By Aidan Elder | Chief Sports Writer
Group D betting preview: England v France
Monday, 5pm (ITV1 and RTE2)
Two of Europe’s great frenemies get to take their comedic disdain for each other to the football pitch in the opening game of Group D tonight in Donetsk.
The usual hype surrounding the England team has been muted this time around – meaning they’re expected to beat Spain just 1-0 in the final as opposed to the standard 3-0. Fabio Capello qualified the team in style, but then ruined it all my having morals and standards and stuff. The FA decided Roy Hodgson was the cheapest best man for the job. It’s early days, but the evidence suggests he’s doing well in his hiding to nothing.
In France, Laurent Blanc has done well to rebuild the team in the face of the Gallic hissy fits that plagued their 2010 World Cup campaign. After taking the reins and suspending everybody, he got his key players back onside and put their on the road to their current run of 21 games unbeaten. They’re still moody and unreliable, but they’re now more moody and unreliable as a team.
England haven’t won any of their six opening group stage games at the Euros. France have tended to get off to a winning start. Recent form, history and the memories of Zidane puking his way to a French win in their meeting at Euro 2004 suggest Les Bleus are worthy favourites for the match.
A Correct Score stab in the dark
England allowed Norway (56%) and Belgium (59%) far too much possession in their last two games. If they do something similar tonight, they’ll concede at least once. The glass half full mentality might have you leaning towards England 2-1 at 12/1, but France 2-1 at 9/1 feels more likely.
A goalscorer bet to look out for
Karim Benzema (24, 45 caps/15 goals) scored 32 goals in all competitions for Real Madrid last season and in a team where Cristiano Ronaldo tries to do everything himself, that’s no mean feat. He also scored two for France in last week’s friendly with Estonia. He’s a tempting 6/1 to be First Goalscorer and a more speculative, but interesting 18/1 to score two or more goals in the match.
Something a bit random
Franck Ribery is one of the world’s best players. Glen Johnston isn’t. They’re going to see a lot of each other tonight and Ribery could make hay. He’s 13/2 to be UEFA’s Man of the Match.
Robbie Fowler Says
The French look strong all over the pitch. England have their injuries and absentees. It kills me to say it, but they’ll have a little too much for us. 2-0 France.