Saturday’s Race Of The Day

Saturday’s Race Of The Day

Irish Thoroughbred Marketing Group 2 Gimcrack Stakes Preview 15.25 York
(Group 2) (CLASS 1) (2yo) (Colts and Geldings)
By Dave Stevos

The Ebor Festival at York is one of the highlights of the UK racing calendar, and there are races to suit the preferences of all types of punters. The Group 2 Gimcrack Stakes has been won by some extremely useful sorts down through the years, and William Haggas is a trainer with a superb record in the race. He took it last year with Ajaya at odds of 7/2, and that was his third win since 2006. Kevin Ryan has also traditionally done well in this race, and he won it in 2012 and 2013. Both trainers are represented today, and you can find out what their prospects are by reading below.

MAIN CONTENDERS

BLUE POINT

Trainer: Charlie Appleby
Jockey: William Buick
Odds: 15/8 Bet365

This 2yo colt is two from three over 6f on good to firm ground so far in his short career, his only defeat coming last time out in the Group 2 Richmond Stakes at Goodwood (6f gd/fm). He was beaten only a neck by Mehmas in receipt of 3lb (Intelligence Cross 3L behind), and that is by far the strongest form in this race. Mehmas was beaten only a couple of lengths by Caravaggio in the Coventry, and he went on to win the July Stakes at Newmarket.

Blue Point has been given a rating of 109 for this contest, and that is 4lb higher than his nearest rivals. However, the big worry for supporters of Blue Point is the forecast rain. He has never raced on anything other than good to firm, and there are mixed signals in his pedigree regarding the suitability of easy ground. On all known form he is clearly the one to beat, but if the rain arrives he will be heading into the unknown.

MUBTASIM

Trainer: William Haggas
Jockey: Pat Cosgrave
Odds: 4/1 BetVictor

This son of Arcano brings a 100% record into this race, and he has looked mightily impressive for both those victories. He took a class 4 novice event at Yarmouth on debut (6f gd/fm) by 2L, and he followed up under a 6lb penalty in even more decisive fashion at Haydock (6f gd/fm) last time out. He didn’t beat much on either occasion, but he was visually very impressive. Given his trainer’s record in this race he is automatically entitled to respect, but it is debateable whether the forecast rain will suit this fella.

Arcano’s progeny usually relish a fast racing surface, but there is a glimmer of hope in his pedigree regarding his prospects of handling an ease. His half-brother Charity Plenty has won on soft, and his dam is related to a host of soft ground winners too. However, if the ground is anything other than good to firm this colt will be stepping into the unknown, and his form does not match up to the favourite. Given that Haggas has such a superb record in this race he is sure to be popular, but his odds looks a bit skinny to me and it would be prudent to wait and see what the weather does before backing him at 4/1 with BetVictor.

MOKARRIS

Trainer: Simon Crisford
Jockey: Paul Hanagan
Odds: 9/2 Skybet

This thrice raced son of More Than Ready is two from three so far, his only defeat coming on his second start in the Coventry on soft ground. He has no chance of beating Blue Point on a form line through Mehmas judging by that run, but he did look impressive last time out on quick ground when taking the Listed Rose Bowl Stakes (6f gd/fm) at Newbury by almost 3L.

His debut win came on good to soft at Haydock (6f), so he is the only one of the three market leaders to have proven himself on an easy surface. However, his form is nowhere near as strong as Blue Point’s, and he was well off the pace on his only previous try at this level in the Coventry. Perhaps the ground was a bit too testing for him that day, but even so he was beaten a very long way. He has plenty to prove, and at his current odds of 9/2 with Skybet he is probably best watched.

INTELLIGENCE CROSS

Trainer: Aidan O’Brien
Jockey: Seamie Heffernan
Odds: 9/1 William Hill

This son of War Front has been consistent this season, and he has run really well on three of his four starts. He was beaten a head on debut at the Curragh (6f gd/fm) and made amends over the same course and distance (gd/yld) on his next outing. He was quickly stepped up to pattern company next time out, and he ran a cracker to be second behind Mehmas in the Group 2 July Stakes at Newmarket (6f gd/fm). He was only a half-length behind that rival at Newmarket, but the gap widened to over 3L on his last run at Goodwood, when Blue Point was also ahead of him.

However, some horses simply don’t handle the tricky track that is Goodwood, and if he was coming here after the July Stakes there would be no way he would be a 9/1 shot. There is every chance he will be a better horse on a more conventional track like York, and it would be no surprise to see him bounce back to form. Being by War Front he won’t want it soft, but he has won on good to yielding so at least he is proven with a bit of ease in the ground. He looks overpriced, and he could reward each way support at 9/1 with William Hill.

BEST OF THE REST

Although the four market leaders are sure to dominate the betting, there are plenty of other interesting types worth having a look at. Kevin Ryan is a trainer with a superb record in this race, and Dream Of Dreams is a fascinating contender at odds of 12/1 with Paddy Power. He has some serious form in the book, and his run last time out when third behind Medicine Jack and Peace Envoy at the Curragh in the Group 2 Railway Stakes (6f gd/yld) was a cracker. He has been kept to easy ground for all three starts, so the forecast rain won’t bother this son of Dream Ahead. He is of definite each way interest at double figure odds, even if he has a few pounds to find with the favourite.

