Monday, July 03, 2006

Don't bet, buy the bookies!

Saturday saw the overdue demise of my biggest bet on the World Cup - a pre-tournament €33 @ 3/1 on Brazil. I’d written it off for some time, having seen Brazil play in earlier rounds so the coup de grace delivered by France came as no great surprise.

The main talking point about Brazil seemed to be fitness of the greatly enlarged Ronaldo. If Brazil had played England we’d definitely have been listening to chants of “who ate all the pies?”. However, Ronaldo actually improved with each match as he got fitter/smaller while, for me, the real disappointment was Ronaldinho. He rarely displayed his brilliance, both skill and appetite for the game seemed largely invisible. He finally got the finger out after Henry scored for France but his efforts were usually smothered by an efficient French defence.

But wasn’t Zidane absolutely magnificent in the French midfield. He gave a footballing master class and his ball control was just magic. At one point he casually chipped the ball over the oncoming defender, ran around him and headed the ball to a suporting winger. Making it all look so simple. As he sent my bet up the swanee, I felt genuine regret that we were seeing this great footballer in his final tournament, a maximum of 2 more matches. I wonder could he have an Irish granny? He’d have several years left if he was in a green shirt.

The real tournament winners, of course, are the bookies. To date it must be an absolute bonanza for UK-based bookies as, of the four semi-finalists, probably only Italy would have featured in the top 5 in the pre-tournament betting. Brazil and Argentina getting knocked out would have given the bookies a huge pay-day but the real goldmine for them was the elimination of England which would have had huge patriotic backing in the UK.

On the betting exchange Betfair, over €24m in bets have been matched already on the World Cup winner book, which will probably reach €30m before the final is decided this week. This suggests that UK bookies have probably taken a significant multiple of €30m in bets to date - and most of those bets have already lost! The bookies satchels are bulging to overflowing.

Buy William Hill and/or Paddy Power shares now.

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