FIFA’s twice defending United States Women’s National Team bounced back from frustrating opening half to tie 1-1 with Holland on Wednesday, as a defiant Lindsey Horan silenced an indignant referee and a chesty opponent with a corner-kick assisted goal over 60 minutes in. United States strikers roared up the wing as Stars & Stripes built momentum in the half-hour of play to follow, but Alex Morgan’s apparent winner was flagged off.
It was a parallel to what United States soccer bettors are going through in general this World Cup. Everyone is glad to see the USWNT still in decent position win Group E over a pesky rival like Holland. Yet at the same time, it’s pretty hard to win favorite’s picks (or “Over” picks against a bookmaker’s O/U goal total lines) when the Women’s World Cup becomes a shrine of defense and great goalkeeping. The USWNT is far from the only highly-favored team struggling to score goals with a legendary lineup in 2023. The long-term “futures” gamblers have it all over USWNT game odds picks for the time being.
“Under” gamblers are happy after 2 rounds too. Who knew that goals would be so rare in what’s supposed to be a “top heavy” FIFA World Cup, with added teams in the bracket? After all, American sportsbooks’ betting odds and lines on the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup Group Stage couldn’t have made betting sites’ goal-scoring forecast very much sharper. Women’s soccer odds-makers believed a wealth of goal scoring would decorate 2023’s opening 3 rounds, and perhaps in the Round of 16 to follow. Very few of July’s Over/Under odds on Group Stage kickoffs favored the low side of O/U (2.5) goals; in fact, some of FanDuel‘s game odds were even offering “plus” wagers at high reward for a winning pick if rivals failed to score less than O/U (3.5) goals. France and Jamaica of Group F managed to garner minus-odds on total-goals lines of Over (4.5), a surreal line for a short odds pick.
Keepers and clearance-specialists had something to say about that. It’s become obvious that defense in women’s FIFA competition is stronger than ever. Goals are at a premium, and clean sheets are the rule of the hour in Australia and New Zealand.
Until the Swiss winger Ramona Bachmann scored a penalty goal to stake Switzerland to a 1-0 lead over the Philippines on Friday, not a single tally had been scored in the opening half of a Group Stage fixture. Filipino keeper Olivia Davies-McDaniel made spectacular saves to keep Switzerland from beating its Team Goals O/U line at FanDuel and other sportsbooks. New Zealand’s back line shut down favored Team Norway in late July’s landmark 1-0 upset. Canada and Nigeria soon fought to a 0-0 draw which again surprised bookmakers. Last, the Group F Round 1 match forecast to produce “5+” goals didn’t net a tally, when France and Jamaica fought to a scoreless draw of their own. Las Vegas (and online) gamers who’re placing “Under” bets on World Cup goal total odds are huge winners through 8/1.
Team Canada’s follow-up win over Ireland came from a 2-1 slug-fest that produced lively attacks from both teams, an encouraging sign for those who think WWC strikers will eventually solve more keepers in Oceania. However, it’s just as noteworthy that until Ireland’s 1-2 Round 2 defeat, no losing team had scored in a match for 4 days.
Women’s World Cup Group Stage Round 3: Previews and WagerBop’s Picks
August 1st (Tuesday): Portugal vs United States
The lack of caution implicit in the betting odds on the United States surprised our staff this week. The Beautiful Game’s odds-makers are usually just as susceptible to fresh short-term memory as the USWNT supporters who suffered through the USA’s 1-1 tie with The Netherlands. FanDuel, however, seems to be an exception.
The typically invincible Team USA looked rather like an NFL club tossing one incomplete Hail Mary after another in their fixture against Holland. In the meantime, Holland’s veteran lineup took USA’s wayward passes and embarked on long, effective possessions full of sharp, short passes of far crisper accuracy. Late in the match, when the United States forwards finally started to knife around the Holland back line on simple leading balls down the wing, it was natural for supporters (and studio tacticians) to question whether the unit could have surpassed 68% in passing while maintaining its lively 1-on-1 attacking form.
Despite the rather ugly match report, FIFA odds-makers continue to offer bright lines on the United States, even as the team’s odds to finish with a #1 seed out of Group Stage shrink to standard 1-versus-1 risk and reward. Alex Morgan’s defending champs are (-410) or 1-to-4 money-line favorites to beat the formidable “Selecção das Quinas” of Portugal on Tuesday morning, or Monday night in Honolulu and on the west coast.
