Has there ever been a better summer of sport?
With the usual feast of Royal Ascot, Wimbledon and The Open on the horizon, we also have a fantastic Euro 2012 in progress, the Olympics in London just over 40 days away and potentially one of the great Test series between the world's top two teams, England and South Africa.
What a brilliant first week it has been. Unlike many tournaments in the past, Euro 2012 has been full of attacking football and great goals. Let's hope it continues.
The two biggest market moves have seen Germany trade as Sky Bet's new 5/2 favourites and the Netherlands drift to 28/1.
Our bets got off to a flying too with Mario Mandzukic's double against Ireland, which saw his Golden Boot odds slashed by Sky Bet from 100/1 to 16/1. That bet may still be fanciful but we have a major runner on him to be Croatia's top scorer at 7/1.
France didn't set the world alight against England but it was a solid start and I still fancy them to top the group and go a long way in the competition.
Quotes of the week
The one worry is that I have a feeling Slaven Bilic may revert to 4-5-1 against Italy on Thursday evening and I hope he starts ahead of Nikica Jelavic. I said at the start of the tournament that I was amazed Jelavic was 28/1 and Mandzukic 100/1 as the latter has been first choice for a while now and is a livewire of a striker.
I want to add another bet in the same market as now looks a good time to back Karim Benzema at 12/1 to be the tournament's top goalscorer. He drew a blank against England but looked razor sharp with his limited opportunities.
I fancy France to beat Sweden and Ukraine and would be amazed if Benzema was not on the scoresheet. France didn't set the world alight against England but it was a solid start and I still fancy them to top the group and go a long way in the competition. France are down to 8/1 with Sky Bet to win the tournament.
England will be happy with their start too and I was particularly impressed with the work rate and defending on Monday. Roy Hodgson has clearly created a good atmosphere in the squad and got them very well organised.
More guile will be required to progress and to break down the well-drilled Swedes on Friday night. England's 1-0 win in November was their first in 13 internationals against Sweden and incredibly eight of those 13 matches have been draws.
Sky Bet have Sweden, who have to win the game, at 14/5, the draw 12/5 and England an even money chance. I can't resist a small bet on it finishing 1-1 between these two again at 5/1.
My Euro 2012 bets:
Karim Benzema for Golden Boot @ 12/1
England to draw 1-1 with Sweden @ 5/1
Mario Mandzukic for Golden Boot (each-way) @ 100/1
Mario Mandzukic to be Croatia's top scorer @ 7/1
France (each-way) @ 12/1
France to top Group D @ 13/8
Croatia to qualify from Group C @ 6/4
Like England's footballers, our rugby players were brilliantly spirited in Durban on Saturday but also lacked the guile to trouble the Springboks.
They have to pick themselves up for the daunting challenge of playing South Africa at altitude and though another brave performance is guaranteed, I fear the worst this time.
The Boks were miles off their best and totally underprepared last week and I expect them to launch a bombardment this weekend, both aerial and physical - live on Sky Sports 2 HD from 3.30pm.
I expect England to just about live with them for the first 40 minutes but in the key period up to the hour mark, I fear the floodgates will open.
South Africa look a great bet giving up a 9pt start at 10/11. I also fancy them to win by between 11-20I also fancy them to win by between 11-20 points at 5/2 points at 5/2 and the second half to have more points than the first at 4/5 looks a banker.
The gulf between Northern and Southern hemisphere rugby remains huge and I fear for Ireland and probably Wales too this weekend. All the matches are live on Sky Sports on Saturday.
Five brilliant days of racing get under way on Tuesday. The Royal one is not the only procession we will see on Day One as the mighty Frankel will win easily again. What a pity it is that he doesn't have a rival for the punters and media to get excited about.
My bet of the meeting is Valbchek in the Jersey Stakes on the Wednesday. He has won both his starts and I was particularly taken by his cosy success at the Craven Meeting after which Valbchek was put away and targeted at this race. The vibes from the yard are infectious.
One winner I'd love to see this weekend is my Sky Sports colleague David Craig in the charity race at York on Saturday (1.20pm). The intrepid north-east reporter is riding for Richard Fahey and raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support.
Having had cancer myself and now having to watch my mother go through chemotherapy for breast cancer, I'm hoping David wins the race and more importantly raises lots of money for a great cause.
For more details and if you'd like to contribute please go to - www.justgiving.com/David-Craig1
The second major of the year starts on Thursday evening live on Sky Sports. I always love the challenge the US Open throws up and the first six holes at the Olympic Club in San Francisco are particularly brutal.
My golf punting is hopeless but there is no more exciting bet than when your player is in contention on the final day. I've thrown a few quid at Matt Kuchar at 28/1 and am looking forward to following Sky Bet's in-running betting.
The damp appetiser of the Test series between England and the West Indies is over and the one-dayers begin on Saturday but soon we can focus on the main course of the summer - the South African tour.
Rarely have I looked forward to a Test series more than this. The top two ranked sides going head to head with two of the best bowling attacks of recent times.
There's no love lost between the two sides either in a series that has all the ingredients to be a thriller. Sky Bet have England as narrow favourites to win the series at 11/10, South Africa 7/4 and a drawn series is 3/1.
The weather may be terrible but what a summer of sport this is.
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Tim Clements (Chelsea fan) says...
I garauntee Benzema will NOT finish top scorer. In fact, a better bet would be he doesn't score at all !!! Side bet Ed?
Posted 18:31 14th June 2012
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