Neither Spain nor Republic of Ireland got off to an ideal start to their Euro 2012 campaigns and both will be seeking improvement from flawed performances.
In the grand scheme of things, a point eventually garnered from a goal behind against Italy isn’t a catastrophic result for the holders.
But of more concern to Vicente del Bosque will be that his major pre-tournament selection dilemma will again need revisiting.
La Roja lined up against the Azzurri without a recognised striker and although the man masquerading as one – Cesc Fabregas – ultimately bagged the equaliser, the lack of an attacking focal point allowed the feisty Italians to snuff out moves on the cusp of danger.
But the 1-1 draw didn’t come as a surprise to everybody. In my Spain v Italy preview, I plumped for the correct score as my recommended punt at 11/2 and new customers who followed my advice with their free £25 bet would have kicked off their bwin careers with a nice £162.50 return.
Yet in tournament football, rapier starts usually precede an anti-climax and the imbalance against the Italians should provoke some tactical tinkering to get the Spaniards tiki-taka-ing to good effect once again.
Given Spain’s battery of midfield maestros and lack of forward firepower, the 11/10 on midfielders scoring the most goals in the match surely provides an opportunity to print money.
Against the ever-spirited but limited Irish, Del Bosque needn’t persist with the triumvirate of Xavi, Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets anchoring the midfield.
With the exclusion of Busquets, Spain would have to rely on just the five world-class ball playing midfielders supplying one out-and-out striker and all in all, FIFA’s number one-ranked international side should have far too much for Giovanni Trapattoni’s trojans.
Bwin’s 3Way football betting market has Spain at a tiny 23/100 to win over the 90 minutes, with the draw at 5/1 and Ireland way out at 23/2.
But if, like me, you fancy the Spanish to find their feet with a comfortable victory then there’s plenty of value about.
Against the crafty Croatians, Trap’s back four looked about as mobile as the village drunkard in some early Irish novel and with Spain’s fleet-footed prancers bound to have plenty of possession, territory and chances, a wager which caught my eye was there to be one penalty in the game at 14/5.
Also, with the champions not quite having found their shooting boots – and Fernando Torres playing in wellington boots – you can get 9/5 that Spain hit Ireland’s woodwork first.
Aside from that, I reckon this will be one-way traffic and upon scouring bwin’s incredible 322 markets for the clash, immediately Spain to win both halves at 27/20 looks value.
Given the opening draw with Italy, top spot in Group C could come down to goal difference, with Ireland the likely suspects to polish your ‘goals for’ column.
However, the Spanish are only 22/25 to win with over 2.5 goals in the game and although 21/10 for Spain with over 3.5 is worth a go if you see a landslide, I’m going to straddle the pair and pick out the 3-0 Spain win at 11/2 as my recommended bet.
As mentioned earlier, punters receive a free £25 bet when registering with bwin and using that on Spain 3-0 Ireland at 11/2 will coin you £162.50 should it come in.
As always, I like to have a look around the goalscorer markets and given Spain’s battery of midfield maestros and lack of forward firepower, the 11/10 on midfielders scoring the most goals in the match surely provides an opportunity to print money.
A price of 2/1 for Andres Iniesta to score at any time looks difficult to pass up given the danger he caused Italy in that first game and he’s also 7/1 to get us underway, with Fabregas at 9/2 and David Silva 6/1.
I’ve also been frantically pedaling Torres’ chances of having a great tournament and through a combination of defiance and optimism, I’ll continue to back the wheezing, spluttering ‘El Nino’, even after his ‘cameo’ in Gdansk.
Del Bosque has hinted the Chelsea man could be limited to a role as a – wait for it – ‘impact’ substitute and if the gaffer is as good as his word, then Torres to round off the scoring at 9/2 theoretically looks a good call…so long as he can put his boots on the right feet and ditch the sat-nav to find the net.
Spain to beat Ireland 3-0 @ 11/2
One penalty in the match @ 14/5
Midfielders to score most goals in the match @ 11/10
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