Sports Betting: Draw the sting from low Wembley odds

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The Independent Online
Just how many of Glenn Hoddle's preferred first team will be fit to take the field at Wembley on Wednesday remains unclear, but bookmakers hoping to turn the World Cup qualifier against Italy into one of the biggest sporting money-spinners of the year have had little choice but to price up the game anyway. And if the odds are any indication, it should be a close and exciting match.

England, predictably, are favourites at a top price of 6-4, but an Italian victory is only a 15-8 chance (Ladbrokes), with a draw at 2-1. British punters, of course, have enjoyed numerous examples of the potent weaponry at Cesare Maldini's disposal during the current Premiership campaign, and while the odds on a game such as this will always have a slight "patriotism factor" built in, in this instance it will be negligible.

As a result, the standard value-seeker's option - oppose England - is less attractive than usual, and the advice must be to either enjoy the match without the need for a bet, or to back the draw, which is the outsider of the three options and yet, some would argue, the most plausible. Meetings of such importance at international level, between two apparently well- matched teams, will always be cautious affairs, and a low-scoring, indeed possibly scoreless, stalemate is a distinct possibility.

After Lennox Lewis's bizarre victory over Oliver McCall, William Hill quote odds of 500-1 if Lewis can unify the heavyweight division by 18 May 1998.

ENGLAND v ITALY: Best prices: 6-4 England (Hills), 7-4 Italy (Ladbrokes), 2-1 draw (Coral).

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