England down to 7-1 third favourites for World Cup

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The revised odds for the World Cup in France next year are a striking reflection of how far English football has come since the European Championships a little over a year ago.

England were 16-1 to win the World Cup following their Euro 96 semi-final defeat by Germany, and 10-1 immediately before their match in Rome on Saturday night, but are now down to 7-1 with Ladbrokes, with just the holders, Brazil, and the hosts, France, rated more likely to lift the trophy.

Brazil are Ladbrokes' firm favourites, at 3-1, with France quoted at 5-1. Germany are bracketed with England on 7-1, ahead of the Netherlands (8-1) and Italy (10-1).

The Italians, of course, are not yet certain to qualify, and there are several very good sides in today's draw for the play-off games.

While English football continues to improve, meanwhile, so too does British tennis, and following Greg Rusedski's good run of form, Ladbrokes now offer just 7-1 for a British player winning Wimbledon next year. The individual odds are 10-1 against Rusedski and 16-1 Henman - a little mean, perhaps, but then Ladbrokes, like several other major bookies, have recently had to riffle through the file marked "Loony bets" to retrieve slips laid and then forgotten a few years ago concerning a British Wimbledon winner before the millennium.

Ladbrokes have five bets which would pay out a five-figure sum, with two punters holding tickets at 200-1.

The most interesting sports betting event of the next fortnight should be the race to the world drivers' championship, following Michael Schumacher's success in Japan, but betting is generally suspended since Jacques Villeneuve may well lose the two points he earned for finishing fifth.

WORLD CUP: Ladbrokes: 3-1 Brazil, 5-1 France, 7-1 England, Germany, 8- 1Netherlands, 10-1 Italy, 12-1 Spain, 14-1 Argentina, 25-1 Colombia, Nigeria, Norway, 33-1 Bulgaria, 80-1 Scotland, 200-1 Republic of Ireland.

(Other nations' prices quoted quoted on application).