Monday, December 31, 2012

Time for Bentley to Shine

Once described as the “next David Beckham”, David Bentley has found it hard to live up to the mantle of one of the great icons of the game but, with the midfielder set to return to English football, it might well be time for Bentley to show what he is capable of. 

Having burst onto the stage at perennial football betting favourites, Arsenal, and learning his trade with some of the Premier League greats in the early 2000s, Bentley soon found first-team games with the Gunners hard to come by.
Manager, Arsene Wenger, clearly saw something in Bentley that was not fitting in with his ethos at the north London club and the youngster was shipped on loan to the likes of Norwich City and Blackburn Rovers, before making a permanent move to Ewood Park.

Bentley has pretty much been a nomad ever since and a move to Tottenham Hotspur saw further loan spells with the likes of Birmingham City, West Ham United, and, most recently, Russian outfit, Rostov.

However, the now 28-year-old looks like he has done plenty of growing up and a return to White Hart Lane is set for next month with a host of clubs interested in the midfielder.

Bentley told Sky Sports: "I have really enjoyed my time at Rostov and I am feeling fully fit after playing on a regular basis.

"I will return to Tottenham in January and find out what is happening with regards my future, but ideally I want to be playing - whether that be at Tottenham or somewhere else."

It remains to be seen whether he has a future under Spurs boss, Andre Villas-Boas, but Bentley is looking forward to getting back to England and having one last proper crack at the rigors of the Premier League – and, with it, a shot at playing for his country at World Cup 2014.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Another FIFA project leading to World Cup schedule worries

Work on a number of projects for the 2013 FIFA World Cup are reportedly behind schedule, with transport infrastructure and stadiums lagging behind construction deadlines.

There is a major concern in the footballing world that Brazil won’t be ready to host the tournament with just 18 months to go before the first match is scheduled to be played. Only last month FIFA secretary general Jerome Valcke revealed host city Manaus was lagging behind schedule and was less than 50% complete despite needing to be ready by December 2013.

Although Manaus may be ready for the World Cup, Brazil must have the stadium up to FIFA-recognised standards six months before the world descends upon Brazil, in order to carry out extensive safety and events testing. If they fall too far behind, Valkce suggested cities may even be struck off the schedule.

“You cannot have the stadium six weeks in advance, that is technically impossible,” he said.

“There is no plan B, you can always decide to take one stadium off. We did it in Germany for the Confederations Cup and South Africa for the Confederations Cup. It works.”

Indeed, Valcke’s words should come as a real warning to Brazil to get their act together over preparations for the World Cup. The same warning was given to South Africa before the 2010 tournament, with the Rainbow Nation spending way above budget to ensure operations eventually met deadlines.

The same is destined to happen in Brazil, where the country’s Audits Court have already condemned a $650m light railway project as being so far behind schedule it won’t be completed by summer 2014.

FIFA, it seems, have once again got themselves in a mess. Thankfully Brazil’s jewel in the crown, the Maracana Stadium, is only slightly behind schedule. Yet this is a real warning to future World Cup hosts like Russia and Qatar that work must be started as soon as possible if they are to avoid delay problems and spiralling costs.

Don’t forget to check out the Betfair Capital One cup odds specials ahead of Leeds v Chelsea next week, as well as the latest news, tips, expert opinion and the latest  FA Cup odds

Monday, December 10, 2012

Turkey deserves Euro 2020 final rights

The one nation to reject UEFA’s proposals for a continent-wide 2020 European Championships was Turkey. They were right to do so. The Turkish FA had been planning a bid to host the tournament themselves yet were scuppered by UEFA president Michel Platini’s insistence that Euro 2020 should have numerous host cities.

The corridors of the Turkish FA must have been shaking as UEFA’s executive committee made the decision in Lausanne last Thursday. It was the brainchild of Platini and received much criticism when first voiced last year, yet support has grown for the idea after witnessing financial and infrastructure difficulties leading up to Euro 2012 in Poland and Ukraine.

So, UEFA have taken the decision to stage a Europe-wide tournament, leaving Turkey in the cold. Instead of welcoming nations to bid for the tournament, potential stadiums will vie for the chance to become one of 12 or 13 host cities across the continent.

As good as this idea may be, does anyone else not feel that Turkey has been cast aside here? Had FIFA pondered the possibility of hosting a global 2018 World Cup when England were bidding for the rights two years ago there would have been uproar.

Turkey’s build-up efforts for their bid have been completely ignored by UEFA and European football in general; isolating their FA and making them look like ‘the bad guys’ for objecting to Platini’s idea.

There must be some sort of compensation for Turkey, who were led down a glitzy avenue only to be bundled into a dark closet and muffled. There are reports the FA will bid for Wembley to host the final. Well, why not give that honour to Turkey, the only country that bothered to show interest in the first place? Turks will certainly be of a nervous disposition when the IOC decides between Turkey, Madrid and Tokyo for the right to host the 2020 Olympics next September.

Istanbul has hosted major games before and Turkey was ready to invest millions into infrastructure. Galatasaray’s fantastic new 52,000-seater stadium proves the Turks can stage games to UEFA standard and so should rightly host the Euro 2020 final.

Don’t forget to head to Betfair for all the latest CapitalOne Cup Betting markets now we have reached the quarter-final stage. Plus you can also use their Football In-play betting markets to have a bet while the match is being played.

Adebayor should be going to Nations Cup

Emmanuel Adebayor’s decision not to play for Togo in the 2013 Africa Nations Cup due to a dispute of match bonuses has shocked football fans already disenchanted with the vast sums of money their heroes earn on a weekly basis.

Instead of playing for his home country, Adebayor will instead stay at Spurs and aid their chase for a Champions League spot come the May, something manager Andre Villas-Boas is reportedly happy about.

“We’ll probably have the player here in January, which is a massive boost as you know, it gives me other options and possibilities,” the manager said.

“[Adebayor is] very very important, we are speaking about a player that has meant so much to us.”
Indeed, Adebayor may give the boss options but whether or not Villas-Boas should take them is quite another thing. For while the majority of football fans would argue the striker should play in the Nations Cup to represent his country, others will further suggest the tournament could improve his game.

For Adebayor has hardly been a success this season at White Heart Lane. The 28-year-old earned a contract in the summer after scoring 18 goals last year, yet has netted just twice for Spurs this campaign. He’s made just five starts, been sent off and has appears more of a hindrance than the far more affable Jermain Defoe.

Villas-Boas may say the striker gives him options, but what options are they exactly? He is strong and makes himself known in opposition penalty boxes yet is also temperamental and selfish. Spurs have won just three games with him this season and one of those was against Maribor, where Defoe scored a hat-trick.

