Weaker half helps England

July 3rd, 2018 | Ian Carnaby's Sports News

The first bet in the World Cup came up when England ran riot against Panama and took their goal tally to eight overall, not bad as we needed only seven in their Group G matches to justify a bet at 11/10.

I haven’t felt confident about anything else, except that Spain and Portugal would not go much further. Spain’s build-up against Russia was so laboured that they were effectively helping the opposition to run the clock down. One of the things the ‘experts’ have to master concerns then and now. Too many of them are talking about the Spain of eight or ten years ago and that is a big mistake. As for Portugal, the Ronaldo show soon became tiresome after his fine performance and stunning goal against Spain and, much though one may admire his sublime skill, anyone as self-obsessed as Ronaldo cannot possibly be good for the team. A million dollar baby in a five and ten cent crew.

One could only feel for Japan, who might have eliminated Belgium and certainly deserved to take the match to extra-time. Once the ball was safely in Courtois’ hands in the final minute they were in trouble with a yawning gap down the centre for de Bruyne to run through with options on either side.

I don’t see Belgium as overall winners and if I had to say who has impressed me mosr – after a very ordinary beginning – it would have to be Brazil. But the 16/1 about England briefly available had to be taken and when they lost to Belgium and one realised the full implications – England quite possibly the best team in the decidedly weaker half of the draw – even 13/2 was acceptable. I write these notes before they play Colombia, who may be the toughest opponents on the way to a possible place in the final, where one would lay off, of course. That looks the way to go.

I normally have strong thoughts about Wimbledon but things have not settled down yet. Johanna Konta was not at her best in her first match and will get better as the tournament progresses but her determination to come to the net whenever possible did not work against Wozniacki at Eastbourne and her shot selection still leaves something to be desired.

The cast-iron shout in the men’s is Cilic, who is in fine form and plays grass particularly well. Federer does complicate matters, however, and Zverev is another major threat. Things will be clearer by the end of the week.