James Moore: Losing streak

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The Independent Online

Today's bets: South Africa to beat France at 9-4 (Stan James)

Mexico to beat Uruguay at 3-1 (Ladbrokes)



Does 5-6 represent value for the draw between Uruguay and Mexico? I've been puzzling over this.

On the face of it, backing the draw makes all sorts of sense because that result guarantees that both sides go through. Naturally both are talking about how they're taking it terribly seriously and not even thinking about playing for a draw. The bookies don't believe them, hence the price.

On the other hand there's a very good reason for Mexico to play to win. A draw will hand the group to Uruguay, setting up a tie with one of Greece, Nigeria or South Korea and leaving Mexico to the tender mercies of Lionel Messi and Argentina. Needless to say, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see which is the preferable second-round draw.

I don't fancy Argentina to win the whole tournament – I still think they could come unstuck against better opposition with Diego Maradona at the helm. But here's the thing, they're joint favourites now for a reason; they have looked pretty impressive to date. If "Moobs" is proving to be a handicap it hasn't been much in evidence so far. Mexico, then, would appear to have ample motivation to go all out for the win. And 3-1 represents some cracking value.

Mexico looked, well, ordinary in their warm-up game against England. But they have a good record in this tournament and their performances to date suggest we can ignore the display against Fabio Capello's clots. The 9-4 on South Africa to beat France looks like a more risky option, on the face of it. But there are reasons for thinking the hosts could pull this off.

France have looked even worse than England to date (yes, that is possible) and the discord in their camp makes the tensions between Capello and his players seem like a mild tiff.

South Africa might appear to have little to play for – it would require a freakish series of results for them to qualify – but pride will be a massive motivating factor. They will not want to go out as hosts having lost all three. France, by contrast, seem not to care. So a bet on South Africa to win is not as crazy as it seems. In the meantime, for the tournament, just back Brazil. You can still get 9-2 with Austrian bookie bwin. That's amazing value if you think about it.

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