The opening day of the Ballybrit marathon is upon us and while this meeting takes plenty of stamina, punters should get off to a flyer supporting well backed favourites.
5.10 – Dermot Weld has farmed this race in recent seasons and his representative here Manhattan Swing has the right credentials if his jumping proves up to the challenge. 11/4
5.40 – Tony Martin’s Artful Artist has gone up a whopping 28 pounds in the handicap on the Flat ratings and that if that improvement is translated to the jumps sphere, the 7/4 might looks very generous about 5.25. 7/4
6.10 – Effectively a match between O’Brien’s Jamaica and Weld’s Postulation, the latter named has some improvement to find against Jamaica, based on the Curragh form, but there was only a length and a half between them that day and at the prices I am prepared to row in at 7/4.
6.40 – Easily the best race on the card and the deepest. That said Quick Jack was second in Ireland’s most competitive handicap hurdle in January and has obviously been aimed at this. This horse has shot up the weights over timber, but his Flat rating remains 85 (129 over sticks). His pilot, also takes off a valuable five pounds, so in effect he is running off a better mark, than when half a length second in a 48 grand race at Leopardstown last backend. 4/1
7.10 – While the claims of Demot Weld’s Bobby’s Heart, have some appeal, it may well pay to side with the in form Camakasi from Mick Halford’s yard. At a quarter the odds each way all races, BragBet punters will be able to steal a little value. Camakasi was an eye-catching third last time out and looks a bet to nothing at 6/1.
7.40 – Timayan who has only been campaigned over shorter trips up to nine furlongs, is finally given a trip that breeding suggests that she was destined for over twelve furlongs. On handicap debut, we can expect to see a significant improvement in form and off a handy mark could be thrown in here 10/3.
8.15 – Call Vinnie a last time out Point to Point scorer will be popular at 11/10 and I see no reason to oppose, so we’ll take that one, to send favourite backers home happy.
Tonights 17:00 fixture focuses on the USA Vs Germany in a crunch World Cup 2014 Group Gmatch up. Whoever wins this game will secure first place in Group G and gain supposedly the easier route through the knock out stages. Plenty of other pundits are tipping the draw in this match but Germany and the USA have faced off nine time previously, there has never been a draw. In the last two matches the USA have played against the Germans they have lost both games to nil. However, the USA have been on good form as of late scoring two goals in each of their last six matches and with Germany scoring in 19 of their last 20 World Cup group games, it looks like we could be in for a treat tonight.
After posting their first World Cup win since 1982, Algeria are in the driver’s seat to advance from group play for the first time in their history with a result against Russia. But the Europeans are still very much alive, as a win and a favorable result in the South Korea V Belgium game would see Russia through to the knockout stages. The Russians have a great record against African sides (6-1 v Cameroon in 1994 and 2-0 v Tunisia in 2002). But Algeria seem to have a lot of flair about them at the moment and you would have to feel that they will get a result out of tonight match.
Nigeria V Argentina
The first match that we cast a pundits eye over it the 17:00 fixture between Nigeria and Argentina. The race is on for Nigeria to be the only African nation to qualify to the final 16, with the advent of the injury time penalty awarded to Greece last night and deposited into the back of the net by Samaras, meaning that the Ivory Coast were sent packing. This will be the fourth meeting of the sides tonight and Argentina have won the last three out of the four encounters. With the Nigerian World cup record (W1 D3 L6) this is looking like an up hill struggle for them against one of the tournaments outright favourites (currently 7/2). Also it is important to mention the scoring power of Argentina with Lionel Messi scoring eight goals in the last seven appearances for Argentina.
Ecuador V France
In tonight 21:00 fixture, the 1998 Champions France take on Ecuador in Group E. The stats are firmly against Ecuador in this one as France have a super record against South American teams in the world cup and haven’t lost any of there last six matches (W3, D3). Tonight match up will only be the second time the teams have ever met, in their pervious encounter France took the win 2-0. France have been pretty impressive in this world cup so far scoring three or more goals in consecutive World Cup matches since they lifted the trophy in 1998. I think it is important to note that Enner Valencia has scored seven time in his last six appearances. I think that France could struggle in the first half, but i do think they will win this match when the dust settles.
First Goal Scorer – Enner Valencia – 15/2 (Double Odds Within 20min) 5 Points Win
Win From Behind – France – 13/2 – 5 Points Win
Two winners and two losers yesterday from this column so marginal profit thanks to Brazil -2 and Holland beating Chile. But it’s onwards and upwards to today’s fixtures and we are not sure it gets any easier for punters.
