Euro 2016 qualifier: England seeking Slovenia triumph on travels
England have enjoyed a highly successful Euro 2016 qualifying campaign so far since their disappointing World Cup last summer, having gone unbeaten since the underwhelming performance in Brazil, but they could face their trickiest test to date against Group E rivals Slovenia.
Roy Hodgson’s Three Lions have maintained a perfect start to qualifying, dominantly climbing to the summit of their group, having not been properly tested in the first five games. However, a trip to Slovenia could provide more of a challenge this time out, as they aim to edge close to securing their place in France next year.
Despite England’s dominance in their group, a recent friendly stalemate with the Republic of Ireland has seen them come under some scrutiny, proving even with a rampant run of success, there is no escape from criticism on their performances.
Hodgson is keen for his hopeful Three Lions to rally to a demanding position with an early qualification, despite their stuttering showing against the Irish, and a victory over Slovenia could do exactly that (11/2 with Coral to win and score four or more).
“We know what our players are capable of and sometimes even the important ones don’t live up to expectations and don’t have a good game,” stated Hodgson.
“I would say it is very simple. I don’t think it is an English team. It applies to any team in the world – if your good players are not really performing like the good players that everyone knows they are then you are in a bit of trouble.
“There will be players who are criticised for their performances and they will have to accept that and hopefully use it as a spur to make sure it doesn’t happen against Slovenia on Sunday.”
The visitors will be without Arsenal attacker Danny Welbeck, who is their top scorer in qualifying with six strikes in five outings, but Fabian Delph has recovered from a knock and is fit to feature.
Liverpool contract rebel Raheem Sterling was one of the main England stars to be blasted for his showing in Dublin, but he is 3/1 to score anytime in Slovenia and rediscover his earlier season form on the international stage.
Three Lions skipper Wayne Rooney is still in the hunt for Sir Bobby Charlton’s all-time scoring record, and the Manchester United marksman is 11/4 to net anytime and lead his nation to another victory.
For the hosts, Milivoje Novakovic will be the key threat, having netted four times in qualifying to date, and he is 6/1 to open proceedings on home soil. Josip Ilicic is widely recognised forward, plying his trade for Fiorentina, and the Serie A attacker is 10/3 to strike past Joe Hart anytime.
A triumph for England would see them edge ever closer to a place in France next summer, but Slovenia are capable of springing a surprise, having climbed to second in Group E and are battling for the second automatic qualifying position.