Betfair’s Tobias Gourlay thinks Spain have enough about them now to overcome another set of defence-oriented opponents.
In the fourth quarter-final of South Africa 2010 either Paraguay or Spain will win the opportunity to compete in their first-ever World Cup semi-final. The South Americans have never even got this far before. The Europeans are four-time losers at this stage, but, as reigning continental champions, will be bullish about taking their chance to end another chapter in their long history of underachievement.
Spain coach Vicente del Bosque publicly expressed his ‘full confidence’ in Fernando Torres (four games, no goals) in the buildup to this match, so his team will probably be unchanged from the one that belatedly got past Portugal on Tuesday, even if debates rage back home about the merits of Iker Casillas and the 4-2-3-1 formation relative to their various understudies and alternatives.
Solid defence has got Paraguay this far and, like his counterpart, Gerardo Martino is highly unlikely to change anything now. As his goalkeeper, Justo Villar, admitted earlier this week, ‘You are going to have a clash of two different kinds of football. Their way is about creating and ours is more about stopping them’.
Spain, who are 1.53 to win in 90 minutes, have struggled to break through a couple of defence-focused teams already – Switzerland kept them out entirely and Portugal held out for more than an hour – but, as you’ll see below, it’s not clear how Paraguay will score, which makes it rather difficult to do anything other than side with David Villa and the favourites.
First Goalscorer/To Score
Villa has scored four of Spain’s five goals in South Africa so far. Lack of game-time in either the Premier League or the Champions League left him underrated for a long time. That’s no longer the case and he’s 2.12 to score anytime in this match. Look at his record in major tournaments though (12 games, 11 goals) and there might still be some value there. His strike partner, Torres, was overrated for a long time – he plays for Liverpool, you know – but now it’s simple bad form that makes him one to avoid.
Roque Santa Cruz has logged more than 12 hours of World Cup playing time since he scored against South Africa in 2002 and yet the market thinks he is as likely to score against Spain as any of his team-mates. Fellow striker Lucas Barrios saw a bit of Golden Boot money amid a flurry of goals that followed his naturalisation just in time for this tournament, but no goals when it’s mattered so far suggest he won’t be making anyone’s fortune this time.
Spain Win to Nil
Spain have allowed fewer shots on target (four) than any other team at South Africa 2010. Lately, Paraguay have failed to score against New Zealand and Japan. They’ve failed to score because they’ve passed the ball inaccurately and lacked creativity in midfield. Even if they’re now desperate to show us what they can really do, chances to do so will be few and far between against the ball-hogging Spanish and 2.26 looks a big price for the Europeans to win the match without conceding.
Spain have picked up only one yellow card getting here, but have seen a couple of opponents sent off in recent matches. The market thinks Paraguay will start lashing out if denied the ball for long periods, but five yellow cards in four matches shows they haven’t lost their discipline yet. None of their matches have got to 9pts and Above in the Bookings Odds market. New Zealanders might tell you that Guatemalan referee Carlos Butres gave a lot of soft fouls against them in their game with Italy, but laying 9pts and Above at 1.97 is the right thing to do.
The Over/Under 2.5 Goals Market (by Matthew Walton)
For all their abundant quality, Spain are still 3:1 in favour of under 2.5 goals from their four matches to date in these finals. Paraguay, with rather less quality at their disposal, are unsurprisingly 4:0 when it comes to low-scoring matches.
This doesn’t augur well for goals in Johannesburg, more so when you consider that World Cup QF’s are traditionally tight affairs and when these nations have met before – just three times in total dating back to 1998, twice in World Cups – two of those encounters ended as 0-0 draws.
None of this suggests a high make-up for this game and given the organised appearance of the South Americans, and the generally wasteful finishing of the Spaniards, it’s a match where, once again, Del Bosque’s men may well do just enough to win … but not enough to cover the spread.
This makes under 2.5 goals, at a decent looking 1.69, the value play.