Ardad can currently be backed at odds of 14/1 with William Hill, and he represents the John Gosden yard. Frankie takes the ride, and those two have a superb record when teaming up this season. This son of Kodiac looked a serious prospect when taking the Windsor Castle at Royal Ascot (5f soft). He won his debut on good to firm at Yarmouth (5f) so he is versatile regarding ground. However, he was well behind Intelligence Cross in the July Stakes when stepped up to 6f. He had no excuses that day, and it is hard to see him turning that form around here.

The Last Lion is another that deserves a mention, and this son of Choisir has had a busy season. His trainer Mark Johnston is not afraid to run his horses, and he will be having his seventh start of the season. He has yet to finish out of the first two on any of those seven starts, and he has won two, including a Listed heat at Sandown (5f soft) on his penultimate start. He was a close second in the Norfolk at Royal Ascot (5f soft) and he has shown that he handles all sorts of ground. The big unknown is the trip, but he looks well worth a shot at 6f. If the rain arrives it will enhance his prospects, and at odds of 16/1 with Bet365 he could sneak a place.

CONCLUSION

This year’s Gimcrack Stakes looks a cracking renewal, and a case can be made for quite a few of them. If the ground stays quick then Blue Point has to have a favourite’s chance, but it would be wise to wait and see what the weather does before lumping on at 15/8 with Bet365. Mubtasim is also going to be popular at 4/1 with BetVictor but, just like the favourite, he will be stepping into the unknown if the weather takes a turn for the worse. Of the market leaders Intelligence Cross makes most appeal at the current prices.

The one I like at a nice each way price is Dream Of Dreams. Kevin Ryan has his string in superb form, and this fella won’t mind a drop of rain. He has been put away since his superb effort at the Curragh when he was stepped up to Group 2 level for the first time, and he arrives here a fresher horse than most of his rivals. It would be no surprise if Ryan has had this race in mind for some time, and at his current odds of 12/1 with Paddy Power he is the each way selection for what should be a thrilling race.

STEVOS’ SELECTION: DREAM OF DREAMS E/W 12/1 Paddy Power

 

 





Betfred Group 2 Hungerford Stakes Preview

Betfred Group 2 Hungerford Stakes Preview

Betfred Group 2 Hungerford Stakes Preview 16.10 Newbury
(Group 2) (CLASS 1) (3yo+)

This weekend the Channel 4 cameras will be at Ripon and Newbury, and the big pattern race of the day is the Hungerford Stakes at the latter track. This Group 2 has been won by some useful types in the past decade, and no horse older than 4 years old has won it since Balthazar’s Gift came out on top at the grand old age of 6 back in 2009.

He is one of just two winners that returned at double figure prices in the last decade, but only two favourites have obliged in that period. This year’s renewal looks particularly open, and a case can be made for most of the contenders. If you are weighing up a wager on this contest, you should check out our in depth preview below.

CONVEY
 
Trainer: Michael Stoute
Jockey: Pat Smullen
Age: 4yo
Odds: 5/2 Ladbrokes

Michael Stoute has trained three previous winners of this contest, but he hasn’t tasted success since Kieran Fallon steered Chic to victory in 2004. This year he relies on Convey, and this beautifully bred 4yo son of Dansili is near the head of the market at odds of 5/2 with Ladbrokes. That looks a pretty skinny price for a horse that has produced more disappointing runs than good ones.

He has been highly tried during his career but he has never been the most reliable. He won his maiden on debut as he liked, but it took another 7 runs before he managed to get his head back in front. That win came last time out at Ponte (8f gd/fm), but he had to drop down to Listed company.  He was less than half a length behind Home Of The Brave in a Group 3 at Haydock back in May (7f gd) but in truth he always looked held. I am not sure 7f is his best trip, and if it was a mile you would possibly fancy him to turn that form around. He is no certainty to reproduce the form of his last run either, and at his current odds of 5/2 he doesn’t appeal as a solid bet.

DARK EMERALD
 
Trainer: Brendan Powell
Jockey: Adam Kirby
Age: 6yo
Odds: 14/1 Bet365

This 6yo son of Dark Angel has been a wonderful servant to connections. He is a dual handicap winner at the Meydan festival and he has run some big races in defeat at Group level. He has won 8 of his 46 starts, placing on 16 other occasions. He ran a poor race on his final start in Meydan, and he was also poor on his comeback run on home soil. However, it was much more like it last time over course and distance when he found just one too good in a high class handicap off a mark of 106.

Powell has wasted no time in stepping him back up in grade, and he has the look of a lively outsider. He has been placed in a couple of Group 3s and a Group 2 in the last 18 months so he is a proven performer at this level. He has been beaten less than a length on his last two visits to Newbury, so he clearly has an affinity for the track. He is vulnerable to improvers, but there are plenty of holes to pick in most of his rivals and, at odds of 14/1 with Bet365, he could surprise with a big run.

GOLDEN STEPS
 
Trainer: Marco Botti
Jockey: Frankie Dettori
Age: 5yo
Odds: 14/1 Sportingbet

This son of Footstepsinthesand has proved to be a reliable performer in handicaps, but he has yet to show that he can mix it at pattern level. He comes here on the back of a smooth success in a 7f handicap at Newmarket off a mark of 99, and Frankie Dettori has been retained for the ride. He has been on board for three of his four career wins, so that has to be viewed as a big positive.

