Bulgaria’s miserable campaign is almost at an end. A point will at least get them off the bottom of the table and they need to push for a win to try and reach the playoffs. They play host to the Czech Republic who passed a nervy test at home against Kosovo on Thursday to seal a place at Euro 2020. Read our Bulgaria vs the Czech Republic betting tips for more.
Czech Republic 3/4
* (Betting Odds were taken from bet365 on November 14th, 2019 at 6:12 p.m.)
Bulgaria skipped competitive action on Thursday night, losing a home friendly against Paraguay. That was their sixth defeat in their last seven games now (competitive and friendly). Bulgaria have failed to hit the back of the net in any of their last three games played and have scored one in their last five. They have looked very poor and they are D3 L4 in this qualification campaign.
It has been just a total of five goals scored in their seven qualification matches. Bulgaria are winless in their last twelve fixtures, losing seven of those. Bulgaria have won only one of their last 12 European Championship home qualifiers. They have conceded a total of ten goals in their three home games in this qualification campaign.
The Czech Republic won the first group meeting 2-1
Bulgaria are winless in six previous games against the Czech Republic
The Czech Republic are W5 D1 in the overall head to head with Bulgaria
Both teams have scored in just two of the six previous meetings
The Czech Republic hosted Kosovo on Thursday night. They fell behind in the second half of the game and had they have lost, automatic qualification would have been out of their hands. But they showed character in turning the game around to get a 2-1 win. The three points send them through to Euro 2020. The Czech Republic has a W5 L2 record in this campaign and won all their home games.
Away from home, they did suffer losses in England and Kosovo. But nothing matters to them in this one. A defeat won’t hurt them. The Czech Republic have lost three of their last six European Championship away qualifiers. They have conceded at least two goals in three of their last four qualifiers out on the road. But still, they are facing a very poor Bulgaria side here.
Bulgaria have been shockingly poor in this campaign and there’s no reason to expect them to put in a big shift and collect a win in this one. The Czech Republic can relax and enjoy themselves and the away win his appeal.
15th November 2019 / lee - Category: Euro Betting
England suffered their first defeat in a qualifier for a decade as they paid the price for a dreadful performance in the Czech Republic. That means they haven’t quite clinched a place at Euro 2020, but will be able to do so on Monday if they beat Bulgaria and Kosovo fail to beat Montenegro on the same night. Read our Bulgaria v England betting tips for more.
* (Betting Odds were taken from bet365 on October 14th, 2019 at 9:30 p.m.)
Bulgaria are bottom of Group A and aren’t going to qualify directly for Euro 2020. They played out a 0-0 draw with Montenegro on Saturday and have only produced five goals in their six qualifiers. So they shouldn’t put a huge amount of strain on England’s defence you would imagine. Bulgaria’s record in the group is D3 L3.
Bulgaria’s winless streak in all matches now extends to ten, losing half of those. Both teams have scored in six of their last eight fixtures though. Specifically, in European Championship qualification matches, Bulgaria have taken one win in their last eight such fixtures. They have scored exactly two goals in three of their last five at home, however. So far in this qualification group, they have been held to a draw by Montenegro and lost 2-3 against Kosovo at home.
England won 4-0 in the first meeting in this campaign
11 unanswered goals have been scored by England in their last three against Bulgaria
Bulgaria has scored one goal in their last nine against the Three Lions
Bulgaria remain winless from nine previous games against England
The positive for England is that they can’t exactly play much worse than they did in their 2-1 loss in the Czech Republic on Saturday. Despite taking the lead early through a Harry Kane spot-kick, England were laborious and lacking creativity and got hammered in midfield. It will be interesting to see what lessons they take from the loss because once again they looked very defensively fragile. While they have put in some good attacking displays, it has been far from perfect from them defensively.
The loss against the Czech Republic should have ironed out any complacency after having won their opening four games. That result leaves England top of Group A level on points with the Czech Republic but having played a game more. England were on a six-match winning streak in European Championship qualifiers away from home, scoring at least two goals in five of those, before Saturday’s loss. Will they be able to snap back into form and potentially lock in a place at next Summer’s finals?
Gareth Southgate won’t have been happy after Saturday as England just had nothing in midfield. They will likely have been shaken up and will come out with a better performance. Still, because they look poor at the back, England to win & both teams to score does have appeal.
