A national team qualified for a World Cup knock-out round with an 0-0 draw on Tuesday, thanks in part to an opposing shot hitting the post in the 91st minute. Players smiled in relief and danced among themselves, and some even signed autographs for supporters.
There was only one problem. The team “celebrating” was the United States Women’s National Team, the gold medal winner of consecutive Women’s World Cup titles. USWNT “relief” at simply making the Round of 16 underscored what a lousy Group Stage the defending Stars & Stripes had. USA is just a (+100) bet to beat Sweden on Sunday.
Opinions are aplenty on what to make of the U.S. team’s loose, easy attitude following 2 painful outcomes. USWNT gold medal heroine Carli Lloyd ripped into the Red, White, and Blue for not showing more discontent with consecutive drawn results, arguing that the championship version of a United States women’s team would have been found in the dressing room yelling and challenging each other.
Other analysts took a sympathetic, yet still grim view of the situation, writing that the 2023 USWNT lineup knows it will be an underdog in the Women’s World Cup elimination bracket due to the squad’s youth corps’ inferiority compared to previous generations, and was simply blowing off nerves from carrying the burden of undue pressure. That seems hard to believe, since 30 years of wonderful USWNT soccer has never swooned from a lack of talent in its U20 ranks.
One think-tank rag out of Washington D.C. went off the deep end, writing that Lloyd’s criticism of an historically flat U.S. team must have been rooted in social intolerance and a political grudge. But the article goes to show how a dynasty brand’s fans can go literally bonkers when winning doesn’t occur.
Lloyd’s criticisms were hurled at native-born white footballers on the team, and she also passed over chances to directly slam Andonovski, himself the first non-American or Western European manager the USWNT has ever hired. Finally, arguably the harshest Lloyd remarks were directed at Alex Morgan, whom she implicated as too old, not a difference maker, and no longer a best-choice starting forward for the United States. Morgan, as USWNT fans know, refuses to engage in public politics, and references the Revolutionary War in her goal celebrations. We’ll presume that a Fox commentator isn’t dissing Morgan because they think the striker is a secret commie.
You’d have to be a not-so-secret communist not to be delighted at the money-making opportunities in this curious, overnight TV version of a FIFA World Cup, given all the live underdogs in the mix. Which of the many Cinderella teams can make the Q-Finals, and who’s likely to be erased by an aristocrat? Here’s a preview of Oceania’s Round of 16 matches, and WagerBop’s recommended picks for most of them.
Sat. August 4: Spain vs Switzerland
The USA and Spain made for similar types of disappointments in the Women’s World Cup Group Stage. Not that the Yanks have revolted against head coach Andonovski, as some players from Spain’s senior women’s team have refused to play for HC Jorge Vilda in Oceania. Still, there’s a definite parallel in how each national team has been highly valued by the media and bookmakers in spite of bringing so many rookies to a world rumble. It took 3 rounds of group play to demonstrate how optimistic forecasts could be wrong.
Spain’s partial replacement lineup was immediately said to be as strong as veteran Spanish lineups, and the team’s short betting odds confirmed that consensus. But the squad’s Group Stage success came to a humiliating stop at the hands of Japan. The USWNT was a 1-to-1 wager to finish on top of Group E even after drawing with Holland in Round 2, but after Tuesday’s almost unfathomable 0-0 draw, an uninspired U.S. team is lucky to advance.
WagerBop argued in July that Spain’s roster omissions would hurt La Roja worse than Becky Sauerbrunn’s absence or Alex Morgan’s 34-year-old pitch legs would slow down the United States. Following the last round of Group Stage, it’s starting to feel as though we should have marked both squads as headed for trouble. But there’s a stark difference in sportsbook odds on Spain and Team USA in the Round of 16, and notwithstanding any sentimental support for the USWNT, Spain is the club that’s more touted to rebound.
Spain enjoys a (-330) line to defeat Switzerland on Saturday morning, or late Friday night on the west coast.
Team Switzerland’s money-line odds of (+900) have actually fattened with slower than anticipated wagering action since the Round of 16 bout was booked. Jennifer Hermoso is still in the running to win a Golden Boot, and yet the Spanish performed so badly against Japan that it was Nadeshiko racking up goals. Given the evident parallels between Team Switzerland and Team Japan’s styles of women’s soccer, why would so many FanDuel users be quick to dismiss the Swiss knock-out threat after witnessing La Roja of Spain give up 3 goals to a “lower ranked” team in 40:00?
