In the last few days, a spate of injuries – two of them involving United stars – have disrupted the preparations of the some of the World Cup’s leading contenders. But how has this affected the Betfair markets?

The news that Rio Ferdinand will miss the tournament has seen England’s odds drift to 8.8 (8/1). Punters clearly understand what a big loss Rio will be and this is a significant change in price, especially when you consider that England once traded at a low of 6.8 (6/1). Fabio Capello’s men have now surrendered their ‘third favourite’ tag to Argentina 8.2 (7/1).

After the sad news that United winger Nani will miss the tournament with a shoulder injury, Portugal are a massive 34.0 (33/1) in Betfair’s World Cup winner market. It’s a great shame that the player will not get the chance to carry his terrific club form on to the international stage and Reds fans will wish him a speedy recovery.

Spain remain rock-solid favourites on 5.3 (9/2), followed by Brazil at 5.9 (5/1) but the really big movers in recent weeks have been the Netherlands who have been backed in from the mid-to-high teens to their current odds of 11.0. At one point the Oranje were amongst a clutch of European nations – such as Patrice Evra’s France, who have drifted alarmingly to 23.0 (22/1), Germany 15.5 (14/1) and Italy 17.5 (16/1) – disputing fifth favouritism, but they own that place now. Some are drawing parallels between the Dutch and Spain, who shed their nearly-men tag at Euro 2008, and punters seem to think they are a good bet to follow up in 2010.

Going the opposite way are the Ivory Coast who have probably lost Didier Drogba to injury and can now be backed at 55.0 (54/1) for World Cup glory.

In the top goalscorer market, Drogba went from lively outsider to no-hoper when news of his arm injury broke. His apparently successful operation has seen that price settle at 60.0 (59/1), some way off market leaders David Villa 9.2 (8/1), Lionel Messi and Wayne Rooney (both 12.0 (11/1)… ) and Luis Fabiano 13.5 (12/1).

But, again, the market has fancied a bit of Dutch with the big move coming for Robin van Persie who has been backed consistently from around the 40.0 (39/1) mark to fifth favourite at 15.5 (14/1).

These odds will all fluctuate at the weekend as punters get a first look at the teams. On Friday, Javier Hernandez’s Mexico play hosts South Africa in the tournament opener before Patrice Evra’s France take on Paraguay. Then On Saturday, it’s the big one: we said last week that England’s match odds were too short and Rio’s absence only reinforces that. The draw appeals at 4.5 but we’ll provide a full preview later in the week.