World Cup best bets: Netherlands to start with a bang

JOHN THYS / AFP / Getty

The World Cup begins in just a couple of days as host Qatar kicks things off Sunday against Ecuador.

Let's look at that game and two bets that stand out from the opening two days of World Cup action.

Qatar (+210) vs. Ecuador (+145)
Nov. 20, 11:00 a.m. EST

Barring penalties - perhaps induced by a crazy home crowd - I don't see multiple goals scored in this game. There just isn't a natural pathway to it.

Ecuador isn't a great team. The one thing it can do, though, is defend. The squad's top players - Moises Caicedo, Piero Hincapie, Pervis Estupinan, etc. - are either responsible midfielders or defenders who excel at tackling, winning duels, and stopping opposing possessions where they stand.

But Ecuador doesn't have much talent on the ball at all. The team is built to grind games out, lull opponents to sleep, and hopefully convert on the one or two big chances it gets over 90 minutes.

It's not an exaggeration to say that Ecuador's games tend to be completely lifeless. The last six international friendlies it played leading up to the World Cup featured two goals. No, not an average of two goals. Two goals total. Ecuador played four 0-0 games and two 1-0 affairs. Offense goes to die in its games.

While I have no doubt Qatar will hope to push the pace and feed off the crowd in the tournament opener, I don't see the talent needed to break this solid Ecuador defense down.

TransferMarkt has Qatar's two most valuable players - Akram Afif and Almoez Ali - worth $4 million and $2 million, respectively. They're attacking players, but I'm not sure they possess the high-end talent and creativity to generate more than a chance or two.

I expect this to be a hotly contested game between two sides that lack finishing and the ability to generate quick-strike offense.

Bet: Under 1.5 (+155)

Senegal (+475) vs. Netherlands (-165)
Nov 21, 11:00 a.m. EST

I like this Senegal team. I think it's an underrated side, and I expect them to hang around in games, even without Sadio Mane.

However, I believe the Netherlands has too much talent. Its backline, in particular, is remarkably strong and loaded with high-end marquee players. Virgil van Dijk and Matthijs de Ligt can slow down even the most talented attacks. Senegal doesn't possess one, especially without Mane.

Senegal has some good players up front but lacks the dynamic creator to get the ball inside high-danger areas. It doesn't have that main man who'll draw attention from multiple defenders and put the ball into the open space that's created from doing so.

The Netherlands should be able to control the ball and play on the front foot for a lot of this game. Led by Memphis Depay, the Dutch have the finishing ability to convert when they inevitably break Senegal down with so much possession. And, again, they have the backline to put out fires before they really get going.

I expect the Netherlands to come out flying and put the tournament on notice that it's here to compete for the big prize.

Bet: Netherlands (-165)

Todd Cordell is a sports betting writer at theScore. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @ToddCordell.

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World Cup best bets: Netherlands to start with a bang
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