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07/09/2007 No.21
Dan Roebuck
Friday September 7, 2007
  Expect England to beat Israel but do not bet on a high-scoring game

The early money ahead of England's Euro 2008 qualifier against Israel has come for the home side, with Ladbrokes reporting brisk business since they issued match prices this week. "All the money, as you'd expect, has been for England" said their spokesman Robin Hutchison.

What punters have to work out, though, is whether Steve McClaren's side are a value bet at Blue Square and VC Bet's standout offer of 4-11. Boyle Sports and Paddy Power are biggest about the draw at 7-2 while Israel can be backed at 10-1 with Betfred and Power.

Bookmakers always offer artificially short prices about England as they know patriotic punters will back them at any price, although they do believe top spot in Group E is probably beyond them. England are 7-2 with Sky Bet to win their section, behind Croatia, the 8...#8209;11 favourites (Stan James and Totesport).

McClaren's time as coach could be up if England fail to win. Ladbrokes offer 8-13 he will be in charge of England at the start of the finals with Fabio Capello and Terry Venables 6-1 joint favourites to take over. William Hill make England 4-7 to qualify for the finals next summer and 5-4 they miss out. Betfred and Sportingbet are best about them winning at 10-1.

England should win tomorrow but it will not be easy as Israel are unbeaten on their travels in qualification so far. They will be tough to break down and will play for a draw. While they might not get it, I can see them holding England until half-time at least. In seven qualifiers so far, England have gone into the break all square on five occasions, which suggests the 7-4 Betfred are offering about a draw after 45 minutes is a value punt. Those that still believe McClaren's side will prevail could back draw/England on the half-time/full-time double result market at a general 7-2.

The lack of options up front should also worry England backers. The inclusion of Emile Heskey after three years away has prompted plenty of special bets. Ladbrokes reckon his recall is a short-term fix, as they quote 11-4 he will reach 50 caps and 1-4 he does not (he currently has 43). Ladbrokes also offer 7-4 he scores once in the games against Israel and Russia, 9-1 twice and 14-1 three or more. Heskey is a best- price 7-1 with Coral and Sky Bet to score the first goal of the game, with Michael Owen the general 4-1 favourite.

However, as there are question marks over the form, fitness or quality of all of England's available strikers, it might pay to look elsewhere in this market. Therefore, a speculative interest on John Terry to score first at 20-1 with Betfred is the advice. It is possible England's best chance of scoring against Israel will come from a set piece and the Chelsea defender is always a threat from corners. Back him each-way, meaning you get paid at half odds if he scores the second or third goal.

Admittedly, it is unlikely England will score three times - Power will lay you 7-2 they do - as goals have been scarce recently. Sportingbet offer 9-10 about fewer than three goals in the match and that looks a value play. Take out the two games against Andorra and England's qualifiers average just over a goal a game (six in five fixtures). Israel's 0-0 home draw with England should be a pointer. Spread bettors are advised to sell total goals in the match with Sporting Index at 2.5.

Sell total goals in the match with Sporting Index at 2.5. (click above - Sporting Index)

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