Bookie-friendly results in the World Cup quarterfinals – including Brazil and Portugal crashing out – sees the layers come out ahead
England backers were left to ponder what could have been on Saturday night after reigning champions France knocked the Three Lions out of the World Cup with a 2-1 victory.
Harry Kane could have pegged England level on the 84th minute from the penalty spot but England’s captain blazed his shot from 12 yards over the bar, and France – who drifted to 13/8 before kick-off to win within 90 minutes – booked their place in the semi-finals.
Frustratingly for England fans, Gareth Southgate’s side probably edged it and deserved at least a draw but Oliver Giroud’s header on 78 minutes was enough to send France through.
Bet365’s Steve Freeth said: “France were backed to win the game as they were to win by 2-1, but the corner and card count was fairly low, so we ended with a bloody nose as our attentions now turn to the semi-final stage.”
Meanwhile, Kindred Group said the encounter was its biggest match of the weekend in terms of turnover.
Ali Gill at Kindred said: “The heartbreak at England’s World Cup exit at the hands of France was exacerbated by the fact it was comfortably our biggest loser in the book over the weekend, as well as being our biggest turnover event by some way.
“Had Kane buried that late second penalty, the draw would have seen things look very differently […] Kane scoring, Giroud scoring, both teams to score and over 2.5 goals all went the way of the players.”
Les Bleus will face Morocco who stunned Portugal with a 1-0 win thanks to Youssef En Nesyri’s brave header just before half-time.
The Atlas Lions (11/2 in 90 minutes against Portugal) made history by becoming the first African nation to reach the last four of a World Cup.
“Morocco’s win over Portugal was a much better result for the book, with Portugal the better-backed and only one goal meaning we finished in the black on that one,” said Gill.
Elsewhere, a resilient Croatia refused to give up and managed to knock pre-tournament favourites and five-time champions Brazil (2/5 in 90 minutes) out on penalties.
The match at Qatar’s Education City Stadium ended 0-0 at full-time, yet the Seleção’s talisman, Neymar, showed a moment of magic to play a one-two, round the keeper and slot the ball into the roof of the net.
However, Croatia dug in and Bruno Petkovic’s deflected shot three minutes from the end of extra time meant penalties were required.
The match finishing 0-0 at the end of normal time means bet365 has now refunded £28m on the ‘Bore Draw’ at this World Cup.
Finally, there was drama in the clash between the Netherlands and Argentina after a stunning fightback by the Dutch.
Argentina (6/5 in 90 minutes) had been 2-0 up until substitute Wout Weghorst pulled one back and then, deep into injury time, he netted his second after an imaginative free kick.
However, Argentina prevailed on penalties in a match that saw a card-happy referee dish out 17 bookings, a record for a World Cup match.
Argentina will face Croatia for a place in the final next Sunday.
Freeth commented: “If you’d have asked me going into Saturday what’s the perfect result for you in the third quarterfinal then I’d have said Morocco 1 Portugal 0 – and that’s what we got.”
Alan Firkins of Betfred said: “Brazil and England were our two biggest liabilities in the World Cup outright market, but we’d have loved England to go all the way. That bit of football-history-in-waiting is long overdue.
“They didn’t get the rub of the green on the night and will rue what was a wonderful opportunity. Unleashing fully the squad’s tremendous potential appears to be as problematic as ever though, unfortunately.”
Betfred laid a £5,000 bet at 28/1 on Morocco to win the World Cup prior to the Portugal game and Morocco have been slashed to 10/1. Argentina is the biggest loser in Betfred’s book, Firkins revealed.
“It’s been a great couple of weeks with something for everyone, and we’re delighted with the interest shown by our customers,” Firkins added. “Latest outright odds, in this World Cup of surprises are France 11/10, Argentina 6/4, Croatia 7/1 and Morocco 10/1.”
Away from the football, there was limited action on the turf and all-weather as the cold snap meant only three meetings took place at the weekend.
Even Newcastle’s all-weather fixture was called off on Saturday – just 30 minutes before the first race – after a number of trainers, jockeys and vets deemed the surface to be unfit.
There is no jumps meeting in Britain today, Monday, and the sub-zero temperatures this week is expected to play havoc with racing’s calendar.
However, there was action in Ireland at the weekend where Champion Chase winner Energumene took the four-runner Bar One Racing Hilly Way Chase at Cork in emphatic fashion, as you would expect for a 1/9 shot.
The Willie Mullins-trained eight-year-old, who is owned by legendary punter and Brighton chairman Tony Bloom, is a best-priced even money to take the two-mile Champion Chase at Cheltenham in March.