And, as good as he was against Panathinaikos we must remember he was up against an abject defence. At the Nations Cup he would get game time, scoring opportunities and the chance to win something for his country.

Of course, it is better AVB has him in the squad than not, but one cannot help thinking that a stint in a Togo shirt could have done Adebayor a world of good.

Don’t forget to head over to Betfair for all the latest FA Cup betting, football news, odds, expert opinion and the best Champions League tips.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Football now not about winning trophies

UEFA’s recent proposals to do away with the Europa League and instead increase the size of the Champions League to a leviathan 64-team tournament may hold sound financial benefits but it highlights the changing mentality of club football.

Rather than have a Champions League hosting the best teams in Europe and a Europa League that gives smaller clubs the chance to win a European trophy – for it is only in England where people have major problems with the Europa League – UEFA have proposed streamlining their competitions into one tournament.

The problem with this is, in creating a continent-wide tournament UEFA will detach football from one of its major sporting attributes: winning a trophy.

Football is now about balance sheets, sponsorship deals and revenue streams. Disappearing are the days when your team’s main aim was to win a trophy rather than qualify fourth for the Champions League. Success is now viewed through profits not cups, with Arsenal a perfect example of a club run purely for business in sacrifice of what fans deem success. They have qualified for the knock-out stages of the Champions League once again but have not win a trophy in seven years.

If UEFA absolve the Europa League then that’s countless more teams without a chance of winning a tournament. Ask Fulham fans if they would have rather played a boring group stage with 63 other disinterested sides or reach a European final in 2010.

Ask Atletico Madrid fans if they would have swapped Europa League success last year for six pointless games against middling clubs before falling by the wayside as Barcelona surge to the final yet again.

Granted, the Europa League format needs changing but not casting aside. Football should be about winning trophies: about pitting our team against yours and seeing who is the best. It should not be about having a great day out in Milan and dining off that 2-0 defeat for the rest of your life.

UEFA will make the wrong move if they drop the Europa League, with teams happy to play for the money rather than go for a cup.

Head to Betfair for more in for on Betting Premier League and Champions League markets

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Brazil revert back to nation hero to inspire World Cup triumph

Brazil’s chances of winning the 2014 World Cup on home soil have received a huge boost this week after the Brazil Football Confederation (CBF) revealed their new manager who will lead the team into the tournament: Luiz Felipe Scolari.

The former Chelsea and Portugal boss is regarded as one of Brazil’s greatest ever managers after guiding the national side to World Cup glory in 2002. Scolari’s name goes before him and this appointment will no doubt inspire fans in the betting world to back Brazil for the trophy next summer.

Indeed, Brazil fans will be especially relieved to see the return of their national hero after enduring a difficult 18-month reign under former boss Mano Menezes, who was dismissed last week. CBF changed tact when they appointed Menezes after the World Cup in 2010, opting to employ an unknown domestic club manager rather than a former player or world-renowned head coach.

Menezes’ arrival was seen as a progressive step to involving the Brazilian domestic league with the national team, which so often has its players competition in Europe rather than South America.

Yet the Menezes experiment failed, with Brazil falling in the quarter-finals of the 2011 Copa America to Paraguay, winning silver at the London Olympics and slumping to a record-low 14th in the FIFA rankings.

With a home World Cup just 18 months away the CBF had to act fast and rightly reverted to type in appointing Scolari. Granted, the manager was exposed as a poor man’s Claudio Ranieri when in charge of Chelsea but his international record speaks for itself: a World Cup, a final defeat at Euro 2004 with Portugal and recently the Copa do Brasil with Palmeiras.

In Scolari, Brazilian fans’ already high expectations for the World Cup will be insurmountable come the tournament. He has the players at his disposal and the experience to match, making Brazil formidable opponents to any side in two summers time. 

Don’t forget to check out all the Betfair FA Cup markets ahead of the second round this weekend, including the pick of the markets as MK Dons take on AFC Wimbledon.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Japan on verge of making World Cup

Japanese football continued its development on Wednesday after the national side all-but qualified for their fifth successive FIFA World Cup with a late victory over Oman.

The match saw Japan taken almost to the very end by a battling Oman team but in the final minute Shinji Okazaki popped up to secure a 2-1 victory and extend the nation’s lead  in Group B of Asian qualifying.

The football live betting had always fancied the Blue Samurai to qualify, but with 18 months still to go before the World Cup in Brazil, Japan’s manager Alberto Zaccheroni will be pleased his side have secured their passage so early.

Japan have been on top form already this season and with World Cup qualification now out of the way the squad can concentrate on the FIFA Confederations Cup, which will be played next summer.

Indeed, the Confederations Cup can act as a stepping-stone for national sides looking to make headways in the World Cup, just like the USA did in 2009. After making the semi finals three years ago, the USA overcame Spain 2-0 to reach the final where they narrowly lost 3-2 to Brazil.

However, their experience in South Africa proved worthwhile as the side then performed above expectations at the 2010 World Cup, topping Group C.

 With Japan now able to focus on the Confederations Cup, Zaccheroni will hope the experienced his payers gain from the tournament in Brazil will aid their progression 12 months down the line. Japan have never surpassed the round of 16 but with players such as Shinji Kagawa, Atsuto Uchida and Okazaki all key figures at European clubs, Japan look set to turn heads in South America in two summers time.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Donovan 50/50 over World Cup participation

United States legend Landon Donovan has suggested he may not partake in his country’s exploits at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil after revealing the strains of league football is slowly getting to him.

Donovan, who has 144 international caps to his name, told ESPN recently that both physical and mental elements of the game are forcing him to think of retiring early, with Betfair football markets reacting negatively to the news, given’s Donovan’s influence on the US national team.

“I feel like there is a physical point which you hit when your body can’t take it like it used to, but there is also a mental place where your mind can’t do it anymore.

“But if you do it for as long as I have, you realise you hit a barrier and have to work really hard to keep it going.”

Asked if he would play at Brazil 2014 Donovan replied: “I don’t have the answer to that. There are a lot of moving pieces. If I had to guess I would say it is 50-50.”

Indeed, Donovan has been in the game for almost 13 years now and the 30-year-old’s body is starting to strain. Loan spells at Everton and Bayern Munich have reinvigorated the midfielder and prepared him for the standards of World Cups and CONCACAF Gold Cups in recent years, but these stints appear to have taken their toll on his body.

The three-time World Cup finals participant is no newcomer to the game and is more than aware of what his body is capable of. His LA Galaxy contract is up after the 2013 MLS season and if Donovan is not tempted to sign a new deal after that date he may just hang up his boots for good.

It would be a severe blow to Jürgen Klinsmann’s World Cup preparations and US soccer fans are likely to want their hero to stay on for just two more years at least.

