The Road To Rio (and other Brazilian stadiums)…
Last weekend then, not brilliant sadly! Let’s see exactly where we stand…
Swansea v Sunderland – lost two points.
West Brom v Everton – lost two points.
Liverpool v Arsenal – won 4.1 points.
Mallorca v Real Sociedad – lost one point.
Udinese v Juventus – lost two points.
Werder Bremen v Hamburg – won 5.5 points.
Karabukspor v Besiktas – lost one point.
Sivasspor v Fenerbahce – lost 2 points.
An overall loss of 0.4 points this week, not actually that bad considering only two winners were had. This is the benefit to having a staking plan really. The Werder Bremen result was definitely my favourite bet, hence 3 points going on it, and has saved us from a pretty terrible weekend really.
It’s international World Cup 2014 qualifiers this weekend. It’s sometimes difficult to offer any great odds on these matches, particularly when sides like San Marino are included in European qualifying zones so I’ll throw in some multiples to liven the weekend up. Similarly if I see a price that is short, but still offers good value, in my opinion, then that will be included.
Music is a request this week from a colleague attending Bestival for his birthday. Have some Stevie Wonder with Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours. A cracking tune that even the heinous boyband Blue couldn’t ruin when they somehow roped old Stevie into letting them join him on re-release!
Albania v Cyprus, Friday 1930
The first one that grabs me odds-wise is the match between Albania and emerging Cyprus. Albania finished second bottom to Luxembourg in their qualifying group for Euro 2012 and failed to even beat Luxembourg when away. The national league is nothing to write home about and has not had a side make the group stages of the Europa League in a long time. There are no players of any note that I know about either who would possibly come in and be the team’s focus to drag them to the odd result. They were a decent match for every side when they were at home, but their lack of goals showed when they could only beat Luxembourg 1-0. I would suggest that most sides in their group were on the decline and even their less than brilliant record isn’t as good as it seems.
Cypriot football has had something of a boost in the last few years. The miracle that saw APOEL Nicosia qualify for the knock-out stages of the Champions League was the culmination of a steady upward curve in the club sides. The national team have not fared so well, they finished bottom of their Euro 2012 qualifying group without a win to their name, but it was a tough group. They had a good Portugal side as well as the Scandinavian sides of Denmark, Norway and Iceland to contend with. I doubt very much whether Albania would have done any better. This forms the basis of me thinking Albania at odds on seems very tight and a price I’m happy to have a go at laying.
Lay Albania at 1.9 on Betfair. Two points.
Montenegro v Poland, Friday 1930
Those of you following my Euro 2012 disaster will have seen how much I fancied Poland to do well and then how disappointing they were in reality. Montenegro did not qualify for the tournament as they lost out in the play-offs having finished behind England in their group. They were unbeaten at home though and won two and lost two of their four home matches. They do lack a prolific goalscorer at present and this will probably see them once again struggling to qualify automatically, but they are not easy to beat. They only conceded three goals in four home matches in the qualifiers and two of those were to England. They have the usual share of gnarled defenders and skilful midfielders that always seem to come from that region and they should be able to hold off Poland.
As mentioned above, Poland were a huge let down hosting Euro 2012. In every match you could see there was some ability there, but they could not maintain a level of performance to qualify from the easiest group on paper. Robert Lewandowski possibly played his way out of a move to a bigger side than Dortmund as he looked clumsy for the most part and failed to spark, even as the focal point of his side’s attack. The wide players looked excellent in spells and there was no shortage of work from the centre of midfield, but the defence was terrible. A Greece side that had been thrashed by Russia in their opening match were made to look much better than they are by the defending of Poland. After all this, the coach Smuda paid for the disappointment with his job and I doubt whether the new man has had time to truly shape his side. They look best avoided in this.
Back Montenegro at 2.4 with BetVictor. One point.
Netherlands v Turkey, Friday 1930
This one is the first of two short prices that I still think represent value. The Netherlands were probably the single biggest let down of Euro 2012, having failed to win a single match in their group and returning home early. With the likes of Robin Van Persie, Wesley Sneijder and Klaas Jan Huntelaar in the squad, they should never have been as poor as they were. This has seen the removal of coach Bert Van Maarwijk as his tactics and decision to persist with starting a clearly off the pace Ibrahim Affelay certainly had a massive effect on the sides exit. They have brought in the extremely experienced Louis Van Gaal now and this should see them restored to the form that saw them qualify for the tournament unbeaten except in their last match, by which time they had qualified. Whether he will bring many new faces straight into the side is debatable, but he will get more out of them.
