Euro 2012 Group C is set for a thrilling finale as Spain, Italy and Croatia fight for the right to claim the two quarter-final places on offer on Monday.
There are plenty of permutations to consider – but let’s start from the start.
For the sake of paranoid Italians and conspiracy theorists out there, the contrived 2-2 draw between Spain and Croatia is 5/1 in bwin’s correct score market.
That result would send both Spain and Croatia through to the knock-out stages of Euro 2012 and Italy back home, regardless of their result against Republic of Ireland.
In 2004, the Azzurri were convinced Denmark and Sweden were in cahoots when the Scandinavian duo drew 2-2 to eliminate Giovanni Trapattoni’s team, but this time around there’s been little talk of skullduggery from within the Italian camp.
Confidence in the Spanish doing the business was presumably enhanced after the holders’ emphatic 4-0 mullering of the Irish on Thursday night – a performance which led bwin to immediately install la Roja as 12/5 outright favourites to win the tournament.
After an inauspicious beginning to the campaign, Vicente del Bosque’s men moved seamlessly through the gears in routing the Irish rabble, with Fernando Torres also springing into life.
Spain’s sublime display against Ireland showed that when the very best play somewhere approaching their best, there is little you can do to get in their way.
With cobwebs dusted down, Spain will take some stopping from here but still need their wits about them to secure a draw at the very least against Croatia to avoid an embarrassing early exit.
In return, the Croatians struggled enough against Italy to suggest Spain might be slightly too strong for them.
But knowing a draw may be good enough to see them progress, expect Slaven Bilic’s proud Croats to end the 90 minutes in Gdansk sweating blood.
Bwin’s 3Way football betting market has Spain as 13/20 favourites, with the draw at 2/1 and Croatia a surprisingly distant 29/4.
Given that Serie A is in the midst of yet another match-fixing scandal, it would be ironic if the Italians were to come up short because of a concocted result – but I’m confident there will be no doctoring going on and I’m equally as certain that Spain will do their bit by beating Croatia.
Their sublime display against Ireland showed that when the very best play somewhere approaching their best, there is little you can do to get in their way.
The Irish were well out-classed and although some of their woeful defending helped glaze the score, if Spain pass and move with the same class and conviction against Croatia then Cesare Prandelli’s men will only have themselves to blame for missing out on a quarter-final spot.
Mario Mandzukic and company have shown enough attacking intention so far to suggest Iker Casillas’ involuntary watching brief against Ireland won’t be repeated, so I’ll be looking at a Spain win with goals on offer.
Spain to win with over 3.5 goals in the game is 13/5 and that bet countenances the possibility of both sides scoring, but it’s also worth noting that a Spain win with under 3.5 goals is much shorter at 33/20.
If you fancy Croatia to breach the Spanish rearguard, the best bet will be to pick the multiple correct score of 2-1, 3-1 or 4-1 to Spain at 31/10 and given Croatia’s quality but Spain’s overall supremacy, that’s the punt I’ll be on.
New customers receive a free £25 bet when registering with bwin and using that on this punt could earn you £102.50 if Del Bosque’s men come up trumps by one of those three scorelines.
On a similar theme, Spain are 31/20 to win with a one-goal handicap and 13/4 to win both halves. Alternatively, if you do think the Croats will kick up a fuss, the 1-1 draw is 6/1 and the half-time draw followed by a Spanish win is 7/2.
As ever, I’ll wrap things up with a look at the goalscorers market and immediately Torres to notch and Spain to win at 2/1 jumps out as a no-brainer.
The same can be said of David Silva/Spain at 15/4 in the same market, while three-goal Mandzukic is at 9/4 to score at any time, which could be worth a little nibble.
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