As the sun beamed down on the industrial city of Stoke in summer 1998, its football club were coming to terms with relegation to the third tier of English football. Peter Thorne and Graham Kavanagh’s goals were not enough to keep the Potters in the old Division One, consigning them to four years alongside the likes of Macclesfield Town. It was a far cry from the glory days of Stanley Matthews and Gordon Banks. It was also a world away from the beautiful French city of Saint-Etienne.
There, a rapid 19-year-old English forward was announcing himself on the world stage with a magnificent solo goal against Argentina in the last sixteen of the World Cup. If someone had been mad enough to suggest that the boy wonder, a certain Michael Owen, would be playing for Stoke City before his sell-by date came around, one would have been reproached, if not castigated. But, less than 15 years later, the two have coalesced in what could prove to be a profitable partnership. Continue reading “Michael Owen and Stoke City: An unlikely but convenient marriage”
After Montpellier’s electric start to Ligue 1 in the last campaign, star striker Olivier Giroud was branded ‘le buteur de charme’, or ‘the charm striker’, by French newspaper Le Parisien. He lived up to that nickname in the following nine months, guiding MHSC to their first ever championship and earning a move to big boys Arsenal. Unfortunately for Gunners fans, there was nothing charming about the forward’s finishing ability on debut yesterday afternoon.
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Earlier this week, Mario Balotelli was asked by journalists why he doesn’t celebrate when he scores for Italy. In reply, the roguish striker allegedly said: “I’m doing my job. When a postman delivers letters, does he celebrate?” It’s an interesting and typically witty comment for him to make, but by the end of Thursday’s semi-final against Germany, Balotelli was the only man doing the delivering.
Rarely can it be said that the German football team didn’t have history on its side. But in seven matches between Germany and Balotelli’s Italy in international tournaments, the Germans had failed to register a single victory. Indeed, the disappointment of a late defeat to the Italians in the 2006 World Cup on home soil was still fresh in the memory of Joachim Löw and his decorated and much-complimented, but so far trophy-less, squad. Revenge was certainly a prevailing theme in the narrative of Euro 2012’s second semi-final.
The Euro 2012 opening ceremony is just around the corner and I’m giving some tips on how I feel you can make profit over the next four weeks. Now for the ‘top goalscorer’ market.
A market that is, undoubtedly, even harder to judge that that of overall tournament winner, the Euro 2012 top goalscorer race is wide open. Robin Van Persie and Mario Gomez (both 10/1) are understandably the favourites at the time of writing although there is no guarantee that the latter will play with Miroslav Klose (28/1) pushing hard. Van Persie will definitely start for the Oranje but Bert Van Marwijk has Klaas Jan Huntelaar (20/1) waiting in the wings, meaning the Arsenal man could be pushed out wide or even withdrawn altogether in the latter part of games.
Karim Benzema (14/1) seems a good price here. The French group isn’t too taxing and Benzema will play the full ninety minutes in most games. Four or five goals is usually enough to win the Golden Boot and Benzema could feasibly manage that in the group stage alone, with England, Sweden and Ukraine France’s opponents. His Real Madrid team mate Cristiano Ronaldo can be backed at 16/1 but he will have to carry the Portuguese through the tournament which may be a big ask on the back of an immense season in Spain.
Fernando Llorente (20/1) should start for Spain over Fernando Torres (18/1) and so could prove a wise gamble but many experts seem to be tilting towards Poland’s frontman Robert Lewandowski (21/1). In a balanced Group A, the Dortmund striker, who scored 29 goals last season, may be the star. As outside shots, Alexander Kerzhakov (37/1), Robbie Keane (129/1) and Johan Elmander (309/1) will all start for their respective nations and could provide massive returns.
All prices are taken from Betfair.
With Euro 2012 just a couple of days away, I’m sticking my neck out to present what I believe are the best odds out there in an attempt to help you all make some cold hard cash. First up is the ‘Winner’ market.
There are two clear favourites in the straight ‘Winner’ market in Spain and Germany, who are priced at 14/5 and 7/2 respectively at the time of asking. Neither price is particularly tempting though; Spain are without two of their key players in David Villa and Carlos Puyol while Germany’s squad are coming off the back of a long, hard slog of a season which means the fitness of their stars is being questioned.
Netherlands (7/1) are third favourites but are defensively suspect, as are France (10/1). As a result, I’d look to some of the longer odds for value – particularly those of teams in Group A. Russia (21/1) are most onlookers’ pick to qualify as group winners but are likely to face Germany or Holland in the quarters.
With home advantage, Poland (46/1) could be a decent punt but they also look set to meet a big gun early on. As an outside chance, rank outsiders Republic of Ireland (109/1) are in high spirits and will be defensively solid. If they can get a result over Croatia in their opening Group C game, and Italy’s shocking form continues against Spain, expect that to drop.
All odds courtesy of Betfair.