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More penalty misery beckons for England

GERMANY VS ENGLAND

SUNDAY – 3.00PM BBC 1

WELL, who’d have thought it? England face Germany in the second round and, if successful, it is likely they will meet another bitter rival, Argentina, in the quarter-final. The similarities between this side and the one that made it to the semi-finals in 1990 were further exaggerated when England beat Slovenia 1-0 (tipped up in this column at 11/2 with Paddy Power). Their group results have mirrored that tournament, but they have what looks a much more difficult draw this time thanks to USA’s last minute winner against Algeria.

The media has been full of typical patriotic hyperbole in the wake of the Slovenia match. Yes, England played better than they did in the first two games, but I still don’t think they were particularly good. The first half was a decent performance, but Wayne Rooney’s form is a major worry and they just don’t look like a side that is going to score many goals. Don’t forget that they have managed to scrape through with just five points in one of the weakest groups the country has ever contested.

Germany started this tournament with a bang against Australia, but they were disappointing against Serbia and were understandably nervous against Ghana. That said, we’ve seen time and time again how strong they are mentally and their team ethic is second to none. Joachim Löw would ideally have liked to avoid England at such an early stage, but he will be encouraged by the Three Lions’ rather tame performances so far.

The last time these sides met at a World Cup finals was the infamous semi-final in Turin in 1990. That was a very cagey game and the way both teams have played so far this tournament – excluding Germany’s win against the Aussies – suggests we can expect much of the same on Sunday afternoon. William Hill and Paddy Power are a best-priced 17/10 about an England win in 90 minutes, but this game smacks of a draw to me and I’ll be backing that at 9/4 on Betdaq.

Both sides have solid defences – although the German centre-backs aren’t the quickest in the world – and have conceded just one goal each in the opening three games. Chances are likely to be at a premium and I expect the midfields to dominate this encounter. The Germans are rarely gung-ho and Fabio Capello has always had a strong defensive philosophy, so a bet on no goalscorer at 6/1 with William Hill has plenty of appeal.

Most England fans will be dreading the idea of another World Cup penalty shootout and I think there is every chance they will have to sit through another one on Sunday. Capello will surely have made his players practise plenty in training, but we can’t hide the fact that we’ve been fairly abysmal at this aspect of the game at the big tournaments. William Hill are offering 9/2 that the match goes to penalties, which doesn’t look bad, but I’m going to plump for a German penalty victory at 10/1 with Sportingbet.

POINTERS...
Match to be drawn at 9/4 on Betdaq
No goalscorer at 6/1 with William Hill
Germany to win on penalties at 10/1 with Sportingbet
Sell total goals at 2.1 with Sporting Index

ARGENTINA VS MEXICO

SUNDAY – 7.30PM BBC 1


THIS is a repeat fixture of the second round game in 2006 where Argentina came out on top 2-1 after extra-time. At that stage the Argentineans were widely seen as the most likely winners of the tournament after their storming performances in the group stage. The same could be said this year with La Albiceleste a best-priced 5/1 to win the tournament on Betdaq.

Argentina have dominated fixtures against Mexico in the past with seven wins and three draws from 11 games, including 4-1 and 3-0 wins in the last two meetings. I have been very impressed with Diego Maradona’s side going forward, but they do look slightly shaky at the back. It would therefore be no surprise to see the Mexicans score so 17/2 about a 2-1 Argentina win looks good value.

Lionel Messi has had a fantastic tournament so far, despite failing to get on the scoresheet, and I reckon he can break his duck on Sunday. He’s as short as 11/4 to score the first goal, which is much too short in my book, but I’d be tempted to have a small buy of his goal minutes at 18 with Sporting Index.

POINTERS...
Argentina to win at 8/15 with Paddy Power
Argentina to win 2-1 at 17/2 on Betdaq
Buy Lionel Messi goal minutes at 18 with
Sporting Index