The new Absa Premiership season kicked off on Tuesday with the game of the night probably being Gavin Hunts Bidvest Wits, who were runners up last year taking on 2015 champions, Kaiser Chiefs. Wits won it 2-1 and have continued in the same vein as last season, whilst Chiefs conversely got the result that they least wanted. It may only be the 1st game of the season but when coming off of a bad previous season, it is paramount to start the way you intend playing throughout the season. Chiefs are a traditional powerhouse and under-achieved last year finishing 5th and an anomaly of not being able to find the net at all in their last 4 home games and thus falling way short of a place finish in the PSL.
The 4 games yielded at least 2 goals in each match and hopefully that will set a precedent for the season and we will see far more overs than unders.

Along with Chiefs, traditional Soweto rivals, and SA football powerhouses, Orlando Pirates will also be keen to turn their fortune around. Pirates play at home against Golden Arrows on 24.08.2016 @19:30 and are backable at 7/10 to start the campaign off on a positive note. For some quirky reason this fixture more often than not yield high goals and the last encounter ended 4-1 and the last 12 head-to-heads have seen no fewer than 2 in each. I like trends and history, so I am going to bet on the over 1.5 goals @45/100 for my 1st ever punt on South African football. I’ve noticed that Arrows are no pushover for Chiefs based on history, so the match play doesn’t interest me at all.

Defending champions Mamelodi Sundown’s will start the title race as favourites after their record-breaking 14 point finish above 2nd placed Wits. They will kick off against Maritzburg United only on 14.09.2016 @19:30, as they have a CAF champions league match this week. Odds are not out now but 75/100 is my guesstimate given past results, it being early in the season, and the fact that their play away to Maritzburg.
Dan Malesela has built an impressive unit at Chippa United and they started off on a positive by beating Free state stars 2-1 at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. Many consider the Chilli Boys, outsiders for the title and this is a step in the right direction. Their home form as per tonight was excellent last year and finding the net on their away excursions was the Achilles heel. 2nd on the log on Home form but 12th away cost them a top 3 finish and I’m sure that they will give it more of a crack on away excursions this coming season. Most teams look for Draws on away fixtures as a good result and this rings true but 0-0s are a rarity I find in modern football so a draw doesn’t necessarily equate to no goals. A good defence and an away goal every other game, especially against bottom of the log opposition will go a long way to seeing them finish even higher up the log this season. A good outside punt for the title if you like longer odds
Wednesday night sees traditional Giants Pirates kick off their challenge and they will be hoping to kick start their challenge on a more positive note than their Soweto rivals
Betting for this fixture can be found on most South African sites but this is my choice:

19:30 Platinum Stars FC 1.15 Draw 2.05 Supersport United FC 2.3
19:30 Bloemfontein Celtic FC 1.05 Draw 2.10 Maritzburg United FC 2.45
19:30 Orlando Pirates FC 0.70 Draw 2.30 Lamontville Golden Arrows FC 3.75

Pirates are at home and at 7/10, certainly good value if you consider the history between the 2 sides. Last year Pirates did lose 2-0 at Home to this opponent but redeemed themselves by thrashing them later in the season in the away version of this fixture. Added to all the history before, I can see a 3-0 2-1 score line.
To end off with, I would just like to state that I messaged 10 of the large local betting sites in South Africa enquiring as to when /if and where the long term PSL markets like top Goal scorer, To Win the PSL and just very basic markets as per the EPL or Laliga . I got one helpful response from Bet.co.za which pointed me to the link which was hidden away slightly. He explained that those markets are offered but are very inconsistent regarding availability as they close whilst game days are on. I would say days before and after would be more accurate but it was a fair answer. I will keep browsing and enquiring as well as suggesting markets like the Regional markets in the EPL, where you select teams from regions like London or the North east etc. or in our case something like The winner to come from Soweto or A Cape Town team would be awesome!