He has only been tried in Listed company on two occasions, and both times he was well beaten. However, one of those races was run on unsuitably soft ground, and the other came at Lingfield on the all-weather. He has always been a top of the ground turf horse, and he could be capable of making his presence felt once the rain stays away. However, he has a lot to prove, and at odds of 14/1 with Sportingbet he is probably best watched.

HOME OF THE BRAVE
 
Trainer: Hugo Palmer
Jockey: Jim Crowley
Age: 4yo
Odds: 6/4 Skybet

Hugo Palmer has had a season to remember, and the classic winning trainer will be looking to add another big race to his CV on Saturday. Home Of The Brave is a warm order for the Hungerford Stakes, and he has already beaten a couple of his rivals here in the not too distant past. He has been ultra-consistent this season, winning his first two starts and then going close behind Dutch Connection on his first try at Group 2 level at Goodwood (7f gd/fm).

He previously beat Convey by less than a half-length over the same 7f trip at Haydock in a Group 2 and he always looked as though he had that rival’s measure. 7f is definitely his optimum trip, and with only 7 runners in the field he could be able to get an easy lead. Good to firm ground will be fine, and he won’t be bothered if there are any showers. He comes off best at the weights, and he is the highest rated horse in the race. It is easy to see why he is the 6/4 favourite with Skybet, and if he has recovered from his exertions at Goodwood he could be hard to peg back.

JALLOTA
 
Trainer: Charles Hills
Jockey: Jamie Spencer
Age: 5yo
Odds: 10/1 Paddy Power

This son of Rock Of Gibraltar is an interesting contender and he has run some huge races for Charlie Hills this season. Apart from his seasonal comeback at Chester he has looked really good, and he has won 2 of his last 4 starts. He is versatile tactically, and though he has yet to win at Group level he is a horse that definitely has the ability to do so.

He hacked up in a 3 runner affair last time out at Haydock (7f soft) but his previous run in France was arguably an even better effort. He was only a length behind Jimmy Two Times at Deauville (7f gd/sft) in a Group 3, and that form was given a big boost in the Group 1 Prix Maurice De Gheest, where Jimmy Two Times ran a huge race in third. If Jallota can repeat that run on Saturday, he could go close at odds of 10/1 with Paddy Power.

MARKAZ
 
Trainer: Owen Burrows
Jockey: Paul Hanagan
Age: 4yo
Odds: 6/1 Coral

This 4yo is another son of Dark Angel and he has won 3 of his 17 career starts. He was in the care of the Hills’ Stable up until the start of this season, and he has been revitalised by the move to Owen Burrows’ yard. Two of his three career wins have come at Group 3 level, at Newmarket (7f gd/fm) and at Newcastle on the all-weather over 6f last June.

However, he has been mostly well held when he has been upped to Group 2 company or higher, and he was well behind Home Of The Brave in that Group 2 at Goodwood last time out (7f gd/fm). He did run a huge race behind Limato at Doncaster last season (7f gd), but he was still beaten almost 3L. He looks skinny enough at odds of 6/1 with Coral, and he will likely find a couple too good again.

RICHARD PANKHURST
 
Trainer: John Gosden
Jockey: Robert Havlin
Age: 4yo
Odds: 14/1 BetVictor

Last, but not least, we have the sole representative from a trainer who has won this race a record five times. Richard Pankhurst is the so called second string from owners Godolphin, and they undoubtedly have a much more obvious contender in Home Of The Brave. However, Gosden’s record in this race means this son of Raven’s Pass shouldn’t be overlooked, and he has a couple of pieces of form that would give him a squeak at this level. He looked a horse with bags of talent when he demolished a decent field in a Listed race at Ascot (7f gd/fm) on just his second career start.

He has a win over Dark Emerald in the bag, but he was in receipt of a fair chunk of weight from that rival at Haydock (7f gd/sft). He was only seen once after that win last season, so evidently he must have had some injury issues. He reappeared in a Group 2 at Ascot in June, and he ran an eye-catching race to finish fifth. It was a pleasing return to action, and he had Convey a couple of lengths behind. He ran no race last time out at Goodwood, but that was a hot Group 1 contest and he might not have handled the track. It would be no surprise to see him return to form at Newbury on Saturday, and at odds of 14/1 with BetVictor he is of interest each way.

CONCLUSION

Home Of The Brave is a worthy favourite here and he is a horse that looks capable of scoring at this level. However, he looks very skinny at odds of just 6/4, and I think there is better value to be found elsewhere. Dark Emerald is very tempting after his big run last time, and he is proven at this track. Jallota is another older horse that can’t be discounted, and the form of his French run at Deauville was boosted last week.

However, one of the least exposed horses in the field is Richard Pankhurst, and he represents a yard with a stellar record in this race. He looked a massively promising type when he won his Listed race at Ascot, and he showed he retained plenty of ability on his comeback run at the same venue. This strong traveller will be suited by a searching pace, and he is guaranteed to get that with Home Of The Brave in the field. It is a pity there are only seven runners in the race but, even so, I reckon Richard Pankhurst is overpriced and he is worth backing each way at his current odds of 14/1.

STEVOS SELECTION: RICHARD PANKHURST E/W 14/1 BetVictor





Euro 2016 Final Betting Preview

Euro 2016 Final Betting Preview

Here we are – what started a month ago as a 24 nation tournament is now left with two teams fighting for the title. Euro 2016 will come to a grand conclusion at the Stade de France on Sunday, July 10 as host nation France will clash with the surprising finalists Portugal.

