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World Cup Friday best bets: Iran to rebound vs. Wales

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The second round of group stage games begins Friday. Now we've seen each team in action under the bright lights and gathered some data.

Let's try to put it to good use with a couple plays for the four-game slate.

Netherlands (-130) vs. Ecuador (+360)

This has the makings of a tight, low-scoring affair.

The Netherlands has plenty of talent but doesn't play a run-and-gun style. Instead, it focuses on slower, controlled buildup and uses possession as a form of defense while waiting for opportunities. The Dutch then hope their high-end skill shines through with clinical finishing.

Senegal is a solid team, but not a top-tier side by any stretch of the imagination. The Netherlands generated only 0.70 expected goals in that match and didn't break through until the 84th minute. With every reason to push, the chances still came few and far between. (The same was true of Senegal - Sadio Mane's absence was significant, but that game was there for the taking, and the Lions of Teranga also failed to muster up a full expected goal.)

I think the Oranje's matchup with Ecuador could play out similarly. Despite some talent on the ball, most of La Tri's marquee players are either defensive-oriented midfielders or defenders. They're better at suppressing chances than creating them.

Ecuador conceded only 0.30 expected goals to host Qatar in the opener and did a great job of sucking the life out of the opposing attack. The Netherlands is a huge step up, for sure, but Ecuador has no reason to come out of its shell to try to push the pace.

With three points in their back pocket, even a draw here would go a long way in helping La Tri advance, and their best path there is keeping this game in the mud.

Bet: Under 2.5 (-130)

Wales (+110) vs. Iran (+270)

Although Iran got blown out by England in its tournament opener, there were several positives: Team Melli generated 1.40 expected goals and found the back of the net twice against what's by far the most talented team in the group.

Iran only lost the expected-goals battle 2.10-1.40. England was clearly the better side, but such a convincing scoreline was more a byproduct of clinical finishing than utter domination.

That Iran created a nearly identical amount of xG as Wales (1.50) while facing England rather than a poorly managed USA side is very encouraging.

Led by Mehdi Taremi - who scored twice against England - and Sardar Azmoun, Iran has the frontline talent to test Wales and exploit its defense.

Even if Iran is unable to tidy up defensively, Wales does not have anywhere close to the finishing talent that England does. The Dragons won't convert chances at nearly the same rate.

I think Iran is going to open some eyes and win this game outright, but taking the cushion in the event of a draw is the safer way to attack this.

Bet: Iran draw no bet (+155)

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

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