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.