England v Costa Rica
Firstly, we’ll deal with England v’s Costa Rica – where do you hang your hat here. On form alone Costa Rica have the beating of the much derided English. However, both sides have named weakened sides and one has to consider the motivation of one side who have already been eliminated and one side that has already qualified.
Costa Rica will probably need only a draw to win the group, but this is a team that devoured Uruguay and was massively stoical against Italy. At the prices I have no interest in jumping on the even money band wagon in support of a lacklustre England side. However I am staying firm here I like the 3/1 Costa Rica and might even have a little saver on the Draw.
Italy v Uruguay
Make no mistake, this is a better match than the England fixture. This is the game both sides need to win. The group is finely posed with both teams capable of winning the group, not just qualifying, so it’s going to be a shoot out.
Italy have been priced up as marginal favourites, but that may have more to do with World Cup pedigree rather than form in this tournament. Both teams were beaten by Costa Rica, however Luis Suarez did not play in the opening fixture and was such a telling influence in his nation’s last outing.
Suarez is world class and could well be the difference here, Uruguay to win at 9/5 has a touch of value they showed commitment to the cause against England and I think their players actually want it more. Suarez at 11/10 to score anytime, also strikes me as a decent bet.
Greece v Ivory Coast
The Ivory Coast were extremely unlucky against Colombia last time out and in many people’s books, probably deserved a draw. Nonetheless, they still find themselves in a strong position to qualify from the group. Greece have been serial disappointments in recent major championships and play a brand of particularly negative football, that does nothing for the neutral or the punter.
Ivory Coast should bring this home, they are a strong physical side, that can actually play a bit as well, the Greeks look weak and single dimensional. Ivory Coast are a confident selection at even money.
Japan v Columbia
Columbia have already qualified courtesy of beating the Ivory Coast last time out. However it could be crucial to their progression through the tournament, if they manage to top the group this evening. They are in the box seat for that as they stand.
Japan are committed and combative, but they lack a cutting edge and Columbia with a strong midfield and a strong pairing up front, should take all the beating in this fixture. Columbia 11/10.
There will be tears this week as we witness the beginning of the end of World Cup 2014. A number of high profile teams will be opening their hotel room safe and reaching for their passports earlier than they expected. However, for those left with a chance of qualification, the play offs effectively begin now.
Croatia v Mexico
Undoubtedly the tie of the day and barring a miracle in the Brazil v Cameroon fixture, a straight shoot out for the runner up spot in the group. Mexico need only draw to qualify, but I am not sure they will get that elusive point. Croatia were robbed against Brazil and were much the better side against Cameroon, even before Song’s sending off. Mexico’s limitations were unexposed by a superb performance by goalkeeper Ochoa against Brazil and I believe that the Balkans can take this at 9/5.
The public implosion of Cameroon was car crash material last week, but was alsopredictable given their players pre-tournament antics regarding payment. Brazil are no world beaters, with an average midfield and only one decent striker in Naymar. Camerron have nothing to play for but pride and this could well be a confidence boosting goal fest for the hosts. We are with Brazil – 2 at 5/4.
Spain v Australia
The recently deposed World Champions, are playing for nothing other than pride at this stage and indeed their opponents are in the same boat. Nonetheless, the Socceroos are nothing if not defiant and can eke a draw or win from this. Spainto lose or draw is at 6/4 and is worth an investment.
Holland v Chile
With both sides having qualified, these teams are playing for the Group win. Holland were rampant against Spain, but only just emerged victorious against Australia after a lacklustre display. Chile were committed and aggressive against Spain, but were perhaps flattered by their two goal win and I would expect a full strength Holland to put them to the sword. 13/8 is fair price for the Oranje win and that’s where our hard earned is going.
Italy vs Costa Rica Preview – by Shane Mahon
After both sides recorded wins in their 1st matches of the group, the winner of tonight’s match will be guaranteed their place in the last 16 of the tournament. Italy looked the strongest team out of the four before a ball was kicked and so it’s proving to be Costa Rica’s win against Uruguay was a big shock and nobody was expecting it. However I feel that they caught Uruguay on a bad day and without the services of Luis Suarez to boot. Italy look a major threat in doing something big in this tournament and as long as Andrea Pirlo stays fully fit, he can make anything happen on a football pitch. Italy -1 in the handicap market looks the bet here and @7/5 looks great value.