Monday, November 5, 2012

South Africa could get Surman for Cup of Nations

With the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations only two months away, hosts South Africa’s chances of winning the tournament could be set for a huge boost after their coach revealed he intends to contact Norwich midfielder Andrew Surman on his availability for the side.

Current head coach Gordon Igesund, in the hope of tempting the former England U-21 star to the Bafana Bafana this January, has contacted Surman, who was born in South Africa before moving to the UK as a child.

The 26-year-old had previously declined to play for the nation of his birth after rejecting approaches from Igesund’s predecessors, Carlos Alberto Parreira and Pitso Mosimane.

However, Igesund told BBC Sport that a change of heart might just be on the cards, with his side favourites in the sports betting to lift the trophy on home soil.

“I want to see what his situation is now because I think he would add a lot of value to our team,”
Igesund said.

“We have the Nations Cup on home soil coming up so it would be a great opportunity for him. We’ll have a chat and see want his intentions are."

Indeed, the chance to play at the Africa Cup of Nations might just be too tempting for a player who has previously harboured hopes of an England call-up one day.

International tournaments are a different world to club football and Surman will likely consider his options, especially with a void to fill after the international retirement of Steven Pienaar.

He is unlikely to be missed in the Norwich set-up after playing just five soccer games this season and, although Carrow Road may see more of him over the busy Christmas period, the chance of playing at a huge tournament like the Cup of Nations is surely too good to let go.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The end for Nile?

Nile Ranger’s future at Newcastle United looks increasingly uncertain after the striker was banned from training and sent a written warning this week regarding his behaviour at the Tyneside club.

Ranger, who is yet to make an appearance for Newcastle this season, received a final warning from the club after persistently turning up late for training. So bad has his recent training-ground behaviour become that Ranger was even late for his own disciplinary meeting to address his tardiness issues earlier this season.

The striker has been banned from training with the first team until he turns up at the club on time every day for the next six weeks – a task manager Alan Pardew doubts he’ll accomplish:

“This guy is late so often, it is unbelievable. He’s still at this football club and we’re still trying to do something with him.

“But he will still not get back in the team unless he has a period of six weeks where he isn’t late. I don't think it is going to happen,” the boss admitted.

This warning comes just a week after Ranger admitted to assaulting two police officers during a night out in August last year. The 21-year-old was handed a 12-month conditional discharge and ordered to monetarily compensate the officers involved.

It appears Ranger may be a case of a player being given too much, too soon. His unprofessionalism has already forced him down the pecking order at Newcastle and Pardew is not a man to be played with for too long. Newcastle’s recent success has stemmed from dressing-room harmony and a work ethic completely detached from single-minded, egotistical individuals.

If Ranger wants to be part of this team he must buck his ideas up and realise life at a Premier League club can be short, despite the four-year contract he recently signed.

Don’t forget to check out the Betfair Premier League  micro-site for all the latest news, prices and expert opinion, including the favourite winning odds premier league.  

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Taylor calls for calm ahead of derby clash

Newcastle defender Steven Taylor says he’s excited about the build-up to Sunday’s local derby against Sunderland but has warned his team-mates that they cannot afford to get carried away with their emotions.
The Magpies are slender favourites in online gambling markets after having lost only one of their last 15 meetings with the Wearsiders. They will be looking to get back on track following their disappointing 3-0 defeat to Manchester United last time out.
Alan Pardew’s men have made a solid start to the season but Taylor admits the defeat against the Red Devils has hit his side hard, especially after they went into the game fancying their chances of sealing the three points against Sir Alex Ferguson’s depleted side.
They now have the perfect opportunity to get their season back on track when they meet their local rivals at the Stadium of Light, for one of the most passionate derbies in the country.

Having grown-up on Tyneside, the match understandably means a lot to Taylor but unfortunately he’ll miss the clash due to injury.
Speaking to sport news before the game he insisted he will be there to offer his team-mates his advice and has warned them that they will have to control their emotions going into the game, otherwise they could get caught-up in the electric atmosphere
 "Playing in the Tyne-Wear derby is what it's all about if you're a Newcastle player, and the build-up will grow and grow over this week as the game draws near,” he said. “There's always a massive build-up, and that's the way it should be."
"As a squad, we won't be doing anything different ahead of the derby - the gaffer will pick the team
in the usual way - and it's all about keeping cool heads on the day and keeping 11 players on the pitch."

Friday, October 12, 2012

Crook plays down derby hype

Some managers might try to contain their excitement and refuse to get caught up in the hype that has NSW salivating at the prospect of a much-anticipated derby - not Ian Crook.

Far from shy away from the headlines being generated and column inches spared, the Sky Blues boss said he will tell his players to seize the moment and enjoy the big stage.

It a commendable attitude from the 49-year-old because for years now Sydney FC and Newcastle Jets fans have been pining for a domestic dust-up to savour - and why shouldn't the A-League embrace its day in the sun?

Saturday's match has been billed as the clash of the new arrivals, Alessandro del Piero and Emile Heskey, with A league betting markets involving the two imports proving popular, but there is a wider point here.

Both sides bombed in the opening round of fixtures and the Allianz Stadium showdown offers the chance to get points on the board.

An estimated 35,000 sell-out crowd is expected and Crook knows the arrival of the Azzurri legend means Sydney FC are an even bigger scalp.

"Sydney FC had that tag of 'bling' in year one, and since then it's carried on, and everybody wants to beat us," he explained.

What tends to happen is that the arrival of marquee players like del Piero not only raises his team-mates' game but also the opponents - as was proved last week against a fired-up Wellington.

Both clubs have raised the bar in terms of profile and it seems the FFA now has a product that is on the up and capable of making news soccer headlines across the country.

If Crook is to be believed, then it appears his players are ready to enjoy the ride and meet that challenge head on.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Heskey makes losing start

It turns out the A-League upsets were not confined exclusively to star Sydney FC signing Alessandro del Piero.

Another high-profile arrival, Emile Heksey of Newcastle Jets, lasted just 72 minutes of a 2-0 defeat by Adelaide United at Hunter Stadium.

The former England striker only arrived in Australia 10 days ago but was lauded by coach Gary van Egmond for a performance packed with enthusiasm but lacking the panache to ever suggest the outcome would be different.

Much of the post-match reflection will centre on a day to forget for Heksey but Adelaide, who were outsiders in the A league betting, also deserve the column inches for a display which belied a stamina-taxing extra-time quarter-final Asian Champions League defeat by Bunyodkor in Uzbekistan less than four days ago.

Reds coach John Kosmina, whose side spent 33 hours making the 11,000-kilometre journey from Tashkent to Newcastle, admitted it had been a "long week" but was encouraged by a "fantastic effort".

