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The bookmakers are struggling to split the four remaining teams in the competition but in previous tournaments it hasn't always been that way, Jim Knight takes a look at the odds

The World Cup semi finals look as closely balanced as they have ever been ahead of this week's games.

William Hill simply can't split Argentina, Germany and Brazil, with all three available at 5/2 (3.5) and Louis van Gaal's Dutch side last in the betting at just 10/3 (4.33).

“Never before have we ever had a World Cup that has had three favourites going into the semi finals – the closest we came was back in 2006,” said William Hill spokesman Joe Crilly. “For the first time in a long time, it is easy to see any of the four remaining sides winning the tournament.”

Back in 2006 Germany went into the semi finals as 13/8 (2.62) favourites ahead of France at 2/1 (3.0), Italy at 11/4 (3.75) and Portugal at 6/1 (7.0).

Thanks to a look through the William Hill pricing archives here are a selection of World Cup semi final prices as far back as 1966 when England were actually third in the betting at 4/1 (5.0) behind market principles West Germany (6/5) and 2/1 (3.0) second favourites Portugal.

Previous World Cup semi final prices

1966: 6/5 West Germany; 2/1 Portugal; 9/4 England; 4/1 Soviet Union

1990: 6/4 Argentina; 5/2 West Germany; 3/1 England; 9/2 Italy

1994: 5/6 Brazil; 2/1 Italy; 5/1 Sweden; 8/1 Bulgaria

1998: 13/8 Brazil; 15/8 France; 9/4 Holland; 11/1 Croatia

2002: 8/15 Brazil; 10/3 Germany; 13/2 South Korea; 8/1 Turkey

2006: 13/8 Germany; 2/1 France; 11/4 Italy; 6/1 Portugal

2010: 6/4 Spain; 15/8 Holland; 11/4 Germany; 12/1 Uruguay

2014: 5/2 Germany; 5/2 Argentina; 5/2 Brazil; 10/3 Netherlands

It's now 8/11 (1.73) that a South American side wins the World cup with Even money (2.0) on offer that it is one of the remaining two European sides.

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