After England’s emphatic and dramatic round of 16 win over Colombia, fans up and down the country await in anticipation for their first quarter final in a World Cup in 12 years. World Cup fever has taken over the country and there is a clear reason as to why: football’s coming home, or so they say.
England have been one of the surprising quarter finalists this summer and will be firm favourites to make the semi finals against one of Russia or Croatia. With the Golden Boot leading candidate on their side and in great form, the Three Lions are a nation worth backing.
Here are five top bets to place before the quarter final on Saturday afternoon:
This is arguably England’s greatest chance in the past 50 years to make a World Cup final, thanks to Gareth Southgate’s decision to rest players against Belgium and fall into the ‘lesser’ half of the draw.
Colombia might have been a scare towards the end, but the Three Lions should go into the Sweden match full of confidence and with the bit between their teeth. After ending their penalty shootout hoodoo, Southgate’s players (and football betting fans) will have nothing to fear should it come to that eventuality.
Should England beat Sweden and make it into the semi finals - which they are more than capable of doing - they are likely to come up against a very well-drilled, organised and prolific Croatian side.
The Croats will be a difficult team to face, but the match will finally be played in a different style and one that will suit their game better. With Zlatko Dalić’s men actually coming out to attack and attempting to dominate possession, it will open up the game for England’s forwards to launch counter attacks.
England have the perfect chance to make a final for the first time since 1966, but it will be an almighty test against one of: Brazil, Uruguay, France or Belgium. The other side of the draw is so difficult to read that you have to take all candidates seriously. Any one of those teams will give England huge problems and that is why it is likely Southgate and his players will finish runner’s up.
With six goals to his name in four matches - equalling Gary Lineker’s record in an England jersey at a major tournament - Harry Kane is in prime position to win the 2018 World Cup Golden Boot award.
Not many pundits, fans or mere spectators would have said that Kane would be the leading candidate going into the quarter finals to win the prestigious award, but such is the mania of this World Cup that literally anything can come true.
The Tottenham centre forward has shown his prowess in front of goal and has not been unnerved by the sense of occasion that some have before him. Kane has delivered on football’s biggest stage time after time when called upon and will now have it firmly in his sights to go and end this tournament as the most prolific player.
Paddy Power have priced Kane winning the Golden Boot at 2/7, which looks incredibly enticing given he’s already two goals in front of second place Romelu Lukaku.
It might have been against Panama and Tunisia in the group stages, but England have shown their attacking brilliance on more than one occasion and is a team that boasts dynamism moving forward.
While the Three Lions will feel hard done by for not being awarded with another penalty and constant bad refereeing decisions against them, they will hope to get back to their free-flowing attacking nature in the quarter finals.
In Southgate’s forward line, there are goals everywhere you look, it is just about unlocking that potential and setting it free - especially in Raheem Sterling’s case. He has come under unfair criticism by some areas of the British press, but he has been one of England’s brighter sparks with the runs he makes and hold up play especially. All the Manchester City forward needs is a goal.
Sweden might be a defensive powerhouse as shown so far, but if England can take an early need, Janne Andersson’s men will simply have to come out of their shell and find an equaliser at some point. By doing this, England will have the perfect opportunity to use their counter attacking brilliance and score a second to put the game to bed.
Southgate’s players are 27/20 with Ladbrokes to score two plus goals against Sweden this Saturday.
Perhaps a controversial figure right now in the England team, Sterling has actually performed better than what some are trying to make out and suggest.
The Manchester City forward has been under pressure to replicate his club performances for his country, but he has struggled to find the finishing touches in terms of a goal. However, it is not for a lack of trying as Sterling has been brilliant off the ball in trying to stretch the opposition’s defence as well as create space for other teammates to run into.
Without the prominence of an out-and-out number 10 in the side, Sterling is the closest player England have to someone who can wriggle out of tight spaces and create something from nothing. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of his play so far has been his willingness to sacrifice his natural intuitions in situations in order to make the team flourish.
A lot of his play goes unnoticed, but if you really paid attention to what Sterling does during a game, fans would understand and appreciate the relentless work rate that he gives, the runs he makes and the positions he gets into. All that is missing is a goal to clear to give him the confidence boost he needs when in those scoring positions.
What has been impressive so far about England’s performances is that while they have been prolific going forward, they have also shown their defensive sturdiness for large parts of the game.
Belgium aside, Southgate’s players have portrayed a defensive organisation that has been vacant from the national side for some years. With the tactical change to move Kyle Walker into the back three and introduce Harry Maguire, Ashley Young and Kieran Trippier, the Three Lions have a sturdy platform in which they can operate on.
England might have conceded in every match they have played in so far, but with every game that passes - especially the most recent against Colombia - they look far more assured at the back which is promoting positivity through the spine of the team.
There are still wobbles with stray passes or getting caught too far up the pitch, but England will be in a battle against Sweden where the opposition are likely to sit back and religiously defend until they see a viable option to go and counter them.
From what everyone has seen of Southgate’s men so far, it is that they have incredible recovery times in claiming the ball back and are unlikely to be truly countered.
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