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July 12th, 2018 | Ian Carnaby's Sports News

I have absolutely no doubt that the right move, betting-wise, when Belgium beat England 1-0, was to back England outright with a view to saving on the day of the World Cup Final. But right moves don’t always pay off and the Croatia defeat ended what looked like a perfect set-up.

Yes, I was surprised but one thing I’ve learned over the years is that every game is different. Far from looking tired, Croatia produced form well in advance of their previous two matches and tried to hit England hard on the counter. True, England should have been more than one ahead at half-time but the simple truth is that they weren’t and the door was more than ajar.

I go along with the sentiment that this a young team, managed by an excellent coach and capable of major triumphs in future. On the other hand, I think the ‘easier’ run through (hmm, Colombia?) gave them every chance of reaching the final and Belgium    or Roberto Martinez    did not think things through before the final Group match. They flirted with disaster against Japan and were suddenly up against Brazil with France to follow. It was just too much for them.

Brazil improved too late in the day but should have saved it against Belgium in 90 minutes. In the end, Neymar was good in flashes but not the potential match-winner that many had supposed. The reason that I’d always prefer watching Messi and Modric to Neymar and Ronaldo is that they don’t need to act as well as play. For them, there is a job to be done; nothing more, nothing less.

Finally on Brazil, the coach had not the faintest idea how to use Willian, who played deep on the right against Belgium, never missed a  pass in relatively harmless areas and was substituted at half-time having done nothing wrong at all. I’ve seen Willian torment Premier League defences but not from there. You’ve got to have him in behind the strikers, playing his little one-twos and looking for the final pass that destroys. He is a superb player but did not always convince Antonio Conte at Chelsea. Time for a change, perhaps, though I’m assuming Southampton would struggle to find his wages. 

Another thing about Willian: he is always perfectly turned out, his natural beehive perfectly in place and seemingly immovable. Marouane Fellaini could learn from him, I feel. Also, the Belgian is unlikely ever to be sponsored by Gillette or Wilkinson Sword. We shall never know if he’d have made a special effort for the final. 100/8 with me.

Wimbledon is nearly over for another year and I made no progress. Cilic lost in the most unlikely circumstances and with his departure I felt Juan-Martin del Potro had a very fair chance but Nadal outpointed him by the shortest of short heads in the quarter finals. Federer has gone, of course, and his conqueror Kevin Anderson may well wear down the big-serving John Isner. The crowd will be solidly behind Nadal when he plays Djokovic, which will have its effect upon the latter. He wants to be loved, Djokovic, but there has been a little too much gamesmanship over the years and even the once-a-year Wimbledon aficionados have spotted it. There is no obvious bet here.

Serena Williams has improved with every match and may well make yet another final. I’d be prepared to back Angelique Kerber to beat her because no one is playing better than the German at present, not that the semi against Ostapenko will be easy.

Ian

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