France were considered as one of the favorites but had an unconvincing progress in the tournament. They relied on the brilliance of Dimitri Payet in the initial stages to remain unbeaten while the knockouts saw the free-scoring form of Antoine Griezmann. It was only against Iceland in the quarter-finals that France played at their best. Against the giant killers of the tournaments, the hosts went rampant and ended up comfortable 5-2 winners. If they were brilliant against Iceland, France were tactically astute and resilient against Germany in the semi-finals. Pitted against arch-nemesis, France had to weather some early attacks from the Germans before taking lead through Griezmann just before the break. The forward doubled the lead on the other side of the break poking home from close quarters. Germany camped in the France half in the later stages of the game but Hugo Lloris in the French goal stood like a rock repelling every attack.

Portugal’s journey to the final was anything but exciting. Ending up the group stage without a win and qualifying only as one of the best third-placed teams, Portugal were expected to lose in the first knock out round. But Cristiano Ronaldo inspired team decided to tempt fate and tease the critics with narrow victories over Croatia and Poland. Their performance was never a comfort even to their supporters but the resilience they have shown in staying in the hunt was exemplary. Their best performance was reserved for Wales in the semi-finals where they were once again expected to lose. Wales were the better team in the first half but were let down by poor finishing. And Portugal hurt them in the second half with super star Ronaldo soaring high and scoring from a towering header. To make things worse for Wales, Nani added a second to literally shutting the gate on them. Portugal not just kept Gareth Bale quiet but also managed to bring their best game when needed the most.

France have managed to unearth more than one superstar in the tournament with Payet and Griezmann leading the charge. Even Paul Pogba who was off color at the beginning is coming into his own and looked the real deal in the last couple of matches. The performance of Hugo Lloris under the bars has gone unnoticed but he is a huge presence for the hosts. Portugal on the other hand have managed to somehow challenge conventional wisdom by progressing so far. Ronaldo hasn’t been at his best but still found crucial goals while Nani and Ricardo Quaresma have alternated good performances with poor ones. Portugal still look wobbly against a settled French side who should start as favorites.

Team form

France are unbeaten in their last ten matches with just the draw against Switzerland being the sore point.

For Portugal, the win against Wales in the last match was the only occasion in the last six matches where they moved beyond a draw.

Key players and team news

For the hosts, Samuel Umtiti had given enough reasons to keep Adil Rami out but N’Golo Kante may continue to remain on the sidelines. Griezmaan will continue to be under limelight while Olivier Giroud should continue to lead the line.

Portugal will be boosted by the return of Pepe at the heart of the defense. William Carvalho should also be back in contention to start after serving his suspension. Ronaldo will be the main attraction but look out for another exciting display from Renato Sanches.

Betting advice

France have won nine of their last ten encounters while Portugal won just two of their last eight matches. Both teams are unbeaten in the Euros but while France have kept winning games, Portugal were content with drawing matches. Another result looks likely in normal time; back France to win the title.

France have scored 13 goals in the six matches so far in the Euros with just one goal less match. Portugal scored seven goals in the tournament with two goal less games. Except one high scoring game each (France against Iceland and Portugal against Hungary), these two teams have been usually frugal. Back the teams to end with over 2.5 goals.

Best bet

France to win in regular time at odds of 2.05 with Betfred.





France vs Germany Betting Preview

France vs Germany Betting Preview

This is a match that is worthy of being a final and is definitely the biggest match of the Euro 2016. Hosts France and World Champions Germany will look to do a one up on the other at the Stade Velodrome on Thursday, July 7 in the second semi-final to book a place in the finals.

France have been one of the teams of the tournament making sure that the highly talented squad gives the best to the home supporters. Their best display came in the quarter-finals against surprise package Iceland ending their dream run in a 5-2 thrashing. The match was literally over in the first 20 minutes where goals from Olivier Giroud and Paul Pogba put France in the driving seat. Iceland built their reputation in Euros as a stubborn side but any thoughts of a fightback were quelled before the half-time break by goals from Dimitri Payet and Antoine Griezmann. Iceland did try to comeback in the second half but the deficit was far bigger than what they could accommodate eventually ending up in a comfortable win for the hosts. The win comes as a huge boost for Didier Deschamps who has seen his team struggle to control and close games so far in the tournament. Not that any of the teams have threatened their domination but France always lived on the edge before scrapping through – except in the last match.

This German side is a far cry from their usual domination sides struggling to impose throughout the tournament. In the quarter-finals against an injury-hit Italy. Joachim Loew decided to match the defensive formation of Italy and the Germans looked nowhere near convincing. They did take the lead through Mesut Ozil but Italy stormed back through a penalty after Jerome Boateng committed a silly handball. After that, it was all slow death as both sides were content to take it to penalties. What followed in the penalties was a surprise with Germans unusually tentative! The match witnessed one of the longest sequence of shots in the Euros with both sides struggling for control. Regarded as the best in penalty-taking business, Germany were guilty of giving Italy a toehold every time they were expected to pull away. Eventually sanity prevailed and Germany moved to the semis. The worries for Loew aren’t from just the previous encounter as the tournament witnessed an inconsistent and incoherent German side throughout. But what works in their favor is the fact that they know how to get things done.

Under normal circumstances this match should play to the advantage of Germany but with the form they are in and the injuries they carry, one would be tempted to put France as the favorites. But Germany is a dangerous side going deep in a tournament which means we have an exciting contest in the offing.

