Sports Betting: Fervour and form book point to Italian victory

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The Independent Online
Though they may be reluctant to tempt fate, quick-witted travel agents north of the border will already be putting together their package deals for the World Cup in France next year, since the betting on next Saturday's vital match between Scotland and Latvia implies that the Scots are little short of certainties to be making the trip. It will take a whole series of freak results to deny Craig Brown's side if they can simply beat the Latvians, and, with so much at stake, it is no surprise to find the home team all but unbackable at a best price of 1-6 with William Hill and Super Soccer.

England's crunch game in Rome, however, is a different matter, with all three possible outcomes likely to find plenty of backers. Italy, who must win to be sure of qualifying for the finals, are on offer at even money with Coral and Super Soccer, a price which implies that it is a shade of odds-on about England gaining at least a point and thus winning the group.

There is no doubting the confidence in the England camp that their mission in Rome will be successfully accomplished, even without the services of Alan Shearer. With punters' money likely to head in just one direction, meanwhile, the bookmakers are obliged to set their odds accordingly. As a result, though, backers who can quell their patriotism have been offered the rare chance to back one of the world's best sides at even money for a match in which nothing but victory will do.

Quite simply, the form book points squarely to an Italian win. Think back to the match at Wembley, when England were out of their depth and beaten rather more comprehensively than the 1-0 scoreline might suggest. This time, a wealth of Italian attacking talent will chase victory from the first whistle to the last and it is difficult to believe they will not beat David Seaman at least once.

WORLD CUP QUALIFIERS (Saturday): Best odds: Evens Italy (Coral, Super Soccer) 11-5 draw (Hills), 3-1 England (Ladbrokes). 1-6 Scotland (Hills, Super Soccer), 5-1 draw (Coral), 14-1 Latvia (Hills, Ladbrokes).