Thursday, June 24, 2010

Luchametric World Cup Handicapping: Brazil to Samba Over Portugal

Our predictions for today's matches are to your right.  Our predictions for tomorrow's matches are above.  We like Brazil for both its potential as a great match to watch and for its value.

First of all, in case you missed it, Portugal and Brazil have a rather long history, Brazil gaining its independence from Portugal in 1822 (but not from the Portuguese royal family) and then eventually becoming a republic in 1889.  Slavery was only abolished in Brazil in 1888, and there are still racial tensions in Brazilian society today, given its inherently mestizo social fabric (Portuguese/European; African; South American Indian).  As for Portugal, let's just say it has a certain attitude toward it's former colony, typical of former imperial states that have seen better days. Plus, um, Portugal has its own inherent racial attitudes typical of former imperial states that have seen better days.

Needless to say, these team will both want to beat each other....very, very badly.  It is essentially a World Cup Derby, which is one reason the books have given such good odds for Brazil.  Even without Kaka, the opportunity to bet on Brazil in a World Cup match with better-than-even odds is hard to pass up, and we think this match offers great value to punters, with the books undervaluing Brazil's superiority over Ronaldo and Co by as much as 7%.

Yes, a draw would send both teams through, but we just can't imagine either team playing for the draw from the start--too much history, too much pride, too much talent on the field.  And Portugal could be knocked out by a loss combined with a big Ivory Coast win. You think Brazil has any incentive to do just that?

In short, take Brazil and enjoy some outstanding football.  Do it.

As for Chile vs Spain, we think it's best to avoid this other post-colonial derby, as Chile is very tough and organized on defense and fully capable of stifling the Spanish.  Chile needs only a draw but a win sends them through, while Spain absolutely must win if they want to guarantee passage to the knock-out phase.  The likelihood of a Swiss win means their will be pressure on both teams and passions will run high.  Wouldn't Chile love to knock Spain out of the tournament?  And failing to advance to the final 16 would be a humiliation of epic proportions for the talented Spanish side.  We think Portugal is a paper tiger and Brazilian skill will prevail over 90 minutes, but this other match fraught by history is too close to call.

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