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.