Team form

France have won four of their games in the tournament and eight of their last nine matches although they have been rarely tested by quality opposition.

Germany are unbeaten in their last six matches and have won two of the last three encounters. Numbers don’t lie as they struggled to impose their usual consistency.

Key players and team news

Defender Adil Rami and midfielder N’Golo Kante will be back from suspension and should take their regular spots for France. Payet continues to be their best creative outlet and will once again be the cornerstone of their attacks.

Mats Hummels is suspended for Germany while Mario Gomez and Sami Khedira are injured and out of the clash. It could mean a recall for the ‘false nine’ Mario Gotze.

Betting advice

France failed to score only once in the last nine encounters while keeping three clean sheets during this period. Germany kept five clean sheets in their last six matches while scoring at least one goal in eight of their last nine matches. The quality of French squad could mean difficulties for Germany in keeping a clean sheet. Back both sides to find the net.

The selection troubles for Germany could mean difficulties for Loew’s men in keeping France quiet. France will have an upper hand and could progress to the finals. Backing them to qualify for the next round will be a prudent bet – even if it is in extra time.

Best bet

Both sides to score goals at odds of 2.1 with Betfred.





Portugal vs Wales Betting Prediction

Portugal vs Wales Betting Prediction

It is hard to not bill it as a clash of mega stars but that is how it would be when Gareth Bales leads his Wales side against superstar Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal. On offer is a place in the finals of Euro 2016 and this semi-finals encounter will be played at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais on Wednesday, July 6.

To say that Portugal have managed to scrape through to the semi-finals against mounting odds is just stating the obvious. Even with Ronaldo in their ranks, Portugal were never counted as a title favorites and their performance in the group stages reiterated this. Stuttering in all three games, they qualified to the round of 16 only as one of the four best third-placed teams. They were expected to be knocked out by Croatia in the first knockout. Both sides played one of the most boring matches of the tournament and was saved only by a 117th minute goal – which was the first shot on goal in the entire match with Portugal managing to live another game. They then went to play an absolute dour match against Poland which went to penalties and eventually Portugal won another contest they were expected to lose. This has been pretty much true for most of their tournament but stranger things have happened to teams of lesser quality; moreover, the presence of Ronaldo is always a nitro boost for the Portuguese.

Wales are a complete contrast to their opponents – progressing serenely and enthralling their supporters in every match. Brushing aside England, Wales topped their group – of course with some quality help from the English themselves. They then went on to go past a gritty Northern Ireland in the first knock-out match in a display that wasn’t comforting but not alarming either. The best from Wales was reserved for the authoritative win over hot favorites Belgium in a match that was far more entertaining than any in the entire tournament. A 3-1 final score was a bit flattering but Wales were remarkable in stifling the creative Belgians and attacking with excellent efficiency. To the satisfaction of Chris Coleman, this was achieved with composed displays from the rest of the team, reducing the burden on Bale.

Portugal looks to have more star power but Wales have come this far with far more assured displays and a strong team ethic. Portugal have been written off in both their knockout matches but managed to rise above the odds. This clash promises to be more than Bale versus Ronaldo!

Team form

Portugal have lost just once in their last nine matches but have not won a single game in Euros so far in regular time.

Wales are in cracking form in France having won four of their five encounters so far.

Key players and team news

Defensive midfielder William Carvalho will serve his suspension for Portugal who may recall Danilo in his place. Nani will be under pressure from Ricardo Quaresma for his starting berth but Fernando Santos could stick with his experienced forward.

Wales have suspension worries with Ben Davies and the impressive Aaron Ramsey both suspended. James Collins will come in defence while Andy King could deputize for Ramsey. Hal Robson-Kanu is in red hot form and could start as the lone forward.

Betting advice

Portugal managed to draw all five of their games in Euro 2016 in regular time. Wales won four of their five matches in Euros but were stretched in all but one of those. This game could witness another defiant defensive display from the Portuguese. Backing a draw in regular time is a worthy punt.

Portugal have been really low scorers with just ten goals in nine of their last ten encounters – excluding the 7-0 romp over Estonia. They have managed more than one goal in just three of these matches. Wales have been a little better and just four matches have seen under 2.5 goals. Portugal may enjoy stifling the Welsh and in the circumstances backing under 2.5 goals looks a prudent bet.

Robson-Kanu has been the star turn for Wales – even grabbing the headlines from Bale. His goals have come at crucial times too which should put him in great confidence ahead of this encounter. Same can be said of the youngster Renato Sanches and his effect on Portugal. Back both Robson-Kanu and Sanches to find the net anytime in the match.

Best bet

Draw in regular time at odds of 3.0 with William Hill.

 





France vs Iceland Betting Preview

France vs Iceland Betting Preview

Hosts France will look to ride on local hopes to gain a place in the Euro 2016 semi-finals when they take on surprise package Iceland. This quarter-finals match will take place at the Stade de France on Sunday, July 3.

France were always expected to go deep in the tournament, not just because they are hosts but because of their squad quality. They were pushed to the limits by Republic of Ireland in the round of 16 and required the brilliance of Antoine Griezmann to get back into the game. Robbie Brady scored from a penalty early in the game to silence the hosts’ supporters and stun the French team. Didier Deschamps’ men were left frustrated for more than an hour and until Griezmann scored a brace within three minutes in the second half, France were chasing shadows. But the goals sprung France to life and they dominated proceedings till the end. They could have won by a bigger margin but for their finishing. Things haven’t been easy for them even in the group stages too with France relying on the magic of Dimitri Payet to win against Romania and the goals from substitutes to win against Switzerland.