EPL Go Time

At around this time each year, football fans and especially those who follow this league in particular try to look for a potential winner or place finish.
Of all the major football leagues in the world this has to be the toughest league in the world to predict. From one-off matches to how many goals will be scored in a match, there is very little status quo to the league in current years and the top 6 teams who I believe are the 2 Manchesters’ (Manchester City & Manchester United), Tottenham, Chelsea with Arsenal & Liverpool / Leicester / West Ham sharing that 6th spot in my opinion. Already we have had a few ‘surprises‘, a word which because of the nature of the league and the 5000/1 winner in Leicester last year makes the word surprise or upset a tad redundant! Let’s call it against the odds if you will.
That for me has been the theme of football in the past 12 months with Portugal winning the Euros, to top off a year where the underdog tag really doesn’t hinder but rather takes the pressure off teams and allows them to take one match at a time and focus on the task at hand, as opposed to tripping up whilst glaring at the trophy which lies in promise on the distant horizon. Hull City are one of the newly promoted teams who managed to beat the Champions Leicester in the 1st week and followed that up again, with a solid 2-0 victory over Swansea. Middlesbrough have also started well and beat Sunderland at the stadium of light today. The ‘upset’ or against the odds @ 7/1 was Burnleys win over Liverpool. Another newly promoted team, so the theme of the week has definitely been a case of the new boys waltzing into the EPL and showing no respect or fear for reputation.

The two City teams are completely transformed and perhaps the most interesting dynamic of this year’s EPL title race will be this cross town rivalry! Whilst Liverpool and Manchester United is the traditional English version of El Classico, I think new history is being written and the Manchester derby will take over as the show piece of English football in years to come.

Jose Mourinho is the final piece of the jigsaw that United have been searching for and with him at the helm, all will fall into place and normality will resume at Old Trafford. I don’t think that United will ever dominate as they did under Alex Ferguson, (he was one of a kind), but this is pretty close. The signing of Zlatan Ibrahimović was when I got this intrinsic feeling that United are back. He has already shown his worth in finding winners for his team this early in the season and along with Rooney will combine to make Manchester United dynamic, explosive and full of goals once again this season. The top goal scorer market is one I’m very interested in, and Zlatan is who I’m backing to win that. Manchester United have a real chance of winning this and if you are going to win, goals are a natural by-product of this.
Equally, the across the city rivals have the Great Pep Guardiola at the helm . He has stamped his mark on this team and even this early into his reign, you can see his signature style of football being implemented. Goals , goals and more goals with an urgency to win the ball back as quickly as possible when it is lost. He has dropped Joe Hart, simply preferring a different kind of keeper to fit into his vision and style of how football should be played. That takes a lot of confidence to do ! He is the English number one choice keeper but Pep is a man of conviction and knows what he wants. He settles for no less from his players. So far they look like a combination of Bayern and Barca and its really quite beautiful to watch. They will be in the mix for sure.

Later I will find you the best odds on all of the more interesting markets pertaining to the EPL this year including the top 4 finish and to be relegated market is probably as populated as any I have ever seen. It seems a bit of a cynical market but I suppose with such a competitive league where nothing is constant, especially at the bottom 3rd of the table, this makes for very interesting speculation and prediction.
For the Top Goal scorer market, www.bet.co.za offer the best odds I can find locally on the top goal scorer market https://www.bet.co.za/index.php/bethome/action/viewevent/eventid/1529654
There are a great variety of markets also available on this site within this link .

Premier League Coupons, for the EPL connoisseur, are markets like:

Premier League 2016/17 – Top Midlands Club
Premier League 2016/17 – Top North East Club
Premier League 2016/17 – Top North West Club
Premier League 2016/17 – Top Promoted Club
Top 4 and top 6 places –
Premier League 2016/17 – To Finish Bottom: I will leave that for the more cynical types, I would hazard a guess that if Sunderland don’t buy some proper players , their flirtation with the basement may be a case of one flirtation to many and they may end up joining rivals Newcastle in the ‘championship El Calicos’ next season .
Premier League 2016/17 – Top Goal scorer: I fancy Aguero, Sergio @2.30 and Ibrahimović, Zlatan @3.90 on bet.co.za
To finish in the Top 4 or top 6 is another popular bet and I like this one for safety! For example, Arsenal. To all Arsenal fans a top 4 finish is an absolute banker and they can be backed at around even money on Worldsportbetting, who cover this market comprehensively https://www.worldsportsbetting.co.za/#!/outrights/48326|

Of course the most debated market, where all the liquidity will lie, is the To win the EPL market : As I alluded to, I feel that the winner will come from the City of Manchester but Leicester at 5000/1 are current Champions, so who is to say Burnley can’t win @1000/1?
NOTE : There are no longer any 5000/1’s on offer in this market .

