LONDON (AP) — Last call will come early for England at the World Cup.
That's the bleak assessment from the British government on the national team's chances in Brazil.
Drinking laws in Britain will be relaxed during the tournament so pubs can stay open beyond their usual 11 p.m. closing time when England plays late in Brazil. But the government is not convinced the pubs will need to take advantage of that exemption too often.
The legislation was debated Monday night in the House of Lords and includes a government forecast based on betting information that England won't be staying in Brazil for long.
"It says that England are certain to play in the matches of the first period of the tournament — I think that we can all agree on that," Home Office Minister John Taylor told the House of Lords, citing his department's findings. "But that there is a high probability that England will not play in later matches.
"That is a matter of opinion, and I am sure that other noble Lords will have different views on that issue. But the use of Betfair and its interactive website was the basis for that assessment."
The Home Office appraisal found there is only a 54 percent probability that England will advance from its group, which includes Italy, Uruguay and Costa Rica, and an 11 percent chance of progressing past the quarterfinals.
"It's good to know what the government thinks of England's prospects," Labour Party peer Richard Rosser said to laughter during the debate.
In the group stage, only England's opening match against Italy will be played beyond the usual 11 p.m. "last orders" at pubs.
England coach Roy Hodgson has a different view on the government's projection.
"I believe the squad can win the World Cup, otherwise what's the point," he said Monday. "We're right to have some degree of optimism and to work on the basis there is a mood of optimism in the country. We'll feed off that, get our energy from that and we'll make sure we do nothing to make sure we don't let our country down."
Rob Harris can be followed at www.twitter.com/RobHarris