A wave of patriotic optimism has forced England’s odds down to a best-priced 7/1 with Paddy Power and Ladbrokes.
So let’s have a look at our chances with a gambler’s cold-eye and see if England really should be backed at half the price of Germany at 14/1.
Here’s how a cynical outsider would view the England team from one to eleven:
We should have taken four goalkeepers and written Eenie, Meenie, Miney and Moe on their backs – such is the uncertainty still in Capello’s mind.
Our right back is a great goal scorer but not a defender.
Our centre backs were two of the best in the world at Euro 2008 – when England didn’t qualify. Now they are beginning to creak and the captain didn’t make it past the first training session.
Our main reserve at centre-half can only play every now and again because of dodgy knees.
Another had to be talked into even coming to South Africa after retiring from international football. The other plays for West Ham and the emergency sub has been called back from his holidays at the eleventh hour.
Our left back is world class but is being divorced by the nation’s sweetheart. His deputy refused to play because our centre half slept with his ex-girlfriend.
Our midfield has just been out-passed by Mexico and Japan. Aaron Lennon and Sean Wright-Phillips would not make a world class right midfielder combined.
We all know Lampard and Gerrard won’t work together – but we’ll probably give them a go anyway if Gareth Barry isn’t fit.
Joe Cole could be back on the left – at least he’ll be fresh after failing to get in the Chelsea side all season.
Up front Wayne Rooney carries a nation’s hopes. He might, unfortunately, have to carry Emile Heskey as well.
But enough of the negativity. There are still a few reasons to be cheerful about our chances.
England’s group opponents – USA, Slovenia and Algeria – are hardly world-beaters and we should qualify for the knockout stages.
That tees-up a last 16 match with probably Ghana or Germany and if we survive that a quarter final clash with either France or Argentina before Brazil beckon in the semis and Spain in the final.
From a betting perspective that run of matches makes England awful value at 7s to win the tournament.
If you can’t resist a patriotic punt, roll-up your winnings on a match-by-match basis and the odds will be much more generous.
Another way of making money on England is on the country’s top goalscorer. Wayne Rooney is our best player and most lethal striker so has to be the play at 6/4 with Paddy Power.
The same firm offer 10/1 on Emile Heskey in that market – an even worse bet than England outright……..