[ England prepare for their match against San Marino ]
“Rooney has about as much charisma as Lance Armstrong has sporting integrity. But his appointment as captain is another issue altogether.”
// The Secret Punter //
It has been, and will continue to be, a quiet spell in punting terms. It’s another international break this week, and as I have previously mused; international fixtures aren’t the most appealing in betting terms.
On occasion a qualifying game takes your eye – Russia hosting Portugal this week looks an interesting fixture; both sides are of an attacking nature and roughly equal standard – but this however, is a rarity. More often than not, qualifying campaigns throw up mismatches of epic proportions – much like when England take on San Marino at Wembley. England expect to breeze through qualifying and book their place at the World Cup in Rio 2014 but San Marino, on the other hand, are preparing nationwide celebrations in the hope they may manage a goal. The result is a formality, England will win and are 1/100 to do so. Alas, I must ask what is the point of it all?
The game is a sell-out, so clearly there is interest. Maybe it’s the promise of goals or maybe England fans have been inspired by the news that Wayne Rooney will be captaining the side. Though, this much I very much doubt; Rooney has about as much charisma as Lance Armstrong has sporting integrity. But his appointment as captain is another issue altogether.
Undoubtedly, football punters up and down the country will have England in their £1 accumulators because ‘they all add up’, but in actual fact your pound on England is earning you exactly 1p. That is what some people find hard to understand. They’ve picked out 20 teams – all of whom are odds on – and yet their potential returns come to less than a tenner.
Don’t get me wrong, I understand not all football fans are hardened gamblers and as they keep telling me they only do it for a bit of fun. They enjoy sitting down and ticking off results as they appear on the Sky Sports vidiprinter – to an extent I can relate to that. However, I always end up coming back to the same point: surely gambling is a lot more fun when you’re winning?
Every week I can look at the results and pick out a ‘coupon buster’ – a team that are in everybody’s accumulator that have failed to deliver on the odds they were quoted at. Last weekend, it was Rangers, who lost 1-0 at a price of 1/7. It was a ridiculous price for a team that haven’t won away from Ibrox all season and one based more on reputation than form. That was the likely coupon buster that many had put in their accumulators with more belief than knowledge.
The reason bookies exist and make money is that favourites don’t always win. The best teams in the country don’t win every game and each week there is at least one result that nobody can predict. So the next time you walk into the bookies to put down a few quid on the football, stop and have a little think. Is their value in backing the short-priced favourite? Would you not be better off picking out a few selections at better prices than lots of teams at short prices?
Serbia v Belgium // Belgrade // 19:30 K.O.
Belgium’s golden generation have made a less than convincing start to their qualifying campaign but it may well pay to keep siding with a team that is packed full of quality. The loss of Marouine Fellani and Lukaku to injury won’t help their cause but the Belgium ranks are still full of enough class to overcome a poor Serbian outfit. Serbia beat Wales 6-1 in their last qualifier but that was an isolated performance and previous to that they had scored just one goal in their last 5 games. Scoring against a strong Belgian defence will be a lot harder than against the Welsh and making the hosts favourites at 6/4 seems off the mark. It could be a tight affair and 10/11 Belgium in the draw no bet market could be a value alternative to the 9/5 away win.
Wales v Scotland // Cardiff // 19:45 K.O.
Scotland’s form under Craig Levein has been little short of abysmal and draws in their opening two qualifiers against Macedonia and Serbia have done little to silence the manager’s doubters amongst the Tartan Army. The return to national duty of Steven Fletcher will be a huge boost prior to their trip to Cardiff and it could be this fixture that provides Scotland with their first win of the campaign. Wales have been poor under Chris Coleman and their 6-1 humiliation in Serbia was probably a fair reflection of where they are right now. The do have quality players in the likes of Gareth Bale and Jo Allen but they aren’t backed up by much and a price of 7/5 about the visitors is more than fair.
Russia v Portugal // Moskva //
Both these sides have begun qualifying with two wins from two but then that’s what you would expect from fixtures against the likes of Northern Ireland and Luxembourg. It’s hard to know just how well either of these teams has been playing from these games but if you look back at the performances in the Euros you get a clearer indication of the quality of the two teams. Russia had easily the poorest of the groups in the Euros and after starting in spectacular style faded badly and failed to make it into the knockout part of the competition. Portugal on the other hand came through the group of death and eventually lost out to Spain on penalties, they will look to keep it tight and use the likes of Ronaldo and Nani on the break, they could easily sneak a win with their attacking quality and a price of 8/5 looks real value.
Best Bet: Belgium to beat Serbia @ 9/5
The Secret Punter is TBo4′s mystery blogger who posts weekly updates and tips. What do you make of his picks this week? Please leave your comments in the sections below…