World Cup to facilitate the emergence of more World Class stars?

Every four years, when World Cup finals fever grips the world, the expectant viewer awaits with great anticipation, seeing some of the biggest names in World Football grace the biggest stage, in front of record viewing figures.

For many, the chance to see the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Didier Drogba, Kaka, Wayne Rooney, Fernando Torres and the incomparable Lionel Messi in action will be worth the wait. However, it cannot be a great World Cup for all the truly outstanding players on show. Luck, injury a lack of form or defeat will no doubt rob many of these greats of the chance to showcase their true talents over the month long feast of football.

However that will present an opportunity for some players, perhaps the lesser lights of World football, to grasp their opportunity on the world’s biggest stage and in this article, we take a look at a few players who may not yet be household names now, may well be on everyone’s lips at the end of the tournament.

Neven Subotic                             (Borossia Dortmund & Serbia): Manchester United and Chelsea are already believed to be hot on the tail of this talented Serbian international defender. Dortmund have so far refused all offers and rate Subotic as arguably the best defender in Europe on his day. It is an extravagant claim, but not one without foundation. If the Serb can find his best form alongside Vidic in defence then he may well emerge as truly one of the world’s very best.

Angel Di Maria                           (Benfica & Argentina): When teams face Argentina their primary focus will have to be Lionel Messi. The diminutive genius will draw opponents to him like wasps to a jam jar and that will leave plenty of space for other players. Di Maria is one such player who will benefit from this. Playing on the opposite flank and possessing a truly fantastic left foot, Di Maria could prove his worth, said to be around £35m currently, during these finals.

Jesus Navas    (Sevilla & Spain): Chronic fear of flying meant that Navas ‘retired’ from international football as a youngster, but he has returned to the fold and boosted Spain’s chances a great deal. His style of bustling wing play, accurate crossing and an uncanny ability to get a crucial goal or two mean he could well emerge as one of Spain’s new talents in the finals this summer.

Alexis Sanchez                            (Udinese & Chile): One of the increasing number of talented Chilean soccer stars, Sanchez is a class act above his team mates. Clever on the ball and possessing a tactically astute football brain, Sanchez invention and goal threat will be a key element of Chilean play, if the South Americans are to reach the second phase.

Gervinho : (Lille & Ivory Coast):  Ivory Coast’s main attacking threat will be the pace of Aruna Dindane and the power of Didier Drogba and that may mean Lille’s talented young striker Gervinho can profit. A talented striker who has a decent goalscoring rate, he is a solid all round performer and could well have a key role to play for the Ivory Coast at the World Cup finals.

So just remember, you heard them here on PR first!



Who Would You Back As The Next Liverpool Manager?

After last week’s somewhat less than shocking news that Liverpool had parted ways with manager Rafa Benitez, speculation has been rife in the press as to who will eventually replace the Spaniard and inherit the undeniably attractive, and yet somewhat poisoned chalice, that currently is the Liverpool managers post.

Of course, if you are a regular gambler, you will know that betting on markets so volatile, ever-changing and prone to wild swings in odds due to press speculation, can be a good way to make a bit of money very quickly! However, it is also a sure fire way to lose it just as quickly when the ‘cast iron certainty’ that you have been told about, turns out to be nothing of the sort!

The markets are a good place to start however and it seems that three names are currently dominating the thoughts of punters.


The favourite, on Betfair at odds of 3.6 is Fulham boss Roy Hodgson. The Cottagers heroics in the Europa League, Hodgson’s vast experience of football across Europe, plus the fact that he has turned Fulham from relegation candidates to European contenders, all on a shoestring budget, ensures that Hodgson has an obvious appeal to Liverpool, given their financial predicament.

The second favourite currently is Aston Villa manager Martin O’Neill (5.9), despite the Irishman recently declaring that he would like to remain at Villa Park. However with reports suggesting that O’Neill had clashed with Aston Villa owner Randy Lerner towards the end of the season and the fact that the Villa boss does not have a long term contract to tie him to Villa Park, means he is an attractive proposition to punters who feel he would be a good fit at Anfield.


