Roy Hodgson’s England side have their place in France for Euro 2016 assured after a flawless qualifying campaign saw them win all 10 games, scoring 31 goals and keeping eight clean sheets. It was the kind of effortless qualifying display that would force you into thinking that they have a genuine shot at a major tournament, before common sense prevails and you realise that it will end in inevitable disaster.
But for now, while Ireland face a squeaky-bum two-legged play-off with Bosnia, the Three Lions have the chance to experiment with the squad in two high-profile money-spinning friendly games against Spain and France. Players like Leicester’s Jamie Vardy and Tottenham’s Dele Alli have the chance to stake their claim for a place on the plane next June – and so herein lies our punting predicament.
With England trying out new players, and potentially new formations, in friendly games between qualifying for a major tournament and the event starting, do their results improve or worsen? And where should we be sticking our hard-earned dough?
England have played 41 friendly games since 1996 between qualifying and the tournament beginning. Their overall win rate is a fairly steady 49 per cent, and they have lost just 20 per cent of those clashes. The Three Lions’ best results in that time were a 1-0 win over Spain in 2011 and a 1-1 draw with Brazil in 2000, both who were ranked number one in the world by FIFA. Unfortunately there’s also a 1-1 draw with Honduras (ranked 71) in 2014 and a 1-1 draw with Switzerland (ranked 83) in 1998 thrown in there for good measure.
That murkies the water slightly, and to make the picture a little clearer we’ve broken the teams out by their FIFA ranking. Unsurprisingly England excel against the ‘minnows’ winning 14 and drawing five of their 9 games against teams ranked 21st or lower. It’s when they are facing the world’s elite when they come unstuck…
The Three Lions head into these two friendly games ranked ninth in the world, with Spain three places above them in sixth, and France a lowly 24th. That is skewed ever so massively by FIFA’s method of working out these rankings making about as much sense as giving Katie Hopkins her own TV show. France haven’t got to qualify for a tournament they’re hosting and therefore suffer in the rankings.
Spain v England
Against teams ranked in the world’s top 10, England have won just three of 10 friendly games in this ‘experimental period’. While that 1-0 over Spain (1) and a thrilling 3-2 victory against Argentina (4) in 2005 stand up nicely, you have to take their third result – a 3-1 win over Egypt (9) in 2010 – with a pinch of salt.
The Spanish come into the game on a six game unbeaten run, and haven’t conceded a goal in close to nine hours of football. Unsurprising therefore that they are the favourites on home soil. Germany are the only side to win in Spain in nine years. England themselves can point to a 15 game unbeaten streak that dates back to June 2014 – and one in which they kept 11 clean sheets en route – the Three lions’ record against teams ranked in the top 10 hardly fills us with confidence.
A low scoring game looks on the cards with under 2.5 goals a poke, but we’re more inclined to back Spain to win to nil at .
England v France
England’s record against teams ranked between 21 and 30 is actually very good. They’re unbeaten – winning six and drawing two – including a 1-0 win over Belgium in 2012 courtesy of a Danny Welbeck goal.
France’s ranking is probably a false ranking due to FIFA’s system, and the cheese-eating, excuse-making French will bound into the game full of confidence having not lost to England since 1997. The Three Lions have lost four and drawn two in that time. While we’re not expecting England to buck that dire trend, they can nick a point off the French at Wembley on Tuesday night.
Since the end of the World Cup, France have dropped points against Belgium, Brazil, Albania (twice) and Serbia in friendly contests, and while they arrive in London having won the last four, Roy Hodgson’s men will be keen to avoid defeat in their final home game of the calendar year. The teams look well matched on paper and it could be tighter than Wayne Rooney’s waistband, so we’re sitting firmly on the fence and backing the draw at .
- Spain to win to nil and England and France to draw pays out around 8/1. Get the latest odds now at PaddyPower.com: Desktop | Mobile