U.S. looks to maintain its mental edge over Mexico in Gold Cup final
PASADENA, Calif. -- Game day. United States-Mexico.
Not much, really. But here are five things on my mind heading into the most important game for both teams in the next 12 months (9 p.m. ET, Fox Soccer, Univisión):
I unwittingly caused a minor international incident at Friday's press conference when I asked Mexican coach Chepo de la Torre about "the mentality issue." I tried to be respectful about it, but I know it's a sensitive topic, and he didn't take kindly to it, asking if I thought Mexico had been mentally weak in the past. "At times, yeah," I replied. All due respect to him and to Mexico, but the guy looked nervous and defensive.
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The games involving Grenada (which lost three games by a combined score of 15-1) and Cuba (16-1 goal differential), he said, stood out in particular: "It was the sort of thing where we sat around and said, 'Yeah, this looks like it's a 99 percent chance that it's bent.'"
The betting-industry insider explained that the irregularities were in what is called "in-running betting" (in which bets are placed during a game on what will happen from that point on) as opposed to "dead-ball betting" that takes place before the game. In-game betting on world soccer is dominated by the Asian market, which he said was producing belief-defying odds swings during several Gold Cup games. The suspicious games weren't just the result of Cuba and Grenada being poor teams, he said.
"With Cuba and Grenada, yes, they're terrible, but there's lots of other teams that are also terrible, and generally those of us in soccer betting are used to pricing out these sorts of games, where you have very good against very bad," he said. "We see them a lot in the World Cup and European Championship qualifying. What I would say is that the odds movements for in-running betting [in Cuba and Grenada's Gold Cup games] were just incredibly, incredibly unusual and extreme. We're talking about five to 10 times what you would typically see. And these extreme odds movements would be subsequently vindicated by what was happening on the field."
The industry expert provided several graphs depicting the differences in the Asian market swings in the suspicious Gold Cup games, as well as those in Gold Cup games that weren't suspicious to him (including the U.S.'s 2-1 loss to Panama). I'll write more about this story next week and include those graphs to show the stark differences.