13th October 2019 / lee - Category: Euro Betting
Ireland will step back from the Euro 2020 qualifiers to get in a bit of intentional friendly action. The Irish dug out a draw against Switzerland in their qualification campaign on Friday. That keeps them in the hunt for a place at Euro 2020 next summer. Bulgaria were smashed by England at Wembley in qualification action on Saturday. Read our Ireland v Bulgaria betting tips for more.
* (Betting Odds were taken from bet365 on August 29th, 2019 at 6:35 p.m.)
The Irish were under considerable pressure in their 1-1 draw against Switzerland on Friday. David McGoldrick got their equaliser five minutes from time though, against a very good team. That is a seven-match undefeated streak of form that Ireland are currently on W3 D4 so they have been hard to knock over. Each of their last seven games, competitive and friendly, have all ended under 2.5 goals so there’s a big trend for this friendly. Ireland are undefeated in the friendly games now, drawing their last two. They have lost just one of their last five home friendly fixtures (W3 D1).
All three previous meetings have ended in a draw
They were all 1-1 results as well
This will be the first meeting since the 2010 World Cup qualifiers
Bulgaria had a rough time of things at Wembley against England on Saturday. To be fair they didn’t even look mildly interested in trying to get a result out of the game. That was to the point it looked more like a friendly than a competitive European Championship qualifier. Bulgaria have just two points from their five qualifiers. So needless to say they are not a team in form. They are winless in their last eight games now (D2 L4). They do have a bit of form going in friendly matches having won four of their last five played. They have won their last two road friendlies as well, one of those wins happening in Portugal.
Why not roll with the trend of 1-1 results happening again when these two come together for what will be just the fourth time. It’s not a game either are going to be particularly bothered about and it is likely to peter out pretty quickly. Draw.
9th September 2019 / lee - Category: International Football Betting
After their break for the UEFA Nations League Finals, England get back to Euro 2020 qualification on the weekend. Despite having played at least one game less than anyone else in the group, England are still top after winning their first two games. Bulgaria go into the fixture bottom of the pile. Read our England v Bulgaria betting tips for more.
* (Betting Odds were taken from bet365 on September 4th, 2019 at 3:52 a.m.)
England are P2 W2 with a goal difference of +9. That is what you would call a solid start to proceedings from the Three Lions. They opened with a thumping 5-0 home win over the Czech Republic, who were regarded as England’s strongest opposition in the group. The Three Lions then followed it up with a 5-1 away win at Montenegro. England have lost one of their last nine games played now, the lone defeat their extra-time loss against the Netherlands in the Nations League Finals.
Other than that it has been pretty positive for Gareth Southgate’s men. England are always so strong at qualification campaigns and they are currently on a twelve match winning streak in European Championship qualifiers. The last time that England lost such a match was back in 2007 against Croatia. So that is a massive unbeaten streak that they are on in these games. England are on a seven-match home winning streak in qualifiers, conceding just one goal in that sequence.
This is the first meeting since 2011 when England won 3-0
Bulgaria are winless in 10 previous clashes with England (D4 L6)
England have won the last two meetings, scoring seven unanswered goals
Bulgaria have scored in just two of their previous ten games against England (two goals total)
Bulgaria are still looking for their first win of the qualification campaign. They have taken just two points from their four games so far, the draws coming against Montenegro and Kosovo. They then lost 2-1 against the Czech Republic and suffered a shock home defeat against Kosovo in their second match with them.
So qualification looks a long way off for them. Bulgaria have won only one of their last eight European Championship qualification matches now (D2 L5) so don’t exactly have any form going behind them. In these qualifiers, Bulgaria have taken just the one point from their last four. Their last two wins on the road in European Championship qualifiers happened at Azerbaijan and Malta. It’s hard to see them having the answers to the question that England are going to pose them.
There has to be a routine victory coming up for the Three Lions in this one. England have shown more than enough attacking intent under Gareth Southgate to take the game to the opposition here. A comfortable win to nil should suffice for England.
5th September 2019 / lee - Category: Euro Betting
The Dutch are in a world of hurt at the moment then after a bruising 4-0 loss to France on Thursday. With Bulgaria taking a surprise win over Sweden though, it leaves the Netherlands just three points back of second place. But now they have to go and take on a Bulgarian side which will be full of spirits after a big three points for themselves which fully puts them in the picture for second place. Netherlands are a heavy odds-on price of 1/6 to win, with the draw at 11/2 and Bulgaria 16/1.
