Last updated at 19:45, Sunday 24th June 2012

No quarter given in Kiev


Mike Holden
Euro 2012 - England v Italy
2pts England v Italy draw in 90 mins at 21/10Two nations have played out 18 draws in their last 30 knockout matches at major tournaments.1pt Draw/Draw double result England v Italy at 15/4Thirteen of those draws would have also landed this bet, which is better value than backing 0-0.0.5pt England to beat Italy in extra time at 12/1Three Lions have the greater tendency to throw caution to the wind beyond normal time.

Biscotto has been the buzzword surrounding Italy's participation at Euro 2012 and though the Azzurri secured their progression from Group C by virtue of a stalemate that never happened, we're struggling to see beyond the draw over 90 minutes when they face England in Kiev on Sunday.

The two nations might not share much major tournament history, which is what makes this such an intriguing contest, but they both share the remarkable tradition of finishing dog-eat-dog encounters all-square, in spite of the perceived differences over how they go about their business.

Indeed, England's overall knockout record is quite extraordinary. Going all the way back to those lump-in-the-throat strains of Nessun Dorma at Italia 90, the Three Lions have finished level-pegging at the end of normal time in eight of their last 12 knockout matches, losing just twice.

The Italians, you probably won't be surprised to learn, have drawn 10 of their last 18 over the same timeframe (without losing), and you can shed further light on that trend by refining it to seven draws in eight matches against the traditional heavyweights.

Back England v Italy draw at 21/10
Spain, Germany, France (three times), Holland, Brazil and Argentina have all been subjected to the catenaccio treatment at some point, five of those matches finishing goalless over the 90 minutes, and it would come as no shock whatsoever to see an equally cagey affair unfold in the Ukrainian capital.

The no goalscorer bet is trading at 6/1 and that's nowhere near as bad a price as many punters might automatically assume but we think we can do better for ourselves in the value stakes with a bet on the Draw/Draw double result at nearly 4/1, which obviously covers the 0-0 and more besides.

In that combined sample of 18 draws from 30 matches above, eight have finished 0-0, yet a further five have also seen goals exchanged quickly enough to keep the half-time/full-time option intact, so this appears to be the best way forward as we look to maximise the profitability of pursing this chain of thought.

Back Draw/Draw double result in England v Italy at 15/4
There will obviously be some punters who assume that history has no bearing, and that's a matter of opinion, but the above bets are clearly backed up by England's performances under Roy Hodgson.

The much-travelled 64-year-old spent two years in Italy with Inter Milan, of course, with Roberto Mancini branding him an 'Italian Englishman' earlier this week, so you might wish to view this game as a meeting of kindred spirits with no quarter given and a high potential for both sides to cancel each other out.

Cesare Prandelli is said to be different from other Italian managers but we reckon he's just a different type of pasta under the sauce, to paraphrase Sir Alex Ferguson. It's still pasta, and Italian players being Italian players, they will still go out on to the pitch operating with a mindset for a high uncertainty avoidance.

Meanwhile, English punters who fancy being mildly patriotic might wish to consider joining us in backing England to win in extra time at 12/1. You have to go all the way back to that roller-coaster Cameroon game in 1990 for the last time it happened but it hasn't been for the want of trying.

Back England to win in extra time at 12/1
When you go back through all those penalty shoot-out defeats, you might recall that England generally looked like the more likely team to win it in the additional 30, creating at least one glorious opportunity that went begging.

We reckon it's probably something to do with the English psyche for low uncertainty avoidance that fosters a greater need to force the issue when minds are tired - not to mention a desire to avoid penalties - and, with that thought in mind, we see some value in this price.

Ultimately, though, this is all about the stalemate. The bookies might have chalked-up early 13/8 quotes about the draw for the Biscotto that never was between Spain and Croatia, but this is one match where ludicrously short prices wouldn't look out of place.

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