Heskey alone was not to blame as the Jets succumbed to goals from Dario Vidosic and Iain Ramsay in front of 14,868 fans. The goal which killed the contest came three minutes after he had got the hook after all.

Punters betting on soccer will have noted that Newcastle lacked the craft and guile in the final third to ever threaten Adelaide and the red card shown to goalkeeper Mark Birighitti on 56 minutes changed the whole dynamics of the game.

Heskey will have better days ahead and van Egmond admitted an obvious area for improvement is getting players buzzing in and around the 34-year-old to feed off his scraps.

The Jets could not be faulted for not trying but a run of three straight defeats carried over from last season is becoming a worry.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Handshake ideal has had its day

With the build-up to Chelsea's game at QPR dominated by the pre-match 'fair-play' handshake, and whether or not players who clearly do not get on would take part in it - rather than the game itself - is it now time to ditch this divisive FA ritual?

The football authorities will argue that the handshake promotes the FIFA 'fair-play' ideal and is designed to create a better atmosphere between players before a ball has been kicked on the pitch.

In the vast majority of games, they are nothing more than a visible part of the pre-match routine with little at stake but when players with considerable 'history' come face-to-face it becomes incendiary.

That was the case last season between Manchester United defender Patrice Evra and Liverpool striker Luis Suarez following their race row, and it was also a significant issue when Chelsea duo John Terry and Ashley Cole took to the pitch at Loftus Road with Anton Ferdinand in the opposition side.

There are likely to be several more pre-match handshakes this season dominated by a lack of one between players who have a considerable grudge to bear and again the focus of sport news networks will be on that rather than what is about to happen on the field.

Some fans, players, managers and pundits have been fairly critical of the handshake with their argument being that a traditional post-match embrace should suffice after 22 players have given their all over 90 minutes.

The handshake before the game was only introduced four years ago and was met by initial bemusement by fans and some players, who believed it should be saved until afterwards.

So, all things considered, it seems it is largely a pointless excerise and, when it becomes more of a talking point in news and sport updates than the actual game, it surely proves it's an idea that has significant flaws.

Monday, September 17, 2012

No panic after England draw

 England's 1-1 draw with Ukraine in their second World Cup qualifier has been criticised by the press but the result may well be looked back on as being a decent point against a side that could join them in Brazil in 2014.

Following the 5-0 hammering of Moldova in their Group H opener, punters betting on sports had expected Roy Hodgson's side to continue in a similar vein and brush aside the Euro 2012 co-hosts as well.

However, it was clear from the first few minutes at Wembley that Oleg Blokhin's side were a totally different proposition and, in the end, a draw was all England deserved from an overall fairly even game.

Hodgson said afterwards that he felt like his side had performed better this week than they did when beating the same opponents 1-0 in the summer and, such was the improvement from Ukraine, it is hard to disagree with him.

But still England's performance has been criticised by some who believe the draw embarrassed the Three Lions and they now predict a difficult qualification campaign awaits.

That is unlikely to be the reality, though, as Hodgson's side remain very much a work in progress and they will probably endure a few more uncomfortable live scores on the long road ahead to Brazil.

Credit must go to Ukraine for the way they tried to take the game to their supposed superior hosts and they were the better side when in front at the break. But credit must also be given to England for the way they responded in the second 45 minutes and their late rally ensured they deservedly picked up a point.

It may not look great on paper but, taking into account the three remaining sides England still have to play are Montenegro, San Marino and Poland, it cannot be seen as a major setback yet.

It remains too early to judge Hodgson's England and there will be ups and downs to come but one slightly disappointing defeat, if not performance, does not put their World Cup qualification in jeopardy.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Platini’s sharpened sword primed and ready

Michael Platini’s plans for Financial Fair Play (FFP) across Europe has come into effect after 23 clubs had their prize money withheld by UEFA for failing to comply with new rules.

The penalties see the likes of Spanish clubs Atletico Madrid and Malaga, Turkey’s Fenerbahce and Rubin Kazan of Russia put under scrutiny and are based on overdue payments to other clubs, employees or tax authorities. Though they are not among the favourites for European trophies, they are significant enough for the rest of Europe to sit up and take note.

UEFA’s insistence that clubs must live within their means is the central idea of FFP and Platini is right to begin his challenge on overspending powerhouses. For football will reach a point of no return should FFP fail to bring European club spending back into line. The latest moves have affected Betfair Champions League markets as punters wonder who is next in his sights.

British football has already witnessed a multitude of financially stricken clubs suffer off the backs of over-eager chairmen and uncaring owners. Leeds United, Portsmouth, Plymouth and Rangers are just four that have felt the full force of financial mismanagement.

Platini and UEFA are right to implement these FFP plans in order to prevent more Leeds Uniteds and Portsmouths from developing and this recent move should be widely praised by fans and pundits alike.

What is most pleasing about this decision is that it targets clubs that are failing to provide other clubs and their staff with a means of surviving. Withholding payments only deteriorates the sport and European football – currently billions on Euros in debt – needs this stick to drive them away from corrupting the game for good.

Platini has his critics are still wondering whether or not FFP will work, but this recent development can only be good for the game and will hopefully make the rest of Europe aware that they cannot simply spend their way to success.

Friday, September 7, 2012

High hopes of Celtic after European draw

Celtic have been gifted a chance to make the knock-out stage of this season’s Champions League after being drawn in a group they are capable of overcoming. Neil Lennon’s side will fancy their chances against Benfica and Spartak Moscow, although a scalp over Barcelona may be beyond them.

Nevertheless, Group G looks like it will go down to the wire and Celtic, who beat Helsingborgs 4-0 on aggregate in the play-off round, are in with a chance of progressing to the latter stages.

Lennon, who manages Celtic in the Champions League for the first time, knows his side are rivals for second place with Barcelona expected to run away with the group.

“I think Benfica will be strong, I think Moscow will be strong. They have got financial clout behind them but anything can happen in the group stages, particularly if we can start the group well and maximise the home advantage,” Lennon outlined in a recent press conference.

Celtic fans may be disappointed they drew arguably the best team in the world in Barcelona, yet this match may come to their favour, and their Champions league odds actually shifted upon news of the draw.

For with Barca expected to take maximum points from the group stage every year, Celtic can be comfortable in the knowledge their second-place rivals are unlikely to nick any extra points.

This puts serious importance on the games against Moscow and Benfica, yet if Celtic can take three points off each of their home games then anything is possible in the return legs. The Glasgow club may have a poor record away in Europe but will take solace in their 2-0 victory in Helsingborgs last month.

The Champions League is more than a fun few days out for Celtic fans and Lennon is more than aware of this as he prepares to advance from a group stage that could have been a whole lot tougher.

