Despite His White Boots

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

Thursday, June 01, 2006

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).


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