Stan Hey: 6-5 against: Diego can do it

Click to follow
The Independent Online

If you hate football then you have just six days to plan your escape. From next Friday there will be three weeks packed with no fewer than 48 games. And that's just the group stages of the World Cup. If you're looking for a football-free holiday in Europe, try Sweden, Croatia or, er, Scotland. But if 72 hours of football in 21 days is your idea of bliss, you can become a King Edward of couch potatoes.

A patriotic fortune will pile on to England at 7-1 (Ladbrokes, Paddy Power, Totesport) next week. Yet history is against us – less to do with form than mischance. From 1970 the defining moments have been Gordon Banks' dicky tummy; missed header by Kevin Keegan (1982); Hand of God (1986); penalty shoot-out (1990); red card and penalty shoot-out (1998); goalie blunder (2002); red card and penalty shoot-out (2006); and now Rio's knee?

If England break this pattern and win Group C they have a plausible route to a semi-final. There, big dangers lurk – maybe the Netherlands (11-1 Ladbrokes) or Italy (16-1 Blue Square); possibly Portugal 28-1 (Bet 365), more likely Brazil (9-2); or tournament favourites Spain (4-1).

But I fear that Fifa's worst nightmare will come true – a Diego Maradona-coached Argentina lifting the trophy. They have a stack of goals in Lionel Messi and Carlos Tevez, and scheming to World Cup finals is in Maradona's DNA. This hurts, but £20 goes on Paddy Power's 7-1. The top scorer can be the rejuvenated Robin van Persie, £20 at 16-1 (Totesport). Another Dutchman, Jan Vermeer, can win the Derby today – £20 at 9-4.

Comments