Elsewhere, Premier League champions Manchester City were dealt another tough draw, being placed in a all-champions group with Real Madrid, Borussia Dortmund and Ajax.

The draw meant that their city rivals Manchester United moved ahead of them in the betting  , with the Red Devils set to take on Sporting Braga, Galatasaray and CFR Cluj

Monday, August 20, 2012

Brawl bother down under

Football Federation Australia today finds itself dealing with an altogether different headlines and an inquiry into an ugly brawl between Newcastle Jets and Wellington Phoenix at Weston, while new A-League chief Damien de Bohun might have hoped for a gentler introduction to life in his new role.

There can be no condoning the nasty exchange that cleared both benches in front of 2,000 fans but a slap on the wrist is all that is required here.

The powder-keg moment arrived when Manny Muscat reacted badly to a heavy challenge from Tiago Calvano - the pair were both sent for an early bath, while Ben Sigmund was also given his marching orders.

Wellington captain Andrew Durante would later be sent off by rookie referee Tim McGilchrist for retaliating to a tackle from Scott Neville.

Jets coach Gary van Egmond called it right when he told news soccer networks: "I would hope there is no repercussions".

Fartoo often there is a rush from pundits and experts to take the moral high-ground when, actually, the referee called it right in any event.

There has to be an acceptance that at the highest level there is every chance games will go off because of the intrinsically competitive nature of the players and compared to, say, the NRL, this was nothing more than a robust exchange of handbags.

True, the timing was awful off the back of the much more serious incidents between rival supporters which marred a Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers – two sides with AFC Champions league aspirations - trial match in Campbelltown but the two do not go hand in glove.

Instead of rushing to play judge, jury and executioner, justice should be allowed to run its course.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Fergie admits RvP frustration

Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson has revealed his frustration in his attempts to sign prolific Arsenal striker Robin van Persie.

The Netherlands international has entered the final year of his Gunners contract and has declined an offer to extend his stay at Emirates Stadium.

Ferguson has revealed he has made an approach for last season's Premier League top goalscorer. It is understood Arsenal are demanding a fee in excess of £20million.

"We've made a bid – they [Arsenal] have been trying to negotiate with other clubs. I don't have a gut feeling about it. We can't get a breakthrough with Arsenal," said the experienced manager.

Van Persie, who moved to Arsenal from Feyenoord in 2004, has suggested he would favour a move away from the club during the close season in his quest for silverware.

Football betting news reports than reported that Arsenal were considering resisting offers for the Dutchman and risk losing him on a free transfer next summer. Ferguson admitted he does not know their current stance.

"I don't know what Arsenal's thoughts are because they're not giving anything away. It's difficult to say why they're operating this way. I can't give you any more information," he added.

"We just have to persevere. We are trying our best and hopefully it will come our way but there's no progress at this moment in time."

Van Persie scored 41 goals in 53 games for club and country last term and picked up a number of personal accolades, United’s premier league odds would rapidly improve if they snapped up the talented forward.

United face competition from Turin giants Juventus for the 29-year-old, but Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini has revealed the Premier League champions are out of the running.

Van Persie is likely to line up for the Gunners in their season opener at home to Sunderland on August 18, should a suitable bid fail to materialise.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Great Britain and South Korea Ready for Olympic Quarterfinal

Great Britain football team's 1-0 win over Uruguay has given their confidence a major boost and they now seem determined to finish at least on the podium, if not as the gold medal winners.

They enter the knockout stage as the winners of Group A and their first opponents in the sudden death round are South Korea, with whom they will clash at the Millennium Stadium on Saturday.

The team that had started off with a lacklustre performance against Brazil in the pre-Olympic warm-up has slowly raised their level of performance.

"It's difficult for teams that have been put together to all of a sudden play together and try to have some form of connection on the field,” explained Team GB striker Daniel Sturridge.

“But we're all good players and as the days and weeks have gone by we have made a connection and made partnerships with each other. There are no divisions between us and everyone gets along."

Their opponents, South Korea, have so far failed to get their attacking game going in the competition and are being considered as outsiders in London 2012 football odds against the hometown boys. However, GB coach Stuart Pearce has warned his players not to take the Koreans lightly.

In a recent interview, the trainer nicknamed 'Psycho' told the press: "I've watched South Korea once and they are a workmanlike side. We had a situation where we didn't know exactly who we would be playing, but we had a feeling it would be them, so we will be prepared and we won't underestimate them.

"Their preparation has been fantastic coming into this. They are a good side, well prepared, well organised - everything you would expect from a side in the quarterfinals of the Olympic Games. They offer something different each time, technically and tactically."

The British team's hopes have increased in the past few matches but Pearce insists that Brazil still are the hot favourites for the gold medal. While the former Manchester City manager has taken the pessimistic route to relieve the pressure off his players, his Korean counterpart has Myung-Bo Hong is full of positivity.

"Our players have been playing well. I do not know what the British team think of the Korean team, but if there is any overconfidence then we will use it to our advantage. Many people think the Great Britain team is superior to the Korean team, but anything can happen. We will put everything into this match," Hong told the press.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Superb GB can only get better

They may not be in a position to defy Betfair Premier League tips, but Team GB’s women’s football team could be on course to a medal finish after a convincing victory over New Zealand in their first match of the 2012 Olympic Games.

Steph Horton’s superb curling free kick was enough to confirm victory and surely propel GB to the quarter-final stage.

Manager Hope Powell’s side beat their Group E rivals in a tense match at Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium, and their performance has rocketed GB’s expectations of winning a medal on home soil.

Powell’s side controlled play for large parts of the game in front of over 24,000 spectators.

The boss will have been pleased to see Jill Scott performing at her best: holding the ball up well to bring teammates into the game.

At the other end, goalkeeper Karen Bardsley marshalled her defence well, and came to the rescue to block New Zealand’s Sarah Gregorious one-on-one.

But plaudits must go to GB’s attacking stars, most notably Eniola Aluko and Anita Asante.

Aluko was impervious in Great Britain’s forward third, cutting in from the wing and distributing across the midfield. Her anticipation cleared up many loose balls in the centre of the park, giving GB a starting block to push forward.

But the star of the show was undoubtedly Asante, who came desperately close to scoring on three occasions.

The midfielder saw her first headed effort rebound off the stump of the post, with a contested corner flying narrowly over the crossbar and a final diving header glanced wide.

The Gothenburg FC star’s commitment and poor luck showed just how much more there is to come from Hope Powell’s side.

Almost certain to qualify for the knock-out stages, Team GB are in a promising position and can only improve from here as the tournament progresses.

