Three lions on the shirt. Jules Rimet still gleaming. Fifty-two years of hurt. Has stopped me caring one jot about the England team.
Okay, that’s not strictly true. I want them to do well, I just don’t have anywhere near the enthusiasm for the national team as I had when I was younger. And to be fair to Gareth Southgate, he’s picked a talented young squad, so has almost achieved the impossible. He has made it very hard to fully hate the England team.
I’m sure many of you are now thinking “wanna bet?”, and that is after all why we’re all here. But I’m sure there’s some lapsed England fans with a similar mind set to my own who know what I mean.
Anyway, Southgate’s boys looked nailed on to get their World Cup campaign underway with a victory, as Paddy has priced them at just 2/5 to beat Tunisia. England have faced African opposition 18 times, and have won 12, drawn six and (I’m sure you can figure this out) never lost. While a Tunisia win at 8/1 certainly looks unlikely, I wouldn’t rule out a stalemate, which is available at 7/2.
England have become very hard to beat under Gareth the gaffer, as his preferred 3-5-2 formation gives them plenty of cover at the back. They have only conceded 11 goals in his 18 matches in charge, and just three in their 10 games in 2017/18.
But they don’t score many either. Since a 4-0 win in Malta last September, the Three Lions have only bagged 10 goals in their last nine matches. Will they have enough to break down Tunisia’s defence?
I think they will, but not by much. The north African side only conceded six goals in their eight qualifying matches, and have only let in five in their last six games. Tunisia lost to Spain in their final warm up game, but only 1-0, and were unbeaten in their nine outings prior to that. They came from 2-0 down to draw with Portugal in this spell too.
And lest we forget, England’s last World Cup match against African opposition saw them draw 0-0 against Algeria. They troubled the goal so infrequently a bird was able to sit on the net and watch Capello’s side struggle, and Wayne Rooney berated the booing fans on camera. What a time to be alive that was.
So while I would still expect Southgate’s lads to edge this one, I won’t be expecting many goals. Paddy isn’t either, as under 2.5 goals is priced at just 13/20. This outcome has occurred in seven of England’s last eight matches, so there seems little reason for it not to now. You can get odds of 2/1 for under 1.5 goals, and I wouldn’t dismiss that bet out of hand.
With a lack of goals on the cards, it would seem logical to bet ‘no’ on both teams to score, right? Yes indeedio, old buddy. Both sides have only found the net in three of England’s 10 matches this season, and for Tunisia those figures are five in nine. You’ll only get 8/15 for a ‘no’ bet here, but it’s hard to see any other outcome. In fact, you might be better off betting on England to win to nil, at 10/11.
But who can get the goal for them to do that? The top international scorer in the squad, who plays for north London’s finest, also has the best minutes per goal record of any player for Southgate’s England. That’s right, would you please put your hands together and welcome, Mr Danny Welbeck.
Danny Welbeck? Yep, the Arsenal man has scored 16 international goals, and despite limited opportunities recently, has scored twice in his 88 England minutes under Southgate. Yet for some reason he’s only fourth favourite in the betting.
It may have something to do with him not being likely to start though, you never know. Then again, you can bet on him to score the last goal, at 7/2, and that could be a decent option if England are struggling late on. Perhaps bet in play here.
Harry Kane is unsurprisingly the leading man in this market, and is priced at just 8/11 to bag a goal, or 23/10 for it to be the opener. The Tottenham talisman was the Premier League’s leading scorer of opening goals in 2017/18, with 11, and he has scored in six of his seven England appearances since Southgate took charge. He’s a very obvious bet here, but then it’s hard to see who else might get on the score sheet.
The answer to that should be Raheem Sterling, but he has a very curious England record, having scored just twice in 38 appearances. He hasn’t netted in any of his last 20 internationals, and his last goal came shortly after he joined Manchester City. I bet he’s regretting that move now, right?
If the gutter tabloid press can get off his back and just let him play, he is undoubtedly due a goal and he should get chances as he is expected to play just behind Kane. Sterling is 7/2 to score first, or 6/4 to break the deadlock.
While England should have the edge in a tight game, it’s unlikely to be very entertaining. Ah well, Love Island is probably on the other side. Get on Wes Nelson at 5/1.