If England can defeat the dragon of their penalty hoodoo, then why are Sweden even bothering to turn up on Saturday?
The Three Lions are now the 13/10 favourites to reach the final. England. Favourites to reach the World Cup final. Paddy must be suffering from heat stroke, poor guy.
Gareth Southgate’s backroom staff must include a witch doctor or something, as a team made of up players barely born when England’s penalty shoot-out woe began somehow overcame the weight of history to knock Colombia out. The Colombians had tried to knock out most of England’s players, so it was only fair really.
Of course with hindsight, it was obvious who was going to miss. Jordan Henderson was two weeks old when England lost to West Germany in 1990, so he was always going to be psychologically burdened when it came to penalties.
In my preview of the match, I suggested it would be a low scoring draw with more goals in the second half, and so it proved. It would come as little surprise if the outcome is similar in Samara on Saturday, and there’s many reasons why.
As it was against Colombia, it’s 6/5 for there to be more goals in the second half of this match, and Sweden have been experts in that field at this World Cup.
There have been eight goals across their four games so far, and seven of them occurred after they’d enjoyed their half time Kanelbullar. The Swedes will look to keep the match with England tight, so I’ve no reason to expect anything other than this pattern continuing.
As the Three Lions are defensively sound themselves, but also generally goal light, I wouldn’t expect many goals here. Both the competition and the head-to-head history are in favour of that too.
Over the last three World Cups, the 12 quarter-final matches have served up just 21 goals in regular time. In Brazil four years ago, the games among the last eight delivered just five goals, and three of them were in one match. With both teams in this match inexperienced at this level, it’s hard to see either of them going gung-ho here.
Sweden and England are occasionally capable of madness when they meet. Who can forget Zlatan scoring four in a friendly in 2012?
I expect he’ll be along to remind you soon enough if it has slipped your mind. But generaly, these sides cancel each other out in low scoring affairs. Under 2.5 goals is priced at 9/20 – again, the same as it was for England’s match with Colombia – and it looks the right way to go.
You’d think with a lack of goals likely, I’d be all in on a ‘no’ bet in the both teams to score market, but I’m not so sure. At least one side has drawn a blank in six of Sweden’s last seven matches too.
However, five of the seven meetings between the sides this century have seen both teams score, and it has happened in five of England’s last seven matches too. The odds are 5/4 for yes, or 4/7 for no, so you can see what Paddy thinks will happen. I’m siding with ‘no’ here, but don’t come looking for me if both teams do find the net, as it’s a very tough one to call.
Can I just shock you? I like wine! But this won’t shock you: I think Harry Kane is the man to back in the scorer market.
It’s crazy to believe he wasn’t the top international scorer in the England squad at the start of the tournament, but he is now. With his goal against Colombia, Kane became the first player to score in six consecutive appearances for the Three Lions since Tommy Lawton did so in 1939.
Presumably the idiot end of the England fan base were chanting ‘one world war and no world cups’ at that point.
Kane is priced at 11/4 to score first, or 11/10 at any time. If England are to reach their second World Cup semi-final on foreign soil, he is surely the man to get them there. You get your money back as a free bet if Kane scores too.
It doesn’t get any easier to suggest any other England player here either.
Only four of them have had more shots in open play than via set pieces at this World Cup, and while it’s good that Southgate’s lads are potent in dead ball situations, they have largely dried up otherwise.
So for longer odds, I’d look to the back Harry Maguire and John Stones have each had five shots from set pieces, and only six players at this World Cup have had more. They can be backed at 30/1 to get on the score sheet.
Sweden lack a consistent goal scorer too, so here’s a suggestion: go for someone who might be due a goal. In this case it’s Marcus Berg, who with 13 shots so far has taken the most without scoring of any player in the tournament. The Al Ain striker is 7/2 to bag a goal, or 8/1 to net the opener.
Except for an injury-time goal last time out, England would’ve won 1-0, and I believe that’s what’ll happen here.