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4 Times Las Vegas Was Stunned By International Soccer in 2018-19

Someone Shocked by Soccer

I have wondered out loud (out-print?) on the blog why my hometown of San Diego does not have a Major League Soccer team.

Ready for an outlandish theory? It’s a conspiracy on behalf of FIFA to keep the World Cup’s TV ratings somewhere between 60% and 200% across the metropolis for 3 weeks every 4 years.

With no professional club to worry about, a city on the border of Mexico is free to go even more wild over the World Cup in a given summer. Before watching an MLB or NFL game in public, one must consider which sports bars and restaurants would be likely to have it on. During the World Cup, just make sure you pop into any business establishment every few minutes, and you will not miss out on a single highlight even if Siri is having a FIFA copyright-induced HAL 9000 moment.

About a calendar year ago, I went into a local convenience store looking for bread – water – Mexican Coca-Cola…er, something or another. The clerk was peering intently at the World Cup match on the screen, or rather on multiple screens all over the market.

“Wow, man. A lot of surprises,” he said of the Russia ’18 tournament in general.

Of course the clerk was correct – there were a lot of surprises at the men’s World Cup last year. The event began with Mexico beating the defending champions with a clean sheet and ended with a fantastic Cinderella run to the final from Croatia.

But I thought about how often the phrase “a lot of surprises” may be used as simple water-cooler filler, like those “hot enough for ya?” greetings in elevators. There are usually a lot of surprises in any tournament where 32 or 64 teams get together to rock and roll…in fact, it’s a media story whenever shocking upsets do not occur during March Madness.

Sometimes the expected powerhouses romp in soccer, just as in any sport. PSG won the French league again (surprise, surprise) and Man City stormed to a domestic treble in England.

But 2018-19 was a vintage year for upsets and Cinderella runs in UEFA, FIFA, and even AFC competition, confounding bookmakers from summer to summer.

Here’s a look at 3 matches (and a Round-of-16 bracket) that soaked Las Vegas – and drenched London.

4 Soccer Outcomes That Stunned Bookies in 2018-19

Ridgecrest Isn’t the Only Town Producing Tremors

For purposes of this recap, I am considering the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia to be part of the “2018-19” season, even though the event is staged more like the climatic epilogue to a late-spring club season finish. Obviously, there hasn’t been another men’s World Cup or major inter-continental men’s soccer tournament since (unless you count COMBEMOL inviting Japan and Qatar to play in the South American championship this summer), and the matches of summer ’18 are still fresh in the memory.

Some bookmakers remember it all too well. Mexico was a decided moneyline underdog against defending-champion Germany on Matchday 1, and ESPN spent whole sections of TV trashing El Tricolor and pronouncing the ‘dogs dead-on-arrival.

But the Germans were confused and anxious on the pitch, failing to score on GK Guillermo Ochoa in 90+ minutes. Meanwhile, Chucky Lozano scored the goal of his life to beat Nationalelf 1-0, causing a literal earthquake in Mexico City.

After the match, a Mexico fan posted a comment under a YouTube video clip of ESPN’s Taylor Twellman bashing the supporter’s favorite national team.

“I guess they’re good enough to beat the defending champs.”

Mic drop – and about 10,000 “likes” in an hour.

Tottenham Beats City in the Champions League

We’re “cheating” again by covering a match between Premier League teams – or are we? The UEFA Champions League, of course, is an international competition – it’s just overrun with English sides making runs at the grail.

Man City appeared literally unbeatable in spring of 2019. Liverpool failed to catch the Sky Blues despite posting a near-perfect record down the stretch, and once Pep Guardiola was afforded the chance to play his top players in FA Cup competition, the League One, Championship and even Premier League rivals in the bracket were no match for Sergio Agüero and a cast of elite teammates.

But Citizens did not prove indomitable on the international level – not even when paired against 1 of their own from the EPL. Tottenham had lost Harry Kane late in the season, a blow that proved fatal to Spurs’ chances to win a domestic crown. But stellar forward Son Heung-min rose to the occasion to lead the team’s attack just as the Lilywhites were drawn against City in the UEFA quarterfinals.

