Brad Friedel On USMNT's World Cup 2022 Chances, Golden Ball & More
Mark Strotman | 11 mins
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After failing to qualify for the World Cup in 2018—the first time since 1986—the United States men’s national team is back in the fold and preparing for its Nov. 21 match against Wales in Group B.
There’s steep competition in Group B for Team USA (+500), with England (-280) a heavy favorite on sports betting apps to win it along with Wales (+500) and Iran (+1600). The Americans, who advanced to the Round of 16 in both 2010 and 2014, have narrow -105 odds to do so again and will likely be battling with Wales (+100) for the chance to join England (-1200) in the knockout stage.
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And while everyone may be eyeing the showdown with England on Nov. 25, former U.S. men’s national team goalkeeper Brad Friedel told us the opener against Wales is what will really impact the Americans’ chances of advancing.
“I hope they don’t feel overconfident about Wales, because Wales is good. Wales is physical, they’re technical, and they have players that are playing their club football at a high level,” Friedel said. “I hope that the U.S. takes that game almost more seriously than the England game. If they get 3 points, then it’ll boost the confidence massively.”
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Friedel is no stranger to World Cup action. In addition to 16 seasons as a goalkeeper in the Premier League, he was a member of three U.S. World Cup teams (1994, 1998, and 2002) and appeared in six games, all starts. In 2002, he became the first goalkeeper since 1974 to stop two penalty kicks during regular time in a World Cup.
Brazil wound up winning that 2002 FIFA World Cup, and they are once again the favorites (+400 on betting sites) heading into the action in Qatar. Germany knocked out Friedel and the Americans in 2002, and they’re also a strong contender to hoist the Jules Rimet Trophy next month (+1000). Team USA, for what it’s worth, is +13000 to win their first men's World Cup.
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Friedel likes both of those groups, and he’s also got his eye on Argentina (+500) in what could be Lionel Messi’s final World Cup. England (+850) is a strong competitor, and he likes Belgium (+1600) as a potential longshot.
Messi and Ronaldo will rightfully earn most of the headlines in Qatar—and they’re two of the favorites to win the Golden Ball (Messi is the favorite at +700; Ronaldo is +2500) but Friedel mentioned a few other names to keep an eye on that hold value on soccer betting sites.
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“(Phil) Foden, who plays for Manchester City (in the Premier League), I think this could be a breakout World Cup for him,” he said, “and the young player, the winger at Arsenal, (Bukayo) Saka…He has started absolutely on fire in the Premier League this year. This could really be a breakout time for him.”
Foden, a midfielder for England, currently has +4000 odds to win the Golden Ball. Saka, also with England, has longer odds at +5000 to win the award.
Every contender in this year’s World Cup has an elite goalkeeper. Friedel drew on his own World Cup experience to describe what it’s like being in such a high-profile position on the world’s largest sports stage.
“The most difficult thing as a goalkeeper is to overcome your mistake. All the goalkeepers in the World Cup are good,” he said. “What separates the top goalkeepers is when they do make the mistake you don't even realize because it happens and then they just get on with it and they play as per normal. That's not an easy thing to do and that's why they're the best.”
The top contenders for the Golden Glove, given to the World Cup’s top goalkeeper, include Brazil’s Alisson (+350), Belgium’s Thibaut Courtois (+500), Argentina’s Emiliano Martinez (+700), and Spain’s Unai Simon (+800).
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