by Tom Allen
Expectations couldn't be lower among the English footballing public ahead of
Euro 2012 but that doesn't mean they are complete no-hopers and it's time to put
some faith in the Three Lions.
I don't anticipate England lifting the trophy in Kiev in three weeks time but
they have drifted too much for their opening Group D fixture against France and
I believe now represent some sort of value to start with a win.
The England squad has been hit hard by injuries in the build-up to the finals
but the late withdrawals of Frank Lampard and Gary Cahill are hardly
catastrophic and there seems to have been an overreaction with them now as big
as 7/3 to claim maximum points on Monday.
Cahill would have partnered John Terry in defence but likely replacement
Joleon Lescott has just pocketed a Premier League winners with Manchester City
while Lampard's place in the starting XI was far from assured anyhow.
Of much greater concern is, of course, Wayne Rooney's two-match suspension
but new manager Roy Hodgson will have England well organised from back to front
and he arguably has the tournament's finest goalkeeper in Joe Hart to rely upon
between the sticks.
Creating goal scoring chances, and taking them, is clearly England's pressing
issue ahead of their opener but it is four 1-0 wins from their previous five
fixtures, including over Spain, and there is still too much talent in the side
not to cause France a problem or two going forward.
In complete contrast to England, France arrived in Poland/Ukraine riding the
crest of a wave and it is now 20 matches unbeaten for Laurent Blanc's men.
France have been all the rage in just about every market imaginable but they
have a similar profile the Netherlands to me and we saw how the Dutch started
when beaten 1-0 by Denmark on Saturday.
Playmakers a plenty, France rely on Karim Benzema for goals but the Real
Madrid man is not one to put the mortgage on and England could just frustrate
France if Les Bleus fail to find an early breakthrough.
Much like the Netherlands, France remain suspect at the back and if Danny
Welbeck gets the nod alongside Ashley Young in attack then the Manchester United
pair can cause problems with their pace to a French defence which, at times,
looks a little cumbersome.
France are just about the more likely victors in my eyes but the price has
swung too far in their favour and I'm getting with England in the draw no bet
A stalemate would probably suit both teams and I want it on my side, with the
stake back, in case this turns into a typically cagey group opening encounter.
2pts Back England Draw No Bet (vs. France) @ 13/10 (Stan
James) or 6/5 (Bodog,
0.5pts Back England 1-0 (vs. France) @ 7/1 (Coral)