The November international friendly week really is nobody’s favourite time of the footballing calendar. It perforates the domestic action, is punctuated by drop-outs and surprise call-ups and to make matters worse, it’s a minefield for having a punt.
Take Wednesday’s clash between Italy and France, for example – which you clearly are doing if you’re reading this. Between the 46 players called up by Cesare Prandelli and Didier Deschamps, exactly half of the them have under ten caps, while regulars like Daniele De Rossi, Domenico Criscito, Pablo Osvaldo, Gael Clichy and Karim Benzema are sat at home waiting for the inconsequence to subside.
Of course, football writers are cynical folk, not least because our nicotine-stained fingertips and whiskey-soaked breath are exemplifications of a loveless, downward spiral. My initial reaction to being burdened with previewing the battle of the blues was to do exactly what I have done and veer off on a rant about how nobody cares – least of all the players – about this pointless masquerade of an international match.
Then in a rare moment of open-mindedness, I decided to try to prove myself wrong, hoping above hope that the history books would whip the rug from under my feet in a blaze of young whipper-snappers scoring on their debuts and journeymen seizing their hard-earned shot at glory with both hands. Unfortunately, I was right first time around.
As far as the Italians are concerned, they seem to share the sort of passion for this annual abomination that I have now in writing about it. A look back at the Azzurri’s past few November friendlies shows that they – like I – have absolutely no enthusiasm for the encounter and who can blame them? Make mine a double, Mario, and we’ll head down to Long Legs.
Skirting back over the recent past, Italy have won 2-0 away in Poland and on home soil lost to Uruguay, while also drawing 1-1 with Romania and 0-0 against Holland, with a 1-0 over Sweden thrown in for good measure.
To make matters worse, the French have also been pretty ‘comme ci, comme ça’ about the event, narrowly beating the USA 1-0 and drawing 0-0 with Uruguay and Belgium. Their record is only partially brightened by last year’s 2-1 win over England at Wembley, but between the two sides it’s been nine games involving ten goals over the past three years. You may as well watch Eastenders.
Indeed, Italy’s record in uncompetitive games over the years is frankly pathetic. Under a variety of gaffers, last summer’s defeated European Championship finalists have won only four of their last 17 friendlies, scoring just 12 goals, and have also lost their last four.
All of which gives me little solid footing to dictate where your dollar should go and the only thing I am confident of is that if these two could shake on it now and call it a day, they probably would.
bwin’s 3Way football betting market has the Italians favourites at 6/5 but this is presumably based on home advantage, fifth place in the FIFA rankings and their exploits at the Euros and not taking into consideration their awful recent record in friendlies.
For me, the French under the infancy of Deschamps’ stewardship have got more to gain and more to lose from this match so if I was to lean either way on the result, I’d be more inclined to back France at 9/4 ,with the draw just as good value and probably more likely also at 9/4.
Last time out, Les Bleus were impressive in drawing with world champions Spain in Madrid, but such is the nature of international football, that result was torpedoed in betting terms by them losing at home to Japan a couple of days before.
Italy, on the other hand, looked slick in a 3-1 win against Denmark but prior to that huffed and puffed past Malta and the more I look into it, the murkier this game becomes to draw conclusions.
I’ll stick with my initial hunch that France are the more likely of the two to at least take it semi-seriously and given Italy’s penchant for mucking about when it doesn’t matter, France to score over 1.5 goals in the game at 11/5 doesn’t look that bad a bet. The same is true of France to win at half-time at 29/10 before the lottery of mass substitutions kicks in.
There are plenty of decent prices in the goal bet market and again, sticking to my prognosis that the draw and France are good value, the 1-1 at 5/1 is worth considering and certainly 2-1 France at 21/2 could be an earner and definitely worth a couple of quid – especially if it’s free.
New customers who register here are entitled to a free £20 bet and sticking that on 2-1 France could pocket you a rather handsome £250.