Best bets for the World Cup round of 16
The round of 16 begins on Saturday after an exciting and perhaps surprising group stage. Here's a look at how to bet the round of 16, including every game, as well as another review of the best futures bets.
There's one clear betting strategy to consider across the eight fixtures that will take place during the four-day period of the second round.
At each of the past three World Cups, backing the draw after 90 minutes (in this instance, ignore the potential for 30 minutes of extra time and penalties) in games in which there was no odds-on favorite would have earned you a profit.
In 2006, there were three such matchups, and one of them ended in a stalemate. The odds on the game that ended in a draw were big enough to ensure that you earned a profit even though the other two bets failed to pay out. In 2010, there were four such matchups, with two of them ending in draws at odds that produced an overall profit. Then four years ago, there were four second-round clashes with no odds-on favorite, and two ended in draws.
Looking across the round of 16 matches this year, four have no odds-on favorite: France vs. Argentina, Uruguay vs. Portugal, Sweden vs. Switzerland and Colombia vs. England. With recent tournament history being as it is at this stage of the competition, we recommend that you back the draw (after 90 minutes) in all four of these fixtures.
Round of 16 matches
France vs. Argentina
Pre-tournament fourth favorite France has disappointed so far, with star man Antoine Griezmann a shadow of the player who emerged as the 2016 Euro's best performer and top scorer. With the Atletico Madrid striker's form a genuine concern, it's difficult to back France with any confidence to win in 90 minutes. Lionel Messi has proved a more inspiring figure for Argentina, although his supporting cast is less impressive than Griezmann's is for France. Looking across the two sides, there's no reason to favor one over the other, nor are there solid grounds to expect a high-scoring encounter. These two teams have scored just six goals (three each) in six games between them.
Best bet: Draw (2-1)
Uruguay vs. Portugal
The market is finding it almost impossible to separate these two sides, and that makes sense when you look at the starting lineups and the way they've performed at the tournament. Uruguay has yet to concede a goal and has looked dangerous in attack thanks to the presence of forwards Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez -- the two have scored three of Uruguay's five goals. Portugal can thank four-goal top scorer Cristiano Ronaldo for its place in the knockout phase, and while it may lack technical prowess, it has bags of tournament know-how. Given how well-matched the teams are, it would be no surprise to see this game go to extra time or penalties.
Best bet: Draw (+185)
Spain vs. Russia
How good is Russia? The host scored eight times across two opening-round victories against Saudi Arabia (5-0) and Egypt (3-1) but crumbled the first time it came up against decent opposition (3-0 loss to Uruguay). Once again it'll be able to count on tremendous support, but the roar of home fans cannot atone for technical and tactical shortcomings. Spain is a much better side but has yet to show it. The Spaniards labored against Iran (1-0) and were unimpressive versus Morocco (2-2). The one factor uniting these two sides is poor defensive play -- between them, they have conceded nine goals (1.5 per match). Defensive frailties, coupled with the fact that the game's likely to be played at a relatively high pace in front of a partisan crowd, make the over the smart selection.
Best bet: Over 2.5 total goals (+120)