IF THE long-term ambition of England, as set out by Greg Dyke, is to lift the World Cup in 2022, their short-term one looks far more achievable.
Even with the new Football Association chairman’s dire warnings about the influence of foreigners in the Premier League, a win against Moldova ought to be a formality.
In gaining it – and adding another in Ukraine on Tuesday – Roy Hodgson’s men should be well set to book a place on the plane to Rio. For now at least, getting their hands on the trophy might have to wait.
England currently sit second in Group H, two points behind Montenegro. Their campaign to date has been indifferent, having witnessed as many draws as victories.
But with a game in hand and Montenegro yet to visit Wembley, there is little doubt that qualification remains firmly in their hands.
There is also little doubt as to whom the bookies make favourites for the first of the double-header: Coral are offering no more than 1/20 about the hosts.
Should you be tempted to back Moldova they’ve chalked them up at 40/1.
With match prices like that, England backers will have to wager fortunes to guarantee a worthwhile return, and there is little to entice them in the half-time/full-time market either.
Despite England’s 8-0 triumph over San Marino, however, their habit of getting the job done on these occasions without laying on a show looks like the passport to profit.
Since that victory in March, they’ve managed three draws before labouring to a 3-2 victory against Scotland, who lie 36 places below them in the FIFA rankings.
While a cricket score should be in the offing, I am keener to sell goals at 3.55 with Sporting Index, assuming England will stutter again and Moldova will seek damage limitation.
Disruption to Hodgson’s preparations and a makeshift look to his team are cause enough to suggest so.
Makeshift or not, Rickie Lambert made an assured debut against Scotland that belied the cynics who questioned his call-up.
Dream debuts don’t come much better than scoring with your first touch. But he did enough in his remaining time on the pitch to suggest the goal was more than beginner’s luck.
Lambert is set to start tonight so he looks a decent shout at 11/4 to be first goalscorer, the same price as fellow strikers Danny Welbeck and Jermain Defoe.
However, I’m minded to select a proven starter – and a proven goalscorer – in Frank Lampard, who is far more interesting at 5/1.
For him to be representing his country in the baking heat of Qatar would put Roy of the Rovers in the shade.
And cynics would argue, given recent history, that an England triumph there is equally far-fetched too.
Yet if they can see off Moldova and not lose their cool in the hothouse atmosphere of Kiev they will be on track for the time being.
Sell total goals at 3.55 with Sporting Index
Frank Lampard to be first goalscorer at 5/1 with Coral