My own fault for betting on England - I broke my own golden rule
Still made a profit, thankyous go to Spain, the Netherlands, France and Armenia....(yes Armenia, Capello!), and offset with a quick in-play on 0-0 at half time, but alas, not the most productive of international breaks...
Anyway, besides my own personal misfortunes, it wasn't very good was it?
It's true the ref had a mare - blatant handball in the box, highly physical opponents and what was the yellow card for Ashley Young about? We're playing a side who are chopping us down left right and centre and he penalises him because he's in the box...could've just played on - he had a better view of the sodding handball!
But excuses aside, we were lacking ideas - to their credit Montenegro kept us quiet well, but I think we were lacking ambition - players weren't getting forward enough, Rooney looked off (again) and in general we were frustrated, fair play to the Montenegrans(/groes?) for making the match as about as exciting to Bolton v Huddersfield - not really in the spirit of the game, but we see it every week so I can't complain
And having the ever-miserable Gareth Southgate on to cheer us up on ITV after was not a good move - he said we will now have to go to Montenegro (our final game) and win to qualify
Right...this is based on the minnows of the group doing as well as they already have, granted they've done exceedingly well, but are we really expecting them to win every game?
It's a blow, yes, but we are level-pegging with them, and are massive favourites for the group (and I'll be checking those odds now btw), if this were Russia or Croatia again, Southgate would have a point, but to blindly expect the minnows to head to Switzerland and Cardiff and claim a total six points is a bit of a leap
and as I said before, Montenegro probably need a handful of points to be assured a top two spot, and we are virtually assured a top two because if Montenegro do screw up, they've split the table for us, and if they do well, assuming we don't have a shocker, the other sides are again, kept down
Even if we are basing this on the facts we currently have, Southgate said we need to win in Montenegro - no we don't - they have scored three and conceded none, we have scored seven and conceded one - draw, and we win on GD
He also said second isn't a guaranteed spot - true it isn't, but in reverse to the previous campaign for the world cup rather than the worst of nine being cruelly dumped before the play-offs, the best of the nine will gain an automatic spot - so we don't need to cry just yet
This loss of two points essentially means we have no wiggle room - we need to beat Switzerland and Wales
But do we need to win in Montenegro? I doubt it, and if we do go in needing a win I'll give you my measly winnings from tonight (and that is my last bet on England)
Who would've thought this group would be between Montenegro and England...
12 Oct 2010
...It's only a draw
In the Faroes
Bad, yes, but will it condemn NI? Probably not, they still have seven games left and an away draw is not the worst thing that can happen to you, both Serbia and Slovenia have lost at home and are faring worse than the Irish/British
Fact is, NI are rubbish on the road, always are - they should have won this, it's a three-point gift for most teams, but we are basing their fate on what we expect to happen
Do you hear many expecting Italy to slip because they drew in Belfast? No because the pundits expect other results, Northern Ireland do not have the luxury of arrogance, but the result is the same - four home games, all perfectly winnable, win them and they qualify
It's in their hands
Odds will lengthen - this group's wide open
9 Oct 2010
Well, that was interesting...and profitable
I knew someone would draw out of the home nations - and it was NI, not a bad little earner (this was a bonus, as I decided to use all those free bets I get from Beat Victor)
But in more realistic betting chances my multiples came through, Spain scared me witless until I realised they kicked off at 9, not 8, and they scored 2 minutes after the break - I took an enhanced multiplier and gambled on Portugal, despite my previous concerns, but I rightly stayed away from Italy - got 12/5 on them, the Dutch and Germans
The only loss was Serbia in my 10-way multiplier, a shame, but that's accounted for to start with anyway
A shame that I missed the boat on Montenegro, but I stick with the contention that they weren't worth the price of 17/10 - this has however, lengthened the English odds slightly - shall look at that tomorrow
Group G is rather interesting now, 9 points for the minnows out of three games is impressive by any standards, and formidable when you think 24 is the max, outside of the obvious favourites, only Bulgaria have even got any points from the opening three matches - Wales and/or Switzerland will remedy that in their game on Tuesday
Looking at permutations, one has to expect English success - and Switzerland would still seem to be the obvious choice for second, having three home games left and England done with, so Montenegro will need at least another 3 or 4 points to stand a chance, stand out games for them will be Switzerland away, which may be a crucial final game, Bulgaria at home and a trip to Cardiff - one win and a draw should do it I think, unless of course they beat us and...
Wales are dead and buried as far as I'm concerned - still to play England, they lose in Basel then that's it frankly
The draw for Northern Ireland is an excellent point they were expected, on paper, to not have - and the group remains ridiculously open, I was wrong about Serbia - so I'm glad I mostly opted against betting on them, a home loss to Estonia is excellent news for NI, one hopes - a win in the Faroe Islands is needed to keep ahead of the pack, that will leave them with seven points from nine, and four home games out of seven, with the group favourites already held - looks good, as always...
