Despite His White Boots

Football, football, football and, if the mood takes me, more football.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Scores On The Doors

Time to catch a (very quick) breath and see where we are with the groups all finished :

Match bets : 2/6, -2 points. The Asian handicap underdog bets didn't work out.

Group betting : +7 points as follows

A, lay Germany to win, - 3.2 points. I'm still perplexed that Poland didn't try to win their game against Germany, and annoyed that Ecuador rested five players in theirs. Still, them's the breaks.
D, Portugal to win, + 1.6 . Comfy in the end.
F, Australia to qualify, + 6 . In hindsight this was my best bet so far, good value @ 2/1 whatever happened.
G, lay France to win, + 5.7 . No wait, this was the best :-).
H, lay Spain to win, - 3.1 . Fair enough, this went tits up.

Final four : -2 points so far, but still in play as follows

Poland, - 2. Less said the better.
Argentina, 3 pts @ 3.0, currently 1.78 and looking good.
Italy, 3 pts @ 3.2, currently 1.76, not playing so well but the draw has opened up exactly as planned.
England, 3 pts @ 2.6, currently 2.44. Well, they're still in.

Other bets :

Brazil to win, 10 pts @ 4.0, currently 4.4. Argentina look a major threat.
Crouch to be England's top scorer, 3 pts @ 6.8, currently 5. Trailing Gerrard by one and may well be left out of the next game, but still in with a shout.

All in all, a massive 3 points up and the in play bets have generally shortened. In fact I'm significantly more up than that thanks to a (sadly undocumented) side-bet with Titmus on the Italy-Ghana game. And that was blood money :-)

Into the second round, I'm already funking for England, Argentina, Italy and Brazil so let's just have some bets on the other games for interest.

Germany to win in 90 mins, 2 pts @ 1.67
Ukraine to qualify, 2 pts @ whatever I can get closer to kickoff
Holland to qualify, 2 pts @ 1.74
Spain to win in 90 mins, 3 pts @ 2.4

Friday, June 23, 2006

Mad Dogs And Englishmen

It's not been the best few days for Englishmen at the World Cup. The team played well for about half an hour I thought, Joe Cole especially lively, but there must have been another uninspiring team talk at half time, after which they played like total lemons, defending set pieces in a style that would be frowned upon at Underhill never mind Loftus Road. Listening to Gareth Southgate's anodyne commentary, when he of all people said Ericsson was less Churchill and more Iain Duncan Smith (in 2002), you realise how bad it must be.

As of the now, Owen has been put back in Freddie Shepherd's toolbox (some people deserve each other I do think) and it's becoming more and more apparent that even if the manager was Mr Motivator, outside of the first XI England just aren't good enough. Owen, Neville and possibly Ferdinand will be out of the next game ; Ashley Cole and Rooney aren't 100% fit ; and Fat Frank is either off form or a greedy cunt who's playing only for himself and making a terrible job of it, depending on your domestic allegiance :-). 4-5-1 may now be the only reasonable choice but whether Rooney is the "1" is the real question, given that he's so much more effective playing off a main striker. Despite all this, England should have too much for Ecuador and then they'll be only two games from the final. It's a knockout now after all ; a couple of bits of magic from Rooney and Gerrard could still be all they need.

At least the players have more chance of making the final than Graham Poll, whose entertaining sideshow I sadly missed last night. In all the aftermath, exciting game, historic moment for Australia, blah blah, all I could think of was how did the betting work on those three yellow cards ?

Finally my own betting, I'll wrap up the Group Stage scores tomorrow, but I reckon I'm about even at the moment anyway so it's no big deal. Then we'll see if we can pick any bones out from the second round.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Fix Is In

I don't have time to document England's failings right now - I might do after I retire on Thursday. Maybe.

