Betting Blog: Final, third-placed playoff
So the 2014 World Cup final will be between Germany and Argentina, as it was in 1986 and 1990. Germany's trouncing of Brazil in the semis makes them favourites with bet365 but the final has all the makings of a tight, cagey affair that could be decided by the odd goal; a moment of genius, or perhaps a mistake.
For those of you who followed the headline advice to back Argentina at 4/1, each-way (1/2 the odds), then all's well. You can even back Germany now and win on both counts. But picking a winner of this one is incredibly difficult.
Before we get to that, though, we have the matter of the third-placed playoff between Brazil and Netherlands. This has to be the least merited and least-wanted match in sport -- two sides whose World Cup hopes are gone, agonisingly so in Netherlands' case after their penalty shootout defeat by Argentina, forced back onto the pitch to do it again a few days later for a prize about which neither team is bothered.
In betting terms, this match is usually a nightmare. Judging motivation is very difficult and human nature tells us that neither side will give 100 percent, no matter what they may say. However, this time, the match holds some significance for Brazil, desperate to regain some pride in their home tournament, having been humbled by Germany in the most horrible fashion.
Netherlands manager Louis van Gaal says he loathes the playoff and will almost certainly change his team completely, resting his star performers. Brazil, on the other hand, may feel that they owe it to their fans to go out on a small high, so bet365's price of 13/10 is too generous to pass up.
And so to the final. Germany were rampant against Brazil but won't get that kind of capitulation from a well-drilled Argentina side, whose defence is marshalled and protected brilliantly by Javier Mascherano, who has had a great World Cup. His side are outsiders to win the final at 5/2, to Germany's 13/10, but it could go down to the wire. Both teams have goalkeepers who have impressed -- Germany's Manuel Neuer is probably the best in the world -- and their defences look tight.
It's 1/2 that there are fewer than three goals, a tight price but one that will probably be a winner, not least since five of the past six World Cup finals have seen two goals or less. However, the concern for Germany is that Lionel Messi has yet to dominate a game in this World Cup but has come up with match-winning moments. Can the Germans keep him quiet for 90, maybe 120 minutes?
On the other hand, can Argentina stop Germany from scoring? The fluidity of their front six has been a joy to watch at times and Thomas Muller is going to be desperate to get the goal that would see him win the Golden Boot (he won it in 2010 as well). Bet365 makes it 11/10 that both teams score and that seems decent.
In a tournament that has seen goals fly in left, right and centre up until the quarterfinals, it has been cagey ever since (Germany-Brazil aside) and this match should be the same. One goal could decide it and this may well be Messi's time to stamp his name on footballing history, so take Argentina to win it by the odd goal, a 7/2 chance with bet365.