IT WAS a familiar sight for England fans on Wednesday night at Wembley as they watched their team labour to beat a vastly inferior opponent – on paper at least – in the shape of Norway.
A late penalty from new Three Lions captain Wayne Rooney gave England a first win in five matches, but the new era, now mainstays Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard have departed the international game, looks suspiciously like the old one – timid, tepid and lacking a cutting edge.
Norway had won just one of their previous 11 matches – against mighty Moldova – before midweek and had failed to find a way past the United Arab Emirates on their last outing.
Yet they were the equal of England for most of the 90 minutes and it’s hard to have much optimism for Monday’s trip to Switzerland for the first Euro 2016 qualification game.
The Swiss sit ninth in the world rankings and, while you could argue they are flattered by that lofty position, they did far better than England at the World Cup, recovering from a battering at the hands of rivals France to make the second round and give eventual runners-up Argentina a massive fright.
Monday’s hosts had topped an admittedly weak World Cup qualification pool, beating Norway comfortably along the way, and will be a tough nut to crack for Roy Hodgson’s men.
They should be clear favourites in my book on home soil to kick off their bid to reach only a fourth European Championships. But layers are struggling to split the pair with some firms going 7/4 each of two.
It’s true England boast a strong record over these opponents – winning 14 and losing just three of 22 meetings – but the Swiss defence will be confident of keeping out Rooney and Co who managed just two shots on target against the Norwegians.
And they have strong players of their own led by Xherdan Shaqiri, who possesses the creativity and ingenuity in midfield sadly lacking from the England camp.
This has every chance of being a dull goalless stalemate and the 11/5 widely available on the draw is a fair price. However, I can see the Swiss nicking this by the odd goal and increasing the pressure on Hodgson and a squad of largely average-looking players.
Switzerland are a big 13/2 to win this match 1-0 and that is worth a punt. Spread bettors can look to oppose England in the supremacy markets with Sporting Index and if ever a game was made for selling total goals, this is the one.
Group E is one of the weakest pools in qualification and it would be a huge shock if it wasn’t one of either England and Switzerland that topped it come winter 2015.
England head the betting at a best-priced 8/11, with Switzerland available at 3/1. But it’s interesting to see Coral as short as 6/4 on the Swiss, and there’s certainly value in snapping up that 3/1 if you fancy them to get a result on Monday night.
Switzerland to beat England 1-0 at 13/2
Sell total goals at 2.1 with Sporting Index