After over a fortnight of glorious spectacles, incredible sporting achievement and a life-affirming sense of optimism, are you suffering from a post-Olympic hangover? Well, if you are, then fear not, as I have just the tonic for you: an England friendly just three days before the Premier League season starts.
I bet you feel better already.
Or maybe you don’t. In the history of the universally derided August England friendly match, this has to be the most pointless and uninteresting one yet as a nation still digesting the success of London 2012 – let’s be frank about this – couldn’t care less about Roy Hodgson’s team facing their Euro 2012 conquerors Italy in Berne, Switzerland just a few days after the curtain was brought down on a once-in-a-lifetime event.
And if the makeup of each squad is anything to go by, the players don’t seem to care much for it either. The fixture has been characterised by a series of senior players pulling out for reasons ranging from the sensible to the insulting (that ‘slightly bruised thigh’ must have Theo Walcott in unimaginable pain).
With both line-ups unrecognisable from their best teams, neither can be backed with much conviction, particularly when motivation is not going to be at its highest and 11/5 on the draw is the most sensible play.
As such, quite what Hodgson and his counterpart Cesare Prandelli will get from this match, other than the chance to have a look at some younger players who are very unlikely to play when qualification for the World Cup starts in September, is anyone’s guess.
Talk of ‘revenge’ for the last-eight defeat in Poland and Ukraine has been minimal as few of Hodgson’s senior men have joined up with the squad in Switzerland – captain Steven Gerrard, John Terry and Wayne Rooney are among those missing – leaving the former Fulham boss likely to pick only three players who started the penalty shoot-out reverse in Kiev.
It means England will have an unfamiliar look, with youngsters Tom Cleverley, Kyle Walker, Jake Livermore and Steven Caulker likely to feature at some point, while Birmingham goalkeeper Jack Butland is ready to make his international debut despite never playing a first-team match outside the bottom tier of English football.
Thankfully, this will be the last set of international friendlies scheduled at this time of year, because apart from anything else, they are a nightmare to bet on. For reasons I can’t quite fathom, England are favourites to win this match at 7/5, with the Azzurri at 39/20, but the shout here has to be the draw at 11/5.
Punters registering with bwin today can claim a free £20 bet and placing this on England and Italy to draw would return a cool £64 if a stalemate materalises.
England do have some experienced campaigners on show, with Frank Lampard and Gary Cahill starting, not to mention the recalled Michael Carrick, which means the Three Lions are not going to get turned over, especially as Prandelli is also using this friendly to experiment.
Mario Balotelli and Andrea Pirlo, who ran the show in Kiev, are among those rested as the former Fiorentina coach hands Alberto Aquilani, Stephen El Shaarawy, Mattia Destro and Salvatore Sirigu a chance to impress.
But with both line-ups unrecognisable from their best teams, neither can be backed with much conviction, particularly when motivation is not going to be at its highest and 11/5 on the draw is the most sensible play.
The match in Kiev was 0-0, after all (as this writer predicted here), and with Hodgson happy to admit he will be content to just avoid defeat (that’s the spirit, Roy), then the draw has to be the call.
Recommended bet: England and Italy to draw @ 11/5
New customers can register here to claim a free £20 bet or click here to see all our international friendly odds.
Follow us on Twitter @bwin