England Preview – Youthful Lions To Help Hodgson?
World Cup 2014
Can the youuthful squad selected by Roy Hodgson bring about a change in fortune for the perennial underachievers?
England’s form in the last twelve months has been confusing. The bare stats tell of five wins and three draws in their last ten, which is pretty solid. They’ve twice put four goals past lesser opposition, and nearly won at the Maracana.
But there have also been a string of disappointing results at Wembley, where they lost to Germany and were completely outclassed by Chile.
So is this England team a promising young group on the cusp of something interesting, or a disjointed collection of individuals about to receive a chastening football lesson from the world’s best? The latter, probably.
England’s group was a tricky one, and they gave the other teams every chance by dropping points against Poland and Ukraine in their first four games.
They found form at the right time, winning three of their last four, but also benefited from the failures of their rivals. Montenegro set a blistering pace, but couldn’t sustain it and Ukraine took too long to get going and couldn’t quite catch up. Roy Hodgson’s side clinched qualification with back to back wins against Montenegro and Poland.
There is a refreshingly youthful look about the England squad, particularly in a midfield contingent
that includes Ross Barkley, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jack Wilshire, Raheem Sterling and Adam Lallana.
The down side is an obvious lack of experience, which might be felt particularly in defence, with the omission of veteran full-back Ashley Cole.
Reaching the second round will be a tall order for this England team, but if they are to get there, the key game will be their second, against Uruguay.
The opening encounter with Italy will be a cagey affair in conditions neither side will relish and I can’t see England doing any better than a draw. But they will fancy their chances against a lumbering Uruguayan defence that conceded 25 goals in qualifying, particularly if Luis Suarez is not fully fit to punish them at the other end.
Four years ago England were given the easiest of World Cup draws and made heavy weather of it. This time round, they’ve got a fight on their hands to make it to the second round, so England fans will be hoping the challenge motivates a young side to raise their game and express their individual talent.
But realistically, I can’t see them beating either Italy or Uruguay, nor can I see them scoring enough goals against Costa Rica if it comes down to goal difference.
The odds on England qualifying from Group C don’t make much appeal, but they are worth backing to grab a draw in their opening game. Neither team will want to lose, and the tropical conditions will result in the game being played at a snail’s pace in the second half. Back the draw at 2/1 in the England v Italy Match Betting market.