Three Lions unlikely to roar against worst team in the world

Bill Esdaile
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IT’S NOT an overstatement to say that a San Marino win over England would be one of the biggest shocks in football history, but even the most diehard Sammarinese expects nothing less than a drubbing when the team joint-ranked last in the FIFA world rankings take on the Three Lions tonight.

However, this is a game Roy Hodgson’s men could do without ahead of Tuesday’s crunch clash against Montenegro which could prove pivotal to their 2014 World Cup aspirations.

England were underwhelming in the 5-0 win over these minnows in the corresponding fixture back in October – taking over half an hour to break the part-timers down – and it could be a similar situation this evening.

The last time these teams met away from Wembley, England triumphed 7-1 back in 1993, but we’ve seen in recent qualifying campaigns that they struggle against these lesser lights. The 3-0 win in Andorra in 2007 and the even poorer 2-0 win back there in 2008 are some of the worst examples, but they’ve also laboured away against Macedonia, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein in the last decade, only once winning by a margin of over two goals in those meetings.

The superior talent of England will come through in the end but, with those memories in the back of my mind and an experimental team likely to take the field at the Serravalle Stadium, I would split wagers and back the 3-0 England win at a best-priced 13/2 with Coral and the 4-0 scoreline with the same firm at 5/1.

Spread bettors are therefore encouraged to sell England’s supremacy at 4.9 with Sporting Index.

At Hampden Park, Scotland and Wales renew their Home Nation’s rivalry, both looking to rejuvenate their World Cup qualifying campaign. National pride is the main prize as it’s unlikely that either will be in Brazil next year.

Group A makes for grim reading for both countries given that they occupy the bottom two places. The Scots are without a win from four games, while Wales’ three points came from the reverse fixture in Cardiff.

Gareth Bale grabbed a brace in that 2-1 win over Scotland last October and Gordon Strachan will have been devising a tactic to try to limit his influence. This is Strachan’s first competitive game in charge since taking over from Craig Levein and he has six games to turn it around. Although they are without a group win, the Scots have drawn their two home games to date.

Strachan began his tenure with a 1-0 friendly victory over Estonia in a game that should have been more convincing were it not for poor finishing.

Other than the win against Scotland, it has been defeats all the way for Chris Coleman. Wales’ two away games produced a 2-0 reverse in Croatia and they were hammered 6-1 by Serbia.

Revenge will be on Scotland’s minds, but given the respective form of both sides I am tipping the draw at 21/10 with Coral.

The Welsh have scored just three goals from their four group games and Scotland have one fewer which suggests a tight affair is likely. Spread bettors are advised to sell total goals at 2.3 with Sporting Index.

■ Pointers…
England to win 3-0 at 13/2 with Coral
England to win 4-0 at 5/1 with Coral
Sell England supremacy at 4.9 with Sporting Index
Draw (Scotland v Wales) at 21/10 with Coral
Sell total goals at 2.3 with Sporting Index (Scotland v Wales)