With barely two weeks left before their Euro 2012 opener on June 10th against Spain in Gdansk, Cesare Prandelli’s Italy welcome Luxembourg at the Ennio Tardini for the first of their two warm-up games.
Normally, such an encounter wouldn’t attract much attention from punters, who will hardly be tempted by the visitors’ 35/1 odds to win.
Rather, some Azzurri fans may be puzzled by the FIFA’s poor choice of opposition before an event in which Italy, still fresh from their humiliating 2010 World Cup campaign, will have little margin for error.
Those who expect a massacre should, however, consider this morning’s events, as defender Domenico Criscito’s room at Coverciano (Italy’s HQ) was searched by policemen looking for evidence regarding the Calcioscommesse scandal, which has been raging for a number of months and has involved a number of current and former players, including Cristiano Doni and Lazio legend Giuseppe Signori.
Criscito has opted out of representing Italy at the Euros, hoping to clear his name instead. This won’t merely leave Prandelli with a selection headache – it could also potentially destabilise Italy.
Luxembourg have managed to beat decent opposition in Macedonia and Albania, as well as only concede just four goals in two games against France in qualifying.
Though history teaches us that Italy squads ultimately thrive on such scandals – think of the World Cup triumphs in 1982 and 2006, when a betting and a match-fixing scandal respectively forced the squad to gel – it might throw the Azzurri off the scent in the short term, especially considering the poor vintage of the opposition.
Luxembourg are, moreover, known for having turned a page these past few years, especially after their current coach, Luc Holtz, took over in 2010. Formerly, one would have expected the Red Lions to lose most their games by humiliating scorelines.
Nowadays, however, Holtz’s men have managed to beat decent opposition in Macedonia and Albania, as well as only concede just four goals in two games against France in qualifying.
Hence, instead of backing Italy to bag five or more goals (quoted at 2/1), how about betting on the Azzurri to win either 3-0 or 4-0, two eventualities priced at 17/4 and 21/4 respectively?
With Luxembourg’s chances of scoring still pretty remote (though their odds are remarkably low, at 39/20), both prices look very tempting and a good means of investing the free £25 bet offered to anyone registering at bwin.com, with profits of £131.25 or £156.25 just round the corner.
Italy to beat Luxembourg 3-0 @ 17/4
Italy to beat Luxembourg 4-0 @ 21/4
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