Tuesday 11 September 2012

Week 4.5: More Grambling vicar?

With a major win over the weekend, I simply could not wait a full week to place the next bet.  For the first time, I have decided to Gramble during the week!  This ranks alongside man walking on the moon, Colonel Sanders inventing chicken and the assassination of Jedward in the most important moments in the history of history.

There are 38 competitive games taking place, mostly this evening with a handful tomorrow evening.  I have removed the friendly games as there are some odd ties included there (Belgium Under-23s vs England C Team anyone?) and to reflect the lowered number of games, I have cut the coupon down to five matches.

Our survey says...

Game 1: Slovakia vs Liechtenstein
Prediction: Home win
Since the break-up of Czechoslovakia in 1993, the Slovakian national team seemed to mope around Europe, thinking of their former lovers.  Calls were not answered, letters were returned and restraining orders were issued.  But after a particularly bad alcohol-fuelled binge in 2009, Slovakia looked at himself in the mirror and said "right, it's time I forgot about that bitch, the Czech Republic.  I need to sort myself out and live my life!  Eye of the tiger!"  And so, Slovakia qualified for the World Cup for the first time.  And they were not just there to make up the numbers; they qualified for the final 16 after knocking out holders Italy at the group stage in a game that all the cool kids called 'epic'.  Slovakia's attempts to emulate this in Brazil started with a mediocre draw at Lithuania and they will hope to pick up their first win tonight.  And what can we say about Liechtenstein?  Not a lot actually... Sitting at number 149 in the FIFA rankings, the Steinies as they are better known (by me)  have suffered a number of embarrassing defeats over the years.  But I'm sure they don't care as they sit with their croissant and a copy of the Financial Times laughing at the fact that every other country in the world has a lower GDP than them.  The Steinies kicked off their qualifying campaign with a humiliating 8-1 defeat at home to Bosnia and it is highly unlikely that they will be leaving Bratislava with anything.

Reliability balls: A massive 9/10
Odds on this result: A pitiful 1/50

Game 2: England vs Ukraine
Prediction: Home win
Apparently England actually won the World Cup sometime back in the 1960s, but you very rarely hear about it as the media are so humble and restrained in Britain.  In a shocking exposé and top-notch piece of investigative journalism, The Sun today confirmed that since this victory, England have not won a tournament.  This will be devastating news to the England players, management and fans, so I expect that it will spur them on to victory in tonight's game.  England won their opening qualifier comfortably with a 5-0 win in Moldova to set them up nicely for this game but have a number of players missing out through injury and illness, including influential defender and (alleged) massive racist John Terry.  Ukraine did not play at the weekend and will be hoping for a win in this opening game to help their World Cup hopes.  As co-hosts of Euro 2012, Ukraine only managed one win resulting in an early exit at the group stage of the tournament.   Their elimination was sealed after a defeat to England, during which Ukraine's Marko Devic was denied a goal after (alleged) massive racist John Terry hooked the ball out of the net and the inadequate officials failed to notice. The Ukrainians may well be out for revenge tonight.

Reliability balls: 7/10
Odds on this result: 1/2

Game 3: Cyprus vs Iceland
Prediction: Home win
Cyprus make their second Grambler appearance to confirm their status as the Blackburn Rovers of international football.  They were supposed to draw with Albania on Friday but failed to do so, losing 3-1.  Vincent Laban scored the consolation goal for the Cypriots but they have landed at the foot of their group and it is a position that they are very familiar with from previous qualifying campaigns.  Iceland are currently 114th in FIFA's rankings, which is not too bad for the staff team of a discount supermarket captained by a washed-up Aussie actor.  However, they had a pleasant start to the qualifiers with a 2-0 victory over Norway, their own Neighbours (yes, that's another Jason Donovan reference.  I'm struggling here)... This is the second time in as many qualifying rounds that Cyprus and Iceland have ended up in the same group.  In the Euro 2012 round, the two teams took up the bottom places of the group, with the Cypriots being the worst off.  The two legs played for that competition are the only competitive matches ever played between the teams; Iceland won at home and the match in Nicosia ended in a goalless draw.  

Reliability balls: 5/10
Odds on this result: 8/5

Game 4: Paraguay vs Venezuela
Predication: Home wins
Home wins seem to be the flavour of the week!  In South America, the qualifying for the World Cup is well under-way... And Paraguay are rooted to the bottom of their table.  with only a win against Ecuador and a draw against Uruguay from their first six games.  Having qualified for the last four World Cups and reached the final of last year's Cop America, Paraguay's fans will be expecting more from their team.  They also have an amazing national anthem which I can imagine being used to soundtrack a show about a retired drug-lord adapting to life in Somerset in comical fashion.  Venezuela have faired slightly better.  Two draws and two wins, including one against Argentina, has left them just five points from the top of the group.  Having never before qualified for a World Cup tournament, the chance to hop across the border to Brazil in 2014 will be a huge incentive to keep up the good form.  A win for Venezuela would also help them to celebrate the Fiesta de Nuestra Señora del Valle which appears to be some kind of festival where they eat a lady who lives in a valley.

Reliability balls: 6/10
Odds on this result: 4/7

Game 5: Serbia vs Wales
Prediction: Away win
Meanwhile in Belgrade, Serbia will be hoping to embark on a successful whaling trip.  Which would make sense if 'whaling trip' was a euphemism for winning at football.  And Serbia wasn't landlocked...  Siniša Mihajlović's side managed a goalless draw with the mighty Scotland on Saturday.  Serbia had a few chances in this game and defended well, but probably would have lost by at least eight goals if Craig Levein would actually realise that Kenny Miller is past his best.  Serbia, in spite of having only existed for two years, have been reasonably successful, qualifying for the 2010 World Cup and coming within a whisker of the play-offs for Euro 2012.  The Welsh lost 2-0 at home to Belgium at the weekend, and their defence looked fairly leeky.  After the game, manager Chris Coleman said that he was "delighted with the effort" sheepishly.  Unfortunately for Coleman, the Wales team making it to the group stages of a tournament is very rare(bit).  He will expect his team to bounce back from this defeat against a Serbia.  Boyo.

Reliability balls: 4/10
Odds on this result: 7/1

The first game has just kicked off in Cyprus and the last kicks-off after midnight tonight in Asunción so I will have a sleepless night wondering about the outcome of Paraguay vs Venezuela.  Odds are poor once again but my £1 bet could possibly bring in £48 and I also have a three-folds bet on in the hope of winning something.

Results will be available at precisely 14:46 tomorrow afternoon.

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