Pie, have you forsaken me?
Pricing up a football match is a lot like baking a pie. Get all the ingredients right and you have a sweet smelling pastry that will attract interest from afar; get the ingredients wrong, and you`re left with a concoction so inedible, even Brazilian waddler Ronaldo would refuse to eat it all.
If a full strength England were to meet a full strength Portugal, the majority of handsome, highly intelligent, sexually potent odds compilers would make England slight favourites. Decimate the Portuguese team with suspensions and injuries, and England`s odds must fall like Arjen Robben in a penalty area.
A couple of bookmakers appear to have left the 'team news` ingredient out of their respective pies, they`re offering England at a huge 6/5 against a Portugal side riddled with reserves. If you don`t take advantage of this oversight, you`re basically condoning their behaviour. If there`s one thing I can`t stand, it`s a bad pastry.
Big Phil may have got the better of Sven in the last two tournaments, one more win for Scolari would allow him to take Sven home for keeps, but thanks to a card happy refereeing maniac, Portuguese dreams ended the moment Deco saw red. Take advantage by backing England to be winning at half time and full time at 13/5.
Historically, England have been the better team. The 1966 World Cup winners used Portugal as a stepping stone, and Tom Finney and Stanley Matthews once inspired the Lions to a 10-0 win in Lisbon. The more cynical amongst you may feel the need to question the relevance of form from the 1940`s, but it all adds to a feeling of genuine optimism. A 10-0 win for England can be safely ruled out, but a 2-0 victory looks bang on the money, 8/1 is available.
England have a goalkeeper of genuine quality in Paul Robinson, but his recent performances have left a question mark hanging in the air. (If it was David James, he would have flapped at it before philosophically pondering the complexities of life while Pauleta rolled it into an empty net.) An England clean sheet has been priced up at 6/4, and that`s a Peter Crouch price, it`s too big and it shouldn`t really be there.
John Terry has been lined up to deliver a motivational speech in the dressing room before the match, I`m guessing he`ll be holding a razor while declaring that bouncers don`t like it up 'em. Terry looked wobbly against Ecuador, it`s 9/1 that he makes amends by scoring with a header.
Sven`s bold decision to play a 4-5-1 against Ecuador freed up Lampard and Gerrard as expected, but Frank hardly covered himself in glory. Lampard had such a disappointing match, at the end of the game he tried to shake hands with the ref and missed by a good five yards. Frank scoring from outside the area has been priced up at 11/2, he`s due.
I refuse to shy away from asking the tough questions. Is it true that Victoria Beckham was the inspiration for the Robert De Niro film 'WAG the dog`? Sorry, that`s a trifle harsh, on the poor pooch. Vicky did jump up like an excited Chihuahua when Becks curled in the winner against Ecuador, hopefully, I`ll get to see her excited again. Becks threw up after scoring, a scenario I`m more than familiar with; Golden Balls is an 8/1 shot to score direct from a free-kick for the second match running.
Brazil face France on Saturday night, and the Samba Boys have to be opposed. Ronaldo may be the greatest World Cup goal scorer of all-time, but his lack of mobility will prove to be a hindrance now they finally face quality opposition. How can Brazil play with a striker who has to stay five yards in front of the last French defender, in order to keep his stomach from drifting into an offside position? He can`t use his body weight to challenge a defender, as it could lead to a charge of attempted murder. The French are the call at 4/1.
Thierry Henry was a little bit naughty against the Spanish, rolling on the floor clutching his face like he was Phil Neville in a house of mirrors. It could be that his: "Next time i`ll learn to dive maybe, but i am not a woman," outburst after the Champions League final was actually a statement of intent. Henry glides like a ballerina and even when he scores, he has the facial expression of a lady who has 'the decorators in`. Teri can still play though; take 7/1 about Henry opening the scoring.
I`m not going to waste your time by going into too much detail on Friday`s quarter finals, as the Argies and the Italians are such nailed on, in the bag, already past the post, absolutely raging certainties. The Friday double pays out at a healthy 10/3.
Germany v Argentina Friday 30th June 16.00
Get on: Argentina
"Big Max" - Maxi Rodriguez to score with a header 10/1
Italy v Ukraine Friday 30th June 20.00
Get on: Italy
"Pirl jam" - Pirlo to score direct from a free-kick 10/1
England v Portugal Saturday 1st July 16.00
Get on: England
"My name is Hurl" - David Beckham to score at any time 4/1
Brazil v France Saturday 1st July 20.00
Get on: France
"Thierry, wait" - Henry to score in the second half 5/1