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England will head to the World Cup in Russia with a poor recent record at international tournaments. Being humbled by Iceland at the 2016 European Championships put paid to Roy Hodgson’s time in charge, and that was after the Three Lions had failed to get past the group stage at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Germany put Fabio Capello’s team to the sword in South Africa in 2010, meaning it is now 12 years since England last reached the last eight in the World Cup. Can we expect them to get that far this time around? The first hurdle is obviously the group stage, but it shouldn’t present Gareth Southgate’s team with too much difficulty.
To put it in context, top football bookmakers price England as more likely to go out in the semi-finals than in the first round. As it seems reasonable to assume England and Belgium will both win their matches against Panama and Tunisia (as they are strong favourites to do so), who tops the group will come down to the result of their game against each other.
The bookmakers have Roberto Martinez’s side as favourites to both win that match and top the group. BetBright have Belgium priced at 4/5 to be group winners, with England at 6/5. You can also bet on the finishing order with 888sport. They offer 5/4 that it is the Red Devils who top Group G with England as runners up, or 17/10 for the opposite scenario to occur.
The favourite in the ‘stage of elimination’ betting when it comes to England is the last 16, which is priced at 7/4 with Coral. However, as they will be paired with a team from the second weakest group (according to the teams’ combined FIFA ranking points) should they get out of Group G, they will fancy their chances of reaching the last eight.
The bookmakers think (most likely) Colombia or Poland will have too much for England, but I’m not so sure. Southgate’s side have only conceded two goals in their eight matches so far this season, and that includes keeping clean sheets against Germany, Brazil and the Netherlands. If they can get ahead, then their recent record suggests they can see a match out against any team from Group H.
However, that might be as good as it gets. William Hill have England priced at 8/11 to reach the last eight, which puts them as joint-seventh favourites to reach that stage. The same firm has odds of 5/2 that the Three Lions reach the semi-finals, but they are only seventh favourites to do so, and seven into four doesn’t go.
This makes sense, as the draw implies England’s quarter-final opponents will most likely be Brazil or Germany. For England to get that far though, they’re going to need goals. Who can we expect to score them? It won’t surprise anyone to see Harry Kane is the runaway favourite to be the country’s top scorer.
The Tottenham talisman is even money with bet365, when every other player is 7/1 or longer, and for good reason too; England have scored ten goals in 2017/18, and with four of them Kane is the only player to net more than once. He hasn’t even played in any of the last four internationals either.
A better value bet might be Raheem Sterling, who is available at 7/1. He surprisingly hasn’t scored for England in his last 19 appearances, but he is the fourth top scorer in the Premier League this season, and is in better form than Kane. The Tottenham man is deservedly the clear favourite in this market, but if things click for Sterling he could run him close.
You can also bet on who will be included in England’s squad for the tournament, and while lots of the players are very short odds on, there are still some eye catching prices for players who aren’t entirely assured of their seat on the plane. Perhaps the best bet is Jake Livermore, who is priced at 9/4 with Ladbrokes to be in the World Cup squad.
Although his side West Bromwich Albion have had a terrible time of it in 2017/18, Gareth Southgate clearly likes the central midfielder. Four players have been in all eight England squads so far this season, and Livermore is the only one of that quartet who is longer than 1/16 to make it to Russia. In a market which splits fairly neatly into certainties and relative outsiders, it’s the West Brom man who looks the best value bet.
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