As for today, noses have been tapped, winks have been tipped. Portugal and Mexico to draw, 2 pts @ 2.7. Portugal are likely to rest at least three players (as Ecuador did yesterday, damn them to hell) so I hope they don't overdo it and lose. I think next time players should only be suspended for 3 yellow cards, the things they are given out for now. It has too much of an effect. Especially on those squads only containing four strikers, two of whom are carrying injuries and one is completely unproven. Still, whose choice was that :-)

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Dead Games, Dead Money

I can't see past a draw in the England-Sweden game tonight, 2 pts @ 2.74. All the signs point to a draw even at a slightly miserly 7/4.

This afternoon I will be funking for Ecuador, not just because if they win the group I'll win my group bet, but also because, admit it, we'd all be up for England-Germany in the next round. That's what the World Cup's all about. Not just for the occasion, but because from what I've seen, Ecuador would cause England just as many problems as Germany but, crucially, England would surely raise their game for a clash with "the old enemy" [1]. I know it's the World Cup and they should be up for it against anybody, but sadly in practice that doesn't seem to be the case.

In the group betting, Tunisia gave me a hopeful half hour yesterday before Spain crushed them like bugs, so that one's gone South, but France are still spectacularly awful enough to resist the temptation to hedge by betting them back to win the Group, even at a price of 4+. Portugal (to win) and Australia (to qualify) are both significantly shorter than the prices I backed them at, so I'm fairly optimistic that I can score a profit on the groups.

[1] The old enemy being whichever of Germany, Argentina, France, Scotland, Ireland ... we happen to be playing. Can we not get on with anyone ?

Sunday, June 18, 2006


Not because my tip lost - but because I misunderstood the rules when slating Mike Ingham. If you pick up one yellow card in the group stage, it's cancelled out when the knockout starts. But if you pick up a second yellow card in the final group game, you do receive a one match suspension.

So I take it back about Mike Ingham, this time. I don't take anything back about Alan Green though - he's still a cunt.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Just A Nibble

This is a bit of a hedge but given how Portugal were described as negative after their game against Angola, I'm going for Iran +1.5, 2 pts @ 2.01. So Portugal have to win by two goals or more for me to lose this bet. Ideally Portugal will win by 1 goal and everyone's a winner.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Whipping Boys

It's definitely been a good couple of days for perverts at the World Cup. First, that Ecuador guy pulled out a bright yellow gimp mask to celebrate his goal, which is even more worrying when you consider that it must have been down his shorts for 90 minutes. And tomorrow you can expect all sorts of "Six of the best for S&M boys" headlines, if that's your thing. Not that this blog would ever stoop to such childish humour, perish the thought.

All that excitement aside, my bets are edging in the right direction. Crouchaldinho forged into the lead in the England goalscoring stakes, and could well keep his place even when Rooney comes back, as several other pundits seem to agree with my "Owen out" prognosis [1]. Ecuador can deny Germany group victory with a draw, and as I speak Angola have about 10 minutes to hang on against Mexico and put Portugal into pole position in Group D. Argentina looked the business today and of course are already through. It's a shame that two out of three groups have been decided already, bar some shuffling around to see who goes where. I hope no one's going to be foolish enough to open themselves up to any allegations of throwing a game to get a favourable draw, but after some thought there's not much can be done about it, apart from randomising the second round draw. Maybe that's one for next time.

Finally the obligatory pundit dig, today's "you're earning your money" prize goes to Radio 5's so-called main man Mike Ingham who was wittering on about resting Gerrard because he's on a yellow card, blissfully ignorant of the fact that all yellow cards are cancelled after the group stages. Do these people do any research at all ? Perhaps they're spending all their free time in the sex garages, paying hookers to go Argentina on their asses.

[1] Although one bozo on Football 365 came out with the old "form is temporary, class is permanent" bollocks. Great, bring back Hoddle. Fuck it, Bobby Charlton and Tom Finney will show them what for.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Sacred Cows

I wonder how often I'm going to say this about England - poor performance, but they got the result. Having said that, I still have a degree of sympathy for Ericsson at times. For some time he has been copping stick for not having a plan B. Today he made some positive substitutions, changed the shape and there was a definite improvement (although anything else would have been difficult). The instant he does so though, up pipes the woeful Tyldesley "nothing like changing your formation half way through a tournament".