On the goalscoring front, apart from Pirlo with the odd free-kick, the main threat for Italy is Mario Balotelli and after scoring the winner against England already, I expect him to get Italy off the mark later with the opening goal. He is currently 3/1 with Bragbet. 2-0 Italy for me here
Italy -1 @7/5
1st Goalscorer: Balotelli @3/1
Switzerland vs France Preview
Switzerland will be brewing with confidence after their last minute goal against Ecuador which grabbed them all 3 points in their opening game in which they played ok. France had a very easy opening match against a poor Honduras side who went down to 10 men early in the 2nd half after the sending off of Wilson Palacios which didn’t help them in the slightest. France would have won the game anyway in my opinion, but the sending off definitely helped. I fancy a French win again here and at 10/11 that would be the bet for me. I think France will find it a lot harder this time around as Switzerland can only get better in my opinion. However I still fancy a French win. The total goals market is interesting here as over 2.5 total goals is evens. Could be worth a small wager there.
It could end up that both these teams will qualify for the next round, however whoever loses tonight will definitely be on the edge in the last game, something that neither manager wants to have to go through.
France win @10/11
Total Goals: Over 2.5 @Evens
Honduras vs Ecuador Preview
Both sides with all the catching up to do in this group after both sides suffered defeats in their opening games. Ecuador definitely showed more promise in their encounter with Switzerland than Honduras did with France. Two very average sides here with average players on both sides, For that reason alone I’m siding with a draw here and @3/1 I think it’s a great bet. Many will think 4/6 about Ecuador is surely a bet to have, however I wouldn’t. Honduras ended up giving England a game of it in Miami there a few weeks ago which proves that they can mix it with the big teams.
Another steal for me is under 2.5 total goals which @5/6 is great value. I cannot see there being more than 2 goals in this game, whatever the outcome. Whoever wins it will give themselves a chance of progressing, and the loser will be going home.
Under 2.5 goals @5/6
Colombia vs Ivory Coast Preview – by Shane Mahon
After both sides in the previous round, the winner of this game is certain to go through past the group stages. Colombia were very impressive against Greece. However Greece were not all that convincing in their performance and left an awful lot to be desired. Ivory Coast had to come from behind against Japan to take all three points there. Didier Drogba is set to start on the bench once more, however we seen how influential he was when he came on against Japan. It’s a very evenly matched contest and the betting would also suggest that. I’m taking no chances here and going for a draw @5/2 as the safest option. With two attacking sides on show here, it should be end to end and hopefully produce a lot of goals. My favourites to top this group are Ivory Coast, however a lot will depend on what happens in tonight’s game.
Total Goals: over 2.5 @Evens
Uruguay vs England Preview
The crunch game of this group, in what could well decide who goes through and who goes home. Roy Hodgson has come out and backed Wayne Rooney to perform and could transfer him to a more central role against Uruguay tonight. For me, Uruguay are not all that they’re made up to be and there is still a huge question mark over Luis Suarez’s fitness. For that reason, I’m going to stick the neck out here and go for an England win, only just though. @21/20 I think they’re worth a shot. I feel they showed enough promise against Italy to suggest there’s more to come from this outfit.
On the goalscoring markets, Daniel Sturridge for me looks the potent threat and at 9/2 is a great bet. England 2-1 for me.
England win @21/20
1st Goalscorer: Sturridge @9/2
Japan vs Greece Preview
With both sides suffering defeats in the last round, both will be playing catch up against Ivory Coast and Colombia. However whoever wins tonight, will have a live chance in their last game to go through. Japan for me, have the more lively and attack minded threat and they showed that with an expertly taken goal against Ivory Coast by Honda. In addition, when Shinji Kagawa is on song he can be very dangerous to any defence. I’m going for a Japan win here @6/5 which I believe is way too big. There will be goals in this one I’m hoping, so therefore I’m going for Over 2.5 goals @6/5 as the bet there. Greece have failed to score in 6 out of their last 7 games in the World Cup finals which is an amazing fact when you think about it.
Although I do expect them to get one tonight. 2-1 Japan.
Japan win @6/5
Total Goals: Over 2.5 @6/5
Australia vs Holland Preview – By Shane Mahon
Most people will be expecting another convincing victory for the Dutch here especially after their comprehensive victory over Spain in the opening game of the group. Australia put it up to Chile for parts of the second half, however without reallythreatening. Tim Cahill was a massive influence on the game and they tend to be over-reliant on him for the most part. On the handicap front, I’m going to side with Holland -2 here @17/10. I expect Holland to make a real push to win this group convincingly and without much fuss. Robin Van Persie is worth a shout for 1st Goalscorer @2/1. I’d be expecting an early goal also, and don’t forget here with Bragbet, you’ll be paid out at ‘Twice the Price’ if Robin Van Persie scores 1st inside the opening 20 minutes! It looks like Chile could end up proving to be Hollands biggest threat for top spot in the group and the team with the most potential to give them a game. I don’t see Australia ruffling any feathers here at all. 3-0 Holland.
