By Aidan Elder | Chief sports writer
There are three types of lies. Lies, damn lies and statements based on very selective data couched in language deliberately chosen to deceive and paint a misleading picture.
You may have heard the ‘Ireland have not lost a competitive match away from home under Giovanni Trapattoni‘ line being wheeled out as the Boys In Green head to Sweden for their ‘make or break’ World Cup qualifier. And we say ‘make or break’ but really we mean ‘string out our hopes a little bit longer until they get crushed at a later date or break’.
While the fact itself is true, once you break down the language and discover exactly what it means, you’re left feeling about as optimistic as someone who won a free trip on an Italian cruise-liner. The carefully chosen language (a) conveniently ignores the fact that Euro 2012 happened and (b) hides the fact we should have lost away to Kazakhstan, Russia, Slovakia and possibly even Armenia in the last couple of years. Plus there’s all those defeats and thoroughly disappointing performances we’ve had at home.
Sorry if I’m sounding overly pessimistic, but judging by the betting for tonight’s game, I’m far less isolated than your typical Irish striker. Normally the sheer volume of people willing to express patriotism through their pocket is enough to make Ireland well backed to win even the most apparently lop-sided of games (e.g. versus Spain at the Euros), but the money is flowing for Sweden like the hordes of middle class hipster couples flow to IKEA for their unique mass-produced furniture.
A whopping 87 per cent of match bets have gone in favour of tonight’s hosts and while there may be some late Friday night pints-fuelled overly optimistic money for Ireland, Sweden have been heavily backed to claim victory and make watching Ireland over the remaining few games even more pointless than it is usually. Just 11 per cent of bets have been for the Boys in Green and to put that in perspective, San Marino have attracted a higher proportion of bets for their inevitable trouncing at the hands of England.
Sorry about the random Irish names hanging around aimlessly and in isolation on a vast expanse of space. It’s not an arty representation of the Irish attack, but it’s because Zlatan Ibrahimovic is by far and away the most popular option in the First Goalscorer betting. There’s been roughly eight times as many bets for admittedly brilliant egotist as the next most popular option, Ireland captain, Robbie Keane.
Shane Long has also got a bit of support as has Paul Green, presumably from his family members or people involved in a Brewster’s Millions type of scenario where they need to get rid of money in a short time frame. Set pieces are usually one of Ireland’s best ways of bludgeoning their way to a goal and accordingly, Ciaran Clark and John O’Shea have been backed to be the customary big men at the back to come up and get us a goal.