England Realistically Priced For World Cup Glory
World Cup year is invariably a good year for bookmakers active within the UK. Over £1billion was wagered by Brits alone during the 2010 tournament in South Africa, and there is never a shortage of patriotic punters keen to support England with their hard-earned sterling.
Four years ago the Three Lions were a ridiculously short price – Paddy Power made England, then managed by Fabio Capello, 11/2 to triumph in the Rainbow Nation – but, looking at the 2014 World Cup odds, bookies have taken a more realistic view of England’s prospects this time round.
Indeed, at the time of writing Roy Hodgson’s men are widely available at 33/1 to triumph in Brazil. On paper England’s draw – they will face Costa Rica, Italy and Uruguay in Group D – looks much tougher compared to their group in South Africa, which is presumably part of the reason why they are as big as 33s for the tournament.
However, whichever way you look at it, 33/1 is a far more appropriate price than 11/2, considering that England have – to put it bluntly – looked out of their depth in recent World Cups. In 1986 and ’90 the Three Lions threatened, but they’ve looked toothless subsequently.
So, what are England’s chances of rolling back the years – way back to 1966 – in South America this summer? TV Bet selects the players that should fill the places in Hodgson’s starting, and predicts how far England will go…
Goalkeeper – Ben Foster
In all probability, Manchester City’s Joe Hart will head to Brazil as Hodgson’s first-choice stopper, but Ben Foster deserves to be the man between the sticks for England. While Hart is undoubtedly a class act, Foster has been in fine form for West Brom since returning from injury this season, and he looks ready to shine on the biggest stage.
Left-back – Leighton Baines
Ashley Cole has been a permanent fixture at left-back for England since 2001. However, while it would be churlish to overlook a player with his experience, Everton’s Leighton Baines is at the peak of his powers and should be Hodgson’s pick in that position. Kieran Gibbs and Luke Shaw both possess great potential, but Baines edges it nevertheless.
Right-back – Glen Johnson
Arsenal’s Carl Jenkinson looks sure to be England’s No 1 right-back in years to come, but Hodgson should stick with Glen Johnson and Kyle Walker in Brazil. Johnson, 29, is enjoying a fine season with Liverpool and, though still a threat going forward, he now exhibits greater discipline in terms of defensive duties. He looks the most solid option.
Centre-back – Gary Cahill
Chelsea did a devilishly good bit of business when picking Gary Cahill up for little over £4m in 2012. The 28-year-old has grown in stature since joining the Blues and, under the stewardship of Jose Mourinho, he has raised his game to a very high standard this season. It will be a major shock if Cahill isn’t in the starting XI against Italy on June 14.
Centre-back – Phil Jagielka
There will be no prizes for originality by suggesting that Hodgson should deploy Cahill and Jagielka as his first-choice central defenders, but there’s no doubt that they are the most solid options. Like Cahill, Jagielka is a no-nonsense centre-back and he too is enjoying a fine season at club level. The Everton man must feature in England’s line-up.
Midfield – Jack Wilshere
Wilshere’s clever link-up play with strikers and ability to unlock defences with withering runs forward are invaluable assets. Much will depend on whether he can remain injury-free for the remainder of Arsenal’s domestic campaign, but if he turns up in Brazil fully-fit his name will surely be one of the first on Hodgson’s team sheet.
Midfield – Michael Carrick
Steven Gerrard will head to Brazil as captain so, barring injuries, his place in the starting XI is virtually assured. His presence alone in the camp will lift his teammates, but pairing the underrated Michael Carrick in central midfield with Jack Wilshere would be a better bet. Carrick has been a rock for Manchester United this term and deserves a place in Hodgson’s side.
Midfield – Raheem Sterling
Despite an inauspicious start to the campaign, the Liverpool winger has got his act together in no uncertain terms in recent months. Indeed, Sterling is in sparkling form for the Reds; his combination of pace and skill strikes fear into rival defenders. Aged 19, he lacks experience on the international stage, but Hodgson should take a gamble on Sterling.
Midfield – Aaron Lennon
The biggest selection headache Hodgson will face is who to deploy on the right flank in Brazil. Andros Townsend was sensational in the qualifiers, but it’s hard to ignore his Spurs teammate Aaron Lennon who has been in terrific form of late. The speedy winger’s all round game has improved, as has his consistency. He should feature in Hodgson’s plans.
Forward – Wayne Rooney
Rooney has yet to score following eight World Cup matches in an England shirt. However, his overall record for the Three Lions – 88 caps and 38 goals – Is hard to knock. At the age of 28, this could be his final opportunity to shine on the biggest stage and the Manchester United star remains, arguably, England’s best all round player.
Forward – Daniel Sturridge
When he left Chelsea, Sturridge’s CV was hardly glittering (13 goals in 63 appearances for the Blues) but he has flourished since joining Liverpool. Indeed, he has developed into one of the Premier League’s most potent strikers – he has netted 22 times in 26 matches so far this season – and is undoubtedly the man to partner Rooney up front in Brazil.
England World Cup Betting Verdict:
Roy Hodgson has plenty of talent at his disposal and punters considering their 2014 World Cup betting options will no doubt be half-tempted by the 33s on offer about England.
However, while there is undeniably a wealth of individual talent within the squad, the concern remains whether the Three Lions will click as a unit in Brazil this summer.
Hodgson has spoken of his desire to improve England’s passing game – and for his side to retain possession better in matches – but they still lacked that all-important cohesion during their qualification campaign, for all that it was largely a successful campaign.
England have been handed a tough group. They are third favourites behind Italy and Uruguay in Group D, which underlines the enormity of the task they face to qualify for the knockout stages, let alone win the tournament.
On the face of it, England need to raise their game if they are to avoid falling at the first hurdle. They will also need to quickly acclimatise to the searing temperatures in Brazil which, make no mistake, will be a big factor.
If Hodgson’s men can find some improvement – and can withstand the South American heat – it would be no surprise were they to edge either Italy or Uruguay out and book their place in the second round. But it’s hard to envisage the Three Lions going much farther.