Now, commentating's not an easy job, sometimes you'll say something that doesn't come out right and you look foolish and I'm not one to pick up on "Colemanballs" all the time. But just think about that comment for a moment. To Tyldesley, it is apparent that a team should adopt the same rigid formation for up to 7 games against opponents with completely different styles in completely different game situations. So apparent that it's worthy of sarcasm when the manager should, God forbid, change it. Of course you change your formation in a game when it's clearly not working and, although England have very rarely done this, there's no reason why a tactically astute coach shouldn't come up with different formations designed to counter specific opponents. As it happens, Ericsson probably isn't the tactically astute coach I'm talking about, but even so, he really is damned if he does and damned if he doesn't sometimes.

As for England, they still have problems to solve. Ashley Cole looks absolutely dreadful when he's called on to do any actual defending, which fortunately has been very rarely in the two games so far. Do you fancy him if England play Germany in the next round and Odonkor gets at him ? I don't. But the bigger problem is up front. Crouch and Owen just hasn't worked so far. They both need to play right up "on the shoulder" which leaves a big gap between midfield and forwards. Once Rooney came on, it wasn't just his ability, it was the fact that he could test the defenders round the back and drop off into the space as and when required. When Rooney comes back in, maybe in the first knockout game, will Ericsson be brave enough to leave Owen out ?

Have a look at a few other teams. Brazil played Ronaldo and he was awful. France have 3 or 4 in the team who are playing on their reputation. Spain, on the other hand, left Raul out. As a result, their two younger forwards tore the Ukraine apart, all with Raul champing on the bit to get in the action. I'd give Owen one more start in the dead (for England) Sweden game, but tell him straight, if you don't come up to scratch this time you're out. Owen thinks he has a right to play whatever. Show him he doesn't. There shouldn't be any sacred cows at this level.

More Emotional Betting

2 pts on Ecuador to win @ 2.16 for the sole reason that I am so fucking bored. At least I get to watch England on a big screen. Surrounded by loud-voiced software developers who think they know about football. Wankers. What was that I was saying about hating people for being just like you ?

Betting With The Heart

"Tony McDowall, 65, [a Trinidad and Tobago fan] who lives in Berkshire, thinks his unfancied team can spring a surprise. After his wife found him in tears when Trinidad and Tobago qualified, he was certain they would win the World Cup. He went to a bookmakers and asked to put £1,000 on them winning the tournament, at odds of 1000-1. The bookmaker told him he couldn't accept his money and his wife hid their chequebook."

What kind of bookie was that ? Wuss. Sounds like his wife knows the score though.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Let's Gamble Baby

This is a long shot that will probably lose, OK, so caveat emptor as usual but I am unable to resist the temptation to back Poland to beat Germany tonight. 1 point is plenty, they are currently priced at 8.4 but I would expect that to be a little longer just before kick off so I'll be betting it then.

Poland have to win this game and they aren't that bad a team. Germany looked good going forward in their first game but also very suspect at the back. The Poles will have to chase this game even if it's level, which is why I don't fancy the handicap betting - if they lose, they're very likely to lose by 2 or more. The odds aren't quite there for betting 3 goals or more in the match, which I also considered, so it's a straight win I'm going for. Fortune favours the brave, if betting 1 point on anyone can be considered brave that is.

Update : Bleh. Not so much for the result but for the way Poland played it. Why on earth did they not try to win the game ? Even if they had successfully ground out a draw, Ecuador would have needed just 2 more points to ensure qualification. In the end, as ever, a negative attitude got what it deserved - zip. What did I expect from a team with a centre half called "Bok".