Place a pre-match correct score, scorecast or half-time/full-time wager on a match and if the game ends goalless then Bet365 will refund lost stakes on the selected markets with a free bet through their great 0-0 bore draw insurance on matches. This applies to all matches in their sportsbook. Register an account with the award winning Bet365 and earn a 100% matched deposit bonus from them and enjoy top features like live sports streams, extensive live in play betting and partial cash out options on live bets.
The Dutch were outclassed by France on Thursday night in a 4-0 loss for the Oranje in Paris. That has left them with some big work to do over their final three qualification games. This is a huge one now for them against Bulgaria because a failure to collect three points could leave them out of touch in the race for second place. So they have to muster up a response on home soil. Along with a home loss against France earlier in the campaign, the Dutch have taken easy wins over Belarus and Luxembourg, but Bulgaria it seems, are going to offer some stiff opposition. In the bet365 correct score market, a Netherlands 2-0 option is the shortest priced way to go at 5/1. So the Dutch are expected to come through this but they have lost their last two games against Bulgaria. The Dutch lost 2-0 in Sofia against Bulgaria earlier in the group in a shocker and that followed a home friendly defeat against them back in 2012.
Bulgaria gave themselves a huge boost with a win over Sweden on Thursday. They are now just a point out of second place and two ahead of the Dutch so they have everything to play for here. Knowing that one of their remaining games is against France as well, they have to target something in this one and a win for them pushes the Dutch out of the qualification picture. Bulgaria have won all four of their home games in the group and on the road they have lost all three on their travels. So it’s that lack of strength on the road which may well offer the Dutch a glimmer of hope. But Bulgaria have been scoring well and both teams to score at bet365 doesn’t look a bad punt at all for a price of 11/10. You can expect them to turn up and play with a bit of grit and determination because this is a pivotal game for them as well.
Netherlands to win: You would have it back the home side to get through this simply because Bulgaria have been pretty bad out on the road. The Dutch badly need a boost and would still have an uphill struggle to qualify for the World Cup if they get it in this one. but this would at least keep them hanging on in there.
31st August 2017 / lee - Category: World Cup 2018 Betting
An important game in Group A of World Cup betting here, on the same night as France and the Netherlands square off in the group. Sweden goes into the next round of matches top of the group on goal difference over France, so will want to try and hang on to that. Bulgaria meanwhile needs to break out a win in this one to try and keep pace in the qualification race. Sweden are 3/4 for the win, with the draw at 5/2 and Bulgaria are at 15/4.
Bet365’s 0-0 Bore Draw Insurance is available to take on all matches listed in their sportsbook. Place a pre-match correct score, scorecast or half-time/full-time wager on a match and if the game ends goalless then the bookmaker will refund lost stakes on the selected markets with a free bet. This applies to all matches in their sportsbook. Register an account with the award winning Bet365 and earn a 100% matched deposit bonus from them and enjoy other top features like each-way goalscorer odds, live streams and cash out options.
This is an equally big night for both of these nations in their respective campaigns to try and reach Russia 2018. Sweden are in the better position of the two of them as they head into the next round of matches top of Group A. They have posted a W4 D1 L1 record so far in their campaign and they are top of the group on goal difference only over France. The Swedes have averaged two goals per game in their six games so far and this will be just their third away game of the campaign. They took a 1-0 win at Luxembourg and suffered a 2-1 defeat at France in their other two games, so it hasn’t been great away form from them. Sweden fired off a big 3-0 win over Bulgaria in their home game against then in Solna.
In the bet365 correct score market, a Sweden 1-0 result returns a 9/2 price and that is the shortest priced option in the market with the 1-1 draw next at 11/2. Sweden have actually won each of their last three games against Bulgaria by a 3-0 scoreline and if you fancy them to roll out a repeat of that there is a price of 12/1 on that. Sweden are on a seven match winning streak against Bulgaria now and they have kept a clean sheet in each and every one of those games. Sweden to win to nil at bet356 is trading at a price of 13/8 which is looking some value because of all of that. Sweden’s Emil Forsberg is their top scorer in qualification with three goals and he is a price of 11/4 in the anytime goalscorer market with Marcus Berg favourite at 8/5 followed by Ola Toivonen at 2/1.
