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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, who are all available at 5/2 (3.5), while Louis van Gaal's Dutch side are 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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