England kick off their World Cup with an opening game against Tunisia at the Volgograd Arena. Quite remarkably, England’s last loss came before Gareth Southgate, the current manager, took over the Three Lions. A damning defeat to Iceland in the Euros, which knocked England out of the tournament, was the end for some of those international players, as well as Roy Hodgson as the manager.
Since then, England have won 11 of the 14 games they have played, with the other three ending in draws. Most importantly, perhaps, is the fact that England’s style of football has been a breath of fresh air for those planning to bet on them under the former youth manager.
For Tunisia, they are without a win in four games, but qualified top of their group by a point against DR Congo, Libya and Guinea. This will be the nation’s fifth time at a World Cup finals, with the last being over a decade ago, for the 2006 tournament in Germany.
Although friendlies are not the only indicator of a team’s performance leading into a major tournament, England have been playing with a newfound confidence to their game. Under Southgate, the toxic atmosphere of pressure has simmered down somewhat and has allowed those players to express themselves on the pitch - just as they do for their club week in, week out.
In the qualifying rounds, the Three Lions picked up eight wins and drew two others, making a statement of intent that they were a cut above anyone else in their group. While the quality of opposition was not to a world-class level, England have previously found it difficult to progress out of the qualification stages before, so Southgate has laid down an important marker.
It is why football betting fans will be reassured of England’s current demeanour going into this World Cup in Russia. Against Tunisia, Southgate’s men will set to dictate play and dominate possession. One of Hodgson’s many problems with England at the Euros was their inability to break teams down who deploy a low block defence.
With the new boss, however, especially against Nigeria and Costa Rica, England looked able to circumvent their previous downfalls and find gaps in-between the lines thanks to their system that promotes artistic freedom.
While England are likely to win this game - and are backed at 2/5 to win by Ladbrokes - Tunisia are not to be taken lightly. Perhaps complacency had slipped into previous World Cup camps of years gone by, but Southgate will be doing his best to make sure that history does not repeat itself.
Top goalscorer in this current squad is Sunderland’s attacking midfielder Wahbi Khazri. The Tunisia international will be tasked with finding a way to breaking England’s defence down and test goalkeeper Jordan Pickford. Tunisia are 11/10 to score over 0.5 goals in 90 minutes with William Hill.
One of the brighter players Tunisia has on its team is Montpellier defensive midfielder Ellyes Skhiri. At 23-years-old, the French-born midfielder is a regular for the Ligue 1 side and featured in more than 40 appearances last season. Skhiri only committed his international future to Tunisia back in March, but has already been a mainstay in their team and will likely sit in front of their back four, guarding the defence from England’s constant onslaught.
Southgate will want to get the World Cup under way with three points on the table and ease the pressure going into their second match against Panama, before facing Belgium in what should be a top-of-the-table clash.
England have kept a clean sheet in nine of their last 11 World Cup matches, and are priced at 8/13 with Betfair to add to that tally against Tunisia. With Harry Kane in such good form for both his club and country - and with the added responsibility of leading by example after being named captain of the Three Lions - it makes sense that the Tottenham striker is offered at 3/4 by William Hill to score anytime in the match.
In England’s last two games, they have scored at least two goals, and so Coral’s offer of two or more goals to scored by the Three Lions at 7/10 looks very enticing. With such an exciting, young and direct group of players, Southgate will hope that they will emulate what he has seen from them during qualifying and in the most recent friendlies on the pitch against Tunisia.