Handicap; Holland -2 @17/10
1st Goalscorer: Robin Van Persie @2/1
Spain vs Chile Preview
After their shock defeat at the hands of Holland, this game has become the most important in the group. If Spain lose tonight, and Holland win, Spain are out of the tournament. However I don’t expect that to happen, and I also firmly believe that this‘golden generation’ of players still have a lot to offer to this World Cup. Taking it in good faith that the Spanish teams confidence has not been dented too severely, I think they will win tonight. Chile looked unconvincing against Australia apart from the opening 20 minutes when they essentially put the game to bed. However for most parts of the 2nd half, Australia were on top, probably not threatening enough to influence the result, but were on top nevertheless. Taking all this into account, I’m going to go for a Spain win and I’m going for Spain to be leading at Half Time and Full Time @11/10. With Spain looking to prove the doubters wrong, they’ll need to get off to a good start and if they are 1-0 up at half time, I’d expect them to forge on and get the win that they desperately need. 2-0 Spain for me on the Correct Score market @6/1 is also worth a bet.
Spain Half Time/Full Time @11/10
Correct Score: Spain 2-0 @6/1
Cameroon vs Croatia Preview
After Mexico’s hard fought draw with Brazil last night, Croatia are under pressure to get a good result here against Cameroon, who for the most part, didn’t offer much against Mexico. In addition, Star striker Samuel Eto’o is out after picking up a knock against Mexico. Croatia will have Mario Mandzukic back after his suspension which will be an added bonus. Jelavic just looked no threat up front against Brazil. In addition to that however, goalkeeper Pletikosa for Croatia, was very average against Brazil. Looked unconvincing on more than one occasion, and also could have saved all three goals. So there’s a big question mark there. However I think Croatia’s performance against Brazil should be merited with a lot of respect and as long as Luka Modric remains fully fit, he can make anything happen. I’m going to go for a Croatia win here @4/6 with Bragbet which for me is a great bet as they should be a lot shorter for me. I think there will be goals in it but it wouldn’t surprise me if Cameroon knicked a goal along the way. A marginal victory for Croatia here. 2-1.
Croatia win @4/6
Correct Score: Croatia 2-1 @7/1
Belgium vs Algeria Preview – By Shane Mahon
It’s finally time to see what this Belgium team can do on the big stage. With the injury of Christian Benteke obviously a massive hinderance to their preparation, Belgium will be hoping that Lukaku is fully fit and ready to take his place up top. History would side with a Belgium win here. In their previous two encounters, Belgium have won once and drawn once, both were friendlies. With Belgium being too skinny in the outright market @1/3, I’m going to go into the total goals market here again. Over 3.5 goals @13/8 is definitely worth a shout here. In their previous World Cup finals games in the past, Belgium have had a tendency to concede goals, along with scoring them. So for that reason, I’m going for over 3.5 goals @13/8 here as the bet. There are some pundits who aren’t giving Belgium a chance despite their great individual players, stating that they can’t play as a team. However, I’m of the opposite opinion. I fully expect Belgium to make the semi-finals at least.
Total goals: Over 3.5 @13/8
1st Goalscorer: Romelu Lukaku @11/4
Brazil vs Mexico Preview
With both teams after winning their opening round games, this is sure to another tightly contested game, with goals to boot. Brazil weren’t all that convincing against Croatia, plus had the added help of the referee on a number of occasions, not leastwith Fred’s theatrics for the penalty, which Neymar scored to make it 2-1 to Brazil. Mexico on the other hand were unlucky not to be 3-0 up at half time against Cameroon, having had legitimate goals ruled out for offside. However both teams do come in to this game off the back of wins. Having said that, Brazil will still be favourites as they have the best team on paper. I think there will be goals here, and I’d expect Brazil to score most of them. For that reason, I’m going for Brazil -1 in the handicap market which is currently 10/11.
Whoever wins this game will be in full control of the group, and are more than likely to top it also.
After finding their feet against Croatia last Thursday night, I’d fully expect the hosts to move on and gather confidence through their group games. 3-1 Brazil here for me.