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Docteur De Rotation

Hats off to my favourite World Cup manager, France's Raymond Domenech, for following up his team's hugely disappointing / rather satisfying [delete according to whether you have laid them or not] 0-0 draw with the mighty Switzerland with the statement "we managed to take two points off a direct rival".

If only the Swedes had thought of that. Could you imagine if England had ground out a 0-0 with Paraguay and Ericsson said "we managed to take two points off a direct rival". Ian Wright would have spontaneously combusted. So some good would have come out of it.

Away from the world of mentalism, the groups are going ok so far. I might dip a toe back into the choppy waters of match betting tomorrow when the second round of games start. I watched the first half of Brazil-Croatia in the gym today and have to say that Brazil didn't really impress, Ronaldo in particular looking off the pace. England and half a dozen other teams really should be thinking that it's now or never, this has to be our best chance of winning the World Cup in a generation.

A Clarification

Monday, June 12, 2006

Does This Count As Irony ?

Guess who the only Scotsman in the office drew in the World Cup sweep. How we laughed.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Another Opportunity Missed

I was having lunch with a female friend today [1] when she offered to bet me £5 at even money that Trinidad and Tobago would beat England. Value, don't you think ? However I couldn't bring myself to accept it. I'll never be ruthless enough to be a professional gambler.

[1] And what are the odds of that ?

Saturday, June 10, 2006

It's Just Like Watching TV

Well, not quite. A 3 inch TV with bad reception while someone is joggling your arm maybe, but with some new video drivers BBC Sport's coverage is just about watchable. What this means, though, is because it's slightly delayed, I can't listen to the Radio 5 commentary. Although when England are playing, that's good, because for some reason Radio 5's two very worst commentators are considered to be their best and always get the plum games. The woeful Alan Green has been dealt with on here before ; his partner in crime Mike Ingham is so passionless and sanctimonious [1] he's almost worse to listen to. By contrast, the intelligent and even witty commentary on Sweden-Trinidad was very enjoyable, with the excellent Jimmy Armfield giving the expert colour.

Back to England, and probably the most unexpected event of this or any World Cup - John Motson came out with a statistic that was both interesting and relevant. I'm sure you heard it yourselves, but England have not scored a goal in the second half in 11 consecutive matches in the World Cup finals. Let's cut them some slack and put it down to the heat, although it's also partly because players who have played all their career in the Premiership simply have no experience of pacing themselves through a game. They can go gung ho for 90 minutes because they never play in that heat. And in the Champions League, they're almost invariably playing at a high tempo too. So after a bright start, England faded and gradually looked worse and worse throughout.

Generally I like Ericsson (mainly because he annoys Jeff Powell so much), and mark my words, you'll miss him once McLaren gets going, but he doesn't help himself with his substitutions. How does he work them out, with a dartboard ? And the shortage of options up front is kicking in already. Owen's not working, let's see, erm, Rooney no he's still fucked, Walcott's never kicked a ball at the top level, ooh bugger that's it. Let's shove Joe Cole up front and punt high balls up to him for a bit, and if that doesn't work then put Owen Hargreaves on to run around like a headless chicken. Those who push Hargreaves' case must have been mightily embarrassed by that air kick near the end :-)

But, but, but, they got the result, and Sweden being held was a bonus. The next two games at least are in the evening so let's hope there's some point in watching the last 45 minutes. I'm going to ease up on the match betting until we've had a look at everyone, but to liven up Groups D and E, the only ones I don't have an interest in, let's go with Portugal to win Group D, 2 pts @ 1.86 and Australia to qualify from Group E, 3 pts @ 3.1. Portugal's just for an interest but I think Australia are a decent bet, I'd make them even money each of two with Croatia.

[1] They say you hate others when they share the same faults as you ...

It Must Be The Heat

Well if yesterday teaches me one thing, it's to stick to the point. If I had just said "Costa Rica +1.5" it would have been unlucky, a 30-yarder with 5 minutes left. In the event I am applying the first of many egg-removing cloths to my face. Still, a miss is as good as a mile !

