No group has been anticipating the start of World Cup action more keenly than the bookmakers and betting-exchange operators who expect to break all records for money wagered over the next month.
They have come up with a tempting array of prices on every conceivable market from the top Premiership striker in the tournament (Thierry Henry is 9-2 favourite with Coral) to the toe of England's prize asset and whether it will prevent him taking to the pitch.
The temptation is to dive in before a ball has been kicked, form assessed, and the less familiar countries and players scrutinised. Patience and discipline are essential if punters are to last the distance. Today, for example, the prospect of the hosts routing Costa Rica in the opening match means bookmakers are, unusually, offering the same sort of odds against a 3-0 German victory as for a 1-0 home win. The pressures of opening the tournament often cause host teams to underachieve and a 2-0 win at a top-priced 11-2 with the Tote may be the best bet.
Miroslav Klose has been in devastating form for club and country and is as low as 5-2 to open the scoring. More predictable is that Klose, who finished runner-up to Ronaldo in pursuit of the Golden Boot four years ago, will emerge as Germany's top scorer. The 15-8 on offer with Ladbrokes looks decent value, particularly as a potential rival in Michael Ballack will miss this opening encounter.
* A William Hill customer is reported by the firm to have staked the biggest ever World Cup bet - and he has placed it on England. The man placed the bet of £150,000 in a central London betting shop at odds of 6-1, and stands to make a profit of £900,000 on his wager. England are still on offer at odds of 7-1 with Coral and Ladbrokes.Reuse content