Roy Hodgson must be wondering what he has let himself in for. England’s newly-appointed manager is just two games into his reign and with a summer tournament on the horizon, his honeymoon period should be in full flow.
If only. A series of injuries, a suspension to his best player and the ongoing controversy over his refusal to select Rio Ferdinand mean that Hodgson is already feeling the heat before he has even had chance to oversee a competitive fixture as national manager (and before his pragmatic brand of football has truly taken hold).
It is far from ideal preparation for a man who, though possessing vital international tournament experience thanks to his days with Switzerland, is not used to the type of media glare that is shone on the England manager.
But with expectations at an all-time low, how will England fare? Here are my three top antepost bets concerning England’s chances of glory (or not) at Euro 2012, any of which new punters can back with their free £25 bet for registering with bwin.
England 2nd behind France in Group D @ 15/4 (free £25 bet wins £118.75)
The ‘expectations have never been lower so maybe we can win it’ line being peddled by idiots like Alan Shearer proves that sometimes low expectations can be awfully high.
But most sane people in the country are aware of England’s limitations and as such, are bracing themselves for a short stay at Euro 2012.
There has even been talk that England might not get out of Group D, but I think that is a tad pessimistic. France are genuine contenders to win Euro 2012, but Sweden are a limited side, as are Ukraine, despite their home advantage.
‘So are England!’ I hear you cry and you’re right, especially without Wayne Rooney, who misses the first two games through suspension.
It is a potentially fatal blow for Hodgson, who is missing other key players such as Frank Lampard, Gareth Barry and Gary Cahill, but the fact that Barry and Cahill are now considered key players tells you everything about where England stand.
France have much better players and as such, I expect them to win the group. But I also expect England to sneak into second after a couple of tight, cagey matches against the Swedes and co-hosts, which may not be pretty but ultimately effective.
It means the 15/4 on the France/England forecast is a sound bet and a true reflection on the state of the nations involved in Group D.
England to go out in the quarter-finals @ 2/1 (free £25 bet wins £75)
England have reached just one semi-final of a major championship since winning the World Cup in 1966 and there is no suggestion that they are in a state to better what has become their par level over recent tournaments – the quarter-finals.
If, as I expect, England finish second in Group D, then a quarter-final with Spain – the most likely winners of Group C – would then await, at which point it would be adios to England’s Euro 2012 hopes.
I realise that Spain were defeated at Wembley in November, but a competitive match on a neutral ground would be a completely different proposition.
In fact, any of the opponents in Group C – even a grudge match with Republic of Ireland – would be a difficult test and England may well have to settle for the familiar feeling of falling at the last eight once more. It makes the 2/1 on a quarter-final exit an advisable bet
Ashley Young to be top England scorer @ 11/2 (free £25 bet wins £162.50)
In Rooney’s absence, Hodgson has a headache to solve at the top of the pitch, with neither Andy Carroll nor Danny Welbeck either ready or good enough (delete as appropriate) to take on the mantle of spearheading England’s attack in a major tournament.
They make poor favourites at the head of England’s top scorer market and with injuries to midfielders in all likelihood forcing Steven Gerrard into a deeper role than was originally anticipated, the stand-out candidate is Ashley Young at 11/2.
Young has enjoyed a fine 18 months in an England shirt and has been among the goals to prove it.
The Manchester United winger has scored six times in his last ten appearances for the Three Lions and is the country’s form player. At 11/2, he has to be the shout to be England’s top scorer.
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