At the end, I will share what I did yesterday but, first of all, let’s take a look at today and, of course, we all know what the big game today is for those of us backing England…

Japan v Poland looks a little bit like a damp squid in terms of trading. There’s nothing to be done there unless you wanted a very speculative lay on 0-0. There’s no trading here for me. On paper, given Poland’s poor performances so far, it seems to me like a Japan win is on the cards here even with the market leaning very firmly towards a draw. It is true that a draw would be enough to secure Japan’s movement into the next round but let us not forget the impact of pride on the game. This could be an historic world cup for Japan. They have only ever won two games in the big tournament on two previous occasions and they will want to, at least, equal that achievement. That said, you can never entirely ignore the market.

I am going out on a limb and I am going to lean towards a Japan win. Continuing with the pride theme, if Poland are up for a bit of pride themselves and they come at Japan with a will to win they might well surprise us but then that may create opportunities for Japan on the break and, let’s be clear, the Polish defence has been appalling. If Japan were to lose to Poland, a draw in the other final group game in H could see Japan out of it. Hence my choice of outcome.

With Senegal v Colombia, the market swings heavily towards a win for Colombia. This is largely based on their 3-0 domination of Poland in their last game and, of course the historical results from previous big international tournaments. The market is largely writing off their loss to Japan in the opener because of them playing most of the game with 10 men and conceding an early penalty. All of this might be logical and certainly makes sense but it doesn’t do justice to Japan. They beat Colombia, penalty or not and were not undeserving. Let us not forget that, generally, to get a penalty you need to put the defence under pressure in the penalty area and with the new VAR set up to back up or question refereeing decisions, a penalty now is more likely to be genuine.

Japan were also very resilient against Senegal (2-2) who have been impressive themselves and so it isn’t so cut and dry for me and, whilst I do marginally favour a Colombia win over a Senegal win, I actually think a draw is more likely in this game than it is in the other group H game. From a trading perspective, this game very much stacks up if we look at odds and filters alone.

Panama v Tunisia doesn’t quite stack up for ASP. Although I can’t see this turning into a high scoring affair, the market slightly favours over 2.5 goals and that does surprise me some. That must, predominantly be based on Panama’s goals conceded record so far and Tunisia aren’t far behind them but it may largely ignore the glaring fact that neither side really have goal scorers. Yes, Tunisia did stick two past Belgium and one past England but the goal against England came from the penalty spot. Panama have scored just one goal and that was almost a consolation prize in the England game. So to me, this game is a small margin, low scoreline win for Tunisia. Whatever the outcome, I don’t fancy it as a trader because it could end up being a kick around in the park type of affair and who knows what could happen.

And that leads us on to the big one today and the game that decides who gets to go through first and who gets to go through second in group G. With England v Belgium the first thing to declare is that it isn’t a trader and even if it was, I wouldn’t want to trade it. Besides, I am going to enjoy it in the best way possible (short of being at the game) and that is in the pub with a pint in my hand. The market leans towards under 2.5 goals and England as favourites (not very often you’ll see that against a class side like Belgium). Has English international football really and finally turned the corner?

What is obvious to me, and most observers I assume, is that for the first time I can remember since the 1970 World Cup finals, England have come into this without pressure, without any real expectation and, most importantly, without the normal 50% or more of the squad that have already experienced big tournament disappointment. Add that to the “be yourself” attitude that Gareth Southgate seems to be encouraging, and we have to believe, at long last, that we can win this. And let’s be clear, given what we have seen so far, if we can beat Belgium we can most definitely go the whole way.

I am not being biased when I say that these two teams are the best two teams so far for me in the contest. A lot of people are saying that the game doesn’t really matter because we’re through anyway. But it does matter, we need to beat Belgium if we really believe we can win the World Cup and surely, it has to be our turn again? Now the problem for me in terms of being able to sensibly assess this is that I don’t know who is being played, rested etc.

Are Lingard, Trippier and Kane playing? Because those 3, along with Dele Alli (who we understand is now fit again) seem to be the real new core of England. If 3 out of those 4 take to the field this evening then it will look like Gareth sees the importance of a win here to set the scene for the rest of the tournament. A win against Belgium would give them so much confidence I think. Having said all that, people will understand if he wants to simply rest some or all of those key players. Obviously I want to see England win. Realistically, it will not be easy and the market is leaning very much towards a draw. The team selection will dictate the result for certain. Surely Gareth will give Harry Kane a chance to add to his Golden Boot challenge at the very least even if he rests the others?

I am going for an England win by a small margin. Belgium need to know that, whatever else might happen, they are going to be up against it if they meet us again later on in the contest.

Finally, a very brief catch up on what I did yesterday, and I do mean brief (betting images at the end) and you see how easy it is to make profit if you are alert to the opportunities…

Mexico v Sweden.

I wasn’t going to trade this one and I certainly didn’t do a normal ASP trade. My expectation was that Mexico would win. When I saw Sweden go 1-0 up early into the second half, I had to grab some action so I layed 1-0 with the expectation of Mexico equalising. That’s all I did (all I needed to do in the end) and I took a very simple £10.45 profit. I was able to lay 1-0 for odds of 4.1.

South Korea v Germany

I did say that the temptation to lay AOAW in this game was, for me, huge and I have to confess that I did succumb although only as half time approached. So, I didn’t go straight in and, as a result, I could have layed for much lower odds. I waited until a mere few minutes from half time and then layed for £5 at 10.5. Eight or ten minutes before I did that, I also layed 0-0. My thinking was very much that Germany would score, they’d have to score and, like everyone else on planet football, the idea of Germany not scoring (and qualifying) wasn’t really in my head. I could have lost around £13 on the 0-0 lay but I didn’t feel like it was much of a gamble. Boy, was I surprised when it was Korea and not Germany that scored in added time and then went on to score a second ridiculous goal when the German keeper decided to go all out on attack!

Switzerland v Costa Rica

This was pretty straight forward in the end with the game doing pretty much what was expected from the market. I did a £6 AOHW lay before kick off with a very small 0-0 lay. That was it, I did nothing else in the end as 0-0 odds just didn’t drop fast enough for me to put on my second intended 0-0 lay (I was waiting at odds of 7 for that and then decided to drop it to 5) and goal one went in at around 30 minutes. A simple profit as the game ended 2-2. Had I been paying more attention I could have traded this for some much better profits but I was actually watching the Brazil game and very much enjoying it too. I would normally have run the second game with reference to my in-play scanner but I just let the TV commentators and the Betfair site guide me.