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Kylian Mbappé
USA Today Sports
Odds and Ends

World Cup: Two heavy hitters make light work

by Brad Thomas
Updated On: November 21, 2022, 8:56 pm ET

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The World Cup rolls around every four years, and there is a buzz in the air. This year the United States is participating and making the World Cup much more meaningful for those who support the US. They are set to open their campaign against Wales today. Here are a few bets for Tuesday's slate.

Argentina vs. Saudi Arabia (Tuesday, 5:00 a.m. ET)

Three-way Moneyline: Argentina (-600) | Draw (+575) | Saudi Arabia (+1600)

Bet: Lautaro Martinez to score a goal at +125

Argentina open their World Cup as one of the favorites to win it all. Lionel Messi is likely making his last World Cup trip. We should see maximum effort from every player who takes the pitch in an Argentina shirt. If you're a believer in this Argentina team, betting on Messi to win the Golden Ball is something you should consider. Should Argentina win the World Cup, he will be the likely winner, and the odds for him to win the Golden Ball are better than Argentina winning the World Cup.

With the expectation high for this Argentina side, the betting angles against weaker teams will be scarce. If you want -1.5 for the opening match, you either pay the juice or had to be an early buyer of the line. I expect Argentina to put at least three goals past this Saudi Arabia side. In 2018, Saudi Arabia were trounced 5-nil in their opening match against Russia. Despite the massive letdown in their first match against Russia in 2018, I expect them to play better. They are a technically sound team, especially in defense.

That leads me to my bet, Lautaro Martinez to score a goal at +125. Much like Iran tried to do with England, they will look to neutralize Argentina's best player. In the final third, bodies will be on Messi. He's such a brilliant passer, and he should be able to take advantage of the Saudi defense when they focus their attention on him—leading to ample opportunities for the in-form Martinez.

France vs. Australia (Tuesday, 2:00 p.m. ET)

Three-way Moneyline: France (-375) | Draw  (+475) | Australia (+1100)

Bet: France ML, over 1.5 goals, and Kylian Mbappe 1+ SOG 1H (+115)

Since 2020, there probably hasn't been a more disappointing team than France. After winning the 2018 World Cup, France looked terrible at Euro 2020 and didn't seem to take the UEFA Nations League seriously. The defending champs are the deserved group favorites, but the jury is still out if they will make any noise once they get to the round. They play Australia on Tuesday, and despite the slew of injuries they are dealing with, they should beat the Socceroos. The problem with betting France to win is the -375-price tag. So I am taking a more aggressive route and betting a “same game parlay” for +115 odds. The parlay has France ML, over 1.5 goals, and Kylian Mbappe with at least one shot on target in the first half.

The parlay needs a lot to happen, so I will break down why each leg is a solid option.

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France Moneyline:

This is a class play for me. Even with missing the Ballon d'Or winner Karim Benzema and the two beasts in the midfield, Paul Pogba, and N'Golo Kanté, France still have a massive class advantage. Australia didn't particularly dominate in their World Cup qualification either. They lost to Japan and Saudi Arabia and drew against Oman and China. None of those teams will offer the supreme quality that France boasts. Australia might not find the back of the net against this stout backline and the tactics of Didier Deschamps. It wouldn't shock many as Australia haven't scored a non-penalty World Cup goal in over eight years.

Kylian Mbappe +1 SOG 1H:

Mbappe is this team. He will be the focal point of the attack. With France likely dominating possession in this game and throughout the first half, he will have ample opportunities to find the back of the net. A goal is a SOG so that we can double-dip there. If you like Mbappe to score, your parlay odds will be higher. Mbappe, on this France team against the lesser competition, is averaging close to one SOG per half. Without Benzema, he is the funnel on the attack. He will take them from the spot if the Australian team concede a penalty. He has excellent wheels mixed with a high shot accuracy; it's a parlay leg I'm confident in adding.

Over 1.5 goals:

This is a good mixture of both fading Australia and betting on the scoring prowess of France. If you'd rather take the under the route of under 4.5 goals, the payout is about the same. I see the possible results for this match finishing 1-0, 1-1, 2-1. All of which enter the under 3.5 range. With 1-0 being the least likely result I am worried about, I am taking my chance and protecting myself from the result that happened in England and Iran, a game that saw eight goals. Once England penetrated the backline, Iran was in a spin cycle, unable to stop anything. In matches like this, they could get ugly. An over is never dead until full-time. However, an under can die instantly. The Socceroos saw over 1.5 goals in 10 of their last 15 qualification matches. Meanwhile, over 1.5 goals has hit in 10 of the previous 11 for France.

Brad Thomas

Brad is a sports handicapper who is lucky enough to write about his true love; sports. "We may all root for different teams, but our objective remains the same… Beat the books! Remember, it’s a marathon not a sprint." Follow Brad on Twitter @MrBradThomas.