FIFA World Cup predictions: our best bets for Group H Matchday 1, including Portugal

Is it time for the favorites to cruise in their matchups?

FIFA World Cup predictions
Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo celebrates his side's opening goal during the group B match between Portugal and Spain at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Fisht Stadium in Sochi, Russia, Friday, June 15, 2018. The Associated Press

The final day of group stage Matchday 1 is here, and we’re set to provide our first two FIFA World Cup predictions.

Here, our focus will be on the two Thursday fixtures in Group H. In the pod’s first match, betting market darlings Uruguay meet South Korea while the second match of the group sees group favorites Portugal take on Ghana.

How should bettors tackle each of these fixtures? Allow me to present my best bet for each contest.

Odds come courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook and are reflective at time of writing.

Maryland is set to debut betting. Find Caesars’ offer.

Uruguay vs. South Korea Best Bet

Single-Game Parlay: Uruguay to Win and Total Under 3.5 Goals (+105)

Uruguay is slightly inflated on the three-way moneyline, but this provides a good alternate approach that should prove profitable.

Despite all the familiar attacking names on their roster, Uruguay’s unquestioned strength is their ability to defend. At last year’s Copa America, Uruguay surrendered only three expected goals across five matches, all of which finished under 2.5 goals.

Even just in a group fixture against Argentina, an attack I rate ahead of South Korea, Uruguay allowed only 0.8 expected goals, per fbref.com.

Now, they face a South Korea side that has posted some strong offensive metrics, but against weak opposition. Across their past 13 qualifying matches since the beginning of 2021, South Korea has created 25 expected goals.

However, none of those 13 opponents rank inside the top 40 in the world rankings.

Given the step up in competition, I expect you’ll see a lower-scoring game that gives Uruguay the advantage. If the South American nation can take the lead, expect them to pack it in and bag all three points.

Bet this single-game parlay at -105 or better.

Portugal vs. Ghana Best Bet

LEAN Portugal Goal-Line (-1.5, +110), Bet -1 at -130 or better.

Entering this FIFA World Cup competition, the Portugal attack finds itself in fine form.

In a pre-tournament friendly against Nigeria, manager Fernando Santos’ squad put up 1.56 expected goals, per footystats.org. Plus, across all six of their UEFA Nations League matches — two each against Spain, Czech Republic and Switzerland — the Portuguese generated 12.95 expected goals on target (xGOT).

Even in just two matches against Spain, a side clearly superior to Ghana, Portugal created 1.17 xGOT per 90 minutes, per fotmob.com.

Now, Portugal faces a Ghana side that has struggled to keep strong attacks at bay. In their past three fixtures against nations ranking inside the top 25 in the world rankings, Ghana has conceded 1.28 expected goals per 90 minutes, including 1.38 against fellow tournament side Morocco.

On the other end of the pitch, Ghana’s attack has proved completely inefficient in terms of generating quality chances. Across those same three matches, they’ve combined to create only 0.91 expected goals.

Thus bettors should expect Portugal to cruise with relative ease.

I prefer laying a goal instead of a goal and a half based on the current prices, but would take a shot on the latter if it reached +120.

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