England (-1) – 10/11
The Czech Republic are England’s biggest threat in Group A and that says it all about the strength of the qualifying group. An in-form Three Lions outfit should realistically qualify from this group without dropping a point considering their opposition.
The Czechs were average at best in League B of the Nations League, winning two and losing two on their way to a second-place finish, while their qualifying campaign for the 2018 World Cup was an unmitigated disaster. Drawn in a group with Germany, the Czechs were strong favourites to emerge as the best of the rest and at least make the play-offs.
Instead, Northern Ireland wrapped up the play-off spot with two games remaining and could afford to relax against both Germany and Norway.
The Czech Republic failed to score in two games against Northern Ireland and were also held scoreless by Azerbaijan in Prague. How they have maintained their place as a second seed is mystifying and England, who topped their group in the Nations League and made the semi-finals of the World Cup, should have no problem sweeping them aside.
Half with most goals: second half – Evens
Despite failing to turn up at every international tournament since the turn of the century – except last year’s World Cup – one thing that can be said about England is that they almost always coast through the qualifying stages (except, of course, Euro 2008). England dropped just four points in qualifying for last year’s World Cup.
Having said that, they sometimes struggled to break teams down and on more than one occasion they were made to wait for that breakthrough goal. Injury time winners against both Slovenia and Slovakia in hard-fought 1-0 wins saved England’s blushes, while they didn’t break the deadlock until the second half in Malta – which ultimately ended in a 4-0 win.
Friday’s game could play out in a similar fashion. The Czechs will look to frustrate England for as long as possible, but as soon as that opening goal arrives it will be a case of the flood gates opening.
Harry Kane to score anytime – 4/6
Tottenham’s talisman is odds on to score anytime for a reason. With 20 international goals in just 35 appearances, he already seems destined to break Wayne Rooney’s all-time goalscoring record.
Kane endured something of a barren spell after putting England ahead against Colombia in the World Cup, subsequently failing to score again until November. However, when he did break his duck, it came in typically vital fashion. Kane’s 85th-minute winner against Croatia not only saved the Three Lions from relegation to League B of the Nations League, but put them top of the group.
Ending his goal drought will have eased any pressure on Kane and he should be firing on all cylinders on the international stage again. Kane has also been in red-hot form for Tottenham since his return from injury. Although Spurs are experiencing a fairly desperate dip in form at the moment, the same cannot be said for their star striker.
Since returning to the starting 11 against Burnley at the end of February, Kane has scored four goals in five games for Spurs. During that time, Tottenham have scored four goals in five games. Without Kane, what is a bad run would become a disastrous one.
Kane has the benefit of regularly playing at Wembley too and he should add to his 20 international goals on Friday night.
* All odds correct at time of posting.