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Argentina bookies' new favorite to win World Cup

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JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) -- Argentina have become the bookies' favourite to win the first World Cup on African soil, after two clear wins in their opening matches while their closest competitors have failed to impress.

Bookmaker William Hill said England's lacklustre goalless draw with Algeria on Friday was one of the most profitable matches involving the national team ever as fans lost money on bets for them to win in Cape Town.

"The game against Algeria was probably the biggest winning match involving England for us ever -- we made an absolute fortune," said William Hill spokesman Graham Sharpe.

"On that match I estimate that the British bookmaking industry made $14.8 million," he added.

Sharpe said the overall turnover may be affected if England, who meet Slovenia on Wednesday in their last group match, do not qualify for the second round.

"What will happen is that overall turnover will go down," he said. "British punters will lost interest in the World Cup if England go out."

But he said internet sales from 188 countries would continue.

Both bookmakers Ladbrokes and William Hill had Spain as favourites to win ahead of the tournament but their surprise 1-0 loss against Switzerland in their tournament opener prompted a fall from grace.

The bookmakers now have Diego Maradona's team as favourites after wins against Nigeria and South Korea have virtually guaranteed their place in the second stage.

"On the weight of their performance and that they are now going to qualify, it's pretty logical that they are now favourites," said Sharpe.

William Hill:

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