On this link : http://www.sportingbet.co.za/sports-football/england-premier-league-specials/1-102-734017.html , Sportingbet offer a myriad of really in-depth markets including head-to-head match-ups , where you select , for instance, these two great rivals in the tournament head-to-head as opposed to the actual dual between them on the field .
Manchester City @1.666 to win the EPL Versus Manchester City @2.1

Also in this link are the Kings of The Capital where all the London Clubs can be selected from . London populates the Premier league with extremely fashionable teams and you browse who you may fancy here , especially if you are a London club supporter . I am a Spurs fan , so this is the market I love . A rivalry within rivalries can be found throughout the EPL . These are the more popular teams and odds for this market :
West Ham@3.20
There are also long-term goal markets offered, which is my favorite market of all, including Total Goals for Match day XYZ ….I really am partial to this market .
For the upcoming weekend, we have these odds on the goal market on Sportingbet for
Over28.5 goals @2.55 and Under@ 1.44. This is an awesome way of betting on goals as you can go through the list of fixtures and earmark the under or over 3 goal bankers and then average it all out. I definitely find this to be very lucrative if you follow and are good at picking match themes as I call it, where you don’t pick a winner or draw , but rather the tempo of the match. For instance, when I see Arsenal versus Liverpool I immediately equate it to goals, whereas a Chelsea versus Stoke City game brings up visions of stoic defense, set pieces and “ugly football“ without being derogatory . I certainly wouldn’t put money on goals in a game like that, so a fixture of that nature immediately drops my goal average for the match day. The key is to figure out if the overall theme of the week averages out as high or low , regarding the “goal rush “
Sportsbet.co.za offer a few optional EPL markets to go with the outright winner too ,but hardly anything out of this world www.sportsbet.co.za/index.php?cPath=56703&event_id=1292774&market_type_id=-&country_id=254
They do however offer lower league outright markets which is good for die-hard fans whose clubs may linger in the league below
Clickabet.co.za offers a very comprehensive list of markets too on this link:
There is nothing much that can’t be found here pertaining to the EPL so I would definitely recommend this site for comprehensive English Premier League betting.
Whilst browsing the local sites for markets and good odds I have come across supabets. They are offering a welcome bonus of a 50% match up to a R2000 deposit. Considering that the actual content of the site is good, I will definitely take them up on that. The site can be found on this link http://www.supabets.co.za/Sport/Default.aspx
This year’s English Premier League promises to be filled with all the drama that makes it the most competitive league in the world !

Happy football viewing and ‘investing’

France VS Portugal The Final

All the hypothetical theories and speculative talk have now narrowed down to two teams. The final at the Stade de France on Sunday, fittingly hosting France, who are no surprise to be there at all.
Traditional underachievers Portugal, I wouldn’t say are shock finalists either, but given the way that they performed in the group stages, only narrowly sneaking into the play-off’s through the best 3rd placed team spot, I would say surprising. Not often does a team that does not win a single game in regulation, make it all the way to the semi finals.

I do find the group stage system flawed, in that it led to boring football with many teams playing defensive football in order to secure that spot. It led to a low-scoring group stage which has ultimately evened itself out with very exciting knock-out games. However, Portugal are there and although they didn’t play particularly well and strategically looked a little off the cuff, I believe that fate (if you believe in such a thing) is more integral to their progression than any consistency or proven football capability over an extended run. France, on the flip side, are a team that have climbed up the ladder of world football in recent years and after a narrow loss, to eventual World Cup winners Germany in the 2014 quarters, have steadily progressed as a team that are now two years more experienced but with the same core group of players from that world cup. Although they didn’t perhaps dominate this semi -final, as a 2-0 score line suggests, they beat the World Champions and the clean sheet will inspire them even further to believe they have the tools to win this.
Antoine Griezmann is a rising star and was the driving force on attack in front of a stoic, experienced French defense. In combination with Olivier Giroud, I think the French have more boxes ticked in all areas of the pitch and will drive France home in 90 minutes against Portugal. From a Portuguese perspective, they may argue the fact that the form book goes out the window and it’s literally only 90 minutes that stands between them and lofting and much overdue major tournament CUP, above their heads.