This is Bulgaria’s chance to pull themselves into the picture because they would pull to within one point of Sweden if they can take a home win here. What will give them some optimism is their 2-0 home win over the Netherlands back in March. That was a huge triumph for them and at home in the campaign, they have also taken wins over Belarus and Luxembourg, collecting a clean sheet in two of their three home games. So maybe they can keep the score down and under 2.5 goals at bet365 is a price of 4/7. Bulgaria have scored in just one of their last eleven games against Sweden now and a Draw/Sweden half time/full time bet at bet365 fetches a price of 10/3. Their shortest priced anytime goalscorer option is Ivelin Popov at a 13/5 quote for the game.
Sweden to win: This will be a big test for Sweden and basically they just have to grind something out here. A 1-0 win for them even in this one would be gold and they can probably just get the job done.
29th August 2017 / lee - Category: World Cup 2018 Betting
Date & Kick-Off: Friday, 2nd September 2011 − 19:15 GMT
Venue: Vasil Levski National Stadium, Sofia, Bulgaria
TV Coverage: SKY SPORTS 1
It was supposed to be a cakewalk, a formality; so just how have England made such heavy weather of qualifying? Of course, they are still unbeaten, and they have only dropped four points, but those were costly points in a five-team group that should never have been squandered, not in amongst this clutter. Still, it will matter not should Fabio Capello’s Three Lions make an appearance in Poland & Ukraine next summer, and they could take a couple of significant strides towards the finals within the space of just for days.
On Tuesday, England will renew their local rivalry with Wales at Wembley – though that is a game everyone expects them to romp to victory in. More pressing, however, and arguably a great deal more challenging, is Friday’s trip to Levski to face a resurgent Bulgaria whom while their form prior to Friday’s cash is disconcerting to say the least − winning just one of their last six, Lothar Matthaus’ charges are beginning to build up ahead of steam in qualifying having gone their last three games unbeaten, drawing with Montenegro and Switzerland but also beating Wales 1-0 over in Cardiff.
With England leading the way in Group G, albeit on goal difference − a vastly superior one at that, so long as there are no more slip-ups we should be home and hosed. But there are two more tricky obstacles Capello’s men must hurdle first, and Bulgaria in Levski in most certainly one of them − the other being an away encounter in Montenegro in October. But even so, it really should be a comfortable night’s work for our lavishly paid stars, most of whom are currently enjoying a rich vein of form.
There are no fewer than eleven players called up by Fabio Capello who play their football in Manchester with either City or United, who were both rampant at the weekend. Phil Jones and Chris Smalling have been extremely resolute at the back for Manchester United and at least one, possibly even both, should start in Levski what with Rio Ferdinand and Glen Johnson both missing through injury. Tom Cleverely has excelled in a central midfield role for United too, but unfortunately he is set to miss out on a starting berth as Gareth Barry, Scott Parker and Frank Lampard boss the business area of the pitch.
As for attack, Capello is blessed with an embarrassment of riches. Stewart Downing, Theo Walcott and Ashley Young are all in contention to form a three-pronged attack alongside Wayne Rooney, scorer of a hat-trick in United’s 8-2 demolition of Arsenal over the weekend. However Capello has grown rather fond of two players in particular who haven’t shone in the early stages of the new season but have been exemplary in England colours recently, and they are Adam Johnson and Darren Bent. The Italian will have a number of selection dilemmas then, which is positive.
England have only lost one of their previous 15 qualifying matches, a 1-0 reverse away to Ukraine in their final World Cup 2010 qualifier some two years ago. Perhaps that was where it all went wrong, ending what was previously a promising qualifying campaign with a real whimper in Dnipro. So can Fabio Capello inspire The Three Lions to an authoritative finish second time around? It could be a positive omen, not least a fantastic momentum builder, which is exactly what this match is, as there is certainly a few goals in Levski for England should they manage to break the home side’s resolve early on.
The hosts, though, will be well aware of England’s new-found tendency to draw important qualifiers − Capello’s team having drawn two of their last three including a 2-2 draw at home to Switzerland back in June − and we can safely presume that Bulgaria won’t open themselves up on Friday either. So it’s down to England to use some ingenuity if they wish to tear open a home defence that has conceded just one goal in its previous three Euro 2012 qualifiers.