What to do with England though. Well maybe it is the heat I am suddenly enthused with optimism regarding the English campaign. I think they should win comfortably today and even though the odds are too short really I'm going to punt them for the semi-finals seeing as Poland have cocked it up already, 3 pts @ 2.62.

I do have some Internet footage but it could best be described as a series of still photographs to accompany the commentary at least half the time. I'm sure there's something wrong with my video settings, that or my laptop is taking it on itself to do stuff that I don't care about all the time. It's not the biggest deal ever ; I was watching the Germany game in the gym yesterday and my mind was starting to wander even though I had a bet on. I can't sit still long enough to watch games on TV any more.

Friday, June 09, 2006

And They're Off

Funnily enough, perhaps even ironically, now that the greatest shut-in month of every red-blooded male's four years is starting, I'm off out doing stuff with like people and things today and Sunday. Time enough to sneak in the first match bet. This will probably be a recurring theme (unless I do my bollocks on it), I'm going to oppose the favourites on the Asian Handicap. 3 pts on Costa Rica + 1.5. This would have been a strong bet even if Ballack was playing. This game has 1-0 Germany written all over it. I wouldn't put anyone off betting that correct score, or less than 2.5 goals, but I'm going with the underdogs to at least keep it down to one.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Ah Bless

Wayne Rooney says he is "300% sure" he will be fit for the World Cup.

Not 200%, not 400%, but 300%. So it must be value to back him to play at Betfair odds of 0.33 or better.

No wonder he lost 700 grand ...

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Here's Your World Cup Song

Stop What You Are Doing And Play This Clip Now.

Reports indicate strong advance sales in the Fulham area.

And There's More

As a general principle, I feel that favourites in football group betting are often over-valued. In the Champions League and the World Cup. I have no hesitation at all in laying Germany to win Group A, 6 pts @ 1.45. Which way round was I doing this ? 6 pts means the backer is putting up 6 points. My liability is 2.7 . Poland are no mugs and who knows what Ecuador might do. Basically I'm backing the field in this group at better than 2-1, I like.

I hesitate slightly looking at France and Spain. France's problems have been documented here lately. I've read two separate reports today stating that Raul is shot and Spain are basically in disarray. The trouble is, they both have really cheesy-looking groups. But I don't remember France's group looking so tough in 2002 and they didn't even score a frigging goal. So, courage to the sticking post and all that, lay France to win Group G, 6 pts @ 1.47 and Spain to win Group H, 5 pts @ 1.69.

I'm not tempted by any more of those ; Portugal and England look reasonably priced, Brazil are nailed on (but not quite backable at 1.3) and the other groups are more open.

I suppose I really ought to back someone to win it. Sigh. I can't see past Brazil although I'm not entirely sure the odds justify them winning 4 knockout ties, what with all the luck factor. I can't really summon up the confidence to back anyone else to go all the way though, I'll stick with my semi-final bets for the other teams I like (or dislike the least in truth). 10 pts on Brazil to win @ 4.

That should tide us over till the match betting starts ! What a jamboree of football it's going to be. Predictably, the BBC's promise of Internet coverage has turned to dust, once you dig far enough into it there's only a small list of ISPs who support it, most of whom I've never heard of and are presumably the Noble Pokers of the ISP world. Bollocks to them (the BBC), I'll just watch it at work and in the gym. So there !

Update : I have just realised that Ecuador are rubbish, unless any of their games are at Base Camp 3. Which they aren't. It's still a bet though.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Domo A Regato Mr Roboto

All hail the dancing robot. When QPR sold Peter Crouch to Portsmouth, they should have added a sell on clause. If Crouch scores in the World Cup Finals, you will pay us one meeeeellion dollars. When they had stopped laughing, Portsmouth would have said fine, how about two.

