The Perfect Punter's World Cup odyssey is almost at an end, with the final on the horizon. What has he learned, and can he use it to net one last big payday?
"Germany have typically been free-scoring and great to watch, and we could be in for the classic final this tournament deserves."
It's all gone quiet over here: not just the local fans, who have affected an impressive "we don't care" air about Brazil's implosion in Belo Horizonte. It hurts, but it will hurt a whole lot more if Copacabana turns blue and white on Sunday night.
I think that it will, but what I think has scarcely mattered in the last 10 days. The only thing that has saved me, and kept this column narrrowly in profit, is that staking plan to which I have adhered religiously. There have been times when the plan feels like a lead weight, others when it's the best life-raft imaginable.
After getting to within a Silvestre Varela equaliser of a two thousand pound profit, I have fallen apart. Belgium was my latest folly, but I'm adamant that, while my judgement may have been flawed, the process by which I reached it was just fine. This hasn't been a wild and reckless loss of everything, simply a series of opinions which proved to be wrong: in some cases, they were a long way wide of the target, in others, a little unfortunate. I regret losing, but not the way that I lost.
So, we approach the final, and it's time to decide whether or not a bet is sensible. I have one pretty strong opinion, and I went to the Maracana on Thursday to test whether there's any basis for going all in on it.
From the side of the pitch, the stadium is extraordinarily intimate, hemmed in with stands rising a little more vertically that you might imagine. This isn't a vast and featureless bowl, this feels like the league ground that it usually is, and I can't imagine how it will sound on Sunday night.
If you bother to get the lift to the very back row of seats then you realise that no one will have a bad view, everyone will feel involved, and this will be a spectacular thing to witness, a daunting one in which to play. If you need perspective, you only have to head for the concourse behind the television studios and you'll see a vast favela stretching away from you, connected to Rio life by the steepest road I've ever seen. Great places to go, favelas - they give you context, compassion, and a sense that losing a bet or two really doesn't matter.
So, it will be special, and that hasn't always been true of World Cup Finals. Only one of the last six has featured Over 2.5 Goals, and even that needed a late Emmanuel Petit goal to get over the line. I feel that this match will be different though. The pitch at the Maracana is patchy, and a little uneven, and the temptation is to feel that this will once more be a low scoring game. I can't see it.
There'll be no issue with the temperature, possibly a slight one with the pitch, but I feel that it's Germany's approach which makes this such an appealing bet.
Algeria managed to stop them, although rode their luck to do so, and that was one of the most open 0-0 draws (90 minutes) that I've ever seen. Their match against France at the Maracana was played in lung-bursting heat, and the one against the USA was a tired irrelevance. Aside from that, Germany have been typically free-scoring and great to watch.
There's a danger that Argentina will try to stifle, but I can't see Javier Mascherano having another gigantic game so soon after his epic display against Holland, and without him at his very best, Argentina will struggle to contain as they have done.
I think that Argentina will ultimately find a way to win the World Cup, but I also think that we could be in for the classic final that this tournament deserves. Much more 1986 than 1990, with Higuain as Burruchaga. And the closeness of the crowd will help. Intimacy, noise, so much potential brilliance. Over 2.5 Goals should not be trading at [2.62].
So the final will cement this World Cup as one of the best ever, and if it hadn't been for a largely insipid knockout stage then I think it could have been THE best. It's lacked a game to define it, a true toe-to-toe classic rather than the humiliations dished out to Spain and Brazil. This final may provide it.
It's given us joy and passion and friendship and a chance to learn more about this incredible country. Seeing the way that so many people live their lives in Rio has given perspective and a real sense of despair and hatred at the way that football is run. How long can we keep bestowing the apparent honour of a big tournament and upping and walking away without caring to leave a legacy? It mustn't be allowed to continue, and it's up to all of us as it is FIFA.
I know that a column about betting isn't the place and so I'll leave the politics in that paragraph. I set out a month ago to try and make a serious profit and I've both triumphed and struggled. I've learned plenty, most notably the feeling that, in the same way that you should specialise on a particular sport, even a particular league, to give yourself the best route to profit, you should also think about specialising on a particular part of a tournament.
Because I watch these players every week and form strong opinions, my edge is unquestionably in the Group Stage. Formlines are truer, prices are more misguided, knowledge is power. In future, I'm sticking to what I'm best at, and exiting major tournaments in profit before a knockout ball has been kicked. Unless I feel that a price is wrong and that I am right. And that's how I feel about Sunday's final.
So out of the window flies the staking plan, in goes 50% of my existing pot (original £4,100 plus £421 profit) and I get down on my knees and pray in front of Christ the Redeemer. I know I'm right, I hope I'm right, we'll see if I'm right.
Back Over 2.5 Goals in the World Cup Final @ [2.62] £2,260 to win £3,662
What is the "Perfect Punter"?
In 2012, The Perfect Punter by Dave Farrar was published. Having reached a particular kind of punting meltdown, Dave decided to change his approach to betting and travel to the events that he had lost money on, trying to get closer to them, learn more about them, and turn a loss into a profit.
Dave is back, with his target the World Cup 2014. He’ll be in Rio for the duration of the tournament, and he’ll apply the Perfect Punter philosophy to the World Cup.
Dave has a budget of £100 per day of the World Cup with every bet designed to win £500.