I've been following the World Cup over the past few days, largely from the comfort of a local social club at which I am a member.
Like many I like to pitch my wits against the "experts", and sometimes the bookies. I find myself in general agreement with the informed wisdom that Spain and Brazil are the teams to beat. I was at our timeshare in Portugal (note to Steve C. for future reference - not a holiday home!) when Spain defeated England in a friendly last year and watched it on the big screen in the bar. Whilst we played quite well, Spain were a class apart.
Before Germany's emphatic 4-0 defeat of Australia last night most participants had made a cautious start to their respective World Cup campaigns. Nine goals from seven games left me wishing I'd invested heavily in the "Under 2.5 Goals" market at the start of each match, where odds of just below Evens are usually available.
Of the team performances so far, only Germany and South Korea have truly impressed. France were lacklustre and unimaginative against Uruguay, Argentina seemed to settle for a one goal lead against Nigeria after a blistering first five minutes, Greece were dire and Serbia - who I'd thought may be a potential dark horse - were not much better. Australia were a day late in almost every tackle and England, it seems, were determined to maintain the proud national tradition of unspeakable goalkeeping howlers during strategically important matches.
In the opening fixture Mexico were interesting and industrious without being spectacular, but I feel the already entertaining South African side will improve further as their campaign progresses.
I still think England will qualify for the next stage. Nothing I saw from either Slovenia or Algeria suggests that we or the USA have anything to fear from them. The big difficulty we may have created for ourselves by conceding two points against the Americans is that we now have to outscore them against the two other teams in the group if we are to avoid Germany in the next round.
We've still, of course, to see what some other teams have to offer. Brazil, Spain, Italy, Holland and Portugal have yet to kick a ball. Of these I fear the Portuguese may struggle in the absurdly nicknamed "Group of Death", which includes both the Brazilians and the Ivory Coast.
Meanwhile those who prefer to keep faith with England may be interested to know that the odds of us winning the tournament have now pushed out as far as 17/2 with certain bookies. Bearing in mind there is no good reason why last night's disappointment should render us any less likely to qualify for the knockout stages, the patriotic punter might consider it worth a dabble.