City’s backline is beyond reproach, but more importantly, the unit is often beyond approach from opposing strikers. Pep Guardiola’s secret to success in 2018-19 was that squads facing the Sky Blues knew that opening things up with numbers-forward was a death sentence. Clubs played conservative football against Manchester City because there was no viable alternative to doing so.

Breaking Citizens’ quadruple-title bid wouldn’t take an All-Star offense led by Harry Kane or Mohamed Salah to solve the issue and put shots on Ederson. It would take a tremendous backline. Tottenham’s back 4 is led by World Cup cogs like Kieran Trippier and Toby Alderweireld, and the group helped hold City to single-digit shot attempts while Son worked his magic in the 1st quarterfinal leg.

There followed a wild and wooly 2nd leg in Manchester that supporters of both sides will never forget. Spurs sent – egads! – numbers forward without fear of the counter-attack, leading to an aggregate draw after 180+ minutes.

Tottenham advanced, killing bettors who had risked a lot on favored Manchester City’s markets. But the result did more than create a moneyline upset in the 1st leg and a to-advance jackpot for underdog bettors after Spurs survived on the road. It ruined the futures betting favorite to win the Champions League, and vindicated bookmakers who had offered long odds on a quadruple-title run by Citizens and then sweated things out while City cleared all but a single hurdle.

Spurs went on to defeat Ajax in a memorable semifinal pairing before losing to Liverpool in the final.

Semifinal Surprise at the Women’s World Cup

There may not have been any historic David vs Goliath upsets at the Women’s World Cup in 2019. The United States won the event again, but what stood out in betting outcomes was how many group-futures favorites and short bets to win gold flunked out in favor of long-shots by the end.

Sweden was a forgotten futures wager prior to the event in France, so little-regarded as a potential challenge to the USWNT that we didn’t even touch on them in our opening preview. It’s weird that the Swedes did not enjoy a 10-to-1 or 12-to-1 futures line on the basis of a 2016 Olympic Games win over the USA alone. Supporters likely imagined that nations like Germany (+450) and host France (+350) would help make up the semifinal bids.

Instead, it was Sweden and Netherlands playing to meet the winner of a U.S. vs England (formerly a 9-to-1 pick to win the final) grudge match.

If Tre-Kronor had reached the climatic fixture, a few gamblers would have been close to cashing-in on a 20-to-1 payoff. Instead, the Dutch (+900) gave the USWNT all kinds of problems before succumbing in the 2nd half in Lyon.

Ajax Cuts Through Grease (and Real Madrid)

You could make a case for a few other 2018-19 matches (in men’s and women’s soccer) as being ultimate “gotcha” moments for underdog bettors looking for a big score against London or Las Vegas.

I’m personally fond of Qatar’s victory over the Samurai Blue of Japan in the 2019 Asian Cup final, not because I predicted it might happen (and told readers to take the ‘dog) but because it demonstrates’s theory that slanted news and public sentiment can affect a gambling market without anyone really knowing it.

“Qatar” is synonymous with corruption in soccer and nobody’s favorite name on a betting board, even though the excellent squad of mostly young up-and-comers has had zilch to do with the World Cup coming to Qatar in 2022 – or at least they stand as the only legitimate reason since they’re such a solid, underrated team.

There was less obvious gambler’s bias against the Dutch club team Ajax as it prepared for a 2nd quarterfinal leg of the Champions League against Real Madrid, but soccer betting sites couldn’t help but give the Sons of the Gods long, long odds to-advance after the 1st leg – a 1-0 win for the defending CL champs.

The scrappy Hollanders embarrassed Real Madrid on its home turf in the follow-up on March 5th, scoring twice by the 18th minute. The 4-1 upset win ended with Nacho taking an onion of a red card while the overwhelming Las Vegas favorites were ushered off the pitch and out of the tournament.

Learn About Lesser-Known Leagues to Find Worthy Underdogs

It’s not always a great idea to wager on a dish soap to beat Real Madrid, so if you didn’t know anything about Ajax or Dutch club soccer, now is a great time to start getting acquainted.

The Premier League and a few aristocrats from Germany, France and Spain may tend to dominate in international club competition…but you never know when a less-heralded but talented squad from a different domestic league will scalp the big shots in very big moments.