James Moore: Losing Streak (11/06/10)

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The Independent Online

It seems like we've been here before: a major football tournament where Holland look just gorgeous and the Spanish are hotly tipped to end decades of under achievement.

England are a short price because a million patriotic Englishmen (and some women) have a hunch that, despite all the evidence to the contrary, this year will be different. And Italy and Germany look very ordinary.

Then there's Argentina. Don't they look like they've got it all? I mean, Messi and, erm Messi, and that's just for starters. Unfortunately they also have Diego Maradona as manager.

It remains a fact that a European team has yet to win outside the continent. Those who think that the weather in South Africa (it's their winter) favours the northern Europeans (like Germany) might care to remember that an awful lot of the South Americans ply their trade in Europe. That said, if the manager counts for anything, then Argentina can't win.

Spain, of course, got the "underachievement" monkey off their back by winning the European Championships in 2008 so can't be ignored. Holland, despite a huge plunge on them reported by the bookies, can be. They always slip up and at 9-1 the value has disappeared.

The "out of continent" issue says that if you're a favourite backer, just have done with it and go for Brazil. At the very least, they should be in any punter's portfolio to cover other bets. It's worth noting that more than 100 Brazilians played in the Champions League. And only about 15 Englishmen. Which says it all, really. At the Derby last week I met up with a former international and I asked him about England's chances. "I so desperately, desperately want England to win," he said. "That's what my heart says. But in reality, no chance."

I can't disagree. But with England getting dumped out on penalties at seemingly every finals they qualify for, I'll take the 7-2 William Hill is offering on that event. It's called emotional insurance. And I can't resist having Italy, available at 16-1, and Germany, at 14-1, in the portfolio. Yes they both look moderately awful. But Germany always look awful and have made the semis in seven of the last 10 finals. And Italy didn't look all that hot at the beginning of the last tournament. If a European team is to win outside the continent it's surely going to be one or the other.

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