ATLANTIC CITY — Looking at the odds and throwing out some staff picks for Sunday's World Cup final while also suppressing praise for a colleague who was all over Croatia at the beginning of this tournament. He must have gotten a tip from Dario Saric.
Atlantic City's Ocean Resort opened with France as a 2-1 favorite to win outright, even money to win in regulation. The Borgata was more bullish on Les Bleus. Here's a look at the opening lines for Sunday's game (11 a.m., Fox29), which will be the first major sporting event since sports betting was legalized in New Jersey on June 14. Start with a quick explainer before we get into the thick of things.
Just like baseball, the money line is used in soccer to determine favorites and underdogs. The numbers are based on $100 wagers for the sake of simplicity and we rounded off where possible.
To wager on favored France (Borgata opened it at -$240), a bettor needs to lay $240 to win $100. A $100 wager would bring back $42 ($142 total). A $20 bet would fetch $28 and so on. The minimum bet is $2.
To wager on the underdog Croatia (+$200), place $100 to win $200. A $50 wager would fetch $100. A $20 winner would get $40 and so on.
What it means: This wager is self-explanatory. Pick the team to win the game.
Notable: "We love to be the underdogs," said Croatia's Dejan Lovren. Somebody get that guy a dog mask.
>>READ MORE: France dumps Belgium to move into World Cup final
What it means: This wager is for the result of the game after 90 minutes (plus injury time). It does not include a 30-minute overtime period or if the game is decided on penalty kicks. It's named because there are three ways for a result in this proposition: win, lose or draw.
Notable: Croatia needed penalty kicks to win two of its knockout games and won a third with a goal in overtime, which is why the Ocean Resort's sportsbook, run by the William Hill US company, opened Croatia at nearly 4-1 to win in regulation.
What it means: This is the over/under for the match and includes only the first 90 minutes plus injury time.
Notable: Just four of the combined 12 games that France and Croatia have played in this World Cup have been over. Four were under, four were pushes. The Borgata is offering an over/under of 2.5, but the odds are +$150 for over, -$180 for under.
In my tournament preview, I had France as one of my favorites — and Croatia as my dark horse. I've made a lot of bad picks over the years, but these two turned out right. I'm really looking forward to the midfield clash between France's Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kanté and Croatia's Luka Modrić and Ivan Rakitić. Modrić is a near-lock to be player of the tournament if Croatia wins. He could be world player of the year whether Croatia wins or not, as he helped Real Madrid win the UEFA Champions League in May.
But this France team has an air of destiny about it, much like the legendary squad that won it all 20 years ago on home turf. In addition to Pogba and Kanté, Les Bleus have a back line that has been rock-solid. And of course, there's Kylian Mbappé. We've all watched local high school basketball prospects rise to the big time from the Catholic League or the Inter-Ac. But it's pretty rare for the entire world to ride a wave together. It's happened this summer, as Mbappé has grown from a 19-year-old phenom into a global superstar.
I think that wave is rolling all the way to the podium. France 2-1.
The storybook winner would be Croatia, with its population under that of Brooklyn and Queens combined. But France has had its own run for the ages. They call the toughest group the Group of Death. France had the Knockout Rounds of Death, advancing past Argentina, Uruguay, and Belgium. France 2-0.
Based on talent alone, France is the better team with big-ticket stars like Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappé, N'Golo Kanté, and Hugo Lloris. But France has had supremely talented teams before and come up short — with the exception of the 1998 World Cup, when it won at home. This group is one of the youngest in the World Cup, and many were on the team that lost to the 2016 European Championship at home to Portugal. The pressure of being favored could weigh heavily.
Croatia has a population of just over four million and would be the second-smallest nation to win a World Cup. Stars Luka Modrić, Ivan Rakitić, and Mario Mandžukić have been dubbed Croatia's "Second Golden Generation" and are looking to bring home the nation's first World Cup title. Croatia has gone 120 minutes in each of its three knockout games. That's the equivalent of an extra game in the same time frame as France.
Despite the grit of Croatia, France is more talented, should have fresher legs, and should win its second World Cup. France 3-1.
What it means: Odds for which team, if any, will be leading at intermission. A $20 wager on Croatia at Ocean Resort would bring back $99. That'd buy a wedge salad and a nice steak.
Notable: Before ordering that bone-in filet, however, please note that the only time in this World Cup that Croatia led at half was in its opener against Nigeria on June 16.
What it means: Over-under for total goals in the first half.
Notable: The Ocean Resort is offering odds at 0.5 goals. Over is -$190. Under, which obviously is no goals in the first half, is +$170. Each casino will offer lines on second-half propositions at halftime.
In the tristate area, sports betting is legal in New Jersey and Delaware. These locations are closest to the Philadelphia region:
Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa — 1 Borgata Way, Atlantic City 08401 (609-317-1000)
Ocean Resort Casino — 500 Boardwalk, Atlantic City 08401 (866-50-OCEAN)
Delaware Park Racetrack & Slots — 777 Delaware Park Blvd., Wilmington 19804 (800-41-SLOTS)