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Jun 18, 2014

Betting Blog: Back Balotelli to score

England take on Uruguay on Thursday needing at least a draw to keep alive their hopes of getting out of their group. The extra pressure that knowledge brings will make things tough but Uruguay have the same pressure after a first-match defeat and a couple more problems with injuries to key players that should give England hope of getting a positive result.

Luis Suarez, it seems, will play but as great as he is, there is no way he can be 100 percent fit and without him at full throttle, they are less effective, as Costa Rica showed in their 3-1 win. That was not a customary Uruguay performance and perhaps they will play better this time, but this World Cup is already showing how tough it is to find confidence when it's lacking in the first place.

England, on the other hand, played some good stuff against Italy and though they lack the kind of experience to get to the latter stages, probably, they are direct, aggressive and providing they play everyone in the correct position, they have the ability to do some damage.

Bet365 make them 23/20 to win it and on the evidence of their first matches, they should do it. If England hold the upper hand, then discipline could also be an issue and Uruguay look a decent bet at 11/10 to pick up three yellow cards or more.

Greece look one of the weakest sides in the tournament and Japan can get their first win when the two sides play each other on Friday. While Greece rely on set pieces and look a little jaded, Japan have enough pace and energy to exploit their opponents' lack of inventiveness. The Japanese are 6/5 with bet365 to win it but they could win this with something to spare, so try them at 13/5 to be leading at half-time and to win it at full-time.

France looked pretty good in their opening win and should be too strong for Switzerland on Saturday night. Didier Deschamps' team look united, which puts them well ahead of where they were four years ago, and the likes of Karim Benzema look in the mood to go a long way.

The Swiss are nothing special and France are decent value with bet365 at 4/5 to win on the night. Italy showed they are as classy as ever when they beat England in their opening match, with their midfield outstanding and their full-backs also looking strong. But apart from the imperious Andrea Pirlo, what stood out for me was the attitude of Mario Balotelli.

The man who has occasionally looked more likely to get sent off than score seems to be right on message and that spells trouble for Costa Rica, as good as they were against Uruguay. Balotelli is an outstanding striker and at 4/1 he is worth a gamble to open the scoring.

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