It’s all eyes on Group F for England fans, the runner-up of which will await Roy Hodgson’s men in the last 16. Yet despite all the negative scare-mongering that immediately followed the Three Lions’ failure to beat Slovakia, it’s highly unlikely that Portugal will finish second. For the Seleccao, it’s more or less a case of win or bust against Hungary.
The easiest and most important thing to understand is that Fernando Santos’ men will top the group if they win this game (by whatever scoreline) and though best odds of 4/9 are bordering on absurd given how profligate they've been in front of goal, it’s hard to imagine them not winning if they continue to create the volume of chances witnessed in their first two matches.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s inability to find the net has been the chief source of amusement at the tournament so far, particularly for those who like to see an inflated ego brought down a peg or two. But Nani’s failure to put away a couple of glorious first-half opportunities against Austria was frustrating for Oddschecker followers who had backed him to score first and anytime.
However, the Nani angle is one worth persisting with. The Fenerbahce man is operating as an auxillary centre forward, getting into the box at every available opportunity. And with 13/5 Ronaldo occupying the attention of most defenders while evidently lacking match sharpness after recent thigh trouble, Nani remains a preferable option to break the deadlock at 7/1.
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On this occasion, we’ll snub the anytime price of 5/2 for two reasons: 1) because Nani’s best opportunities in the first two matches have almost exclusively arrived in the first half, and 2) because I simply don’t see this game producing many goals. Hungary, for all the negativity surrounding them coming into the tournament, have been very well organised.
Moreover, this game plays into the realm of prospect theory on both sides. Hungary, with four points, have almost certainly qualified already but can guarantee top spot if they hold out for a point. Meanwhile, if Portugal do force a breakthrough, they have no real incentive to chase further goals and would presumably approach the remainder with a high degree of uncertainty avoidance.
Therefore, the 9/2 available on Portugal 1-0 might seem intuitively skinny but could actually be an excellent price, especially for Bet365 customers who get money back on their ‘bore draw’ special, which returns stakes on all group games that finish 0-0. A goalless draw would probably take Portugal through, albeit pitching them against the impressive Croatia in the last 16.
The Nani 1-0 scorecast is available at 28/1.
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