Iceland have already done the unthinkable by being the giant killers of the Euros. They were undefeated in the group phase and finished second, ahead of Portugal and Austria. But the bigger shock was reserved for England in the round of 16. England started as heavy favorites and went ahead through an early Wayne Rooney penalty. But Iceland came back with goals from Ragnar Sigurdsson and Kolbeinn Sigthorsson putting them ahead. From then on, it was the tactical assuredness and defensive awareness of Iceland that was on full show. Although England were equally guilty of being ineffective, the win was a testament of Iceland’s grit. Without a doubt Iceland have been fantastic right from the qualifiers where they overcame Netherlands to becoming the neutrals’ favorite at the Euros.

France may be favorites for this tie but they are up against the giant killing of Iceland. Complacency can be their biggest enemy that could prove extremely troublesome. Don’t be surprised if Iceland spring another surprise.

Team form

France are unbeaten in their last eight matches with just the draw against Switzerland blotting their perfect record during this period.

Iceland are unbeaten in the Euros and have lost just once in their last seven encounters that included two draws against Hungary and Portugal.

Key players and team news

France will have a host of issues to address with Adil Rami and N’Golo Kante suspended for this encounter. Kingsley Coman recovered from his knock and is available to start for the hosts. Olivier Giroud could also get the nod ahead of Anthony Martial while Yohan Cabaye could start in place of Kante. Deschamps could spring a surprise by starting Samuel Umtiti in Rami’s place instead of Eliaquim Mangala.

Iceland have no enforced changes to make and will continue to line up in their usual formation and try to stifle the hosts. Watch out for the Iceland captain and long-throw specialist Aron Gunnarsson who has already assisted twice in the tournament from similar situations.

Betting advice

France scored in 12 of their last 14 games while conceding in eight of those. They were able to manage two clean sheets in the Euros but the absence of Rami and Kante could add spark to Iceland’s attacks. Iceland scored for 13 games in a row while conceding in 11 games during that period. Backing goals from both sides look a safe bet.

Griezmann has been in great form for France in this Euros with three goals from four games so far. Backing him to find the net may not be an entirely bad option. Pogba hasn’t yet set the world alight with his performances in the Euros but expect the playmaker to come to life in important games. Back him to put up a man of the match performance.

Gylfi Sigurdsson is one of the very few recognizable names in Iceland team and has backed it up with consistent performances so far in the Euros. There definitely are more goals from the playmaker than the one he scored till now. Back him to find the net any time in the game.

Best bet

Both sides to score at odds of 2.5 with William Hill.





Wales vs Belgium Betting Preview

Wales vs Belgium Betting Preview

Wales look to extend their good run when they take on hot favorites Belgium in the second quarter-finals of Euro 2016. This encounter will be played at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy on Friday, July 1.

With Gareth Bale in the side, this Welsh side was expected to do well in France. And true to those expectations, Wales topped the group with two wins and a loss to England. More than the results, the manner in which Wales performed caught everyone’s eye. Chris Coleman’s side looked systematic in dismantling sides although their inability to break down organized defensive sides is well documented. This weakness was on full show against Northern Ireland in the first knockout match where Wales were frustrated for long spells. The Welsh were limited to just one shot on goal with Bale testing the keeper from a long range free kick. But they were relieved when a late own goal by Gareth McAuley sent Wales through to the quarter-finals. Though Wales won three of their four games in France so far, their ability to withstand high pressing – exploited by England – is also suspect, apart from their inability to break down stubborn teams.

Belgium do not boast of a superstar like Bale; they boast of an entire team of superstars! A quick glance at their squad makes you realize that the cream of elite European clubs are Belgians. This golden generation of Red Devils are expected to go far in the tournament but all the pre-tournament hype proved ineffective in the first match when they were given a master class by Italy. Credit to the talent in this team to pick up and qualify with a couple of classy wins but question marks on their ability to work as a team always hover around the Red Devils. Their best performance so far has been in the round of 16 where they clinically dismantled Hungary – mind you, not an easy opponent in the Euros this time – in a 4-0 win. Of course Hungary played into Belgium’s hands by refusing to shut shop and frustrate Belgium. But it was a virtuoso performance that should answer all critics while throwing the gauntlet to the opponents.

With two teams that believe in attacking and an open style of play, it promises to be an exciting match in the offing. Both teams should heave a sigh of relief that the other doesn’t believe in sitting back – which ironically is the Achilles’ heel for both.

Team form

Wales have won three of their last four matches in Euros but only four of their last ten – most of the losses have come in the absence of Bale in the friendlies before the Euros.

Belgium, notwithstanding its loss to Italy, have been in good form with seven wins out of ten matches of which three have come in France.

Key players and team news

Wales’ captain Ashley Williams is a doubt but could be pushed for a start in this important clash; else we could see James Collins starting as centre back. They could use the 4-3-3 formation with Robson-Kanu and Bale proving to be an exciting pairing on the wings.

Moussa Dembele is still injured for Belgium while Thomas Vermaelen is suspended for this match. Eden Hazard exploded in sparkling fashion against Hungary and will once again be their key man.

Betting advice

Wales scored in each of their Euro 2016 games and in seven of their last nine matches. Belgium looks a far cry from the one that came a cropper against Italy in their Euros’ opener and have scored in 12 of their last 13 matches. With regular centre backs unavailable for both sides, we could be in for a more open game. Backing both the sides to score looks a prudent bet.

