James Corrigan: Losing Streak (24/06/10)

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The Independent Football

Today's bet: Slovakia v Italy. Draw at 16-5

Top of your head assessments. That's what the World Cup is all about. There's no way Italy could fail to beat a side beginning with Slov, while the likelihood of the Japanese putting in anything but a plucky performance against Denmark is right up there with Switzerland beating Spain.

Or France losing to Mexico. Or France losing to South Africa. Or France drawing with Uruguay. Or England beating anyone before the miracle of Port Elizabeth...

Hang on, there's a trend developing here, a trend after which the British bookie long ago named his Algarve villa. Welcome to "Mug Punter", a lovely little pad, bought and paid for by football's great illusion: European teams are any good at this game.

So today's advice is simple and scientifically based on the evidence of the overflowing minus columns of my betting account. I've worked out that if I backed against a European side every time I've backed them in this damned tournament so far I'd now be £186.13 in credit. Instead my deficit requires an emergency budget.

But we've seen in 90 minutes how futile causes can become impending glory. All is not lost. It's just been temporarily taken off our debit cards.

So do we lump on Slovakia to beat the holders? And then double up on the Land of the Rising Sun to cast further blackness all across the Land of Ever-Present Moon? Well, no. The second easiest path to ruin – after backing every short favourite – is backing every rank outsider. Look at it this way. Would Slovakia really beat Italy once in every five games? At 6-1 (Victor Chandler) that is what they would have to do to justify their price.

Except you're not betting on five games you're betting on one. And it just so happens to be one in which so much pressure will be on the Italians they will feel like Luciano Pavarotti up against Paul Potts in the final of X-Factor. They have to win because their status says they must. The pressure on Marcello Lippi is so intense that when his lot is put next to that of Fabio Capello the England Italian should resemble Dylan off The Magic Roundabout.

Italy don't possess a goalscorer, or a playmaker, and that's when expectation bites hardest. But then again, neither do Slovakia. Back the draw at 16-5 (Totesport) and watch the defending champions scrape through. Uneasy lies the crown. Especially when it's resting on top of 11 hairbands.