We won’t become the internet’s “Kenny Albert” and begin sub-referencing every women’s team and player with the male athletes in her homeland. But sometimes, comparing the gender divisions of FIFA soccer can help beginning gamers make wiser betting picks.
For example, this Switzerland team isn’t so different from the men’s Switzerland team from a sports gambling POV, because each squad’s success is overlooked due to low final scores and assumptions made that the teams’ attacks can’t score big goals when they’re needed.
Switzerland has scored 0 goals since defeating The Philippines 2-0 in Round 1 of the 2023 Women’s World Cup. Switzerland’s scoreless draw with Norway in Round 2 was nonetheless impressive, as Red Crosses hogged the football for half of the fixture while matching the vaunted Norweigians in pass accuracy. Team New Zealand was desperate to score and advance in front of host fans in the final Swiss match of Group Stage, making Switzerland’s most recent 0-0 draw a successful quest for a key point earned.
FanDuel Sportsbook’s standard odds on O/U (2.5) total goals for Spain-Switzerland show that the underdog’s back line has earned enough respect that bookmakers can at least imagine Spain getting shut down again. But the Spanish midfielder Alexia Putellas matches Hermoso with leading (+330) prop betting odds to score in the match. It won’t be a shock if nobody scores.
Remember also that an 0-0 or 1-1 tiebreaker triumph allows the penalty-kick winners to advance, but still counts as a draw in sportsbook money-line markets.
WagerBop’s Pick: Draw (+370)
Sat. August 4: Norway vs Japan
Gambling odds can speak louder than words. From the opening lines and betting trends at FanDuel Sportsbook, it’s obvious that Japan is not perceived to have exposed a fading aristocrat in Spain. Instead, bookmakers believe that Nadeshiko whipped Team Spain 4-0 thanks mostly to its own virtues as a faster, more precise attacking side in 2023.
FanDuel’s odds are optimistic on Japan (-135) to knock out Norway (+370), a women’s team that’s been ranked as highly as #2 in FIFA, and which nearly manufactured the biggest corking of a competition that’s been full of clean sheets when crushing Filipinas 6-0 in Round 3. The elusive Nadeshiko forward Hinata Miyazawa is leading the 2023 Women’s World Cup in goals scored at 23 years old, a clue that Japan’s new lineup won’t suffer trademark frustrations from producing long possessions followed by missed shots.
It’s great that a team has a chance to raise Far East women’s soccer to the level of Brandi Chastain’s archrivals from back in the day. However, the 4-to-1 odds on Norway to win may still underestimate a side that won a tiebreaker to reach the WWC Q-Finals in 2019.
WagerBop’s Pick: Norway (+100)
Sat. August 4: The Netherlands vs South Africa
Prime time viewers in the USA will be treated to a favorite vs underdog meeting in which Cinderella’s cheer section may do better against the spread. South Africa’s (+1200) odds aren’t necessarily as vulnerable to the “0-2” defeat as a lot of teams in a low-scoring tournament. In fact, South Africa’s attack isn’t what has Holland at (-600) odds.
South African strikers have scored a huge 6 goals in Oceania so far, eclipsing Team USA’s meek total of 4 goals and Team Brazil’s 5-goal tally in 3 games. South Africa’s defense has been another tale, a dodgy effort that allowed 2 goals to Team Italy in group play.
Holland’s passing game is so sharp that Oranje could simply play keep-away from South Africa if fortunate enough to score the maiden goal of the match. FIFA World Cup odds-makers have other ideas, believing that Holland will tack-on insurance goals. The Netherlands and South Africa have (-120) odds to go Over (3.5), not (2.5) total goals.
WagerBop’s Pick: South Africa ATS (+2) (+100)
Sun. August 5: United States vs Sweden
What isn’t up for debate about Team USA is the team’s play on the field, which looks drastically uneven from one phase to the next. Team USA began the event with an all-11 defending style that could set a new bar for USWNT precision and organization. But the ailing squad has wasted its numerous chances to possess and counter with the football. Portugal’s back line is very respectable, but it’s not the sort of group that clean-sheet defeats a #1 ranked nation.