England top Group G with 11 points from 5 qualifiers (W3 D2 L0); Bulgaria are languishing in fourth with 5 points from their 5 qualifiers so far (W1 D2 L2).
Bulgaria are yet to score at home in qualifying, with both their two strikes so far coming on their travels (GF:2 GA:6); England, meanwhile, are top scorers in the group with 11 goals, 5 of those coming away from Wembley (GF:11, GA:3).
In their nine previous meetings Bulgaria have never triumphed (W0 D4 L5), scoring just twice against The Three Lions.
Nicknamed ’The Lions’, Bulgaria have won only one of their last six internationals, and none of their previous four at home.
Fabio Capello’s England have lost just one of their nine internationals since that infamous 4-1 defeat to Germany in South Africa, including a 4-0 rout of Bulgaria at Wembley last September.
Although England romped to a 4-0 win the last time these two met, which was at Wembley back in September of last year, I didn’t think Bulgaria were all that bad a team. Technically they were very sound; snappy in possession, precise with their passes and a constant threat on the break. That was before Lothar Matthaus took charge, and the German great hasn’t taken long to transform their fortunes on the pitch and to address those concerting issues at the back.
Since Matthaus took charge, Bulgaria are unbeaten in qualifying − two wins and a draw − conceding just one goal and keeping two clean sheets. Encouraging signs for the future, of that I have no doubt, but I reckon a few will get found out against an England team brimming with world-class players all over the park, all in sparkling form for their clubs.
Match Prediction: England to WIN − 8/13 Boylesports
Value Bet: England/England (HT/FT) − 8/5 Boylesports
Bulgaria to WIN − 6/1 WilliamHill
Draw − 14/5 Bet365
England to WIN − 8/13 Boylesports
30th August 2011 / Matt - Category: Euro Betting
Friday, 8th October – 19:30 GMT
Venue: Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
TV Coverage: Sky Sports HD3
Group G Position: 3rd
Group G Form: L
If you’re a Wales fan, and more credit to you if you are, then 1976 should be a poignant year as it was the last time Wales qualified for a major tournament; the 1976 European Championship. The plan is to be competing in the 2012 Championships in Poland and Ukraine but their hopes have already been dashed by an early defeat in Montenegro, while the departure of John Toshack as manager has also cast doubts over the togetherness of the team at a time when they desperately need points in order to drag themselves back in Group G contention, although, what with England running riot, it would seem only second place is now up for grabs anyhow
To be brutally honest, Wales were never going to top Group G anyway, with the play-off’s always the realistic goal for a country starved of competition. 34 years is an awfully long time to go without an appearance at a major finals. Heck, England entered a year of depression when failing to make the cut for the 2008 EURO’s, so we understand your pain. The problem recently has been the lack of depth within Welsh football, or simply just the lack of talent in the Wales set up. That has steadily improved over the years but it still isn’t enough to really make them contenders when it comes to qualifying from what are always going to be difficult groups because of their lower seeding.
Fans do at least have a couple of reasons to be positive with regards to the state of the team. The goalkeeper slot never goes uncontested, with Wayne Hennessey and Boaz Myhill both considering themselves up for the job. Both Gareth Bale and Joe Ledley have come on leaps and bounds in recent season, with Bale arguably enjoying the best spell of his career currently with Tottenham Hotspur, while the experience of playing in the Champions League against some of Europe’s finest will prove invaluable, while Joe Ledley is now mixing it with the big boys up in Scotland with Celtic. Finally Wales are beginning to produce some stars for the future, and hopefully forward Simon Church, currently of Reading in the Championship but a player every I talk to rates highly, will complete a switch to a big team sooner or later. However, until the majority of this Welsh set up sign for bigger clubs, thus competing against the very best and at the most demanding level, Wales will struggle to remain competitive on the international scene, as proven just a month ago away in Montenegro against a side not all that great in fairness.
This will, of course, be Brian Flynn’s first game in charge of Wales, although on a strictly caretaker basis. Flynn has confirmed that he is seriously interested in the post on a full-time basis but will need to boost his stock if he’s to impress the Welsh FA. However, life has been made tougher for Flynn without Craig Bellamy and Roberto Earnshaw who between them seem to score the majority of Wales’ goals these days. It means there isn’t a single topflight striker in the Wales squad for Friday’s encounter, just eight altogether in fact, to lament my concerns over the state of Welsh football.