Turkey were expected to kick on after an appearance in the 2002 World Cup Semi Finals, but never have. It could probably be argued they have gone backwards and there is a large campaign gathering pace to impose penalties on them for the state of their club game. This relates to the fact Fenerbahce were proven to have fixed matches two seasons ago and then simply pardoned with a slap on the wrist. This bad press has not helped attract players to the country, apart from those coming to the end of their career looking to take advantage of large tax-free contracts on offer. This in turn does not help as local players are marginalised for players who clearly are not putting everything into their game. This all being said, they often score plenty and have two strikers at Galatasaray in great form domestically. Buruk Yilmaz was signed after scoring thirty two goals last season for Trabzonspor to almost single handedly drag them up the table. He can’t even get a starting spot at the moment though as the on-loan Umur Bulut has scored more than a goal a game so far. I’d expect them to attack as their defence is terrible, but I don’t give them a hope of avoiding defeat so I think the price is good.
Back Netherlands at 1.53 with Coral. Three points.
Moldova v England, Friday 1945
After another knock-out stage exit for England at a major tournament, there’s a new apathy around the team. They start this qualification group by travelling to minnows Moldova and will expect to qualify with ease as they usually do (I’ll conveniently forget the McClaren debacle). There’s no reason this shouldn’t happen with the group they’re in. Moldova actually won two home matches in the Euro 2012 qualifiers, although one was against the ever horrendous San Marino. The other win came against a Finland side who have been declining for years, so whilst a good result it is probably not a sign of Moldovan improvement. They actually only really took a hiding from Sweden at home, getting beaten 4-1, they even restricted Netherlands to 1-0 wins home and away. They’re clearly not an awful team and are set up to defend their goal in numbers and hope for draws against sides like England. But, they don’t usually get any points from this approach, even if they can take some pride in restricting goals conceded.
England now enter the Hodgson era properly and he is in a position many previous managers of the national side would envy, with expectations widely at an all time low. This being said, he will still be expected to qualify with ease for the tournament in Brazil. He is without Andy Carroll and Wayne Rooney for this match after they suffered injuries in recent matches, but other than that and long term injuries it is a full squad. The lack of strikers would be a worry against stronger opposition, but with Jermaine Defoe starting again at Tottenham and forwards like Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Theo Walcott at Arsenal they should have no problem seeing off Moldova. I don’t see Moldova scoring and I fail to see how England will not.
Back England at 1.3 with Stan James. Four points.
Back England Clean Sheet at 1.72 on Betfair. Two points.
Colombia v Uruguay, Friday 2130
Two of the traditional best of the rest in South America meet on Friday evening in Colombia. There is a clear bias towards home teams in results in South America in both the Copa Libertadores and the Copa Sudamerica as well as in international matches. Colombia are building a team somewhat in the image of the Uruguyan side who impressed at the last World Cup and then in winning the Copa America last year. They have possibly the hottest proper striker in football in Radamel Falcao of Atletico Madrid who scored a hat-trick against Chelsea in the UEFA Super Cup a week ago in Monaco. He has all the attributes to lead a line and Colombia are now set up to provide him with as many chances as possible whilst restricting the other side as much as possible.
Uruguay have probably peaked in their current incarnation and are now on the decline. They will also be missing Luis Suarez for this match and regardless of his Liverpool form, he is always a stand-out player for the national side. They do still have Napoli’s Edinson Cavani, but his service will be limited without Suarez and with Diego Forlan finally succumbing to age. The new Southampton signing from Bolgona, Gaston Ramirez, is a fine player, but he has yet to do anything of note for the national team. The defence and midfield will again be organised, but even they are either older and poorer or out of good form of late.
Back Colombia at 2.5 with BetFred. Two points.
Multiple – Treble
I would suggest throwing Russia, England and Netherlands into a short priced treble. None of these sides should have too much trouble seeing off their opponents. You should get odds of around 2.5 for that.