England’s recent record against decent opponents is a sorry sight and means that punters should oppose Roy Hodgson’s false-favourite team in its away match versus Ukraine.
It is puzzling as to how the majority of bookmakers have gone up with an England win as the most likely of the three possible results in Kiev for a game from which the Three Lions would take a draw if Ukraine offered it to them.
Believe it or not, England has beaten only two sides ranked in FIFA’s top 30 at the time in competitive matches played since the last FIFA World Cup three years ago. Ukraine is ranked 28 currently and it was three minutes shy of beating England in the reverse fixture at Wembley Stadium 12 months ago only for Frank Lampard to score a late penalty kick.
Furthermore, England’s four clean sheets in its last 13 games, irrespective of status, have come against Moldova (twice) and San Marino (twice). Brazil (home and away), Ireland (home), Italy (neutral), Montenegro (away), Poland (away), Scotland (home), Sweden (away) and Ukraine (home) have scored at least once versus England in that period.
Factor in England’s availability problems – Daniel Sturridge has joined Andy Carroll, Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck on the sidelines, leaving Jermain Defoe and Rickie Lambert as the only recognised strikers whom Hodgson can play – and one ought to see why the Three Lions are well worth opposing.
Ukraine has won seven of its last eight matches, with its only slip being a goalless draw against Cameroon in a home friendly three months ago. In recent times Ukraine has won in Bulgaria, Montenegro and Poland, while its confidence must be sky high after scoring nine unanswered home goals versus San Marino last week. A draw would put Ukraine on course to qualify for the two-legged play-offs but, with England vulnerable without Rooney et al, one would think that the in-form home team would throw caution to the wind.
While there is little doubt that Ukraine is over the odds at 3.25 with William Hill to top European Group H – a win over England would put the Ukrainians in a very strong position with two rounds remaining – it is a bet that will not pay out for another month. Ukraine is 2.80 with BetVictor to beat England in Kiev when it should be under the 2.50 mark so be happy with taking those odds.
Elsewhere, there is a mixture of attractive plays in the FIFA World Cup qualifying matches at short and long prices.
Of the short-priced sides, games and Uzbekistan appeal the most. Italy is 1.57 with BetVictor to beat the Czech Republic in Turin. Typically, Italy has not done anything spectacular but the Azzurri have accrued 17 points from seven wins, two draws and no losses. The Czech Republic lost 1-2 at home to Armenia last week and its campaign is in disarray. Italy has won 17 of its last 18 FIFA World Cup qualifying matches, drawing the other one. Uzbekistan is 1.50 with William Hill to defeat Jordan in Tashkent. The Asian teams played out a 1-1 draw in Amman last week, with Uzbekistan confident of winning the two-legged tie given that Jordan’s recent away results read like a horror story.
Sides at odds against to win FIFA World Cup qualifying games that are attractive include Armenia, Romania and the United States of America. Armenia is 3.25 with Boylesports to beat Denmark in Yerevan even though the reverse fixture resulted in a 4-0 away success for the Armenians. Romania is 2.20 with most bookmakers to defeat Turkey in Bucharest. The respective home and away form of the sides is contrasting and Romania departed from Turkey with three points 11 months ago. The United States of America is 2.45 with BetVictor to put Mexico’s campaign in even greater jeopardy. Based on the recent results of the teams – the United States of America has won its last nine home matches, whereas Mexico crashed to a humiliating 1-2 home defeat versus Honduras last week – the Stars and Stripes should be in odds-on territory.