Ronaldo and co up against it in Brazil
Coral have clipped both Portugal (25/1 from 33/1) and France (20/1 from 50/1) for the World Cup after the two nations qualified in dramatic fashion last night, but you have to wonder whether either team will be up to making a serious impression in Brazil.
They say that Diego Maradona won the World Cup single-handedly for Argentina in 1986, but he had a stronger team around him than Cristiano Ronaldo has with Portugal. The Real Madrid man may have done it pretty much on his own against Sweden by notching his fifth hat-trick of the season, but taking them all the way in South America is a different matter altogether.
Even so, Ronaldo’s match-winning exploits in Stockholm should guarantee him the Ballon d’Or – Coral slashed him to 1/2 from 5/4 this morning – and it’s a relief to know that one of the best players in the world will be strutting his stuff on the biggest stage.
France deserve immense credit for turning around a two-goal deficit against Ukraine, but are also likely to fall short when coming up against the likes of Brazil (100/30) and Argentina (11/2) on their own continent, let alone the better European outfits, like Germany (11/2) Spain (6/1) and Belgium (14/1).
Spain were embarrassed by South Africa in a friendly last night, while the USA also lost to non-qualifiers, Austria, and Belgium went down 3-2 at home to Japan, but we can be sure that there won’t be the same discontent in those camps as there was at Wembley.
The boos which greeted England’s defeat to a shadow Germany side were not, I would suggest, so much criticism of an individual performance, more an expression of frustration that this is simply as good as we are at the moment – and that’s not good enough.
Coral rate Roy Hodgson’s men 25/1 shots to win the World Cup, but realistic England fans will be more attracted by the ‘Stage of Elimination’ market: It’s 2/1 they don’t survive the Group stage, 15/8 they go out in the last 16, 11/4 in the quarter-finals, 15/2 in the semi-finals and 20/1 they lose in the final.
Hodgson will, however, have learned more from defeats to two top sides than he would have with easy wins against hand-picked minnows and he certainly has plenty of food for thought.
And a few reasons to be optimistic. Adam Lallana (11/4 to be on the plane to Rio) has staked his claim with two 7/10 performances; Andros Townsend (4/11) has confirmed that he is here to stay; and Jack Wilshire (1/8) will surely give England that extra dynamism in midfield once he has regained full fitness.
The Wayne Rooney-Daniel Sturridge partnership should also be the answer up front as soon as the Liverpool man relaxes into the role. Sturridge is a quality striker, but it’s in his own best interests, as well as England’s, to make it work with the irreplaceable Rooney.