‘WORLD Cup finals are usually poor entertainment.'
That was the gist of my argument last Friday. I did say this one would not be, but it was pottering on for the most part on Sunday, not dull exactly, just too one-sided.
Far be it from me to say the first 80 minutes of Sunday’s game was below-par; Argentina had played well, looked comfortable (and France terrible) and myself and any reader who followed my recommendation to back them to win the tournament at 11/2 (or at 19/2 after the Saudi defeat) would have been sitting pretty smug.
Messi was about to be garlanded with the crowning achievement of a spectacular career. And that seemed about right.
Sometimes people criticise me when I tell them I don’t back everything I tip.
My usual defence is my money can cut down even the best athletes at their ankles. It’s not that I always lose, just that my bank account has been depleted by some very unlikely events.
But there I was on Sunday, pretty happy with my lot. I’d Argentina backed at 11/2 and 19/2. To win the final 3-1, in extra-time and on penalties. Side bets in pubs. Messi to win the Golden Ball. I’d tipped them in this paper, on the radio, told everyone who asked I thought they’d win. It was a heavy, heavy burden for them to carry.
So Otamendi fouled Muani in the box.
We should all know by now what else happened. I said on Friday most World Cups don’t bear rewatching. Even if they are good, once you know the result, why would you rewatch any match? Yet as I type this, I’ve seen the final 10 minutes of the 90 and extra time again, and two sets of highlights. Watching it live was too emotional. I may have blacked out at certain times.
I feared for the Argentine nation. If they lost this there must have been a good chance rugby would take over from football in their sporting affections (France are 11/4 to win that World Cup at home next year; Argentina are 25/1) Their national side have been trying to conclusively reassert the old adage that two-nil is the most dangerous lead in football, despite statistically not being so.
Didier Deschamps had to take risks. He sent on seven replacements, after only making one in the quarter-final against England. Yet their comeback seemed more about Argentina imploding. I was never more sure of anything in my life than that it would 3-3 right after Messi made in 3-2.
Then a shootout, as close as the civilised world gets to capital punishment. Where executing what on the face of it is a simple enough task for a professional footballer, becomes instead a high-wire act. The person being aimed at, unlike in a firing squad, has the upper hand (two of them in fact). Block the bullets aimed at you and you become the hero. Even if you are a complete unsportsmanlike twat like Emiliano Martinez.
FRANCE are 7/1 to bounce back from their devastating defeat at the weekend and win the next World Cup in North America. Kylian Mbappé will be 27 in the summer of 2026.
Jude Bellingham, Bukayo Saka, and Phil Foden will be entering their peaks too and Englands are 9/1.
Brazil are 6/1 favourites to match the achievement of 1994 by winning in the US.
Lionel Messi is unlikely to be there at the age of 39 — despite not shutting the door on his international career — but Argentina are 10/1 to win two-in-a-row, which seems unlikely Germany are 10/1 to bounce back from a second consecutive group stage exit in Qatar, while managerless Spain are 11/1.
Roberto Mancini’s Italy are a decent price at 22/1 despite not qualifying for the last two finals.
Current plans will see 48 teams compete across the US, Canada, and Mexico.
NOW that the World Cup is over does anyone remember where we were in the Premier League? Or even what Erling Haaland looks like?
It returns next Monday with the ‘Boxing Day’ fixtures. It will be quite the comedown.
Man City remain firm favourites to win it at 4/9, while trailblazers Arsenal, who must plan without Gabriel Jesus for a while are 11/4. Mbappé and Messi to win the Champions League with PSG? 8/1.
WE should surely be allowed ride the crest of our Argentina pick for a few days. La Rochelle also clicked at even money for us by beating Ulster by seven with a minus-five point start (they went 29-0 up at one stage).
Take a gamble on Newcastle to win the Premier League at 33/1.