Will The Saints Go Marching In?
They are not so much friendlies as auditions for the World Cup Finals. At least that’s how England’s fringe players will be looking at it as Roy Hodgson’s hopefuls take on Chile this Friday and Germany next week.
And those wannabes will include, of course, the trio of Southampton attackers so eager to impress the boss and pencil in their names for Brazil. Ricky Lambert has already shown what he can do and team-mates Adam Lallana and Jay Rodriguez will surely be getting a go, especially with Steve Gerrard, Michael Carrick and Danny Welbeck all sidelined (the captain may be back against Germany).
You could back Lallana at 20/1 with Coral to be on the plane to South America next summer before he was named in this squad and those odds have now shrunk to 5/1 following a brilliant performance against Hull City at the weekend in front of the watching England boss, which included one of the goals of the season so far (and that’s saying something).
Indeed, he made such a good impression that 5/1 still looks pretty good value. The talented Saints captain seems to thrive on responsibility and may, even now, be in a position where a World Cup squad place is his to lose.
Phil Jones and Chris Smalling are others who will be desperate to make their mark, or at least get through their auditions without fluffing their lines.
It seems that Gary Cahill and Phil Jagielka are Hodgson’s chosen central defensive pair, but the Manchester United defenders, who both played well against Arsenal last weekend, are important back-ups, both in the middle and at right back. The especially versatile Jones is 2/5 to make the final squad and is pretty much nailed on barring injury.
Most England fans will probably be looking at the Germany game next Wednesday as the real test, in this International break, but Chile are a decent side in very good form and will certainly be no pushovers.
They won five of their last six games to qualify in third place in the South American group and that would have been six from six had they not let slip a 3-0 half time lead in Colombia last month.
Chile boast an impressive attacking unit, including Barcelona striker Alexis Sanchez, but they can also be slack at the back, so there could be plenty of goals at Wembley.
Wayne Rooney, back in top form, may well be on the scoresheet again (6/5 with Coral, 9/2 to net either first or last), while it would be no big surprise to see one of the Saints march one in (Lambert and Rodriguez 7/4, Lallana 11/4).
But 12/5 a draw makes more appeal than 10/11 an England victory. I like the look of 2-2 (14/1).