Hot on the heels of O’Neill is the rather curious notion that Kenny Dalglish could take over at the club for the second time. It seems somewhat odd that Dalglish could resign from the club due to the stress of managing the team in 1991 and come back nearly twenty years later into a far more pressurised and volatile environment, however the strong link between Dalglish and the club, not to mention the fact that Dalglish’s appointment would be popular with a large contingent of Liverpool fans, means that many see Dalglish’s current position as a caretaker manager and general overseer, until a new manager comes in, may last a lot longer. Dalglish is currently 8.2 on Betfair.

There has been fevered speculation that Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp is also in the frame for the post, but despite the assertions of the Daily Express, it seems unlikely Redknapp would move from the relative security he enjoys at Spurs to the upheaval at Anfield and his odds of 19.5 look about right.


An intriguing bet is Sven Goran Eriksson at 16.5. The Swede recently made his pitch for the job declaring he had always been a Liverpool fan and he is a free man when his tenure managing the Ivory Coast at this summer’s World Cup finals ends. However it is hard to see the Liverpool board being able to match the Swede’s financial demands and Eriksson isn’t a popular choice with many Liverpool fans.

Other names bandied around include Guus Hiddink (40), Jurgen Klinsmann (30), Louis Van Gaal (38) and Frank Rijkaard (40).


Who would I back? Taking all things into consideration, my money would be edging towards Hodgson. He’s done pretty much all he can at Fulham, his wages would be affordable for Liverpool and he is used to operating and being successful on a smaller budget. If I was going to put my money on the line, Hodgson would be my choice.

But in the crazy world of football, nothing would surprise me.



World Cup Opener An Intriguing Match Up

Rather like the crazed face of Jack Nicholson peering through the broken door at Shelley Duvall bellowing “Here’s Johnny!”, the World Cup, after years of preparation, months of hype and days of somewhat over the top panicking about a player picking up an injury in the final warm up game, will commence on Friday with hosts South Africa taking on Mexico at the Soccer City stadium in Johannesburg.

And for a punter looking for an opportunity to get off to a winning start at the World Cup finals, this game promises plenty.


Twelve months ago, the talk was that South Africa could possibly be the worst team to host the finals in history. That’s some boast when you consider that the 1954 finals were played in Switzerland. The national team was in a shambolic state and fans of the Bafana Bafana could be forgiven for feeling that although the World’s biggest and best soccer tournament was coming to their shores, their participation in it would be fleeting.

However in November 2009, former Brazilian World Cup winning coach Carlos Alberto Parreira (pictured) returned as coach and began to mould the team in his own image. The result has been a significant improvement in fortunes for the South Africans, 12 matches unbeaten and having defeated Denmark 1-0 in their final warm up game (a Denmark side that forced Portugal into second place in their qualifying group and Sweden out of the finals altogether, as well as beating England 4-0 not too long ago) they will go into the clash with Mexico in superb form and with new found confidence. You can back South Africa now, on Betfair at 3.0 for the win. Which seems good odds for a team unbeaten in 12 games and playing with the advantage of being on home soil…


However those punters hoping for a nailed on home win may need to reconsider. Opponents Mexico are themselves looking a very talented team. Despite a 3-1 defeat to England at Wembley (a result which was something of an injustice to the Mexicans), Mexico’s strong warm up form continued last Thursday when they beat World Champions Italy 2-1 in Brussels and coach Javier Aguirre has already stated that he believes that his current squad “is the best Mexico squad we have ever had at a World Cup.”

The Mexican team is built upon a foundation of talented older players, such as midfield lynchpin Gerrardo Torrado, Barcelona defender Rafael Marquez and winger Andres Guardardo combined with the emerging talents from the World Champion U17 team that includes the likes of Arsenal’s Carlos Vela, Tottenham’s Giovanni Dos Santos, not to mention Manchester United’s new £10m striker Javier Hernandez.