Get the inside track on the new season with exclusive Lee Dixon analysis on Betfair.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

GB have lot to learn from Brazil

Great Britain’s football coach Stuart Pearce has selected what he calls his “strongest squad” ahead of the London 2012 Olympic Games. Claiming the squad is chosen on pure footballing reasons, Pearce has drawn together a group of what is apparently the best young stars Great Britain has to offer.

Many won’t argue with the decision to include the likes of Ryan Giggs, Craig Bellamy, Aaron Ramsey and Tom Cleverley. A mix of experience and youthful passion is a prerequisite for all Olympic men’s football teams that have to include 15 men under the age of 23.

Yet Team GB’s squad appears lightweight and somewhat vulnerable compared to rivals Brazil, who take the Olympic Games as a serious stage in the development of young talent. Like Argentina in 2004 and 2008, Brazil have named a team of stars for their gold-medal attempt in London this summer, something reflect in their status as favourites in the Betfair Olympics Football markets.

Their three overage players boast a wealth of talent. Chelsea target Hulk will offer an imposing presence up front, while defenders Thiago Silva (PSG) and Marcelo (Real Madrid) will guide the back four through the tournament. Neymar, the young Santos starlet, already has nine goals for the senior Brazil team, and Milan’s Pato has all but established himself as well.

Compare the talent of Silva, Neymar, Marcelo and Hulk to the big-name players in Team GB’s squad, and you soon get the idea of where both sides stand coming into the Olympics. Granted, Brazil haven’t played a major tournament like Euro 2012 a month before the Games, but nevertheless the stature of their squad is staggering compared to Pearce’s young hopefuls.

Betfair Football pundits expect Brazil to treat the Olympics like any other major tournament, and come out with all pistons firing come their opener against Egypt on 26 July.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Jamaican target perfect for Warnock revolution

Leeds United boss Neil Warnock looks set to add another midfielder to his squad with news that the Yorkshire club has tabled a bid for SK Brann midfielder Rudolph Austin.

With former Derby midfielder Paul Green already in the ranks, Warnock is searching to rebuild a new spine in order to push for Premier League promotion this season. Having already trailed Austin when at QPR, the Leeds boss is evidently assured the Jamaican has what it takes to bring top-flight football back to West Yorkshire.

Austin has proven his ability at Brann, playing over 80 games for the Norwegian outfit in four seasons, and should fit in well at the Yorkshire club. With Michael Brown rapidly ageing and the departure of Adam Clayton to Huddersfield Town, there is a gap in the midfield that Rudolph should make his own.

More likely to be used in defensive positions than a box-to-box midfielder, Rudolph would play the role Brown did last season: sitting in front of the back four offering added protection.

He is a perfect Neil Warnock player: tough-tackling, determined, and not afraid to get in the tick of it. Five bookings and a red card after just 11 Norwegian Tippeliga games this season is all the evidence needed to show his fight.

Warnock has achieved seven promotions in his managerial career, a lot of them coming down to fighting spirit. He tried to inject this attitude into the Leeds team last season, a method that failed catastrophically as Leeds picked up nine red cards and 81 bookings.

But there is a difference between physicality and dirty play, and if Rudolph can respect this difference, he could be the key player in Warnock’s promotion campaign.

With the new season nearly upon us, Betfair has everything covered, with plenty of news, odds tips and advice, including the new Lee Dixon Analysis blog. Check it out by heading over to:

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Misfiring Timbers not helping Spencer

Portland Timbers continued their dismal MLS campaign with a 1-0 defeat to fellow strugglers LA Galaxy, heaping further pressure on under-fire manager John Spencer.

The result defied soccer betting tips and saw the Timbers once again fail to score a goal, continuing a theme that has been running throughout the team all season.

With the fourth worst goals record, it is clear where things have been going wrong for Portland this season, despite the club starting the campaign with great hopes from their forwards.

A lack of killer instinct in attack has been Spencer’s biggest concern, prompting him to bring in Philadelphia’s Danny Mwanga in a bid to add a spark to a struggling offensive unit.

“The good thing about it is we’re creating. The negative is we’re not taking the opportunities. In games like that, especially away from home, you’ve got to try to capitalize on the half chances or the few chances you get, and at the moment we’re not doing that,” said Spence

“I’m sick and tired of hearing the word potential. For me, potential gets you your contract, gets you on the field, then you’ve got to produce. We’ve got too many guys right now not producing to the best of their abilities.”

Kris Boyd was expected to take the MLS by storm following his arrival from Europe, but the Scot has struggled with his form since the beginning of the year and will need to soon start justifying his reportedly hefty wage.

Those that bet on soccer games will tell you that his strikers will need to start finding the back of the net on a regular basis, otherwise, it could be the end of the Glaswegian’s time in Portland.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Duff pride at Ireland captaincy

Damien Duff says he will be a proud man when he leads Republic of Ireland out in their final Euro 2012 clash with Italy in Poznan.

Ireland go into Monday's match with only pride at stake following back-to-back defeats to Croatia and Spain.

However, it will be a special game for the Fulham winger, who will make his 100th international appearance. The 33-year-old has been handed the captain's armband to mark the achievement.

"It's obviously an awfully proud moment, but I would take three points ahead of 100 caps at the minute," Duff told gathered news sport reporters at Ireland’s training base in the Polish city of Gdynia.

"I know how much it means to myself and my family and what have you, but I am not trying to make a big deal out of it. I just want to get on with the game and hopefully do the business."

Giovanni Trapattoni's side went into the tournament unbeaten in 14 soccer games but have struggled to replicate their qualifying form in front of the watching world in Poland.

Despite calls for wholesale changes, Trapattoni makes only one alteration to the side that lost 4-0 to Spain last time out.

Kevin Doyle replaces Simon Cox in attack. Doyle played in the opening 3-1 defeat by Croatia but Cox came in for the second group game.

The likes of Duff and Robbie Keane have been offered an opportunity to regain lost pride, in what could well be their final tournament appearance. The stand-in skipper is determined to end on a high.

"What went wrong in this tournament? I don't know, I suppose you can just say we weren't good enough when it came to the crunch," added Duff.

"They were two very disappointing results and we are looking to restore a bit of pride."

Friday, June 15, 2012

Stadium fillers?

There was uncomfortable viewing to be had at the start of England’s opening Euro 2012 clash against France on Monday. The TV cameras spread over the vast Donetsk stadium, where patches of seats among the fans became uncomfortably clear.

When was the last time England failed to fill a stadium at a major championships? In the 2010 World Cup, England sent thousands to South Africa. While that tournament was heavily criticised for staging echoing, empty games, the England clashes were always full.

Their sold-out box office status has been around for a long time – even at the 2002 Japan and Korea World Cup they brought a strong following - so evident patches in the Donbass Arena is a real problem.

