There’s no way to sugar coat it for you, the latest round of international fixtures are going to be difficult to predict.
There has been no national football for over a year, so it’s impossible to get a grip on the form of any of the teams. However, as England get back into action with a game against Iceland and there’s no doubt which match will be at the forefront of the minds of players and supporters alike.
Four days after the Brexit vote in 2016, England exited Europe in almost as embarrassing and clueless fashion for a second time by losing 2-1 to Iceland at the European Championships in France. Alan Shearer described it as the worst ever England performance, and he should know, as he certainly played in a few contenders.
Roy Hodgson left the day after the game, and after a brief pitstop at Big Sam’s, Gareth Southgate was appointed. He steered England’s love train – Glenn Hoddle’s words, not mine – to the World Cup semi-finals, and through an undemanding qualifying group for Euro 2020.
So, while they haven’t played since last November, the Three Lions did at least sign off with three victories in which they scored 17 goals and didn’t concede any. However, Iceland could provide a sterner test, as they are currently ranked 39th in the world when none of the trio of nations England battered is higher than 59th.
Erik Hamren’s team are good at home too. They won four of their five Euro 2020 qualifiers on their own patch, and only lost 1-0 to world champions France when they met 11 months ago.
The Nations League isn’t their priority at the moment though, just as it isn’t for a lot of people. Iceland play Romania next month and if they win that match, then they’ll face Bulgaria or Hungary in a play-off for Euro 2020 qualification.
They will view this as a warm-up for something more important, whereas England will be keen to win the match itself, so should do so comfortably enough.
A glance at the teams’ recent records might suggest that at least one of them will draw a blank on Saturday evening. Hell, we all know how that feels, right?
Seven of Iceland’s 10 qualifying matches ended with one team having scored nil, and for England those figures were five from eight.
Yet due to Harry Maguire’s absence and an apparent lack of English left-backs, it’s rumoured that Southgate may send out his team in a back three, something he hasn’t done since 2018.
With an unfamiliar defence, and Iceland having netted in four of their five home qualifiers, there has to be a good chance the home side get on the score sheet. As England surely will too with the fire power at their disposal, go against the favourite and back both teams to score.
For a scorer bet, Harry Kane is far and away the obvious choice. He scored in all eight of England’s European Qualifiers last year, bagging 12 goals in total. The next two top scoring sides in their group only scored 13 each, so he clearly had a strong grip in that section of the draw.
Kane also scored seven goals in his final eight Tottenham matches of 2019/20, so has been in fine form recently.
However, we’re looking for better value, so let’s go for Raheem Sterling. Despite his horrendous miss against Lyon in the Champions League quarter-final, he still scored nine goals in his final 10 matches of last season.
Sterling was also the second top scorer in England’s Euro 2020 qualification group, so did well in his most recent run of internationals.
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