As such, the latest markets suggest that Mexico are just the slight favourites in this very close encounter at 2.75.

With both teams desperate not to lose their first game, in what looks like being a very evenly contested Group A, I like the look of 3.25 on the draw and given the defensive frailties shown by both teams at times, I also like the look of the 2.60 on offer for there to be over 2.5 goals during the game, in a game that I see as being an open, and entertaining, 2-2 draw.

And the best thing is, we only have to wait until 3pm on Friday to find out for sure!

Aussies to cause a shock? Who to Back in the First Group Games : Part One

Friday 11th June
Group A :
South Africa V Mexico
Verdict : Draw (9/4)
The intriguing opening game sees two well matched sides face off in what promises to be an entertaining opening game. Despite being on home soil, South Africa are an outside bet at 15/8 with Bet365, Mexico 6/4. However more tempting is the 9/4 on offer for the draw.
Group A :
France V Uruguay
Verdict : Uruguay Win (3/1)

Finalists last time around, but France are in turmoil, beaten by China last week, lacking a Zidane figure, Henry out of sort, Ribery with off the field problems and an uninspiring manager set to leave after the finals, Uruguay (3/1 Betfair), with their free scoring attacking duo of Forlan and Suarez, could provide the first real shock of the competition.
Saturday 12th June
Group B South Korea V Greece Verdict : Draw (2/1)
The hard working South Korean’s will be boosted by Park Ji Sung’s return to fitness, but this is a game that neither side, given their other group opponents, can afford to lose. Neither team scores many goals and this looks likely to be the first 0-0 draw of the competition in my view.
Group B Argentina V Nigeria Verdict : Argentina Win (1/2)
Nigeria are a decent side, physically strong and have a decent record against Argentina, but it is hard to go against Diego Maradona’s Messi inspired men. I think it will be closer than the 1/2 on offer from many bookmakers suggest, but Argentina should get off to a winning start.
Group C England V United States Verdict : England Win (8/15)
England have won, but looked far from convincing at times during their warm up games. The US will be well organised and have a good understanding of the English team. It will be a tough opener for both sides, but England should just edge the victory against the hardworking Americans.
Sunday 13th June
Group C Algeria V Slovenia Verdict : Draw (9/4)
Slovenia are the 5/4 favourites for this one with most bookmakers, Algeria 23/10, but this is a game which could surprise a few. Algeria, despite having a reputation as one of the weaker sides from Africa, have proven World Cup pedigree and a few talented individuals. This one will be a close call.
Group D Serbia V Ghana Verdict : Serbia Win (6/5)
Ghana, minus Mikael Essien, will be pacy and direct and cause Serbia a few problems, but this is a Serbia side that has some fantastic players and who should be physically far too strong against a weakened Ghanaian team. This should be a comfortable win for the European side.
Group D Germany V Australia Verdict : Australia Win (7/1)
No, I haven’t taken leave of my senses. I don’t believe this is a particularly strong German team and it has been weakened still further by injuries to key players. Australia have the happy knack of upsetting the big teams with the likes of Tim Cahill (pictured) and Harry Kewell inspiring the team and I can see the Socceroo’s causing a huge upset with a single goal win.
Join us again shortly for the next article when we look at the games from Monday 14th June, through to the final game of the opening fixtures, Spain V Switzerland on Wednesaday!

Can Ivory Coast Stop Ronaldo? Who to Back in the First Group Games : Part Two

Monday 14th June

Group E :

Netherlands V Denmark

Verdict : Netherlands Win (4/7)

That the Netherlands are such strong favourites for this game is not really a surprise given their qualification form and Denmark’s rather indifferent form of late, but the Danes will ensure that this is no easy victory for the Dutch, despite that I think the Oranjemen will just edge a close encounter.

Group E :

Japan V Cameroon

Verdict : Cameroon Win (6/5)

A somewhat intriguing game. Both sides have not had the best preparation for the tournament with Japan’s manager under fire and Samuel Eto’o at odds with team-mates. However it will be Samuel’s day in my view with Cameroon just having too much firepower for Japan to cope with.