For this was no dull match against a weak nation ready to defend for 90 minutes (England v Algeria, WC 2010); nor a boring group game with nothing to play for (Sweden v England, WC 2006).

No, England v France should be a huge crowd drawer.

There are many possible reasons for why the stadium wasn’t full: expensive flights, extortionate hotel prices, reports of racial abuse, Ukraine’s distance from the rest of Europe and so on.

But maybe there is a deeper footballing reason to why fans aren’t drawn to such a historically attractive fixture? Maybe it’s just because England aren’t that good.

For in all their previous stadium-filling tournaments, England have gone in with ludicrously high expectations buoyed by strong teams. Fans don’t want to miss that memorable game that propels the Three Lions to long-awaited championship glory.

But in Ukraine and Poland, England are playing under a cloud of despondent reality and their latest Betfair Euro 2012 Odds has them at their longest prices for decades.

They are not expected to qualify from Group D, and so the proposition of spending time and money to watch your nation limp out of Euro 2012 is not very attractive.

Without the weight of expectation on Roy Hodgson’s side, the fans have stayed away – most probably saving for Brazil 2014. Though according to Betfair, they will probably struggle there too!

Kuyt frustrated by sub role

Dirk Kuyt has expressed his dismay at losing his place in Holland’s starting side and says he will be doing all he can to regain his place at Euro 2012.

The 31-year-old has been a regular for the Oranje since making his debut in 2004 and played a pivotal role as they reached the 2010 World Cup final in South Africa.

However, despite once again starring in qualifying for Euro 2012, he has fallen down the pecking order in the build-up to the championships in Poland and Ukraine, with Barcelona’s Ibrahim Afellay being preferred from the start.

Despite that, Kuyt was seen as an outsider by punters who want to bet on the top scorer in Poland and the Ukraine.

Afellay was in the team that lost 1-0 to Denmark on Saturday but it’s still unclear whether he’ll retain his place for Wednesday’s must win match against Germany.

Ahead of the tournament there were a number of calls for Kuyt, who recently agreed a transfer to Turkish side Fenerbahce, to start against the Danes at right-back in place of the inconsistent Gregory van der Wiel, with the legendary Johan Cruyff saying it would be the perfect role for the underrated star.

However, with coach Bert van Marwijk likely to stand by Van der Wiel, Kuyt will probably start on the bench against the Germans.

Despite the lack of Live Football the former Liverpool man says he’s determined to win his place back, whatever position he may be asked to play in.

"You never get used to being a substitute. It's a huge disappointment again every time you hear you're not starting," Kuyt said.

"I'm doing my utmost on the training pitch to show that I'm ready for it, but it's the coach who makes the decision in the end.

"You have to get over the disappointment, because we need all the players," he added.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Jakub confident of home advantage

Poland captain Jakub Blaszczykowski says the co-hosts can achieve anything with the backing of the home crowd.

The Borussia Dortmund star was the hero in Poland’s second Group A match, scoring a stunning equaliser as the host nation secured their second 1-1 draw of the tournament against Russia in Warsaw.

With two soccer games down and one to go, Poland must now beat Czech Republic on Saturday to reach the quarter-finals for the first time.

"We'll do everything we can. We're tired but happy. With the sort of support we had here from the fans, we are capable of achieving a lot," Blaszczykowski said.

"I believe that we can secure a historic advance to the quarter-finals."

Russia, who began their campaign with a comfortable 4-1 victory over the Czechs, took the lead when Alan Dzagoev turned in Andrey Arshavin’s free-kick for his third goal of Euro 2012.

However, Poland continued to attack and found a way back into the contest just before the hour.

Blaszczykowsk collected Lukasz Piszczek’s pass before unleashing an unstoppable left-shot past Vyacheslav Malafeev.

"We have made a lot of effort for this game. All the tactics, all the plans came together - we only missed the positive result, the winning result," Blaszczykowski added.

"We have this character and charisma. We're still in the game, we have two points. We're still in the tournament, so with this point, a win in our final match puts us into the knockout stage."

The result put Russia on the brink of the last eight and Dick Advocaat was pleased to come through a fierce test.

"I thought Russia were a better team than Poland, but it was a very good game and we played really well," said Advocat, whose Russia side are considered dark horses for the tournament in online gambling markets.

"It was a pretty good result because they had 40,000 people behind them, and that is a big advantage."

Monday, June 11, 2012

Danish triumph gives hope to underdogs

Denmark's unlikely victory over the Netherlands on Saturday proves you cannot take anything for granted in international football and gives England and Ireland hope that the unfancied teams can triumph at Euro 2012.

The Danes, marshalled at the back by Daniel Agger and Simon Kjaer, put on an outstanding defensive display to deny Robin van Persie and co to throw Group B wide open and leave many who had predicted the Dutch as potential winners of the tournament looking silly.

Holland will hope they recover in a similar way to Spain in the World Cup two years ago and go on to claim the trophy after a shock opening group defeat but Denmark's win offers Morten Olsen's team - and other countries - belief that the underdogs can have their day in Poland and Ukraine.

Like Spain's 1-0 loss to Switzerland in South Africa, Bert van Marwijk's side wasted plenty of good chances to win the game after going behind to Michael Krohn-Dehli's goal in the first half. Stephan Andersen made a couple of outstanding saves while Arjen Robben was wasteful in front of goal, hitting the post when he had at least two team-mates in better positions to pass to.

But what the result does for the tournament is of greater consequence than the Netherlands' poor finishing because it gives England, Ireland and others the impetus to go out and cause an upset themselves.

Ireland take on Croatia, Italy and Spain in their group with nothing to lose as everyone is expecting them to be well beaten while an injury-hit England are hoping to make it out of a group containing France, Sweden and Ukraine but, beyond that, hopes are not high.

However, if they adopt Denmark's approach there may be joy for Roy Hodgson and Giovanni Trapattoni's sides after all.

Joachim Low’s Germany are considered one of the favourites for the competition, so if you fancy a flutter, don’t forget you can get all the best Germany Betting odds, tips and advice with Betfair. Click here for more:

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Larsson relishing Euro test

Sweden’s Sebastien Larsson says he is happy to play in any position at this month’s Euro 2012 tournament.

The Scandinavian outfit’s group-stage campaign kicks off on Monday when they face co-hosts Ukraine.

On paper, the Swedes have the edge on their Eastern European opponents but, with a big crowd behind then, Ukraine will fancy their chances of staging an upset.

Larsson, however, is just focusing on his own role within the team.

"Obviously, I'm more used to playing on the right. But if I play on the left it's easier to come into the middle and have a few shots of my own,” said the Sunderland man, who made his Sweden debut in 2008 and has since earned 41 caps.

