Oh England, just when it’s all going so well you have to go and Spurs it all up.
The old England were back and a run of 44 qualifying matches without defeat came crashing down at the Sinobo Stadium in Prague on Friday night. Much had been made in the press about how manager Gareth Southgate doesn’t like to tinker much with his sides, liking to introduce one, maybe two players into starting line-ups and only experimenting with tactics in friendlies.
Boy, did that all go out the window in Prague the other night. But look, he wouldn’t be the first Englishman to lose the run of himself on a weekend away in Prague and he surely won’t be the last either.
Chelsea’s Mason Mount started and well, let’s be honest, we’d have all preferred if he hadn’t.
Poor James Maddison saw the line-up and was so revulsed he became ill and hopped on a plane back to England. Just look at the England back four for a moment; Keiran Trippier, Michael Keane, Harry Maguire and Danny Rose.
Trippier is having a fine season at Atletico Madrid, Keane, Maguire and Rose are having nightmare seasons at Everton, Man United and Spurs respectively. Between them, they’ve shipped 33 goals over their eight Premier League matches.
Southgate admitted in his press conference after the match that having players who aren’t performing well for their clubs is an issue, but they need to put that aside when playing for the national team. Easier said than done Gareth.
Anyway, he said that lessons would be learned from the defeat.
Hopefully, the first will be to not tinker with the team for important qualification matches and leave that for friendlies.
The second should be to play your best players rather than giving people a run out for a cap.
It’s not all doom and gloom though, Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling both played well and their passion for the team is clearly evident. Southgate will need them at their best for the visit to Sofia.
Both teams to score – 5/4
Very good odds here, too good to say no to really. Bulgaria have scored in 7/8 of their previous home matches. Over the last two qualification campaigns, from their seven home matches, they scored in six out of seven of them.
In England’s previous two campaigns they’ve also played seven away matches and have also scored in six out of seven games. With England’s defence so rickety, it’s fair to say Bulgaria will more than fancy their chances of getting a goal here.
England might try and shut up shop, but can you really trust a defence made up of Maguire, Keane and Rose? We don’t think so!
A goal scored in both halves – 4/7
Going on those seven home Bulgaria matches mentioned above, this bet would have landed in five times in previous qualification matches.
England have scored three first-half goals in their last two away matches and with the Czech match so fresh in their minds and wanting to put out a strong front, we expect England to come out of the traps all guns blazing.
The Three Lions love a second-half goal too, of their seven most previous qualification matches they’ve found the back of the net on 10 occasions.
Correct Score: 1-3 – 9/1
England were caught napping the other night, there’s no doubt there, but Southgate is a pragmatic manager and will revert back to the tactics and system that has served England so well since he took over from Sam Allardyce in 2016.
We’re expecting Bulgaria to get on the scoresheet, but England should have more than enough firepower on the pitch to get three goals past Plamen Iliev in the Bulgaria goal.
* All odds correct at time of posting.