As soon as the teams were drawn out of the hat for group F in World Cup qualifying, the mouth-watering prospect of England and Scotland going head-to-head in competitive games became a reality. The last time these two met in a meaningful game was as far back as 1999, when England persevered 2-1 on aggregate in a Euro 2000 play off.
Kevin Keegan was manager, but at the time admitted England were lucky to survive Scotland’s Wembley onslaught in the second leg. Two Paul Scholes goals had given England a 2-0 lead at Hampden, but Don Hutchinson pulled one back for Scotland at Wembley and the Three Lions were left hanging on to book their place at the tournament in Belgium and Holland. England fans won’t need reminding what happened in the group stage against Romania (and nor will Phil Neville).
Fast forward 17 years and the ‘auld enemies’ renew rivalries again in a match that really matters. Two friendlies have been played since then, in 2013 and 2014, with England on the winning side on both occasions. In 2013 the Three Lions were twice behind, but levelled through Walcott and Welbeck before Ricky Lambert notched the winner in a 3-2 win. The 2014 friendly saw Oxlade-Chamberlain and Rooney put England 2-0 up before Robertson pulled a late goal back, only for Rooney to finish the game with his second of the night in a 3-1 win in Scotland.
Tonight’s game is the first meeting in Russia World Cup qualification, in what has become a wide open group. After three games just four points separate the top five in the group. Slovakia, Slovenia and Lithuania are all in contention at this early stage and points in the two home internationals may prove to be crucial in the end.
It’s taking all the headlines, but in other matches on Friday both Slovakia and France have great chances to pick up three points at home.
England v Scotland
England are far too short to back to win this game in light of recent performances, but over 2.5 goals at 11/102.10+1101.101.10-0.91 with Marathonbet looks a good bet in what will be a game played at 100 miles an hour.
Passion and pride are synonymous with this fixture, and it’s effectively a local derby. In previous encounters it might be fair to say that Scotland have made up for what they lack in quality with a determination and work ethic, but this England side looks vulnerable and are not worthy of quotes around the 2/51.40-2500.40-2.500.40 mark.
Gareth Southgate is the man in charge, albeit on a temporary basis after Sam Allardyce’s dismissal. However, England’s problems go much deeper than the scandal that hit the news over the summer, and the abject displays in the Euro’s are testament to that. Since then results have been okay, but performances have been far from convincing. Allardyce’s sole game in charge saw Adam Lallana give the Three Lions a 1-0 win in Slovakia with the last kick of the game, but three points glossed over a laboured effort. Southgate oversaw another pedestrian display with a 2-0 win over minows Malta, before his side played out a drab 0-0 draw in Slovenia.
Scotland’s 5-1 win in Malta got their qualification campaign off to a great start, but a 1-1 draw with Lithuania at home has damaged their chances. The Scottish were utterly dominant in that game but paid the price for missing good opportunities and Lithuania hit on the break to take the lead. A late McArthur equaliser restores parity but it goes down as two pints dropped. A 3-0 defeat in Slovakia compounded the impact of that result, and Gordon Strachan’s men find themselves 4th in the group at this early stage.
Wayne Rooney will return to the England line up as captain, and although Harry Kane is back in the squad, Dele Alli is definitely out. Scotland are sweating on the fitness of striker Steven Fletcher, and have problems at full back with both Robertson and Tierney out injured.
The Scots may play a pragmatic game by sitting in and inviting England to break them down, but they will also be aware of how shaky the English defence has looked in recent internationals and will be quick to hit on the counter. At odds against, a bet on over 2.5 goals looks a much better play than backing any kind of result.
Slovakia v Lithuania
Slovakia are a much better side than Lithuania, and make appeal to beat a -1.5 Asian Handicap at 23/182.28+1281.281.28-0.78 with 188Bet
A good display at the Euros saw Slovakia beat Russia, lose narrowly to Wales and hold England to a 0-0 draw. That was enough to see them through to the knockout phase, although they were outclassed by a strong German side. World Cup qualification started badly with that last-gasp 1-0 defeat to England followed by another 1-0 loss at the hands of Slovenia. However, a convincing 3-0 win over Scotland put them back on track and they have work to do to make up lost ground in the group. As things stand Lithuania are 2nd with five points from a win over Malta and two draws with Scotland and Slovenia. However, they were battered by the same Scottish side that lost 3-0 here, and could well be outclassed on the night.
France v Sweden
A simiar case can be made for France to beat the -1.5 Asian Handicap at 1/12.00+1001.001.00-1.00 with Bet365 and BetVictor when they host Sweden.
The Swedes are making a good fist of things without Zlatan Ibrahimovic, drawing with the Netherlands and securing wins over Luxembourg and Bulgaria to share 1st place in group A with the French. However, this is by far their toughest test since their talisman retired, and France should prove much too good for them.
Since losing the Euro final to Portugal, France have beaten Italy 3-1 in a friendly, and taken six points from the Netherlands and Bulgaria in qualification. They were held to an unlikely 0-0 draw away at Belarus, but on home turf they’ve won 12 of the last 14 – beating the -1.5 handicap on nine occasions.
England v Scotland – Over 2.5 Goals
Friday 11th November, 19:45 GMT
Eric has been a sports journalist for over 20 years and has travelled the world covering top sporting events for a number of publications. He also has a passion for betting and uses his in-depth knowledge of the sports world to pinpoint outstanding odds and value betting opportunities.
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