"As long as you get to play, you're happy.”

Sweden are fancied by most to overcome Ukraine in the opening fixture, but most of the early Sweden v England betting suggests that the team may come unstuck in their second match.

The Swedes have a strong record against the Three Lions, though it will take a big effort from Larsson and his team-mates to prevent Roy Hodgson’s men from picking up a vital three points.

Elsewhere in the second round of group matches, there is a mouth-watering clash in store between two of European football’s dominant forces.

Unsurprisingly, most of the early Netherlands v Germany betting tips are predicting a win for Joachim Loew’s men, following his side’s victory over Portugal on Saturday.

The Dutch were defeated in surprising circumstances by Denmark, and will be desperate to get their campaign back on track.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Blanc has created a new-look France

France were a laughing stock at the World Cup in 2010 but Laurent Blanc has come in and stabilised the ship, meaning the French are now a dark horse to win the Euro 2012 tournament.

Roll back the clock two years to South Africa, and Raymond Domenech’s squad was blighted by in-fighting and other problems that saw them limp out in the group stages amid a mutiny led by full-back Patrice Evra.
Blanc, who was part of France’s team that won the World Cup in 1998 and Euro 2000, was brought into overhaul the side and take them forward and that is a job he has done in impressive fashion.

Under the former defender, France are unbeaten in 21 matches, finished top of their qualifying group, and will be full of confidence going into their Group D campaign, where they face England, Ukraine and Sweden.

France midfielder Yohan Cabaye has said Blanc is the reason behind their resurgence over the last two years and reckons he made them forget the “complete failure” of the World Cup and these changes can be seen on the pitch.

“He has instilled a group mentality and team spirit like you find in a club,” said Cabaye. "We have been winning matches and qualified directly for the Euros.

“Now the greater challenge is to perform well during the competition and to go as far as possible. It is important to do ourselves justice and be positive.”

Blanc has stated he wants his France side to be more focused in defence after they allowed Iceland to take a two-goal lead in their recent warm-up match, challenging his players to rediscover the solid defensive base they had during qualifying.

Need some help with your Euro 2012 bets? Then why not read the latest Harry Redknapp Euro Tips blog? Betfair have signed up the Spurs manager for this summer’s festival of football so make sure you log-on now for the latest Harry Redknapp Tips ahead of England’s first game against France on Monday.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Gazidis coy on RVP future

Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis says the club will not be rushed into making an announcement on the future of Robin van Persie, despite the growing speculation surrounding the Dutchman.

The striker, who is currently preparing for Euro 2012 with Holland, netted an exceptional 37 goals for the Gunners last season and with him now entering the last year of his contact, a number of top clubs have expressed an interest in signing him.

If the 28-year-old fails to agree a new deal, he will be able to walk away from the Emirates Stadium for free in a year’s time, making it more likely that he could be sold in the coming months.

Premier League champions Manchester City have been the most vocal in their desire to sign the striker, with boss Roberto Mancini regularly praising the forward and repeatedly expressing his desire to bring him to the north west.

Van Persie himself has done little to quash the rumours, making a series of vague remarks that have hardly reassured the Gunners’ fans.

However, despite the uncertainty surrounding the skipper, Gazidis insists the club will not be held to ransom and will take their time before making any announcements.

"Robin sat down with us at the end of the season and we had a good discussion,” Gazidis told the club’s official website. "What we agreed at that meeting was that we would keep all the discussions we had over the summer to ourselves and make announcements when it is the right time.

"We have to respect the fact we have agreed to keep that among ourselves.

"Robin is clearly focused on the Euros at the moment and we wish him well, and at the right time we will make the right announcements,” he added.

Ahead of the start of Euro 2012 don’t forget to check out the new bet365 Ray Winstone video over at the brand new bet365 Youtube channel.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Obraniak's Polish pride

Ludovic Obraniak has defended his decision to represent Poland at international level, despite being born and raised in France.

Midfielder Obraniak hails from Metz and plays his club football for Bordeaux, but qualifies to represent the Poles through a grandparent.

The selection of his country of heritage over his birthplace has attracted criticism from some observers, but the 27-year-old insists he is not breaking any rules.

“I'm here for three years and I'm a Pole. I like the Poles, I like the colleagues on my team. The group has a good atmosphere and I am happy here,” he said.

Obraniak made his Poland debut in 2009 and has since made 23 appearances for his adopted nation, scoring five goals.

The Poles kick-off their European Championship campaign on home soil on Friday evening when they entertain Greece.

The Poland v Greece betting markets have experienced a flurry of interest, with most punters predicting a win for Obraniak and his team-mates.

Elsewhere in Group A, Russia take on the Czech Republic in what is a vital match for two teams who have been among the continent’s footballing front-runners for a number of years.

Russia v Czech Republic betting markets have also attracted the attention of supporters, and it is Dick Advocaat's men who are favoured by most to get their campaign off to the perfect start.

Group B, Group C and Group D opening fixtures take place in the days that follow, and English eyes will already be focused on Donetsk - the setting for England’s showdown with France on Monday.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Hart Key to Euro Hopes

Roy Hodgson admits goalkeeper, Joe Hart, is crucial to England’s hopes at Euro 2012, and believes he can help build confidence in the camp.

Hart played a pivotal role in Manchester City’s title triumph, last term, and has been an England regular over the past couple of years.

He will be between the posts in England’s opener against France, in Donetsk, on Monday, and will need to be at his best to repel a potent frontline. France are currently one of the favourites to win Euro 2012, according to the football betting on Bet365.

"I agree he will be vital. His form for Manchester City has been superb", said Hodgson."When he has played for England, he has done very well and, if we are to do well, there is no doubt we will need Joe Hart in top form."

England have struggled to produce a world-class goalkeeper since David Seaman retired in 2002. Many keepers before Hart tried and failed to make their mark – with Paul Robinson, David James, and Scott Carson finding themselves under the media spotlight, following unconvincing displays.

Robert Green endured a nightmare in the 2010 World Cup, but has bounced back and made his first international appearance since South Africa against Norway, on May 26. He will provide cover for Hart at Euro 2012, along with inexperienced 19-year-old, Jack Butland.

Hodgson will be hoping he does not need to call upon his reserves during the tournament. The England boss admitted he places significant stock in his goalkeeper.

"If you look at the top England teams of the past, we have often had a goalkeeper that people have suggested is one of the best in Europe or, in the case of Gordon Banks, in the world", said Hodgson.

"He produces the save that a normal goalkeeper wouldn't. That lifts your team higher up the league. It also gives confidence, which is another factor." Fans of live football will no doubt be aware that England’s Euro 2012 campaign kicks off on Monday.