Italy favoured by bookies

Italy's Mario Balotelli

Italy's Mario Balotelli

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Italy are favourites with one major bookmaker to beat England in their opening World Cup clash in Manaus, Brazil on Saturday.

Two years ago at the European Championships the Azzurri were totally dominant in a 0-0 draw, which they won on penalties, and it is perhaps significant that John Terry, so outstanding in Kiev, will be missing from the heart of the defence for Roy Hodgson’s side this weekend.

Italy’s coach Cesare Prandelli started with the former Pescara team-mates Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne up front in their 5-3 win against Fluminense on Sunday and, having scored all five goals between them, there is every chance they will start against the Three Lions with former Manchester City star Mario Balotelli left on the bench.

Experts at BetVictor predict that Balotelli will start against England and have offered 5/1 on him opening the scoring.

Italy are 7/4 favourites but this is the squad, if not the team, held 1-1 by Luxembourg 10 days ago and if England play with no fear they can get off to a winning start. Hodgson’s side are 2/1 at BetVictor with the same price for the draw and, with Uruguay waiting in the wings, it will be difficult for the losing side to qualify for the knock out stages although Spain did lose their opening game to Switzerland four years ago before going on to lift the trophy in South Africa.

England remain 28/1 at BetVictor to lift the trophy with Italy 25s behind favourites and hosts Brazil at 3s, Argentina 7/2, Spain 13/2 and Germany 7s. Those odds are an honest assessment of the chances of Hodgson’s side but heroes are made at World Cups.

Daniel Sturridge stands at 5/2 to be leading England goalscorer in the tournament remains the BetVictor bet of the World Cup although in the outright market there is interest on the French at 25/1.