The United States offense looked its best (or “least worst”) against the USA’s toughest Group Stage rival in Holland. In the final 15-20 minutes of that contest, the Stars and Stripes began winning 1-on-1 battles down the wing and firing accurate strikes from Holland’s goal box. It’s a formula for scoring, so long as the U.S. wins clean possession in forward territory. But doing so means many careful, patient passes against a stingy defending rival like Sweden, not the “Hail Mary passes” U.S. midfielders have been trying.
A generous price on “No Goals in the Second Half” prop bets for USA-Sweden will intrigue those who’ve watched Sweden work to restrict the USWNT in prior events, most notably the 2016 Olympic Games.
WagerBop’s Pick: “No Goals in Second Half” (Match Prop Bet) (+230)
Mon. August 6: England vs Nigeria
Nigeria joins South Africa as 2023 World Cup underdog picks with livelier offense than back-line defending, but what’s cool about Super Falcons is that Nigeria’s starting-11 has been adept at bearing down and adjusting to circle-the-wagons scenarios when they occur, achieving a pair of critical clean sheets in Group Stage alongside Nigeria’s big upset of Team Australia.
Nigeria’s midfield committed so many fouls against Canada in Round 1 that referees ultimately gave the teenage phenom Deborah Abiodun a red card in added time. In a final battle of nerves with Ireland, Nigeria allowed only one shot on-target.
So why is Nigeria (+1200) drawing the same grim Round of 16 odds as unheralded South Africa? It’s not just because this round’s opponent England is a quadrennial world championship favorites’ pick. Lionesses of Great Britain may stand alone in Oceania ’23 as an ailing powerhouse that’s overcome roster issues to soar even higher than expected, earning a better Group Stage goal differential than anyone but Japan or Sweden.
WagerBop’s Pick: No Recommended Bets
Mon. August 6: Australia vs Denmark
There is so much to report about Monday’s other intriguing matchup that we can’t fit it all in a long scroll of matches. Denmark was trounced by England in Group Stage, but has otherwise played well in an effort to return to the quarter-finals for the first time since 1995. Team Australia is the surviving host that bounced back from an upset loss to Nigeria to stun Canada 4-0 and waltz into the knock-out round with an ideal seed. Monday’s early-rising sportsbook users aren’t forecasted to see a wide-open match with tons of scoring, though, as FanDuel’s line on Over (2.5) is pessimistic at (+120) odds.
WagerBop’s Pick: Australia to Advance (Win or Tiebreaker) (-266)
Tues. August 7: Colombia vs Jamaica
Colombia and Jamaica’s knock-out round kickoff makes another example of opponents who had similar Group Stage appearances, but whom the betting community has reacted to in different ways. The latter is evident when you look at Jamaica’s downbeat money-line odds compared to FanDuel Sportsbook’s 1-to-2, or (-200) proposition odds on Powerpuff Girls to defeat CONCACAF and advance onward.
It’s certainly hard to ignore the Colombians, who backed into the Round of 16 by losing to Morocco 0-1. Given that Team Morocco has proved to be an equally spirited and inspiring women’s side in 2023, supporters are willing to forget the Round 3 outcome and focus on Team Colombia’s awesome upsets of Germany and South Korea in the previous rounds. Colombia did win Round 3 on the stat-sheet.
But are there enough excuses for last game to justify making Jamaica such an underdog? Not only are Reggae Girlz among a tiny handful of teams to allow zero goals in 3 matches, they’ve done it while facing a potential Group-of-Death in France, Brazil, and the all-too-familiar CONCACAF rival Panama. If the Colombians were too anxious to strike accurately against Morocco, can they get shots on Jamaica?
WagerBop’s Pick: Jamaica ATS (+1) (-140)
Tues. August 7: France vs Morocco
WagerBop expects France to advance in the most lopsided pairing of Oceania’s knock-out round. However, the French attack’s issues trying to play wide-open and maintain responsibility is a reason to expect a nervous 2-1 or 3-2 victory for Les Bleues, and a win for Team Morocco against a wide spread.
WagerBop’s Pick: Morocco ATS (+2) (+140)
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.