Graham Taylor, no stranger to dogs' abuse, pointed out yesterday that when someone attracts too much unfair criticism, the more reasonable majority will tend to get behind them. So it seems with Crouch, who is now playing with confidence (too much confidence on the penalty), and clearly has the backing of his team mates and fans. As such he's a half decent bet to be England's top scorer in Germany, 3 pts @ 6.8. Do it for the Superhoops Pete.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Victory Is Mine

The BBC has caved in to the demands I would have made if I had got around to it and are broadcasting World Cup matches live on the Internet. Before we celebrate too soon it remains to be seen whether the footage is watchable or jerkier than Peter Crouch on the dancefloor. Come on though, what more do you need ? Throw your TV into the bin today.

Let The Madness Begin

I was going to write a spiel about how everyone has their problems, but someone already did it. I think he's probably overstating the case for Brazil and Argentina, but I definitely agree that just about all the European contenders have major weaknesses. It's enough to make you think "if only Rooney was fit ...". But he isn't. It's looking more and more like the dancing robot is going to lead the line. Hats off to him for the goal celebration against Hungary though, at least he has a sense of humour.

Anyhoo, I'm starting to trawl Betfair for some hopeful punts. The question is, how can you back a team that you fancy to do well, but who you know aren't going to win it. Of course you can back them anyway and lay it off later, but I don't like doing that and you're always in danger of second-guessing yourself. On Betfair, the market to catch my eye is the "Final Four" market, where we can bet teams to reach the semi-final stage.

The first point in favour is that it currently adds up to 403%, which is a very small vig to overcome (there being 4 winners of course). The second is that the vagaries of the draw can help us out here. Have a look at it yourself, but in brief, Groups A-D are self-contained up until the semi-final. So of course are E-H. A team in Group A-D cannot play a team from Group E-H until the semi-final. So with this market we can immediately split the competition into two completely separate halves. Further to that, we can make some reasonable guesses as to which teams will contest which quarters. Of course there will be a surprise group winner or two (more on that later), but at least this can't catapult one of our Group A-D teams into the other half of the draw and a possible meeting with clear and justified favourites Brazil.

One by one, here we go then. Quarter-Final number one (QF1) will be contested by some combination of 1st in Group A (A1), B2, C1 and D2. Which looks a bit like Germany (3 on Betfair to reach the semis), Sweden (8), Argentina (3) and Mexico (8). I've got to go with Argentina here. Germany are a poor side and surely home advantage and their usual stubbornness isn't enough to pick them at the same price. 3 pts on Argentina @ 3.0.

QF3 is contested by A2, B1, C2 and D1. We're looking at Poland (18), England (2.8), Holland (3.55) or Ivory Coast (18) and Portugal (5.5). Poland look fucking huge at 18. Yes, England and Holland are better. But those odds are mighty tempting. Ivory Coast are the same price but they have a much more difficult task just to get through the group. 2 pts on Poland @ 18 (with the option of laying some of this back if applicable). Note that the teams I have discounted in this half of the draw are Ecuador (55), Costa Rica (90), Paraguay (27), T & T (110), S & M (17.5), Iran (55) and Angola (100).

Into the other half of the draw. QF2 is between E1, F2, G1 and H2. We're looking at Italy (3.1), Croatia (15.5) or Australia (23), France (3.4) and Ukraine (9.4). It has to be 3 pts on Italy @ 3.1. The downside is that if they don't win a tough group, they could meet Brazil in the second round. It's still the bet though. I wouldn't back France with monopoly money.

Finally QF4 is E2, F1, G2 and H1. Which ought to be something like USA (19) or Czech Rep (6.8), Brazil (1.73), Spain (4), South Korea (30) or Switzerland (17). If you add those up as percentages it's well over 100 (unlike the other three), so no bet here, although if you have to Brazil isn't a bad bet to reach the semis at 1.73. Discounted in this half of the draw are Ghana (38), Japan (46), Togo (110), Tunisia (60) and Saudi Arabia (130).