today’s papers, and nor will Brazil. The team looks every bit the champions-elect, but in this slightly crazy World Cup, nothing is for certain.
Brazil is currently 11/4 with most bookmakers, edging out second favorite, France, at 4/1.
While this as been a great tournament for viewers, it hasn’t been bad for the bookies either. With more money expected to be wagered on this tournament than any sporting event, ever, the early elimination of several of the favorites is likely to have produced positive results for the betting industry.
Why Bookies Love Draws
Odds comparison site, Oddschecker, notes that, so far, just 58 per cent of games have been won by the favorite. On the flip side, only 15 percent of games in the group stages ended a draw, lower than in recent tournaments. Bookies love draws, because almost no one bets on them.
And so, today, when England take on Colombia — which Oddschecker expects to be the most bet-upon game in the UK ever — the country’s bookmakers will suppressing their patriotic impulses and cheering the South American side.
“England have been the second most popular bet on Oddschecker and without doubt represent the biggest liability for bookies up and down the country,” Oddschecker’s Guy Harding told Totally Gaming on Monday.