Team Portugal kept The Netherlands away from keeper Inês Pereira throughout much of an 0-1 defeat to start 2023’s Group Stage, then almost matched the United States’ 3-0 outcome against Vietnam with a 2-0 victory over Diamond Girls. Bookmakers hardly seem to care, giving Stars & Stripes a (-2) edge on the goal spread for a match that’s got Over (2.5) total goals picks offered at (-138) odds.
Bookies suspect that Diamond Girls will get minced into bits by Team Holland in Round 2. That’s the only reason why the USWNT would continue to bear skeptical (-115) odds to win 1st place Group E, while also boasting 1-to-4 money-line odds to beat Portugal. Yet the clue to a different kind of sharks’ picks on Portugal versus USA could also explain why Team USA’s Group Futures bettors aren’t necessarily doomed to defeat at this stage. Those picks won’t lose without plenty of scoreboard-watching and anticipation.
Game times state-side are less than ideal when a World Cup slate comes from New Zealand and Australia. But the federation is also following in course by putting the USA’s match and Holland’s match on at the same afternoon hour in Auckland, which creates a cool “simultaneous” vibe not unlike the Premier League’s final rounds. The nations are tied for 1st place in Group E’s standings after 2 games, with no victor in the match already played between the U.S. and The Netherlands. The USWNT leads by a pair in goal-differential and goals scored, the 2 relevant tiebreakers in a FIFA Group Stage deadlock. But then again, the Americans are playing against the higher-ranked team on Tuesday, making it a challenge to produce a foremost seed by beating Oranje out for #1.
The United States must beat Portugal by a comparable score as Holland beats Vietnam, should both favorites indeed win as anticipated. Holland is a (-3) FanDuel spread pick vs a Vietnam team that has failed to score a goal still.
The United States likely caught a break in that Team Portugal must now claim an upset win and 3 points to stave off elimination. That’s unless Team Vietnam does the improbable, and not only gets on the scoreboard for the first time but scores enough goals to defeat a powerful Holland side.
The Portuguese would be happy to use the Americans’ goal-differential tiebreaker hopes against them by playing conservatively, thereby causing the U.S. lineup more and more anxiety as the match wears on. But that’s a self-defeating strategy if you must prevail with an upset or else fail to qualify. The USWNT could be in the rare position of benefiting from a tight opening frame, as Oceania’s underdogs, not the favorites, become desperate to score and take a lead to keep Round of 16 hopes alive. If Portugal throws caution aside trying to advance, the second half should be filled with flashy, fast-paced soccer led by Team USA.
WagerBop’s Pick: Over (2.5) (-125)
August 1st (Tuesday): Vietnam vs The Netherlands
The other finale in Group E features The Netherlands as a (+100) or 1-to-1 pick to cover (-3) goals ATS. That means that about half of our participating gamers are willing to pick Oranje to prevail by 4-or-more tallies. Whether that’s an accurate prediction or not depends largely on whether you take the big number of women’s friendly kickoffs seriously year after year. Diamond Girls of Vietnam appear to be a far tougher team when elimination hangs in the balance.
Spain’s 9-0 win over Vietnam in World Cup training friendlies could be viewed as a sign that Holland’s next opponent has the weakest backline in Oceania. The Spanish didn’t bring their entire senior women’s roster to the 2023 World Cup to begin with, hinting that Vietnam just barely escaped an even worse blowout loss. But the fixture was followed by an 0-3 defeat to the United States, a match in which the defending champs came shockingly close to being held off the scoreboard in the opening half.
Last year, Vietnam lost a friendly to France 7-0, but also impressed in Olympic qualification rounds where they produced tough AFC rivalries between Team Vietnam, The Philippines, and Thailand.
Team Holland has been able to set aside its careful ball-possession style and rack up needed tallies against a cupcake. For example, Oranje has massive romps over nations like Kosovo in tournament qualifying rounds of 2022. Yet the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup has also been filled with feisty upstarts and tight games. If they still want to earn best seed, The Netherlands needs to buck that trend and put up a big score.
