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Ian Wilkerson tips
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Costa Rica v Germany and Japan v Spain: Ian Wilkerson's World Cup betting tips

Group E has been one of the most hotly-contested sections at the World Cup and all four teams head into their final matches on Thursday with a chance of progressing to the last-16.

The Racing Post’s Ian Wilkerson gives his best tips for the final two Group E matches on Thursday afternoon - Costa Rica v Germany and Japan v Spain

Floodgates could open for Germany

What: Costa Rica v Germany
Where: Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor
When: 19:00, Thursday 1st December
How to watch: ITV4
Odds: Costa Rica 18/1, Draw 9/1, Germany 1/9

It seems remarkable that a team who lost their first match 7-0 are still in with a shout of winning their group, but that could happen if Costa Rica beat Germany on Thursday and the game between Spain and Japan ends in a draw.

However, there has been little to suggest that such a scenario might play out and Germany are heavily fancied to get the win they need to at least give them a chance of getting out of the group.

Costa Rica’s campaign burst back into life when they grabbed a surprise 1-0 win over Japan in the early game on Tuesday.

Keysher Fuller’s goal gave them a World Cup lifeline with nine minutes to go, but it was a result that was hardly deserved.

Japan goalkeeper Shuichi Gonda made a mess of Fuller’s effort and it was the only on-target attempt Los Ticos mustered in the game.

Although they have given themselves a chance, it seems likely that their match against Hansi Flick’s side will have a lot more in common with their drubbing by Spain in their opener.

Germany stayed in the tournament when Niclas Fullkrug equalised in their game against Spain and this is a good chance for them to put their shock opening defeat to Japan to bed.

They should pile forward at every opportunity and if they break through there is a chance that the floodgates will open.

A point would be enough for Costa Rica to progress if Japan lose to Spain, but they are unlikely to adopt that approach and going for a win should create plenty of German opportunities, so take Flick’s side to win and there to be more than 3.5 goals in the game at 10/11.

Gnabry looks one to watch

Germany have scored just two goals in the tournament, one of which was an Ilkay Gundogan penalty and there will be a clamour for Fullkrug to be involved from the start after he took his goal so well in the draw against Spain on Sunday.

The need to push forward to ensure they stay in the race to qualify and that should lead to an attacking performance, which opens up the market for who might score the goals.

Fullkrug is set to go off at the shortest price to find the net for the Germans, but he is not guaranteed to start, so preference in the anytime goalscorer market is for Bayern Munich’s Serge Gnabry.

He has scored 20 goals in his 38 appearances for Germany and has a rate better than a goal every two games for the BUndesliga champions this term.

Gnabry has also had a total of eight attempts on goal across the games against Japan and Spain and he looks a decent price to open his Qatar account at 11/10.

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Japan look to have thrown it all away

What: Japan v Spain
Where: Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan
When: 19:00, Thursday 1st December
How to watch: ITV1
Odds: Japan 8/1, Draw 15/4, Spain 4/11

Japan threw a spanner into the Group E works with their opening 2-1 victory over Germany, but they could easily be on the plane home on Friday thinking about what might have been.

They were unable to build on that surprise success over the four-time winners and a 1-0 defeat to Costa Rica was not only a shock of almost equal proportions, considering the Central Americans had been thumped 7-0 by Spain, but it left Japan fighting for their lives when they could have already been in the last-16.

So, they have a great deal on their plate and their task will be all the more difficult against a team who are likely to dominate position and don’t need to rack up the goals in the same way Germany do.

Luis Enrique’s side have done the hard work in terms of their goal difference and a draw in all probability will be enough for them after that huge victory in their opening game.

They do not need to force the issue and that could mean the game gets off to a slow start, just as the match did against Germany when it took until the 62nd minute for Alvaro Morata to open the scoring.

Spain are overwhelming favourites and it could be that the gaps appear more easily in the second half if Japan get wind that they need to go forward as Germany are leading their game.

So it could open up late on, and that makes the draw-Spain an attractive proposition on the half-time/full-time market at 3/1.

Olmo can lead the way for Spain

Spain look the more likely winners and there could be some value in backing Dani Olmo to score at any time at 9/4 against Japan.

The RB Leipzig wideman has put in a couple of eye-catching performances and has already got off the mark by notching in the 7-0 win over Costa Rica.

Opportunities could arrive from smart runs in the channels if Japan look to go in search of a crucial goal in the closing stages and Olmo has already had six efforts on goal in the games against Costa Rica and Germany, so he is plainly not shy about having a pop.

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