Along with Holland, Portugal are the probably the best football nation never to have won a major football event and although the head and the odds themselves suggest it is unlikely, I am a firm believer in destiny. Wales looked very solid and after an outstanding quarter final against a much fancied Belgium, were a tough nut to crack. Portugal came out inspired by this and for once Ronaldo truly looked to put the team first and foremost. If Portugal can replicate that again and then some, perhaps they can challenge this French team?
France played very ‘Germany’ like, against Germany in the semi-final and were super composed and ruthless with the few chances they had. Germany were unlike themselves, making naive errors like the hand-ball spot penalty Bastian Schweinsteiger conceded, to hand France the imputes and momentum when they were under the cosh for most of the 1st half. France took that break with Griezmmann stepping up, taking it with precision and icy calmness. They did what we don’t normally associate with France and whilst not having much possession, were efficient with the opportunities afforded to them. They won ‘ugly’ in terms of comparing the usual panache over resilience that you associate with French football ! With all the ability that they have on attack being unquestionable, this game was perfect preparation in dealing with a team that is dominant in possession, yet still find a way to win.
Putting to rest any thoughts that France have a soft under belly. Their belief must be sky high. Added to that strong sense of patriotism that will exude from the crowd, they will be awesome to behold. They will have far more possession than playing against Germany and I hope that Portugal can match them to make this an encounter to remember. We will witness the result of a team riding a wave of confidence from a long run of great results, rallied by their parochial home support against an opponent that has scrapped their way to another chance at putting the wrongs of the past right. 2004 in St Denis against Greece was a Portugal team strongly fancied to win. Tomorrow is the reverse scenario. Perhaps that underdog tag will suit them well ….

A few interesting facts to sign off with : Head-to-head France versus Portugal: played 24: France won:18 ; Portugal won: 5 and 1 draw.
France have won the last 10 games between the two sides, which stretches back 40 years to Portugal’s 2-0 win at the Parc de Princes in 1975.
Statistics are for the history books and records and runs are set to be broken . May THE BEST TEAM win!

EURO The Final 4

Having predicted an open and competitive tournament, I could not have imagined just how true this would be !! We now sit on the cusp of the semis and on one side of the draw, the hosts meet up with Germany. This is of no surprise really, as Germany are almost bankers to progress far into tournaments, as I alluded to when tipping them as almost guaranteed semi finalists. Irrespective of the talent available to them, when does this team ever let their country down?

France are a better team on paper,combined with the home support, I think they can progress past this German team but their will be no room for error. In the World Cup they met in the 1/4s and I had high hopes on France prior to the tournament. They played well against Germany but didn’t convert their chances. Germany however, have fewer chances but converted a chance from a set piece, with the ball almost hitting the back of the goal scorer’s head. Not exactly the goal of the tournament but that is what makes Germany successful. They can win even when not playing well. That is why France need to take lessons from that game, as I’m sure they will and come out all guns blazing and take it to Germany. If they play over-cautiously and don’t use their superior skills with the ball, they may live to regret it. If this game goes to penalties it would not suit France. All out attack and getting a goal up yet keep playing and going for the jugular is a successful strategy, I feel. Conversely, Germany will be measured and happy to take on pressure and defend if need be. Taking this to penalties always suits Germany. We know this and saw it in the quarter final against an Italian team, who certainly aren’t ones to crumble under the pressure of penalty kicks. For me France, need to progress by winning in normal time or extra time. Not because I’m biased against Germany, but because I want the hosts to be in the final, in addition to I also think that the result of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil can be rectified. In that scenario, I thought they were very unlucky, but perhaps they were a few years short of gelling as a team, after the shambles that they recovered from in the 2010 World Cup.

On the other side of the draw we see the absolute polar opposite theme. One team that was given almost no chance at the beginning of the tournament is Wales and a team that is yet to win a game in Portugal. With Wales progressing, they have helped to validate my opinion that there is very little difference between them and England. Except that Wales have the benefit of playing under no pressure and have a tremendous team spirit. They have players like Aaron Ramsey from Arsenal, Brown from Leicester and a core of very good EPL players to support their “STAR”, Gareth Bale. I put star in inverted commas because in this team there is no STAR really. They are all for one and one for all. In Portugal, we have a similar dynamic, in that they have good players around their SUPERSTAR in Ronaldo. If there is a difference in this game, I think it will come down to this dynamic . Not in so much as how their stars play, but rather in how the stars effect the team. Bale is a team player although he is a match winner in his own right. Ronaldo is enormously gifted obviously BUT if he isn’t on his game, does his frustration at not being able to be the point of difference and in the lime light, lead to him taking a shot, where a draw and pass to another player leads to a simple tap in?
I’m speaking hypothetically of course. I’m behind Wales, firstly, because I love the underdog and a Cinderella story and secondly, the system and rules in the group stages that allows a team who hasn’t won a single game and is YET to win, is in a semi-final, seems farcical. If Portugal can go on to beat Wales, and then go past giants Germany or France, then I suppose I will have to concede that I am wrong and that it is perhaps destiny for them to win a major tournament. Along with Holland, they are probably, historically, the best nations not to have won a Cup. Tonight I will find out whether my little wager of R200 @ 31/1 on Wales is still alive ! I’m rooting for Wales for obvious reasons tonight and I will be slightly more impartial when Germany and France play next. It should be a cracker-jack match too so let’s hope that these games are sorted out without the need for penalties. Ninety minutes of pure entertainment, and quality over quantity, I always say. May the TWO BEST teams win.

