BEN CLEMINSON PREVIEWS URUGUAY V ENGLAND
ENGLAND and Uruguay arrive in Sao Paulo knowing a loss will leave their World Cup dreams hanging by a thread.
Being beaten in the first game of the tournament is bad enough – according to football data specialists 21st Club, only four teams since 1998 have reached the knockout rounds after suffering a defeat in their opening match. A second successive reverse would leave the loser needing snookers.
England’s performance against Italy on Saturday gave their supporters grounds for optimism, but in the end it returned no points. The 2-1 defeat left a number of questions for manager Roy Hodgson to ponder, the main one being where to play Wayne Rooney.
The Manchester United star managed to provide a superb assist for Daniel Sturridge and came closest to an equaliser in the second half but the left wing does not appear to be his best position. Reports suggest Hodgson could switch Rooney and Manaus star man Raheem Sterling.
Rooney has 39 international goals to his name and was England’s top scorer in qualification. His creativity through the middle would test an unconvincing Uruguayan back four that shipped three against supposed whipping boys Costa Rica.
At the other end, manager Oscar Tabarez has been sweating on the fitness of talisman Luis Suarez and didn’t feel confident enough to introduce the forward in a bid to save their opening group game.
The Liverpool forward has not played a competitive game for five weeks but Suarez’s importance cannot be underestimated. He is his country’s record scorer with 39 goals from 77 internationals.
However they line-up, England have the talent up top to take advantage of their opponents’ defensive frailties. The cooler climate will also be more favourable than the jungle conditions of the last game so back the Three Lions to secure victory at 5/4 with Star Sports.
And Star Sports will enhance those odds to 5/2, for stakes up to £500, for anyone who places three or more bets on the racing at Royal Ascot this afternoon.
In terms of other bets, I like Paddy Power’s 5/1 for Sturridge to open the scoring. He was a constant threat last weekend and is England’s most in-form forward after netting three times in his last four internationals.
Across the tournament the first group games averaged more than three goals-per-game each, and with neither side looking rock solid, spread bettors should consider buying total goals at 2.65 with Sporting Index.
England to beat Uruguay at 5/4 with Star Sports
Sturridge to score first at 5/1 with Paddy Power
Buy total goals at 2.65 with Sporting Index