Brazil -1 @10/11
Correct Score: 3-1 Brazil @9/1
Russia vs South Korea Preview
On paper, you would think that Russia and Belgium have will have it easy in this group, and should breeze through it. However, the World Cup is a funny tournament, full of twists and turns, and I’d expect one here as well. As the Russian players are usually used to playing in sub zero temperatures back in Russia, how will they deal with the drastic change of temperature in Brazil? That reason alone would put me off Russia’s chances of qualifying out of this group. In addition, the teams look evenly matched on paper. The main influence in this game could come from South Korea and Sunderland midfielder Ki. The Korean can have a massive influence on games, and has shown his promise all season long with Sunderland. He is a wealth of talent and on his day is hard to get to grips with. Russia are slight favourites at the moment with Bragbet at 20/23. For me that’s way too short in a tight game. For that reason I’m going for the draw here and I don’t expect there’ll be lots of goals either. 0-0 could be worth a shout in the correct score market also @8/1.
Correct Score: 0-0 @8/1
COLOMBIA VS GREECE Preview – By Shane Mahon
Colombia come into the group stages of the World Cup without the services of talisman Radamel Falcao, however they did record a positive win against Jordan in their final warm-up game which should stand them in good stead for this opener against Greece. Greece have always held the reputation of being hard to beat and hard to break down. I would expect the very same in the group stages. The fact that they kept more clean sheets than any other European team in qualifying with 8 would support this. With not a lot of goals expected I’m going to have a go at the total goals market once more here. Under 1.5 total goals @6/4 looks appealing and if there is going to be a goal, it might just come from Colombia, but it wouldn’t be the greatest shock in the world if it did finish 0-0. If that is the case of course, don’t forget you’ll get your MONEY BACK on all markets!
Total goals: Under 1.5 @6/4
Winning Margin: Colombia by exactly 1 goal @21/10
URUGUAY VS COSTA RICA Preview
With doubts still resting heavily on the fitness of star man Luis Suarez for Uruguay, It’s a match which could prove to be very tricky for Uruguay to come to terms with. This Uruguay team has been built up so much, but if you look at, apart from theirattacking options, they haven’t got a lot of depth of talent anywhere else on the pitch. Edinson Cavani for me, is highly over-rated and looks very awkward anytime he gets possession of the ball. In addition, he seems to fluff his lines in big games, as he did already this season for PSG against Chelsea in the Champions League. For that reason, I can’t have Uruguay. Instead I’m going for the draw here. 1-1. If Costa Rica can get Bryan Ruiz in possession in the final third, he can make things happen. He’s a top-drawer player. The fact that Luis Suarez is more than likely not playing, I’d expect Diego Forlan to take his place up top perhaps. The player of the tournament in the last World Cup is expected to lead the line in Suarez’s absence and I’d expect him to nick one for Uruguay. The draw at 10/3 is the bet for me however.
1st Goalscorer: Diego Forlan @4/1
ENGLAND VS ITALY Preview
With little expectation on England in this years World Cup, it’s the kind of tournament which could see them go beyond the Group Stages and I fully expect them to get to the Quarter Finals at least. Hodgson has picked a young and refreshing squad,and has made some bold decisions in bringing the likes of Luke Shaw and perhaps even Ricky Lambert. With doubts over Italian stalwart Gigi Buffon, now would be the time to strike for England. Wayne Rooney obviously has a serious amount of pressure on his shoulders leading the line for his country, but theres no getting away from the fact that he remains one of the best players in the world. I expect Italy to be hard to break down in the early stages, however with the likes of Pirlo and Ballotelli in the side, they can make things happen in an instant. Taking everything into account, I’m going to side with an English win here @15/8 which for me is a great price. On the goalscorer front, I’d imagine that Sturridge will be partnering Rooney up front, so @11/2 he’s the value. Remember if he scores inside the opening 20 mins, we’ll pay you out at 11/1!
England to win @15/8
1st Goalscorer: Sturridge @11/2
IVORY COAST VS JAPAN Preview
The last game of the night sees an Ivory Coast team with fascinating potential to do something big in this World Cup, and surely they have to be the best bet from Africa to get the furthest in the tournament. With doubts over Yaya Toure’s hamstring, that is a big worry for them, but theres talent all over the pitch not least with Didier Drogba leading the line up front. In a tricky opener, I’d expect these two teams to go at it from the start. For that reason I’m going to go into the total goals market here. Over 2.5 goals @11/10 looks the bet here with a lot of attacking talent on display. Shinji Kagawa will be leading the main threat for Japan, however Honda, who is relatively still young enough considering the amount of times he’s lined up for Japan, is confident on the ball and can make things happen, very quickly. It’s sure to be a good game, and I think Ivory Coast might sneak it, just. 3-2
Over 2.5 goals @11/10
Correct score 3-2 Ivory Coast @33/1
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