Hodgson’s old side Switzerland false favourites to beat England
In reaction to the dismal 1-0 friendly win England scraped against Norway in their last international, Coral lengthened their odds on them beating main Euro 2016 qualifying Group E rivals Switzerland to 21/10.
This is a huge gamble that the bookies have taken for once, and punters should therefore capitalise on it. A price of 6/4 on the Swiss, who host the Three Lions in Basel, is short when you consider they have only beaten the 1966 World Cup winners once in a competitive fixture. Odds for a draw are 11/5.
England boss Roy Hodgson may have snapped at media criticism of the lethargic Wembley victory last time out, but there is seldom anyone who would know Swiss football better than him. The current Three Lions manager had almost four hugely successful years in charge of Switzerland, coaching them against the country of his birth in 1995, having steered them to the knockout stage of the 1994 World Cup.
Hodgson will have a plan; so expect a response, especially as the opposition midfield is set to contain a former Premier League flop. Valon Behrami (once of West Ham), Blerim Dzemaili (Bolton Wanderers) or Gelson Fernandes (Manchester City) will act as anchor alongside home skipper Gokhan Inler.
Moreover, in two of the last three competitive meetings England have scored three goals against the Swiss; temptingly long odds of 10/1 say the Three Lions will net more than 2.5 times here. In stark contrast to Hodgson, who has more than eight years of experience coaching national teams, Bosnia-born Vladimir Petkovic prepares to take charge of his adopted country Switzerland for the first time here.
After guiding Lazio to the Coppa Italia in 2013, he was subsequently treated shabbily by the Rome club when the Swiss football federation approached him about succeeding Ottmar Hitzfeld. Sacked in January by the Eternal City outfit, Petkovic takes up the international reins following the German gaffer’s retirement.
Continuity with the Hitzfeld side that reached the last 16 of the recent World Cup in Brazil is largely the case. One huge miss, however, is that first-choice goalkeeper Diego Benaglio, aged just 30, has called time on his international career. Switzerland’s other stoppers selected have just six caps between them; all earned by Yann Sommer, so he should start.
The three keepers named by Petkovic all ply their trade in the Bundesliga, but for sides that are European challengers at best and mid-table teams at worst. Couple this weakness between the sticks with Switzerland persistently calling up Arsenal rejects Philippe Senderos and Johan Djourou, who are regularly paired in central defence, and you can see just how attractive those 2/1 odds on an England win are.
It would be naive to think, however, that the Swiss present no danger. As Petkovic takes his first steps as an international manager, he may be bold and select set piece threat Fabian Schar in the heart of defence. Odds of 8/1 say the highly-rated Basel centre back, who was Switzerland’s top scorer in World Cup qualifying, will net anytime.
Bayern Munich winger Xherdan Shaqiri, often deployed by Hitzfeld as a number 10, has four international goals in his last five outings. He is naturally shorter in the anytime market at 15/8, as he has a goal against England on his CV.
The Swiss striking options, like their stoppers, are all based in the Bundesliga, with Bayer Leverkusen’s Josip Drmic 13/2 to net the opener after scoring three times for his country this calendar year. Admir Mehmedi (Freiburg) or Haris Seferovic (Eintracht Frankfurt) are still up-and-coming too at 23 and 22 respectively, with the former the best value to net anytime at 11/4.
Enough about Switzerland; England captain Wayne Rooney has three in as many appearances against them, so back him to score in this match with Coral’s special enhanced odds of 3/1. You can stake up to a maximum of £20 on this bet, meaning there’s a potential £60 profit riding on it.
If you want to pile more on than that, Rooney, who converted a winning penalty against Norway, is just 7/4. An alternative bet that may attract is backing the Three Lions talisman in either the first or last scorer markets, where he is 6/1 apiece.
There’s been talk of shunting Rooney out to the left flank for this match in certain corners of the media. If Hodgson does this to give precocious teenager Raheem Sterling a free role, then it would be ignoring the very same journalistic criticism he attracted in the World Cup group stage loss to Italy.
Sterling is 11/4 to get his first international goal here, while either Arsenal new boy Danny Welbeck or Rickie Lambert, used sparingly since his switch to Liverpool, should replace the injured Daniel Sturridge. Both candidates to lead the England line are 2/1 to score anytime.
One final bet to consider is a Three Lions victory and both teams being on target. This current England defence is far from convincing, but tasty odds of 13/2 are available on them winning despite Switzerland scoring. Here, the two Group E favourites face one another, but whatever happens in Basel we should see both the Swiss and Three Lions in France at Euro 2016.