World Cup Qualifier – England v Montenegro
So what’s it going to be? When the ref blows his whistle for full time at Wembley tomorrow night, what will it be for England players and fans? Relief? Excitement? Or frustration and dejection?
Coral go 4/11 an England victory over Montenegro in this penultimate World Cup Group Qualifier and that suggests it will be something of a formality. But this is by no means a given. Montenegro may be roughly the size of Wales and have a population of just over half a million, but England haven’t managed to beat them in three starts.
There would be no reason to be cocky at the best of times and this squeaky-bum stage of World Cup qualification is definitely not the best of times.
And England fans don’t need long memories to recall disappointments and miseries, both in failed qualification and in tournaments proper. This is going to be a very nervous occasion for everyone and even if England win, we will have to go through it all over again next Tuesday when Poland come to London. We have been here before, haven’t we?
There are, however, plenty of reasons to be optimistic, not least the promise of the new Wayne Rooney-Daniel Sturridge combination up front. Rooney is looking much like his old self again and he now has a partner he could really hit it off with.
Sturridge has been a revelation since moving to Liverpool and has quickly forged a productive relationship with Luis Suarez. Rooney is a different type of player to Suarez, but is similarly intelligent and operates in the same sort of areas as the Uruguayan, so this has the makings of the best strikeforce duo since Alan Shearer and Teddy Sheringham stuck it to the Dutch in the nineties.
Rooney, fifth in the all-time England scorers list, is 10/11 with Coral to notch his 37th international goal and 7/2 to score first or last, while Sturridge is evens to get in on the act (4/1 first or last). And don’t forget the back-up strikers if the new marriage isn’t working out.
Danny Welbeck may be struggling for goals at Man United, but he scores for fun for England, while Roy Hodgson will also have the prolific Jermain Defoe and old new-boy Ricky Lambert to call upon from the bench in an emergency.
England have no excuses. The only player missing through injury is Ashley Cole and he was under pressure anyway (at least for this match when only a win will do) from Leighton Baines, who, apart from his other assets, is one of the best takers of a free kick from around the penalty box in the game, a quality England may need. The Everton full back is 14/1 to score first or last (11/2 at any time).
Let’s be optimistic. England will win and they will win convincingly, maybe 3-0 (8/1) or 4-0 (16/1). And if it all goes wrong, we can worry about it afterwards.