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16/11/2007 No.28
Dan Roebuck
Friday November 16, 2007
  Beat Russia and win a Merc - that's a Done deal for Israel and punters

One bookmaker has come up with an unusual offer in an attempt to put England's hopes of qualifying for next summer's European Championship back into their own hands. For that to happen, of course, Israel must take points off Russia in Tel Aviv tomorrow. Steve McClaren has been insisting that all is not lost for England, saying: "Going away to Israel is very, very tough. They are a proud nation. They have a great home record."

Something a little more tangible to the home coach's players, however, might be the £50,000 Mercedes that Betfred's owner, Fred Done, is offering to any Israel player who scores the winning goal against Guus Hiddink's side.

Done, moreover, is confident England will qualify somehow. His firm will lay you 12-1 about McClaren's side winning Euro 2008 with the insurance that if they do not qualify punters' money will be returned, with the caveat that all bets must be placed before the Israel v Russia kick-off. Although that price has shrunk from the 20-1 available last Saturday, when the concession was first announced, it remains a bet to nothing. Should England qualify bettors can lay the bet off at a shorter price thus guaranteeing profit whereas if they fail the money is returned.

Those with more faith can back England at 20-1 (Bet Direct and Ladbrokes) to win Euro 2008 or 9-4 (Totesport) to qualify for the finals. Ladbrokes offers just 2-5 they miss out featuring at the finals of a major tournament for the first time since 1994. At the head of the outright market, Germany are 11-2 (Coral) favourites, Italy 7-1 (Ladbrokes), Holland 8-1 (general), France 8-1 (general) and Spain 9-1 (Ladbrokes).

A better bet to win Euro 2008 could be Portugal at 10-1 (general). They lost to Greece in the final in the last European Championship before reaching the semi-finals in last summer's World Cup so a speculative each-way ante-post punt at double-figure odds could reap rewards.

For the game all England fans will be watching tomorrow, Russia are 8-15 (Stan James), Israel 13-2 (Bet365) with the draw 16-5 (Bet365). The pair drew 1-1 in Moscow just over a year ago, but then Israel, obviously, had something to play for. Without the injured Yossi Benayoun Israel look short of creativity and, as they have not scored in their last two qualifiers, they probably will not trouble a Russian side that have managed seven clean sheets in 10 Group E fixtures. Paddy Power's offer of 4-5 about Russia shutting out Israel, therefore, looks worth taking.

Of course McClaren will be hoping Israel can also keep a clean sheet (9-2 with Paddy Power) as their defeat could mean the end of his reign as England's head coach. Ladbrokes offers 4-6 that tonight's friendly with Austria will be his last in charge of the national side, with Martin O'Neill 5-2 favourite to take over.

England are 4-5 (Totesport) to beat Austria, who trade at 9-2 (Bet365) with the draw 5-2 (Boyle Sports and Power). Whether next Wednesday's qualifier against Croatia will have any meaning is unknown, so bookmakers are reluctant to price it up. Paddy Power, though, go 5-1 about Slaven Bilic's side winning at Wembley, with England 1-2 and 5-2 the draw.

Scotland are 5-2 (Power) to make it to Austria and Switzerland next year and 1-3 (general) not to. They will definitely qualify if they defeat Italy. Alex McLeish's men are rated as 11-4 (general) to do so, the world champions 11-10 (general) and the draw 9-4 (Betfred). The Azzurri have won their last four away qualifiers but a draw would almost certainly be enough for them to qualify as they play the Faroe Islands next Wednesday at home in their last Group B fixture. Scotland are unbeaten at home during qualification and have not failed to score on home turf for more than two years. The last two meetings at Hampden Park between these two sides ended all square and that looks the best bet tomorrow.

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