Belfast Telegraph

The Punter: The hand of odd is on Maradona

Argentina are emerging as the public’s choice to lift the World Cup in South Africa in what is expected to be the biggest betting event of all time involving 64 matches starting on Friday for a month-filled football fiesta.

The Argentines, now under the control of all-time great Diego Maradona, have been punted from 15-2 down to 13-2 in a market topped by Spain at 4-1.

All major firms have England at a false price of 7-1 in anticipation of a ‘patriotic punt’ but that’s not likely to gather momentum on this side of the pond.

Naturally, with players such as Messi, Tevez, Milito and Higuain to call upon, many will see Argentina as potential winners for the first time since 1986.

However, they struggled to qualify and Maradona has caused a few surprises in naming his final squad with no place for the likes of Esteban Cambiasso and Juan Roman Riquelme.

England’s Group C rivals Slovenia (300-1) are the least backed team in the tournament while more have supported North Korea rather than South Korea.

Wayne Rooney is also the best supported man to be player of the tournament (16-1), taking up 10 per cent of all bets, but Peter Crouch (pictured) is fancied to be England’s top goalscorer (11-2), with 68% of the market.

Amazingly, 25 Paddy Power punters have faith in Emile Heskey at 100-1 to win the ‘golden boot’. With only seven goals in 58 internationals, he has little chance.

No great shock in seeing the most popular final on July 11 as being that between Spain and Brazil. The price is 10-1 and already 20% have latched on to that.

England have been well supported at 7-2 to exit at the semi-final stage, taking 29% of the market while a similar percentage believe the quarters is as far as they will go (100-30). The last 16 is 9-4 and not to qualify (8-1).

Outright Betting: 4-1 Spain; 9-2 Brazil; 13-2 Argentina; 7-1 England; 10-1 Holland; 14-1 Germany; 16-1 Italy; 20-1 France; 22-1 Portugal; 50-1 Ivory Coast; 66-1 Serbia; 70-1 Chile; 80-1 Mexico, USA; 100-1 Cameroon, Paraguay, Uruguay, Ghana.

Golden Boot: The betting plunge continues on Robin Van Persie at 12-1. He was 25-1 two weeks ago. Others: 8-1 David Villa; 9-1 Lionel Messi; 12-1 van Persie; F Torres, L Fabiano; 16-1 C Ronaldo; 25-1 G Higuain, D Milito; 33-1 P Crouch, D Drogba, M Klose Nilmar, C Tevez; 40-1 A Robben.

Winning team and top goalscorer doubles: 18-1 Spain/Villa; 25-1 Spain/Torres; 25-1 Brazil/Fabiano; 28-1 England/Rooney; Argentina/Messi; 40-1 Argentina/Higuain; 40-1 Holland/Van Persie; 50-1 Portugal/Ronaldo; 66-1 Argentina/Aguero; 80-1 Argentina/Tevez; Brazil with either Kaka, Nilmar or Robinho.

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