The World Cup of Shocks? I’m backing the favourites…

So, it’s over for another year for twenty teams. Mexico and England joined the United States and South Korea as second round losers yesterday, adding to the sixteen teams already eliminated from the competition.

Surprises? Not one really. Uruguay took advantage of a good draw to book their place in the quarter finals, where they will be rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of facing Ghana. The United States were too naive against the African side in their quarter final and paid the penalty. England? The less said the better and Mexico were undone partly by the brilliance of Tevez and also partly by some woeful officiating.

So has it been a World Cup of shocks and surprises?

ESTABLISHED TEAMS FALL BY THE WAYSIDE…

Certainly it has in one sense; That of established teams being inept. France and Italy didn’t make it out of the first phase and finished bottom of their groups, this is a shattering blow for the finalists of 2006 but on the positive side they may be results which can serve as a catalyst for positive change for both teams.

England followed that trend in their first two games, found some form in the third to qualify for the second phase, but then reverted to type against Germany in embarrassing fashion. 4-1 barely covers how inept England were defensively. It was an embarrassment of epic proportions.

So apart from three teams massively under-achieving, are there any more shocks on the horizon?

I’ll be honest, I can’t see it.

WHO WILL MAKE THE SEMI FINALS?

Brazil will be too strong for Chile, Holland will get past Slovakia, Paraguay will edge out Japan and I think Spain will just edge out Portugal. Then in the quarters, I’d expect Uruguay, Brazil, Spain and Argentina to triumph.

It would be only right too. Uruguay should take advantage of their relatively gentle route to the semi final and edge out Ghana who are spirited, but limited and with the Uruguayan attack in great form at the moment, they have the firepower to reach the semis.

Argentina V Germany is arguably the clash of the tournament between the two most in form teams. As good as Germany were against England, Argentina’s defending won’t be so accommodating and I think the Argentineans extra flair in attack will just edge this one.

From the other side of the draw, I’d expect Brazil and Spain to progress to the semi finals. Brazil will edge out Chile and then Holland in two tight games but this is a World Cup finals and Brazil will always get the result they need. Holland have the ability to beat them, but I wonder if they have the belief. Spain will edge out Portugal before they then knock out Paraguay to set up a semi final clash with Uruguay, while the two South American giants will contest the second semi final.

Spain, Brazil and Argentina in the semis? Hardly a surprise is it?

GOOD NEWS FOR PUNTERS!

Still punters will be happy. Spain and Brazil were rightly favourites before the tournament began. Argentina’s odds shortened markedly after the first couple of games, so much so that with some bookmakers they were favourites. Fortunately, some of us got onto Argentina when they were much better odds and if you’ve been reading the World Cup articles from a few months back and took my advice, you’d have had a decent price on them too!

Punters seeking a shock bet to earn a few bob? I can only pinpoint one possible shock as such and that would be Holland defeating Brazil, but I’ll be honest, I’ll be keeping my money in my wallet for that one.

My top bets? Get on Spain to reach the final. Their draw has now become much easier given the elimination of some teams and once they have got past Portugal, they will have games against Paraguay or Japan and then Uruguay or Ghana to reach the final. Can you see them slipping up again? No I can’t either. They won’t be great odds, but they have a great chance.