Group F : Italy V Paraguay Verdict : Draw (9/4)

Perhaps something of a surprise result for the holders. Italy seldom start major championships well and given their poor recent form and Paraguay’s improved showing under Gerardo Martino, I think the South American side will come away from this game with a creditable draw.

Tuesday 15th June

Group F : New Zealand V Slovakia Verdict : Slovakia (40/85)

It’s hard to back New Zealand against any of their group opponents but if the All Whites are to have a chance of winning a game at the finals, this will be the one they have earmarked, Slovakia however should be too strong technically and come away from the clash with all three points.

Group G : Ivory Coast V Portugal Verdict : Portugal (11/10)

This is the game in the first set of matches that I feel could go any way. Ivory Coast, on their day, are a match for anyone, as are Portugal. Both sides have had periods of indifferent form and rely on their star man, Drogba for the Ivory Coast, Ronaldo (pictured) for Portugal. Given that Drogba is nursing a fractured arm and Ronaldo is healthy, I think that just tips the balance Portugal’s way.

Group G : Brazil V North Korea Verdict : Brazil (1/10)

I’m trying hard to make a convincing case for North Korea to at least push Brazil hard in this game but I am afraid I can’t. They will put up dogged resistance I am sure, but I can see nothing else but a relatively easy victory for the Selecao in this, the most one sided of opening round games.

Wednesday 16th June

Group H : Honduras V Chile Verdict : Chile (8/15)

Chile’s odds are rather short for the win but despite that I fancy the South American’s to take the three points. Under Marcelo Bielsa they have become one of the better South American sides after Argentina and Brazil. Honduras, led by Tottenham powerhouse Wilson Palacios, will be no pushovers in this group and will give a far better account of themselves against the teams in it, than their somewhat generous odds suggest.

Group H : Spain V Switzerland Verdict : Spain (1/4)

The favourites for the World Cup face a tricky opener against the Swiss but should come through the game relatively unscathed. The Swiss will be hoping to nullify the Spanish threat but lack the quality of Spain and this should be a confident and convincing victory for the current World Cup favourites.

Bucking the Trend… Why reviewing the World Cup odds now may be a profitable move…

After months of fevered speculation, the World Cup started amidst a blaze of colour, noise and if we are to be totally honest, a series of somewhat non-descript, disappointing encounters.

Few teams have impressed over the opening four days of competition, but those who did have seen their odds in the markets slashed on the back of a single performance.

So who are the movers and shakers in the market this week?

Predictably, England (who were always too short at 6/1 before the tournament) have been lengthened to a somewhat more realistic 8/1 with Bet365 and William Hill after their disappointing 1-1 draw with the USA in the first game. Argentina are now the clear third favourites behind the long time front runners of Spain and Brazil. Diego Maradona sides 1-0 victory over Nigeria seeing their odds shorten once again to 6/1 with Bwin and 13/2 on the exchanges at Betfair.

The big movers so far though have been Germany. Joachim Low’s side have been backed in from 14-1 before the competition started to 9-1 with most major bookmakers, Sporting Bet’s 19/2 currently the best price on offer. In contrast, France have fallen down the order and are now 25-1 with most major bookmakers after an unimpressive showing.

So what does this tell us?

The first thing it tells me is that there is an opportunity to be had here. Seldom do World Cup winners begin the competition in outstanding form. In 2006, eventual winners Italy begun very slowly, Brazil were hardly overly impressive in 2002 in their first game with Turkey and France didn’t look like potential world champions in their first match in 1998. Indeed if you trawl back through history, it is often the teams who make the uninspiring start that go on to lift the trophy… Not the team who sail through their opening game looking like World Beaters.

Germany are a prime example of this. Yes, they won comprehensively against Australia and have easily played the best football of any team so far in the tournament, but in 2006, they thumped Costa Rica 4-2 on home soil, but were eliminated in the Semi Finals by Italy. In 2002 they started even more impressively, defeating Saudi Arabia 8-0, but lost in the final.

