England’s quest for a place in the 2018 FIFA World Cup begins on September 4, Sunday, when they meet Slovakia at City Arena, Trnava, in a Group F Qualifying clash. The other teams in this group are Scotland, Malta, Lithuania and Slovenia.The job for guiding England to Russia has fallen on the shoulders of 61-year old Sam Allardyce who has managed teams like Sunderland and West Ham United prior to this assignment. He takes over from Roy Hodgson whose tenure as coach of the English squad ended with his side’s disastrous show at the Euro 2016.
The first thing Allardyce did was to sack midfielders Jack Wilshere and Ross Barkley and bring in an absolute greenhorn in the form of West Ham’s Michail Antonio. Another surprising exclusion was that of the 18-year boy wonder and Manchester United forward, Marcus Rashford with the striker’s options ultimately resting on names like Harry Kane, Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge. Wayne Rooney will play the role of a midfielder and will lead the side. Jermain Defoe, Sunderland’s 33-year old mercurial striker who featured in a pivotal role in Sunderland’s survival from relegation did not make the cut although he is still hoping for a last minute call. Surprise inclusion Antonio and Rooney aside, folks like Dele Alli (Tottenham Hotspur), Jordan Henderson and Adam Lallana (Liverpool), Sterling (Manchester City) and Theo Walcott (Arsenal) should form a power-packed midfield with lots of attacking options, too. With the indomitable John Terry no more around, the onus of marshalling the back line will fall on the likes of Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Phil Jagielka (Everton), Danny Rose (Tottenham Hotspur), Luke Shaw (Manchester United), John Stones (Manchester City) and Kyle Walker (Tottenham Hotspur). For manning the goalposts, Allardyce seems to have reposed faith in English international veteran and Manchester City’s 33-year old Joe Hart. But given the new manager’s knack for surprises, he may want to go for one of his two other options, viz., Fraser Forster of Southampton or Tom Heaton of Burnley FC in the final Playing XI.
Slovakia exited the Euro 2016 in the Group stages, but not before an impressive win against Russia 2-1, a well-fought goalless draw against England and a narrow loss to Wales. Marek Hamsik (Napoli) will be a key to watch out for in Slovakia’s forward ranks. Hamsik’s creative and attacking style will definitely pose a problem or two for the English defense. Assisting him upfront could be the the experienced and attacking midfielder, 33-year old Stanislav Sestakfrom, from the Hungarian club, Ferencváros. Martin Skrtel will probably lead the Slovakians and the onus of defending will obviously fall on him. Jan Mucha, a veteran of 46 international caps will be the No. 1 choice for the goalkeeper’s position. The hosts will have the advantage of playing in front of home crowds. Despite dismal performances in the recent past the bookies have taken into account the vast depth of talent in the English side, which is why they favor the visitors going into the September 4th clash at Trnava.
England have everything to play for and I think 11/10 is a good price.
England to WIN, Best Odds 11/10 BetVictor
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