WagerBop’s Pick: Vietnam (+3) ATS (+195)
August 1st (Tuesday): England vs China
There’s a good reason behind FIFA’s simultaneous matches to close out World Cup Group Stage events, and that’s to prevent a national team from stalling in a match after having locked down the best seed from its quartet of hopefuls. The angle would apply to a 2-0-0 lineup with such a reputation as Team England, except Team Denmark is such a strong money-line favorite to defeat Haiti that Lionesses were simply saving their best for China.
Does that mean England’s (-260) line to win is well-deserved? China (+750) has shown some of the program’s spark from past eras in tight matches this FIFA cycle, winning critical bouts over South Korea and Australia in Asian Olympic Qualifying, and nearly matching Denmark’s shot attempts in an opening round 0-1 nail-biter.
Unfortunately for China, the next WWC round brought with it more echoes of the team’s modern-day problems. Temperamental midfielder Zhang Rui was red-carded in the opening half against Haiti, and the Chinese had to beg, borrow, and steal just enough chances to win 1-0. We think all “Round 3 bugaboo” impressions of Group Stage betting favorites should be tossed out the window in an event as full of Cinderella teams as the 2023 Women’s World Cup. A resounding win would help Lionesses avoid Round-of-16 issues.
WagerBop’s Pick: England (-260)
August 2nd (Wednesday): Argentina vs Sweden
Speculators willing to stay up late on Tuesday night will be greeted by Group G’s strange scenario, in which Italy appears to be the weakest team, yet also the luckiest brand of a quartet that could still see any combination of teams qualifying. Sweden is 2-0-0 after whipping Team Italy 5-0 in one of Oceania’s rare blowout finals.
The Swedes also struggled to prevail 2-1 over South Africa after the heavy underdogs took a stoppage time lead in Round 1, but that’s right in style for the sensational Banyana Banyana in ’23. FanDuel gives the 2016 Summer Olympics victors (-210) money-line odds to beat Argentina, a squad that often looked outclassed by Italy, of all teams, in a wheel-spinning 0-1 loss before tying South Africa 2-2.
WagerBop’s Pick: No Recommended Bets
August 2nd (Wednesday): South Africa vs Italy
The 2023 World Cup has had so few high-scoring outcomes that it’ll be interesting to see how FIFA women’s odds-makers are handling Over/Under lines when the standings compel wide-open attacks in a match. Italy’s best chance to beat South Africa is to play a methodical game, and Banyana Banyana’s attack is not considered any more elite than that of Argentina, which possessed the football for barely half the time in its opening round defeat.
Bookmakers expect South Africa to mount another spirited effort to win, making the fixture’s betting odds on picks of over Over (2.5) goals high risk and chintzy at (-150). A draw does the South Africans no good at all while allowing Italy to clinch a Round of 16 berth.
The Eurasian Group G match could potentially become a tactical tug-of-war between an experienced UEFA team and a desperate upstart. We’re not convinced that the low-scoring match trend is over yet, especially in a tourney that saw France and Jamaica knotted at zero goals apiece.
WagerBop’s Pick: Under (2.5) (+124)
August 2nd (Wednesday): Jamaica vs Brazil
Brazil has had the most exciting attacking form so far this FIFA World Cup, perhaps even more so than a U.S. team preoccupied with teamwork and defending (at least for the time being).
Team Brazil scored goals of artistic grace in a 4-0 thrashing of Panama to begin Group Stage, while it seemed as though France’s vaunted side was getting by on reputation alone following an ugly 0-0 draw with Jamaica. But the South Americans were hit by a double whammy in the middle of Group F’s race, losing a bitter 1-2 outcome to France in Round 2, then getting the tougher of Round 3 draws. Panama has joined Ireland, Costa Rica, and Zambia among the few mathematically eliminated nations going into this week.
Even better for Panama’s upcoming opponent France, the Jamaicans illustrated their superiority over Team Panama in another very physical Group Stage match last weekend.
What’s stopping Reggae Girlz from drawing more underdog action with low-risk (+1500) odds to win? Brazil’s 4-goal lacing of CONCACAF in Round 1 set aside, it’s encouraging to know that a team will try for a victory before making picks on their money-line. Jamaica goes into Wednesday’s bout with 4 points and tied-1st standing alongside Team France, capable of advancing to the knockout stage with nothing but a 90+ minute draw against Brazil. Because that very same tie result would knock talented Brazil out of the Women’s World Cup, we think Canaries will play forward numbers and try to knock out a formidable competitor.
