Britain's bookmakers will
have their fingers crossed that Spain are knocked out of Euro 2008 by Russia
tonight. After a disastrous start which saw the industry pay out more than
£5m when 75% of the better-backed teams won their group matches, the
layers have fought back with few bettors backing the draw in 90 minutes and
most knockout ties entering extra-time.
Before tonight's second
semi-final, however, Luis Aragonés's team are responsible for the
majority of liabilities for almost all bookmakers. "The worst result for us by
far would be victory for Spain," said William Hill's spokesman, Graham Sharpe,
whose firm has taken a £50,000 bet at 11-2 on the Group D winners.
Spain and Russia, of course, contested the
opening match in Group D, with Spain winning 4-1 (Blue Square and 888sport are
biggest price about a repeat of that scoreline at 66-1). No one predicts it
will be that easy for Spain tonight, although on the last three occasions when
one team has beaten another in a group game at a major tournament and the pair
have met again in the knockout stages the outcome has been the same.
appears the main reason Spain are a bigger price to beat Russia tonight than
they were a fortnight ago - 11-10 (Sky Bet) as opposed to 8-11 in the group
game - is because of the form of Andrei Arshavin. The Zenit St Petersburg
playmaker is only 4-1 with Sky Bet to be named as Uefa's player of the
tournament even though he was suspended for the first two games. Ladbrokes
offers only 6-4 Arshavin will be playing in the Premier League next season
although Paddy Power makes Barcelona, at 5-2, his most likely next employers,
with Arsenal 7-2.
There is no doubt Arshavin's presence in the starting
XI has made a big difference to Guus Hiddink's team but the question is whether
he can help land odds of 14-5 (general) about Russia defeating Spain without
extra-time or penalties; the draw in 90 minutes trades at 5-2 with Boylesports.
Bettors can back either side to win on spot-kicks at 10-1 (general), while
Spain are 11-1 (Bet365 and Ladbrokes) to win in extra-time with Russia 14-1
(Blue Square and 888sport).
Both teams deserved their quarter-final
wins over Italy and Holland respectively, although the Russians' extra-time
defeat of the Dutch, who were by then tournament favourites, was arguably the
more impressive result. With that win in mind, Russia are worth taking a chance
backing on VC Bet's Asian handicap market. Russia are priced at 11-10 and are
given a handicap mark of +0.25. Should Russia win, your bet wins while, if the
match is all square at 90 minutes, half your stake is settled at 11-10 and the
other half refunded. Only if Russia lose, will you fail to secure a profit.
Russia defended naively in their first match with Spain but Hiddink is
unlikely to let that happen again, even though the defender Denis Kolodin is
suspended. The gushing praise for Arshavin has meant the form of the three-goal
striker Roman Pavlyuchenko has, perhaps, been overlooked and at 15-2
(Boylesports and Sportingbet) he is a fair price to score the opener. Arshavin
is a 9-1 shot (Bet365 and Paddy Power) while Coral is taking a chance by going
top price with both David Villa and Fernando Torres at 6-1.
betting firms have noticed that both tonight's semi-finalists are the top two
in the "corners won" table, with Russia amassing 38 and Spain 24. However,
quotes of 10.75-11.25 for total corners from both IG Sport and Sporting Index
look too high. The two produced only 10 in their group fixture and, with
extra-time not counting in this market, a sell is advised.