Belgium failed to beat Wales in either of their Euro 2016 qualifying matches and the head-t0-head stands at three wins for Wales and four wins for Belgium in their ten meetings. People expect Belgium to steamroll Wales on current form but if Bale can explode, this team can surprise many. An aggressive bet would be to punt on Wales qualifying for the semis.

Bale and Hazard would be the natural outlets for both sides and they should be their main suppliers too. Backing them to be on the assists’ charts is an attractive option too.

Best bet

Both teams to score at odds of 2.25 with Betfred.





Poland vs Portugal Betting Prediction

Poland vs Portugal Betting Prediction

Action shifts into top gear in France as the quarter-finals are set to begin this week. Stade Velodrome will host the clash between Poland and Portugal vying for a place in the Euro 2016 semi-finals. This encounter will be played on Thursday, June 30.

Poland was expected to do well at the Euros but their progress has not been serene. If anything, their progress to knockouts has been laborious with wins against Northern Ireland and Ukraine masking their struggles. In the first knockout match, they faced a stubborn Switzerland team that stretched the game to penalties. Poland started the match well and got a deserved lead just before half-time through the impressive Jakub Blasczykowski. But the Swiss didn’t give up and looked determined to square things up. Poland sat back on the lead and looked increasingly nervous until Xherdan Shaqiri put them out of misery through a wonderful goal. The ‘goal of the tournament’ contender brought the match back to level terms and it was all Switzerland in the extra time though they couldn’t get the decisive goal. Poland got lucky in the penalty shootout after a shocker from Granit Xhaka knocked Switzerland out of the tournament.

Somewhere beneath the results, Poland will be worried about the form of their talisman striker Robert Lewandowski who hasn’t hit a goal yet. On the positive side, they were able to turn things around even without contribution from the Bayern Munich forward.

Portugal have been through their own misery in the tournament with no wins and all draws in the group stage. It was only after the last game against Hungary that they could seal a knockout berth and that too as the best third-placed team. If their performance was poor in the group stages, it was abysmal in the knockout match against Croatia. Both teams were guilty of playing one of the worst games of the tournament which is typified by the fact that there was not a single shot on goal until the 117th minute. It looked as if both sides were waiting for the slow death through penalties until substitute Ricardo Quaresma put Portugal ahead. The match and the performance is not entirely surprising considering that Portugal were equally laborious against Poland and Iceland.

The struggles of Portugal are synonymous with that of their superstar Cristiano Ronaldo. To be fair to him, Ronaldo’s brace against Hungary was the only highlight of Portugal’s campaign so far with the entire team looking far from convincing.

Team form

Poland are unbeaten in their last five matches alternating draws and wins and have lost just once in their last 13 encounters. During their last ten encounters, they have managed to notch six victories.

Portugal too are unbeaten in their last five matches but four of them are draws – including the regular time draw against Croatia. Their overall record in the last ten matches read four wins, two losses and four draws – not entirely comforting.

Key players and team news

Goalkeeper Wojcjech Szczesny will continue to miss out for Poland due to injury but his replacement Lukasz Fabianksi has been brilliant under the bars – especially against Switzerland. Bartosz Kapustka will be available for selection back from suspension and should slot in seamlessly into the starting XI. All eyes will be on Lewandowski to see if he can score a goal.

Portugal will have no enforced changes due to injuries but could recall Ricardo Quaresmo for a start following his impressive displays against Croatia and Hungary. Ronaldo will continue to be the fulcrum of their attacks.

Betting advice

Poland have been impressive at the back having conceded just one goal in the Euros so far – that too, a superlative strike by Shaqiri in the last match. Six of their previous ten matches have ended in clean sheets. Portugal too ended with five clean sheets in this period which means another goal less period during regular time is a possibility.

Poland scored more than a goal in just three of their last ten matches. Six matches in this period ended with under 2.5 goals. Portugal scored just one goal in normal time – not counting the deluge they had against Hungary. Six of their last ten matches have ended with under 2.5 goals. So, going for the same in this encounter is a safe option.

Poland look good to qualify and watch out for Lewandowski who may break his duck.

Best bet

Poland to qualify at odds of 2.38 with Betfred.





England vs Iceland Betting Preview

England vs Iceland Betting Preview

It can’t get any better than this for the underdogs Iceland as they prepare to tackle the might of England in the Euro 2016. This round of 16 fixture will be played at the Allianz Riviera on Monday, June 27.

England and Roy Hodgson decided to come to France with one of the youngest squads in an attempt to erase years of hurt in continental championships. Their only challenge for the group top position was expected to be from Wales whom they incidentally have beaten 2-1. This win was one of the talking points of the tournament with the English forwards proving that they can be dangerous when down. But the entire euphoria around that virtuoso performance has soon whittled down to anguish as a highly weakened England side could only draw with Slovakia. That meant that they had to finish second in the group and land the tougher side of the knockout draw. The poor form of Harry Kane is a talking point especially since he comes on the back of a scintillating season with Tottenham Hotspurs. The saving grace for Hodgson has been his captain Wayne Rooney who has slotted seamlessly into his deep lying midfield role and turned in fantastic performances in all the matches so far. But unfortunately they still lack the cutting edge in the final third which saw them spurn many chances.