EURO 2016 The Last 16

The Euros are proving to be even more exciting than I could have imagined ! On Wednesday night, Croatia (who were priced at 21/1 to win the Euros, just prior to kick off) grabbed a late winner, to pip Spain at the post (who started the fixture as favourites to win the Euros). Spain are forced to resign themselves to an encounter with a very well organised and defensively sound Italy. Croatia however, get the benefit of beating Spain, in that they face a Portugal side who are too reliant on individual players, and don’t play as a collective team. As much as their ultra determined attitude should be commended, we should not forget that they conceded 3 goals and were always chasing the game. Matched against a better team like Italy, the door would have been shut on them and they would never have recovered!
Croatia, who have match winners, in Ivan Rakitic (who is a talisman for Barcelona behind Messi), along with Mandzukic upfront, have the weaponry needed to beat any team on their day! In my opinion, the results so far confirm, that there are NO clear favourites in this competition, as soon as a ‘favourite” team seems to be showing consistency, they falter.

Belgium have been playing well in the last 2 games, especially in how they saw off a desperate Sweden, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic. As it turns out, playing in his last international giving his ALL to play just a few more internationals! In the end, they created no clear chances and in all fairness, what I assumed was a group of death was anything but, with Belgium and Italy proving far superior. I mentioned in a previous article I wrote, that a Euro winner from this group was plausible and good value, as the ‘To win from Group’ market.

Italy may face Spain next, but like Leicester showed in the EPL, the tide is turning in football regarding what style of play is more effective. The Spanish style tiki-taka that has been dominant for 6 years and possibly ended at the last world cup, may be A way, as opposed to THE way. The ‘keep-the-ball and pass it into the net’, or the more direct approach?
Spain had enough chances to beat Croatia, but ultimately the ball needed to cross the line. If it were boxing, Spain would win on points and punches thrown, but football only rewards goals. This year, Manchester United demonstrated this, in contrast to Leicester who highlighted how important a strong defense is, as well as how important taking your chances are. Lots of crosses, a few long balls and stretching the opponents with width and pace is as effective as the Spanish possession-based game, and the Spain versus Italy encounter may give us clues as to this question. All the other games will be interesting but none will have the CONTRAST of this game.

Germany will do what Germany always do, and progress deep. They have always played football with just the right balance, between directness and possession, and whilst not in superb form, they know how to win tournaments. I feel that Belgium are the most gifted and if they can defend well, they are as good as anyone, if not, the best on paper. I hope that they do progress because they are awesome to watch.

Now for the fairytale story in Wales. They are 30/1 and were backed as high as 250/1! With their team spirit, good solid players mixed with some superb players, like Ramsey from Arsenal , and the incredible Gareth Bale, I can see them progressing passed Ireland with relative ease, and I think the odds on this game should have Wales reflect as stronger favourites. Wales, along with Croatia and Italy, are my selections for the punter that seeks value, as I feel that there are no clear favourites as mentioned previously.

Both the Republic and the North of Ireland’s (teams are there, which is a fairytale story with 4 UK teams in the last 16 ( If the republic would just concede to be part of the UK 🙂 ). However, I think Wales will progress the furthest. That may sound controversial but England are only fractionally better on paper and the huge pressure of expectation always trips them up. Wales went toe-to-toe with them and personally, it’s the “same car for double the price” … regarding Welsh value.

On to the host country, France. Of course they are now favourites. If I was forced to pick a lower odds favourite I would take them, simply because the home support will be parochial and vociferous! The French are emotional to the nth degree, and that passion, if controlled, along with a very good football team, who I actually picked to win the last world cup, should progress to the finals by sheer will. Home-ground advantage is immeasurable. If used in the right way and the energy is controlled, it is what gives them the edge among a maize of speculated potential winners at low odds, that simply cannot be separated.

The way the draw has panned out means that the more fancied and gifted teams can, not to say will, progress.
I look forward to some encounters , and think that the favourites in all of these matches and the value odds teams that I have mentioned above, will progress. The obvious exception mentioned is the Spanish / Italy encounter and that will reveal a lot, I suspect. I am backing Italy at big odds 19/1 and if they beat Spain, those odds will come crashing down. Against the odds for me likened to Leicester FC. So, lets all enjoy the fireworks that are sure to emerge as we continue on the road to the final.