The Tunisia vs Panama game at the World Cup on Thursday may have appeared on paper to be a dead rubber, but for Paddy Power there was plenty at stake.
With most of the attention on the England vs Belgium match being played at the same time, the two minnows of Group G combined to put on a cracking contest – and do the Irish firm out of the best part of three-quarters of a million quid.
Paddy offered punters 100/1 before a ball was kicked that all 32 teams would score two or more goals in the competition; something that had never happened in the history of the tournament.
It was a wager that looked fanciful at best – hence the odds – particularly with a couple of teams looking hopelessly out of their depth on football’s grandest stage.
Saudi Arabia’s 2-1 win over Egypt on Monday kept the wager alive, and Iran’s 93rd minute penalty against Portugal later in the day would have had Paddy shuffling awkwardly in his chair.
When Peru beat the Aussies 2-0 on Tuesday things became very interesting indeed, and Costa Rica’s two-goal haul on Wednesday would have caused near meltdown in Paddy Power HQ.
But that was nothing compared to the events of Thursday evening….
Meriah Sings the Blues
With Tunisia having already bagged two goals in the tournament, it was left to Panama to bring about a £700,000 pay day from Paddy Power to the pockets of their now perspiring punters.
And they didn’t have to wait long….
Panama’s Jose Luis Rodriguez picked up the ball in midfield and decided to have a shy at goal; you only live once, and all that.
He watched on with delight as the ball cannoned off Tunisia’s Yassine Meriah and flew towards goal, completely wrong-footing Aymen Mathlouthi in the Africans’ goal before nestling in the back of the net.
Fakhreddin Ben Youssef made his own slice of history by notching the 2500th goal in World Cup history shortly after, but by this point everybody was past caring; particularly Paddy Power’s chief accountant, who was now lying in the foetal position in a darkened room.
Counting the Cost
It was a goal that would cost the firm a cool £700,000, with one lucky punter trousering £15,000 from his £150 stake.
Afterwards, Paddy himself was quoted as saying ‘I feel a right Pan-ana after that goal.’
“Panama haven’t given their fans too many reasons to celebrate this tournament, but that strike will be cheered loudly by hundreds of punters across the country.”
Mind you, that loss is a drop in the ocean compared to what the firm had to pay out after Donald Trump won the US Presidential race.
They had dished out £800,000 when settling up on Hilary Clinton wagers early, after Trump became embroiled in all manner of scandals.
But Hell hath no fury like an American learning that a presidential candidate has been sending some shady emails – racism and sexism deemed naughty but not unelectable, and when Trump was sworn into the White House in one of the biggest political shocks in history it cost Paddy Power another £4 million in paid out winnings.