Despite a stilted start, the change from Stuart Pearce to Gareth Southgate doesn’t look like ruining England Under-21’s reputation as elite European Under-21 Championship qualifying code crackers.
They lead Group 1 with games in hand and are 1/6 to defeat Finland Under-21 at MK Dons’ caps lock and space bar-resistant stadiumuk. The value is to be found boarding the 13/10 train to under 2.5 goals-ville.
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England Under-21 have kept seven straight home qualifying clean sheets.
The goal that England Under-21 conceded in the reverse fixture in Tampere was a pretty big deal despite Southgate’s charges salvaging a draw from the wreckage. It represented their first leakage in seven qualifiers over 22 months.
However, they responded with successive shutouts against San Marino and Lithuania and rarely look like being breached at home, their qualifying impenetrability in jolly old England now stretching a delicious 649 minutes.
Finland Under-21 have netted just twice in their last three qualifiers.
The fact that Finland’s largely home-based next generation of Sami Hyypias and Jari Litmanens have accumulated nine goals in five qualifiers – including one against the Young Lions – may unnerve unders backers.
It shouldn’t though as over half of those came in a freak 5-1 rout away to the usually resilient Wales juniors. They struck just once in their two away Group 1 ties since, which were against unremarkable pair Lithuania and Moldova.
The Finns are shipping a respectable average of a goal a game in this campaign.
Finland don’t collect clean sheets with the same gusto as their hosts, but don’t allow their penalty box to be flooded either, conceding only twice in three away games.
England’s nine goals without reply against San Marino and Lithuania shouldn’t carry much currency – those were the weakest two teams in the pool. They were restricted to one goal by Moldova and Finland prior to that.