Hello again, dear reader, Matt here for a change ;) with a few thoughts on Euro 2008 before I descend into the intoxicating carnage that will be the champagne bar at Epsom this afternoon...
Before I start, I just want to say a big thank you to Gavin for his excellent posts on the Coronation Cup and Oaks (and I know he has another on the Derby lined up for you later!).
So, Gavin, THANK YOU!
Ok, that now complete, let's take a whistlestop tour of the wagers I will be striking / have struck / recommend you consider striking on the forthcoming footyfest in those hardcore hotbeds of the game, er, Switzerland and Austria...
Knowing as I did that I wouldn't be writing on the subject until quite late in the day, I was very worried that the Racing Post would put up all my selections in their fantastic 64-pager yesterday.
Mercifully, assuming they don't have a monopoly on winning wagers, they disagree with me on a number of things. So one of us will end up with albumen on physiog (that's egg on face to you!)...
So, without any further further ado, let's proceed to the sunny side of the punting street:
As you probably know (or alternatively you probably don't care), there are sixteen teams competing, and none of the home nations are among them.
In one respect, this makes it a tad easier to be objective about the sides who are there, and their respective chances.
Four years ago, Greece shocked and stunned everyone (as well as pretty much bored them into a torpor), with their unique brand (or should that be bland) of nicking a goal and dulling it out for the rest of the ninety. They were available at 100/1 pre-tournament.
There will be no repeat: the cat is out of the bag, and that is that.
But I think I have found a value bet nevertheless. Before I tell you who it is, let us very briefly touch on the notion of value.
Value is an oft misunderstood term. Because a horse is 20/1 it is not value necessarily. In fact, most 20/1 shots (certainly more than 20 out of 21) get royally thumped. I would not take 20/1 about a pony of Blackpool beach winning the Derby (although he'd clearly be bigger than 20/1 you get my drift).
Conversely, because a horse is 8/11, that does not necessarily mean it is not value. Would you take 8/11 about it getting dark tonight around 9.45? Me too! That would be fantastic value despite the apparently short odds.
My point here is that value is not an absolute of price. Rather, it is a favourable comparison of the odds on offer against the perceived true chance of the horse winning. Now the phrase, 'perceived true chance' is quite likely an oxymoron. What I mean is that a view of the true chance of something happening is based on a ruleset.
For instance, I use the stats in TFS to identify what I believe to be the true chances of certain trainer's horses. I can then establish what I consider value in certain circumstances, and incorporating other factors.
The bottom line with all this verbosity? I think Germany are excellent value even though they are the 4/1 favourites. Why? Virtual home advantage; highly respected coach; solid at the back (with the possible / probable exception of Jens the Comedy Keeper); extremely hard working in midfield, but also creative (Ballack and Schweinsteiger both have shots at the player of the tournament award); and with masses of firepower up front in Miroslav Klose and Mario Gomez (Klose has been misfiring but he's proven and you can be confident he'll love the service he's going to get).
[Incidentally, I love the fact that the Germans have a Pole - Klose - and a Spaniard - Gomez - playing up top for 'em!]
Add to the strengths of the team the weakness of their group (Croatia, Poland, Austria) and of their half of the draw (according to the market, they will play Czech Republic in the quarters, Portugal in the semis, and Spain or Italy in the final).
It's fair to say that the aging Czechs are a decent side on their day. But Germany beat them 3-0 in qualifying, and will have the edge again.
Portugal are interesting in the semi (by which time we can probably trade out at 6/4 anyway, which would be the recommended play), but ultimately Ronaldo's brilliance will be unable to mask the abject striking talents of geriatric Nuno Gomes and misfiring Simao (7 goals in 30 games this season).
Indeed, though I have said I think their group is weak, I actually believe the team who will also qualify from that section is the likeliest outsider. Croatia beat England twice and, goalkeeping comedies aside, were the better team in both games.
They are a fiercely proud nation, still in its teenage years since independence (remember, Yugoslavia were withdrawn in 1992, when their replacements Denmark won, because of the war that gave birth to Croatia... and also saw millions of Slavs buried, I'm afraid.)
I was lucky enough to have a holiday in Croatia last year, and these are a tremendously hospitable people. They are also nationalistic beyond what would be deemed acceptable here. I obviously don't condone that sort of bigotry or ignorance, and I think / hope they will rapidly outgrow it.
