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Is Pirlo Pasta His Best
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Is Pirlo Pasta His Best

The big question is can England beat Italy tonight in the second match in Group D? The bookies odds certainly suggest the match will be a close run thing with Italy a best-priced 19/10, England 21/10 and the draw 2/1.

However, previous tournament matches between the two teams suggest Italy should be a little shorter, as their three previous encounters have resulted in wins for Italy. The latter was of course the quarter-final of the 2012 Euro Championships which for betting purposes finished as a 0-0 draw before Italy knocked England out after another agonizing penalty shootout.

Italy were much the better side that night, but you had to admire England’s dogged defence, and the influx of new blood in Roy Hodgson’s side, players filled with a youthful, scar-less will-to-win, may make them more competitive.

Perhaps the biggest news this week is that Italy’s mid-field dynamo Andrea Pirlo will be retiring from international football after the tournament; and England can only hope the Juventus man will be trying too hard in his quest to become a World Cup winner at his last attempt.

Heart says England – head says we should be very happy with a draw. 

A draw would also be a great result in the other match in Group D where Uruguay take on Costa Rica. However, Uruguay are firm favourites at a best-priced 5/11 and, whilst we’ll be glad if don’t win – no bet looks the call.

Meanwhile, the only other World Cup bet that interests me before Wednesday’s blog is a double on Argentina to beat Bosnia, and Belgium to beat Algeria, which is paying around 5/4.

Horse Racing – Royal Ascot – Tuesday

There’s also the not so insignificant matter of Britain’s best flat-racing meeting from Tuesday to Saturday – and the Tuesday traditionally features the best races of the week.

Coventry Stakes

Aiden O’Brien has won this Group 2 race for 2-year-olds three times in the last ten years and it’s hardly surprising that he has the short-priced favourite this time around in the shape of The Great War. However, he won the race last year with outsider War Command, and it might be worth keeping an eye on one of his other runner’s War Envoy.

St James’s Palace Stakes

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A fascinating clash between English and Irish 2,000 Guineas winners Night of Thunder and Kingman, and both have outstanding chances of adding another group 1 race to their future stud-CV’s. However, one of the most visually stunning performances of last year’s meeting was War Command’s demolition of his opposition in the Coventry Stakes. Horses who have performed well at Ascot before often repeat it when returning, regardless of performances elsewhere, and, granted fast-ground, the 11/1 looks massive each-way value.

War Command each-way 11/1

Queen Anne Stakes

The group-one mile race for 4-year-olds and older also provides a fascinating clash between last year’s Sussex Stakes winner Toronado and Aiden O’Brien’s American import Verrazano. Strictly on paper, Toronado looks to have much the best form, and his trainer Richard Hannon has won the race twice in the last five years. Meanwhile, Aiden O’Brien has won it three times in the last nine years. Currently 7/2, Verrazano may be bigger come Tuesday, and if you can get 4/1 each-way ¼ odds three places – that looks the value.

Verrazano each-way 4/1  

King’s Stand Stakes

This 5-furlong race is usually the most exciting race on the card, and this year’s renewal looks likely to follow in its predecessor’s footsteps. The ground will be a crucial factor with Sole Power the likely winner on fast ground, whilst Hot Streak and Pearl Secret both relish soft ground.

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