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The Punter: Layers in fear of euro '08

By Robert Fenton

What a difference a week makes.

Before the trips to Russia and Georgia, layers were quoting 7-1 that neither England or Scotland would qualify for the Euro '08 finals.

Now it is as low as 4-5 that none of the home nations make it to Switzerland and Austria - and that is giving bookmakers cause for concern as it could see a massive drop in betting turnover come next summer.

It's 10-11 that one will be successful.

Wales and the Republic of Ireland are already out and now bookmakers are facing the uncomfortable prospect of no country from the British Isles being at a major final for the first time since 1984.

That too, was in the European finals which had only seven places up for grabs plus the host nation France.

Now that the finals are made up of 16 teams, it will be an indictment against British football if none are there.

Scotland undoubtedly, have the best chance.

A win over Italy at Hampden on November 17 and 'Flower of Scotland' will echo across the Alps from Alex McLeish and the Tartan Army.

A draw will be sufficient for the Scots provided France lose in the Ukraine. Equally, if Italy lose at home or draw with the Faroe Islands but that just will not happen.

Steve McClaren needs Israel to throw England a lifeline, otherwise their final match at Wembley against Croatia will be meaningless.

Northern Ireland have a decent chance of beating Denmark at home on November 17 which would leave them needing to beat Spain, provided the latter fail to defeat Sweden.

Blue Square believe England can still make it, having cut their qualifying odds from 2-1 to 13-8.

Northern Ireland who were matched as low as 3.05 on Betfair to qualify, are now trading at 160 which is worth a few quid. After all, expect the unexpected where our boys are concerned.

As to who will be the first of the home nations to dispense with their managers, John Toshack is value at 15-8.

If you don't fancy England to qualify, then McClaren has to be the choice.

Betfair: To qualify from Group F (lay): 1.01 Sweden (1.02); 1.02 Spain (1.03); 15.7 Northern Ireland (160).

First home nations manager to lose his job. Evens McClaren; 15-8 John Toshack; 5-2 Nigel Worthington; 20-1 A McLeish.

Bet 365: British side to qualify for Euro 08: 4-5 no; 10-11 yes.

Stan's job going down the pan

Steve Staunton days are numbered as manager of the Republic of Ireland.

But not just yet. Expect him to still be in charge for the game with Wales.

That made the initial 8-11 on offer on Staunton being in charge of the final Euro 2008 fixture, a gift. Unfortunately, they quickly suspended the betting, preferring to concentrate on his successor.

Stan the man, is a dead man walking in football terms and the last rites are already being administered.

A failure to beat lowly Cyprus at least once in two meetings, is just not acceptable.

The bell tolls for Staunton and that will ring out after the final Euro fixture in Cardiff.

As for Steve's successor, it is hard to get excited about David O'Leary, Hill's 5-2 favourite and the 2-1 market leader with Paddy Power.

The latter offer 500-1 Jack Charlton and 12-1 Roy Keane but neither is a serious candidate.

Neither is Paul Jewell who is the odds-on fancy for the Bolton job.

Mind you, when you look at the list of candidates, there are few who jump out, making Brian Kerr at 100-1 for a return, as good as any.

The alternative - how about Steve McClaren at 50s (Paddy Power) provided England fail to qualify?

Who will leave their current position first: 1-3 Steve Staunton, 2-1 John Delaney (FIFA chief executive).

Ireland to qualify for World Cup 2010: 2-5 No, 7-4 Yes

Steer right Lewis course

What's this, Lewis Hamilton on offer at 33-1 (totesport) to break Michael Schumacher's record of seven World Championship titles?

Let's get the first one in before thinking of what must be pie-in-the-sky.

It's 50-1 Hamilton to win tomorrow and take the next five-in-a row to beat Schumacher's consecutive record achieved between 2000 and 2004.

Also, 6-1 is on offer for him to come crashing down and never wear the world crown.

More sensible is the 6-1 that Hamilton becomes the most successful British driver in F1.

As for tomorrow, Lewis is 2-5 to secure his moment in history by being the first rookie to secure the F1 title and 11-4 to win tomorrow's race.

Hamilton to win eight or more World Championships: 3-1; four or more titles 6-1; to win 2007-13 50-1; Never to win a title 6-1.

Brazilian Grand Prix: 13-8 Raikkonen, 2-1 Alonso, 11-4 Hamilton, 5 Massa, 33 Heidfeld, 40 Kubica 80-1 bar.

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