Once upon a time, after partaking in a couple of social halves at a local tavern, I found myself in the company of a young ginger-haired Scottish lady. Being a personable soul, I overcame the handicap of her ridiculous accent to engage in polite conversation. Unfortunately, kindness is rarely rewarded. Before I really knew what was happening, the red-headed caber-tosser proceeded to take advantage, physically. Fast forward seven years, and Elizabeth still has her claws in me, and my chances of ever breaking free are slim.
I share this tale with you not to whine about the wife, Betty the sweaty, but because the England players currently find themselves in an almost identical situation, just one little mistake can lead to years of regret. As long as the England players avoid pulling a ‘Gerry’, a happy ending should be on the cards against Ecuador. The Three Lions should be play bazaar supported at 4/9.
Michael Owen is a goal scoring machine when fit, unfortunately, he hasn’t been fit since 1998. As Sven refuses to play Walcott as cover and Crouch is clearly not of international class, the Owen injury could turn out to be a blessing in disguise. England will definitely benefit from a holding midfielder while Gerrard will be given the license to support Rooney up front. Wayne’s recovery from injury has been bordering on miraculous, I’m not a religious man, but I’ll be praying that the Roonatic bags the opener at 9/2.
England have played exceptionally well in the first half of their matches so far, before wilting like a Frenchman in a drinking competition. Another impressive start against a poor Ecuadorian team would allow Sven to rest Wayne at about the hour mark, with the game well and truly in the bag. A half-time full-time win for Sven’s men is a value option at 6/5.
Correct score betting is never an easy market to crack, the bookies have a built in percentage so fat it makes Brazil’s Ronaldo look like Pete Doherty. However, when there’s a short priced favourite in a match, the bookies edge is dramatically reduced. A perm of a 2-0 / 3-0 win pays out at 11/4, with 2-0 being the preferred selection at 6/1.
Germany meet Sweden in Saturday’s opener, and somewhat controversially, I’ll be playing heavily on the Swedes. Forget the Klose’s of this world, disregard the Podolski’s and never mind the Ballack’s, the Swedes are more than a match for the Germans, you should get involved at 9/2.
Admittedly, the Germans topped their group, but Northern Ireland could have qualified from that poor bunch. Swedish coach Lars ‘must have knocked his’ Lagerback is genuinely confident of victory, and rightly so. The Swedes are 11/1 pokes to win by a 1-0 scoreline, help yourself.
Argentina v Mexico will bring Saturday’s action to a close and this one is a total no-brainer. FIFA may believe that Mexico are the superior team, but their rankings are a lot like me, the last time I requested my marital rights; seriously flawed. The bookies are offering 2/5 about an Argentina victory in 90 minutes, I implore you, play, and play hard.
The weekend’s action will end when Portugal face Holland for the right to meet England in the last eight. I haven’t been overly impressed with the Portuguese so far, Figo looks shot, Pauleta has once again failed to deliver on the big stage and Ronaldo’s bag of tricks may be pleasing to the eye, but they’re about as effective as a ‘No Drinking’ sign in Glasgow. The Dutch qualified with ease from the supposed group of death, the Orange looks tasty at 5/4
For the first goal scorer in this match, look no further that Robin Van Persie at 15/2. Van the man has the sweetest touch since Van Gogh and is due a good performance ear. On a related note, Peter Crouch is also a Post-Impressionist.