Punters pile in on England to make World Cup final
PUNTERS have been reluctant to get behind England during their amazing run at Russia 2018 but there has been a change of heart since the success over Sweden with the Three Lions strongly supported to reach their first World Cup final since 1966.
England opened up as 7-5 favourites to beat Croatia in normal time and 7-10 to qualify for the final but those odds had shrunk to 11-8 and 4-6 by Sunday afternoon.
And the outright liabilities are mounting up for bookmakers with bet365 conceding that they face a payout of more than £10m if England lift the trophy.
Spokesman Steve Freeth said: "To many, England have already exceeded people's expectations, but the support has always been there from within the punting community.
"They were second in our liability list, behind Argentina, before the World Cup started and they're clear on that front now."
Croatia are on the drift, shifting from 6-5 to 5-4 to make the final and from 5-2 to 13-5 to beat England in normal time - they needed penalties to win both of their knockout matches against Denmark and Russia.
England are 11-4 to lift the trophy, second favourites behind 2-1 France. Belgium are 14-5 with Croatia are the 5-1 outsiders.
The lack of confidence in Croatia may include concerns over the fitness and availability of some of their key players for the semi-final.
Fifa investigated Croatia central defender Domagoj Vida over comments he made in the aftermath of the penalty shootout success over Russia, dedicating the victory to Dynamo Kiev (his former club) and Ukraine. Political slogans are banned by Fifa’s disciplinary code.
Vida escaped with a warning but two of his teammates, Sime Vrsaljko and Danijel Subasic, may need some treatment after picking up knee and a leg injuries.
England looked in a much healthier state after their comfortable 2-0 success over Sweden and Gareth Southgate may have the opportunity to name an unchanged side again.
Bookmakers have been counting the cost of England's progress and bet365 have shelled out over £2m extra as a consequence of their penalty shootout payback offer which refunds pre-match win and each-way wagers on the outright market if the selection is eliminated on spot-kicks.
Luka Modric is the man England fear most and he is shortening all the time in the Golden Ball (player of the tournament) betting.
The Real Madrid midfielder is 9-1 to pick up the award although he remains behind Kylian Mbappe (7-2), Harry Kane (4-1) and Eden Hazard (11-2).
Kane is the red hot 1-7 favourite for the Golden Boot and holds a two-goal lead over 11-1 shot Romelu Lukaku. Antoine Griezmann and Mbappe, on three goals each, are 25-1 and 33-1.
The Golden Glove market is the tightest of the lot with France's Hugo Lloris heading the betting at 5-2, just ahead of England keeper Jordan Pickford, Thibaut Courtois (both 11-4) and Subasic (4-1).
In name the finalists betting, an England versus France showpiece is rated the most likely at 2-1, while Belgium v Croatia, which would guarantee a new name on the trophy is 4-1.