Ireland's 3-2 loss to Russia was not helpful, but not catastrophic, particularly as Slovakia fell to Armenia - this leaves Ireland in the predictable position of needing to battle Slovakia...and guess where they're going next week? That's right, the much maligned Bratislava, avoid defeat, then do well at home, overcoming the tricky Macedonians on the way, and they can get a play-off
Scotland's loss in the Czech Rep is arguably not too bad, the draw with Lithuania was worse - but fortunately they also won in Prague (so maybe it should be Lithuania we're fearing), leaving it open - both sides have to face the champions twice, and I think once again this will be a very low scoring group behind Spain, but Scotland have the home advantage now - they need home form against Lithuania and the Czechs, and a banker in the micro-state - three games, that's it, if Spain hold up and they beat the Czechs and Lithuania then they cannot be overtaken
Meanwhile, away from the Isles, Norway motored on with another crucial away win to keep a five point lead over Portugal who did ultimately defeat the Danes, for Norway to win the group they probably need to win all three home games, if they can hold off the Danes they should at least secure a play-off this time (they were eliminated rather cruelly for being the worst qualifier last year) - conversely, Denmark will need to beat Norway both times and hope Portugal can also beat Norway at home, and it may all boil down to their final game at home to Portugal - who have created their own deficit and may need every single match to be a win now, it's pretty much wide open! From our perspective, on Tuesday Denmark need to ensure victory against Cyprus, while a Portugal slip up in Iceland would help everyone
In group D, all major rivals drawing paves the way for a French comeback, for whatever reason they play tomorrow - there's little I can say, on paper they should top the group, but it's totally unpredictable
Groups E and F remain as expected, as does the Germans' (A) - that looks wrapped already, with Turkey a likely second
Now I need my investment bets to come through next week
7 Oct 2010
Well, I'm all tired out from the stupid child benefit cut story, so I'm having a look at the upcoming European qualifiers, see if we can't find some good bets while I'm at it
Group A is set for a top of the table clash between the Germans and the Turks - Germany are the natural favourites for the match, and the group, and you can't really question that - can't really see much from Austria, and Belgium have already lost to Turkey, whom they did beat at home in the world cup qualifying - but came five points behind - not seeing a lot of value in the markets, I could see Belgium top 2 finish at 11/2, as Turkey are 1/4 - so you could offset (i.e. put four on Turkey you'll get a pound, put that pound on Belgium you'll win £5.50) longer odds than the weaker Austrians (who've won 100%!), but I doubt it's worth it
Matches are fairly run of the mill
Group B is interesting - Ireland's always are, fancy a punt on Ireland at home to Russia at 13/8? No didn't think so, I'd want at least double, Armenia could draw against Slovakia, which would be nice for the Emerald Isle - Ireland's trip to Slovakia afterwards is vital, they need to avoid a loss in both games really - Andorra are predictably boring, the bookies are offering shite odds on all three favourites...how dull - could back Russia or Ireland as winner I guess
Group C is Northern Ireland's and is predictably open - with Italy, Serbia and Slovenia making up the main opposition, an away with in Ljubljana bodes well for them - their good home form will give them a shot, an important, but let's face it not must-win game against Italy is first, but surely the trip to the Faroe Islands must be won, Italy V Serbia is also important, NI fans will want a home win, I presume
Betting wise - 9/2 for a home win looks reasonable considering Italy are fairly weak, but maybe a draw at 11/4 would be a more appropriate punt, do you think they'll make the top 2 over Serbia? At 39/11 I think they're undervalued considering they've already got a decent away win - maybe Serbia as group winners as an outsider?
Now group D is rather interesting - a flailing France team and no discernible big teams make it highly unpredictable - how is it they always get second teams like Romania and Bosnia? Yet currently the weaker two sides - Albania and Belarus, head the group! France play Romania and have a banker against Luxembourg - six points should be expected...but then teams like France can throw away points and still qualify
The bookies are undecided on Albania and Bosnia, both offering similar prices - 2/1 on an undefeated home side looks good to me - Luxembourg over France at 20/1?? Group winner is pretty open - the bookies have France as big favourites, as they always do - but the punters triumphed substantially on their ignorance pre-2010 so we can again - Romania at 4/1, but surely Bosnia are a decent bet at 11/2 as well - play-offs last time in a group with Spain, they are underrated IMO - top 2 at 2/1 looks pretty good to me as well
In group E Sweden sit pretty after two easy home ties, but will go to Amsterdam and the Dutch are naturally big favourites, Sweden a likely second, in my view - and no good odds. In the matches only Finland v Hungary is open, just above evens - personally I quite like the Netherlands at 6/11 over Sweden - over 50% of your stake is pretty good for that surety
Group F is somewhat of a consolation for Croatia after 2010 (where's ours for 08...), Israel and Greece make up the main threat, although not losing their trip to the Middle East is fairly vital, Greece against Israel will also be important...if you actually care. Fancy aforementioned Croatia at 6/4?
Croatia to win the group at 8/11 is again a fairly dull price, but a sound investment, I think - Israel in a top 2 for 28/17 is about the best I can see otherwise
Group G time...