If Jamaica has strong enough motivation to draw, the match could potentially turn into a Brazil shooting gallery, ala the scenario when an African or Caribbean newcomer plays a medal contender at the Men’s World Cup. Yet a glance at Jamaica’s roster, in addition to 180+ minutes of match reports in Oceania, reveals that Reggae Girlz are willing to foul and be fouled in long, ragged matches full of hard tackling. That’s not what we presume to see from the Jamaican men’s team, but the Jamaica women’s somewhat rougher style may work better at the elimination stage than their counterparts’ finesse worked against Panama in this year’s Men’s CONCACAF action.
WagerBop’s Pick: Draw (+600)
August 2nd (Wednesday): Panama vs France
The French are on their way to a 1st-place finish and top seed against Panama, the latter a whopping 70-to-1 underdog to earn an eliminated spoiler’s upset win over Les Bleues (-4000). If there’s any impetus not to pick France’s (-3) spread line at (+140) odds to cover, it’s that the French don’t actually need to take anything from the Panama match. However, it would still be weird to see France pull back and sit content with a draw, since, in that case, either Brazil or Jamaica could vault over Les Bleues for a #1 seed with a 3-point victory on Wednesday. The French women understand that 2023 is not nearly as top-heavy of a FIFA event as expected, making favorable Round of 16 seeds extremely precious.
The combination of USWNT’s underachievement, England’s injuries, and Spain’s roster omissions has France hoping to breeze through the knockout stage then going on to face a top 8 that could be missing Brazil, plus any of the 3 aforementioned heavies.
WagerBop’s Pick: No Recommended Bets
August 3rd (Thursday): Morocco vs Colombia
Our Group B underdog pick Ireland stands with nary a point despite making headlines with contentious matches. Then again, Colombia has joined Morocco in turning Group H upside down, just as we thought Powerpuff Girls could do given the opportunity.
Last Saturday’s match between Morocco and South Korea ended with the former team securing a landmark 1-0 win. That loss appeared to knock Korea out of the Women’s World Cup, assuming Germany earned at least a single point against upstart Colombia. Bad assumption. Left back Manuela Venegas’ awesome header beat Germany’s Merle Frohms to break a 1-1 deadlock 7 minutes into added time, and Powerpuff Girls’ second upset win in a row turned Group H into a free-for-all once again.
Colombia, now a betting favorite after whipping 2 pillars of women’s soccer from pillar to post, opened as close to a 1-to-3 pick on the money-line for Round 3. But the Moroccans’ first FIFA win is driving up the price on Morocco to be a 5-to-1 odds offering.
WagerBop’s Pick: Colombia (-240)
August 3rd (Thursday): South Korea vs Germany
South Korea was lucky enough to get a new lease on life when Colombia beat Germany, but perhaps it is merely a chance to lose another key bout to a livelier team in 2023. Morocco’s maiden FIFA Women’s World Cup win is a sweetheart of a sports story, and the optics of Lionesses of Atlas’ teenagers and journeywomen upsetting a long-time women’s soccer stronghold helps make Morocco’s upset a joyful one. Indeed, the team plays with a lot of joy for a contender whose clean scoring chances are few in a FIFA World Cup. Yet considering Morocco’s meek form in Round 1’s loss, we have to ask whether Korea’s age is what allowed Morocco’s watershed spark of momentum to begin with. Sportsbooks, for one, haven’t missed the fact that South Korea’s starting 11 has a dangerous 30-something average age.
The Germans (-550) could be unpopular as a short-odds pick to eliminate Taegeuk Ladies on Thursday, due to Alexandria Popp’s team taking its own upset loss to Colombia. But we’re recommending the bet – and the parlay – due to yet another favorable standings scenario. Pick teams to win who need to win and not tie … and that goes for every sport.
WagerBop Pick: Germany (-550) (With Parlay)
Kurt has authored close to 1000 stories covering football, soccer, basketball, baseball, ice hockey, prize-fighting and the Olympic Games. Kurt posted a 61% win rate on 200+ college and NFL gridiron picks last season. He muses about High School football on social media as The Gridiron Geek.