Football World Cup: WORLD CUP BETTING

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WINNERS IN 1978 and 1986, successful 1-0 over the tournament favourites Brazil in an unfriendly friendly in Brazil recently and the only side in the competition with a 100 per cent record so far, Argentina look a good bet at 5-4 to beat England (maybe 2-1) in 90 minutes in St Etienne tonight.

Golden Boot favourite Gabriel Batistuta - the best bet at around 3-1 to be first goalscorer - and playmaker Ariel Ortega get the publicity but there is more to Argentina than that. Sampdoria's Juan Veron and Marcello Gallardo of River Plate are both driving forces in midfield and Diego Simeone and Javier Zanetti, who both hail from Internazionale's Uefa Cup- winning squad, are also capable of posing England problems.

David Seaman is one of the best goalkeepers in the world. But with only the ageing Tony Adams, and Sol Campbell - never mind that run against Colombia, remember what Marcelo Salas did to him at Wembley? - to protect him from Gabriel Batistuta, Seaman is going to need to be superman to keep a clean sheet.

Alan Shearer remains a reliable force and Michael Owen has the pace to cause problems but his failure to deliver the goods when clean through against Colombia is a timely remainder that Owen is not in the Ronaldo class yet and, while it looks great when it happens, even his underwear supplier would have to admit that David Beckham's strike-rate from free- kicks does not exactly put him in the Del Piero class.

The afternoon game between Romania and Croatia looks sure to be tight and could go into extra time after a draw (maybe 1-1) in 90 minutes. Romania play twin strikers but, whatever the formation, for Croatia everything revolves around Davor Suker and he looks the best bet to be first goalscorer.