My point is that they will play for the shirt in a way that the Dutch for instance never have (and, dare I say it, nor do the English, despite all their tabloid posturing to the contrary).
They have brilliant technical players and, if Slaven Bilic, the wily ex-Toffee / Hammer with a law qualification, can get the wheels oiled, this train could stop at all stations to the final.
I'm especially looking forward to seeing Spurs' new boy, Luka Modric, about whom I've heard only great things but seen nothing.
Onto the top scorer market, and I've had a lot of success in this over the years, including Milan Baros at 50/1 and Klose in the World Cup at 25/1.
This year, I'll take two: Klose and Gomez. Available at 11/1 and 20/1 respectively, you might think that they will be obliged to share the goals. And you might be right. Add in the fact that Lukas Podolski is also in the squad (with 25 strikes in 48 internationals to his name), and so is Ballack (36 in 81, and takes penalties), and you may think I'm crazy.
I am certain that Germany will go deep in this tournament, I think they are capable of embarrassing both the Poles and the Austrians in their group (although they do have strong rivalries with both), and I believe this team will score a LOT of goals.
If I'm wrong, I'll have done my dough on the boot market. So what?! I'll collect on the Germans overall. :o)
Elsewhere, some interesting wagers for me are:
- Germany to win and either Klose or Gomez to be top scorer at 20/1 and 45/1 respectively.
- Czech Republic to qualify from their group at what I consider to be a standout 5/6 with Ladbrokes.
- Top German scorer Mario Gomez at 5/1 (if they're 11 and 20 in the outrights, then surely 6/4 Klose and 5/1 Gomez is too much of a disparity at intra-team level?!)
And a big tournament would not be a big tournament without some sort of prediction on the bookings. Go long, and cheer dirty tackles is my advice! :oP
I love nothing more than a high cards game, and Switzerland - Turkey could just be the rocket fuelled encounter we're looking for. Why?
Check out this link from the BBC website reporting on their previous encounter, in no lesser game than the World Cup playoff to see who would qualify. Switzerland prevailed. And, erm, Turkey didn't like it!Switzerland - Turkey: buy the cards, and prey for a Spanish ref!!!
Finally, a couple of lays: France are well past it and cannot win. Spain are as desperate in the underachievement stakes as England (but at least they made the tournament), and will go home early.
That's all of it really, except to say that I'm very excited and can't wait for the action to get underway. Just don't talk to me if Germany head for the ausgang prematurely...
The Oats and Barley - sorry, Oaks and Derby - aside, and there is a glut of racing over the weekend.
TFS continues in fine form and its sole runner yesterday stormed home at the fat juicy odds of 11/1. We're now a deeply satisfying 70 points up on the season already (see the results here
), and you can still get a free week subscription - just in time for a bad run, no doubt! ;o)
For those that are wondering, we have a somewhat curious situation tonight, in that the 7.20 at Goodwood has no fewer than FIVE potential qualifiers in a field of ten. Crazier yet, they will probably all be 14/1 or shorter.
So what to do in a situation like this? There are three options, one official and two unofficial: officially, you back all of those that are 14/1 or shorter. Unofficially, if this doesn't float your boat, you can either dutch them (i.e. split your stake across the group) or pass on the race.
I've put them all into my bot and will back them if the odds are appropriate. (Rather, my bot will. I'll be blooted and - if I can still stand - at Wimbledon cheering my dog, Dog Biscuit Too, home in the A5 at 21:15).
While we're at Goodwood, there's a big field 1m1f race, where the draw will likely be material. High is where to be. I suspect that the fact that these are amateur riders will accentuate the effect of the draw, rather than negate it.
My two against the field from favourable berths are Palmetto Point and He's Mine Too. Julia's son, Ross Birkett, rides Ruffie, but he's got a lot to do here...
Finally, in the last race at Epsom tomorrow, Gift Horse - the winner in 2005 - looks to have strong claims for master Epsom sprint trainer, Dandy Nicholls.
He's had two cobweb cleaning runs, has Jamie Spencer aboard, and looks well boxed in trap 6 (8 of last ten winners were drawn 10 or lower in big fields).
I'm off for some bubbles and - hopefully - a big 'oi oi' as Getaway scoots clear down in Surrey.
Enjoy the Oaks and Derby, and look out for Gavin's Blue Riband preview later today.