Iceland who already created history as the smallest nation to ever qualify for the Euros, have taken their supporters to dream land with their performances so far. Counted as minnows in a group that had Hungary, Portugal and Austria, Iceland showed grit and determination to end with a no loss record that landed them an automatic qualifying berth. Not just in the Euros, they have been fantastic even in the qualifying defying odds game after game. With a simple game plan that is based on tying down the opponents with a tight system, Iceland would be backing themselves to do more of the same in the knockouts. Moving past England is definitely not beyond their abilities and on current form is a plausible result. The underdogs have already given enough reasons to cheer for their supporters and the neutrals but something tells that there is more to come from this side.

Team form

England have lost just once in their last nine encounters but grabbed two draws in the last three matches. Their goal less draw against Slovakia was the only occasion they failed to score a goal during this period.

Iceland have lost just once in their last six matches which includes an unbeaten run in the Euros so far. With a team that has a knack of scoring important goals, Iceland could be a difficult nut to crack for the English.

Key players and team news

Hodgson will welcome back all his top players after resting them against Slovakia. Harry Kane could be set for a spell on the sidelines unless Hodgson wants to place faith on the tired looking Tottenham forward. Rooney should once again be the focal point for England attacks.

Iceland will welcome Alfreo Finnbogason to the starting line-up after serving suspension. But his replacement Jon Bodvarsson had a good game against Austria – so don’t be surprised if Finnbogason will have to make do with a place on the bench.

Betting advice

England have scored at least a goal in all but one of their last eight games while Iceland have kept only two clean sheets in their last 14 games. On the other hand, England conceded in six of their previous eight games while Iceland have scored in all of their 12 previous games. This should make us believe that there could be goals from either sides in this encounter.

Seven of Iceland’s last ten encounters have ended in over 2.5 goals per match while England during the same period has seen five matches ending in over 2.5 goals. With both sides struggling with their forwards, there is a strong reason to believe that this will change and there could be a low scoring encounter.

The last encounter between these two sides saw England manage a 6-1 score way back in 2004 but so much has changed for Iceland since then. There are huge expectations that England will book their place in quarters but Iceland could end up surprising many people – again!

Best bet

Iceland win or draw at odds of 2.5 with Betfred.





Italy vs Spain Betting Prediction

Italy vs Spain Betting Prediction

Euro 20012 finalists Italy and Spain will reprise their rivalry much earlier this time when they face-off in the round of 16. This Euro 2016 knockout match will be played at the Stade de France on Monday, June 27.

Italy had a difficult start to the tournament as they struggled to convince their own supporters that this squad can live up to its rich history. They were barely mentioned among the potential challengers for the title and even the coach Antonio Conte was quick to rebuff any hopes. But they dumped all these concerns with their performance against Belgium in the opening match. Pitted against one of the strong favorites, Italy defended fantastically and gave a glimpse of what their experienced squad can bring to the table. Overnight, Italy became favorites to top the group, again! And although they had problems in reprising the same form against Sweden, they did just enough to win the game and book their place in the knockouts. The thought of having already won the group saw them make some wholesale changes to the starting team against Republic of Ireland eventually ending in a loss. Italy will be saddened by the thought of having landed a tough fixture in the very first knockout round, even after topping the group.

Spain had so many questions to answer ahead of the continental tournament most notably the effectiveness of their strikers. They have been the most dominating team on global arena in the past decade and carry the same approach to their game – focused on possession and patient with the build-up. Spain almost found out the flaw of this approach against Czech Republic but the 3-0 romp over Turkey was a tribute to their strikers who have answered the critics emphatically. But their last game against Croatia opened the can of questions again where after an initial goal they fizzed out and had no reply to the midfield mastery of the Croats. A missed penalty by Sergio Ramos did not help matters as Spain slumped to a loss that eventually cost them the top spot. With Italy lying in wait for the first knockout match, Spain will have to be at its best if they want to entertain any thoughts of moving into quarter-finals.

Team form

Italy have lost just once in their last five matches – which is an anti-thesis to the entire theory of this ageing squad not being capable enough. Though questions remain on the effectiveness of the forwards, Italy remains solid at the back which should serve them well against Spain.

With just two losses in their last ten matches, Spain look formidable in the build-up to one of the most important knockout matches of Euro 2016. Questions remain on the effectiveness of their strikers but the midfield sorcery of Andres Iniesta is a huge positive for them.

Key players and team news

Antonio Candreva is a huge doubt for Italy and his absence could be a loss for them especially since he has been impressive in the Euros. Key players should return to the starting lineup after missing the last game and should slot into their usual 3-5-2 formation.

Spain have no concerns on injuries or suspensions but may look to shake up things after the loss to Croatia. Alvaro Morata could play as a single striker with David Silva and Nolito running in the spaces behind him.

Betting advice

Italy have not conceded a single goal in their last five matches. In only three of their last ten encounters did the opponent team score more than a goal – a testimony to the strength of their defence! Backing them to concede less than two goals is a worthy punt.

Five of the last ten matches for Spain has seen them emerge with a clean sheet. David De Gea may have made a blunder against Croatia but should be back to his best. Under 2.5 goals for the match is a realistic bet considering the battle between two of the world’s best goalkeepers.

Spain have an upper hand over Italy recently with two wins, three draws and one loss of their last six meetings. It could be another tight game between these two continental giants which could see an Italian win – over extra time or penalties.

Best bet

Italy win or draw at odds of 1.73 with Coral