David Villa has earned some criticism for scoring ‘only’ seven goals in 17 Barcelona matches this term, but his wonderful tally of 50 goals in 80 appearances for Spain makes him the obvious choice to be the first scorer at Wembley today.
The joint leading goalscorer at the 2010 World Cup has continued his proud international record since that tournament, firing seven in Spain’s eight Euro 2012 qualifiers.
Despite being the clear favourite, Villa’s odds of 9/2 are very decent for betting fans.
They appear to have been kept longer than they should be by the betting market’s highly dubious belief that a severely under-strength England side have a reasonable chance (333/100 with bwin) to win against the World and European Champions.
Should they play with the prowess that they are capable of, a strongly-staffed Spain could find the net from any number of positions at Wembley though.
If selected for the side, Cesc Fabregas could easily mark his return to London by opening the scoring, and is well priced at 15/2.
Likewise David Silva or Juan Mata could find that their rich Premier League form helps them to net for their country.
Silva is 15/2 to be first to fire past team-mate Joe Hart and Mata is 8/1, while odds of 2/1 and 9/4 respectively to score at any point of the game could reward well if Spain start to turn on the flair.
Interestingly, Mata’s goals per international appearance ratio (one goal in every 2.8 games) is better than Silva’s (one in four).
The Chelsea man is perhaps less likely to start but Vicente del Bosque would be mad to leave either on the bench for the full 90 minutes on the basis of recent club performances.
Meanwhile, Fabio Capello’s starting line-up is difficult to guess given the large number of absences to the England squad.
Darren Bent has the most caps of the inexperienced group of strikers, and if he starts up front and England are inspired to take the game to Spain, odds of 7/1 for the Aston Villa man to score first could just pay handsomely.
Bent had the second best total ratio of goals per minutes of action in England’s European qualifiers after the absent Jermain Defoe (Bent struck a goal every 88 minutes).
However, the two goals that Spain conceded in their August friendly defeat to Italy both fell to attacking midfielders. That could entice an England fan or two to have a flutter on Theo Walcott at 9/1 or Frank Lampard at 10/1 in the first goalscorer’s market.
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