Seriously...1/5 is the best we can get on England topping the group? This is why you never get good value on England - seriously far too much attention on it - Germany are 3/10, the Netherlands are 2/5 - only Spain give worse odds, admittedly Montenegro have really helped sure it up for us, but one in five? That said - you interested in the Swiss at 19? However second is quite open, Switzerland may be alright at 13/10 and are Wales really as bad as 7/1? Probably - personally I would avoid Montenegro at an inflated 6/4 - unless a serious shock occurs that will get longer by next week
Oh well, despite the outright odds being daft the England match is rather reasonable at 1/4 - 25% back on a game England will win, you can thank the Welsh for that - it probably would've been 1/15 before the group started - Wales against Bulgaria is hard to call, so you can opt for either at just shy of 2/1 - Switzerland at 1/2 against the Welsh again looks a good value banker considering Wales' away form - although they do like to block the goal - fancy Montenegro at home in their first tie? 17/10 is a bit shorter than I'd like
Moving on to Group H, Norway sit five points clear of favourites Portugal, while Denmark are once again ahead of the greasy ones (after one game..) - the bookies still haven't cottoned on and once again they offer a bargain at 2/1, slightly worse than last year, but christ, you'd think they'd get it by now
However, maybe put the chequebook away for now - Denmark visit Portugal first and a fairly predictable loss, or even draw will push those odds in your favour - of course should they lose at home this won't happen, so it's a judgement call - I don't expect Denmark to win, even if Cyprus did put four past them...However it's unsurprising that I have disdain for odds of 8/13 for a home win - a draw at 3/1 or Denmark at nearly 6/1 if you feel like a punt
Denmark's game against Cyprus is of little interest, although the time to get the good odds is probably between the two games, but Cyprus Norway may offer something if you fancy the Norges...or indeed the Cypriots, the best opportunity may be the Iceland Portugal game however - the weakest side in the group maybe, but 7/1 for a home win is tasty, or just over 3/1 on the draw - but I'd watch Portugal's form under new manager Bento in the first game before making that choice
Group I - or should that be group 'aye' (sorry), the Scots are doing well with only two points dropped from two games, despite the win being that rather scary game against Liechtenstein - however they stand zero chance against Spain and must look to second along with the Czechs and Lithuania, they play in Prague first - avoiding a loss is pretty important in such a small group which also happens to have the champions in it, but an it wouldn't necessarily be the end - Spanish victory over Lithuania, and Liechtenstein holding the Czechs would be preferable, they don't play again til September - I doubt they want to be in third or fourth for 11 months
A draw in Prague could be on the cards (45/17), and indeed a draw in the micro-state at 13/2 may be good value (I say good 'value'...not 'likely') - the outright odds for this group are rather shocking, clearly too mediocre for the bookies - Spain offer a 50% return in Glasgow, might be worth it
3 Oct 2010
Watching Gary Lineker's 'Can England win the world cup?' where a bunch of talking heads give their opinion on why we bombed in South Africa so spectacularly, I have to point out - it's seven games every four years, and only one team out of 32 can win!
This makes it a rather difficult affair to predict -we can talk about how good Spain are right now, but that does not make it a foregone conclusion that they were always going to win, the best teams don't always win
I don't claim we went out on luck, we were shocking, or indeed that Spain won on luck - but this tournament was a rarity in that nearly everyone's tip actually won - they were overwhelming favourites and the best team, and they actually won
Imagine if they had lost to a decent Dutch or German side? Perfectly possible, and another miserable defeat in Spain's long, long record of failure, one goal in any of those four knock-out games could have swung it against them and now they would be picking over the bones of why their own 'golden generation' missed their chance, just as we did in 86, 90...and 06
Instead, we focus on how great Spain are, and forget entirely that most World Cup results hang on a couple of incidents and a bit of luck - who seriously tipped Italy in 2006? And who (of non-Italian descent) thinks they were the best side?
It's perfectly fine to look at Spain's focus on Spanish players and their investment in local talent, all good points, as is a winter break - but they won't guarantee you a cup, they won't even guarantee you one from five, and this whole tactical issue surrounding Spanish 'technique' and English 'power' is nonsense
Holding the ball and stroking it around the pitch may have worked in this world cup, but Spain could have just as easily fallen flat on their faces with a bad draw or a dodgy penalty, they were technically very good at the past two cups - but they fell to some very odd results in both tournaments, Italy went on to win 2006 against a more favoured German side
The irony is, Lineker then went on to pour praise on an admittedly very good German side - who play with pace and youth, not Spanish technique, tipping them for 2014
Great potential from a young side, but that's all it is, just potential - they will certainly be in the mix in 2014, they always are, but if they don't win, what then? How are they any different to us in 2002-6?
If he had been talking about England's prospects there would be a word for that: 'cockiness'
The fact is, the Germans haven't won in twenty years despite five top 8 finishes and 3 consecutive semi finals (one being at home) - in this event coming second is the same as coming thirty-second, you may get respect, but not a winner's medal, failure in 2014 would be 24 'years of hurt' for a side who are much better at winning these things than us
So in truth, I'd rather crash out of the cup in the second round with a run of abysmal performances than come a heroic second or third, if we actually want to win rather than enjoy the experience of ultimately losing then a bit of pain is worth it to make the national side pull their collective finger out
So can we win - yes, of course we bloody can, if you're good enough to beat anyone on the day then you can win a world cup