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World Cup 2014: Argentina and Bosnia can help Group F bang in the goals

Goals for Messi and Co could see Group F land the odds in the Group With Most Goals market
Goals for Messi and Co could see Group F land the odds in the Group With Most Goals market

"Argentina’s forward line – with Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and, if he recovers from injury Gonzalo Higuain - is justifiably vaunted, and they scored 35 goals in 16 games in qualifying."

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Back Group F in Group With Most Goals @ 6.611/2

In his latest weekly column building up to the World Cup Jonathan Wilson previews one of the markets that will keep punters interested for the first two weeks - Group with Most Goals - and here our man tells us why the attacking lines of Argentina and Bosnia could be the answer...

With most markets available for the World Cup finals, you could ask a random person on the street - or at least on the street heading towards a stadium on match-day - and they'd have an idea what they thought might be worth backing.

With some, though, you'd get baffled looks. Take the betting on the Group With Most Goals for example. It's not something you can simply have a gut feeling for; it's something that requires thought and research.

Four years ago, two groups shared the distinction: Group B (Argentina, South Korea, Greece and Nigeria) and Group G (Brazil, Portugal, Ivory Coast and North Korea); Group B because three teams let in some, and Group G because North Korea let in a lot.

In 2006, three groups each had 18 goals: then Costa Rica and Serbia-Montenegro were both open at the back, while Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and Ukraine were moderately leaky in Group H. So there appears to be two ways of racking up high numbers: either one weak side or a general openness, which isn't that helpful as a indicator.

This time round, Group B (Spain, Chile, Netherlands, Australia) is the favourite to produce most goals at 4.94/1 with Group G (Germany, Portugal, USA, Ghana) third favourite at 6.25/1. Second favourite is Group D (Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, Italy) at 5.95/1, and on qualifying form it would average 2.86 goals per game, the third highest figure.

The tightest group, on qualifying form, would be Group A (Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, Cameroon) at 2.28 goals per game, but it's fourth favourite to produce the most goals at 6.411/2. The outsider to produce most goals is Group C (Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast and Japan), which on qualifying form would yield 2.5 goals per game, the third lowest figure.

So is there any reason not simply to go on qualifying form? Well, yes.

To begin with there's the fact that there is a remarkable disparity between goals per game in qualifying and in the final tournament. Even the lowest scoring of the groups based on qualifying form averages more goals per game than the last finals tournament did. In part that's because with more to lose and a higher-level of opponent teams tend to be more cautious and in part it's because there will be fewer hammerings: the data on which those projected figures are based includes results such as the Netherlands' 8-1 victory over Hungary, Bosnia's 8-1 win over Liechtenstein and England's 8-0 win over San Marino. Results like that do happen in the World Cup, but only extremely rarely. Then there's the memory of Serbia-Montenegro in 2006: they conceded only once in 10 games in qualifying but flopped at the finals.

And then there's the difference in quality in the confederations. Will Ivory Coast or Japan, for instance, be as attacking as they were in qualifying? Iran were incredibly tight at the back in qualifying, letting in only two goals: can they really be that solid against the likes of Argentina and Bosnia.

That group, Group F, in fact, is intriguing.

Argentina's forward line - with Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and, if he recovers from injury Gonzalo Higuain - is justifiably vaunted, and they scored 35 goals in 16 games in qualifying. Bosnia were also extremely attacking, banging in 30 goals in 10 games thanks to a forward line of Edin Dzeko and Vedad Ibisevic: given the players they have, it's hard to believe they would attempt something more cautious in the finals. Iran will defend, but it's entirely possible to imagine them conceding three or four to both or either of Argentina and Bosnia.

Nigeria, meanwhile, were defensively sound both in qualifying, conceding four goals and scoring 11 in eight games, and in the Cup of Nations, when they also scored 11 and conceded four (although over six games). In the Confederations Cup, though, they conceded six in three games. There could be a vulnerability about them.

Group F, though, is 6.611/2 to generate the most goals, that is, only fifth favourite, which seems very tempting.


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Back Group F in Group With Most Goals @ 6.611/2


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