So a good start by Germany is no indicator that they will win the competition and history tends to show that it is the team that comes good throughout the tournament, rather than who starts it in a blaze of glory, who will lift the trophy.

Of course, with the likes of Brazil, Spain, Portugal and the Ivory Coast still yet to play, the market is still a little skewed, but there are bargains to be had.

I’ll be honest, the shortening odds on Germany, Argentina and Holland have put me off each of these teams. I haven’t seen enough to warrant backing any of them with any real conviction.

Instead, if I was looking to make a bit of cash now, I’d take either England (17/2 on Betfair) or Italy (18/1 Paddy Power). Neither started very well but I think will come good through their group and will be a real danger in the knockout phase and have the ability to win it.

Or for a real gamble… Why not look at an each way on Portugal (28-1 on Bwin)? They are in a tough group but with the Ivory Coast seemingly at odds, Drogba injured and the fact that they don’t play Brazil until the 3rd game (by which, they and Brazil could already be qualified and may well rest key players) means that they should progress and if they defeat the Ivory Coast this afternoon, then their odds will surely plummet.

Some Alternative World Cup Betting Markets?

If, like me, you’ve been glued to your TV screen over the past week or so watching the 2010 World Cup in South Africa unfold, then you’ll probably be as utterly depressed over proceedings as I am. It comes to something when the premiere soccer showpiece event is livened up by the attractive attacking play of the Germans.
Being brutal, the games so far, with few exceptions, have been utterly dire.

Teams, so devoid of attacking thrust due to the impotence cause by fear of defeat, have been happy to surrender timidly to get a point. Attacking play of note has been at a premium. How much of that is down to FIFA’s ridiculous new ball is open to conjecture, I am sure not every single player in World Football, bar the Germans, have forgotten how to cross a ball, shoot or pass a ball effectively.

So in keeping with this rather dull theme, I thought it would be nice if some of the major betting companies around created betting markets for some of the second round games. I know it would increase my enjoyment if we were allowed to bet on some of the markets shown below. Let’s face it, juggling toasters in the bath has been preferable to watching some games… Anyway, here’s a list of some second round games together with some bets I’d like to see made available for us punters… Hopefully one creative bookmaker is watching to help us liven up proceedings…

17th June 2010 : France V Mexico
Market : How long will it be before French Manager Raymond Domenech (pictured) makes an entirely baffling and somewhat confusing tactical change or substitution?
17th June 2010 : Greece V Nigeria
Market : During which of the opening ten minutes of the game will the Greek tragedy, known as Giorgios Samaras, lose possession of the ball for the first time in a feckless and entirely witless manner?
17th June 2010 : Argentina V South Korea
Market : During which minute of the first half will the commentary team you are enduring become almost instantly orgasmic, when Lionel Messi does something vaguely skilful with the football?
18th June 2010 : England V Algeria
Market : How many English pundits (in their thousands) will claim at half time that it is impossible for Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard to play effectively together in the English midfield?
18th June 2010 : Germany V Serbia
Market : After how many minutes will Serbian defender Nemanja Vidic crack Miroslav Klose over the nose with an “accidental elbow”?
19th June 2010 : Ghana V Australia
Market : After how many minutes will your commentary team state “This is a must win game for Australia!”
19th June 2010 : Holland V Japan
Market : How many free kicks will be conceded by Japan before Wesley Sneijder attempts to shoot the ball into the Japanese net from over 50 yards out?
20th June 2010 : Brazil V Ivory Coast
Market : After how many seconds of the first minute will Sven Goran Eriksson instruct his Ivory Coast side to play conservatively and try and snatch a draw?
21st June 2010 : Portugal V North Korea
Market : How many times during the game will a commentator mention how much Cristiano Ronaldo earns per week, compared to the average North Korean player?
Let’s face it, we need to liven the World Cup up some way…