James Moore: Losing streak

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The Independent Football

Today's bet: Italy to win 1-0 (with a saver on a 0-0 draw)

First off, a tip for those who play the stock market: I'd be selling companies that make sleeping tablets this morning. A DVD of Slovenia against Algeria with a side order of France's stuttering performance against Uruguay should cure even previously hopeless insomniacs more effectively than a double dose of elephant tranquiliser.

In the event that any more is required, tonight's Italy-Paraguay clash can provide it. Everything looks set for a third act of this tragedy. Defence runs through the DNA of both these sides, and goalmouth incident could prove to be as rare as a keeper blaming themselves rather than the ball for their embarrassing bloopers.

It's a mark of how little confidence there is in Italy that the odds of them winning this encounter are still just better than evens.

Given their respective rankings, the boys in blue really ought to be odds on. They are unbeaten in their last nine meetings with South American sides, while Paraguay have won only one of their last 11 World Cup ties against European sides.

So despite some dubious results in qualifying – only a last-minute equaliser from Alberto Gilardino against Ireland saved Italy from the tender mercies (should that be mercis?) of Thierry Henry's hand – they should still beat Paraguay. The latter might have qualified joint second from the South American group, even beating Brazil along the way, but the finals are another matter. Don't bother with a straight win bet, though, when you can get a 1-0 victory at 11-2 with both Blue Square and Victor Chandler. Sometimes the obvious choice is the right one and it's hard to see any more than a goal coming from either of these sides.

In fact, I'd also be inclined to have a saver on neither of them hitting the back of the net. You can get 13-2 against that particular outcome.

Talking of the aforementioned yawnathon yesterday between Slovenia and the Algeria, it's hard to feel too concerned about even England's qualification prospects having watched it.

I suggested an England draw with the USA might offer value for pessimists at 100-30 in Saturday's column but take no pleasure in that being the right call. I doubt anyone will take much pleasure in watching Italy scrape a 1-0 victory against Paraguay either, but it looks like today's best bet.

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