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World Cup countdown

Posted 10th December 2009

Plenty of bets have already been placed on next year's World Cup, but now the groups have been decided punters can really swing into action - paths to the final can be plotted and knockout stage showdowns imagined.

This explains why Brazil and Spain are still favourites – they are destined to meet in the final, as long as they both win their groups. However, both face potential tough second round matches as talented ‘local' rivals await (Portugal for Spain and Chile for Brazil).

Still, it is easy to place too much emphasis on the draw. Potential winners should not be concerned about who they get in their group – although Brazil should be wary of a pool that contains Portugal, Ivory Coast and North Korea - you have to beat the best to win it, as the cliché goes.

England followers should therefore not get carried away, as some already seem to be. England's World Cup odds have shortened to make them third favourites in the wake of the draw, with many punters seemingly forgetting England's tendency to qualify from the group stages and crash out soon after.

The recent chastening defeat by Brazil should is also a clearer indicator of the Three Lions' prospects than a seemingly comfortable round of group fixtures. It should also be remembered that the tournament rarely unfolds as expected – do not be surprised if England meet Germany (who are seeded in a tough Group D) in round two.

It is still hard to predict too many surprises, as occurred in 2002 when South Korea and Turkey reached the semi finals. There are at least 10 potential winners, so take your pick. My money is on Brazil.

In other sports news, the betting for the 2010 Grand National is already starting to take shape and it could be a market which is worth keeping a close eye on.