Group G Position: 5th
Group G Form: LL
Like their opponents, Bulgaria are also under new management after the resignation of former coach Stanimir Stoilov following a disappointing start to Euro Qualifying. Bulgaria opened their account with an emphatic 4-0 defeat at Wembley against England, although they were better than the scoreline suggested, before shooting themselves in the foot next time out with a 1-0 loss at home to Montenegro, who have now gained full control of second spot with back-to-back wins over both Wales and Bulgaria.
Before qualifying for the EURO’s started, Bulgaria were favourites to clinch second position, with the assumption being that England would comfortably qualify via a top of the table finish. That assumption is baring fruit, with England top of the group following successive wins over Bulgaria and Switzerland meaning Bulgaria have a job on their hands just to claim the scraps. And new Bulgaria manager Lothar Matthaus will quickly come to realise that getting his hands on England’s sloppy seconds won’t be easy, with his team already squandering two opportunity to add crucial points onto the board leaving him with just six games to turn their fortunes around. It kinda looks impossible to the naked eye, and it effectively will be should they suffer defeat in Cardiff on Friday, but victory in Wales would rekindle their Euro aspirations and perhaps the recruitment of a German great may just provide the kick up the backside the Bulgarians were clearly in need of.
In fairness, we didn’t think Bulgaria performed all that badly against England at Wembley a month ago. Technically they were sound, passing the ball around both at ease and in an accomplished fashion, while their attacking play was often a joy to watch; getting the ball forward not just with pace but with precision. So why were they on the receiving end of an English hiding? Simple really, and former Bulgaria coach Stoilov touched on this very matter in the aftermath of the two losses, Bulgaria don’t have a recognised striker. Stoillov bemoaned Berbatov’s decision to enter into retirement and it was easy to see why, as had Berbatov played then England wouldn’t have kept a clean sheet against them, that’s for sure. The Bulgarians had their chances, manufactured all on their own doing, but spurned every single one of them.
Matthaus doesn’t have a notable striker to call upon either for Friday’s ’Must Win’ encounter with Wales. Ivelin Popov (Gaziantespor) and Dimitar Rangelov (Maccabi Tel Aviv) – and those ’things’ in brackets are the clubs they play for – will start up front in Cardiff for Bulgaria. Between them, the pair have scored just four goals in 36 appearances, so is it any wonder Stanimir Stoilov lost patience with Bulgaria? For all their majestic play in the centre of the park, Bulgaria let themselves down big time in the final third. You get the impression that the next couple of years are going to involve a lot of stress and heartache for new Bulgaria coach Lothar Matthaus.
Match Prediction: Draw – 3.30 Ladbrokes
Such a difficult match to weigh up, with both sides lacking in the quality department in the final third of the pitch although the strong Welsh contingent inside the Millennium Stadium will be pinning their hopes on Wales putting home advantage to good use as they look to bounce back from a disappointing venture to Montenegro in their only outing in qualifying thus far, which means they’re not out of it just yet and would definitely turn into immediate contenders with victory on Friday.
We have no doubt where the match will be won and that is in midfield, where Bulgaria play their best football. While the Bulgarians have struggled for fire-power without Dimitar Berbatov, if you allow them to create chance after chance then the law of averages would suggest a goal will come about at some point, probably from a midfielder judging by their forwards’ abysmal scoring returns for their country. Wales need to but their opponents off at the source and that means whoever starts in midfield, probably David Edwards, David Vaughan, Joe Ledley and Gareth Bale, need to make their presence felt very early on and not allow the Bulgarian to get up ahead of steam. Boss the midfield and we feel the match and three massive points are there to for the taken for Wales.
However, with the way these two have been playing in the final third, we can’t see past a stalemate in Cardiff.
Soccer-Betting Value Bet: 0-0 Correct Score – 8.50 Unibet
6th October 2010 / Matt - Category: Euro Betting
Friday, 3rd September – 20:00 GMT
LIVE on ITV1
EURO 2012, Group G Qualifier
Just over two months since Fabio Capello’s England massively underachieved at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the Three Lions look to bounce right back with a positive start in the EURO 2012 qualifiers, where Capello’s charges will face dangerous opposition in the form of Bulgaria first up at Wembley before travelling to Switzerland for their second qualifier in four days.
You could argue that following on from their abysmal showing at the summer’s finals in South Africa, England’s Three Lions are a wounded animal, desperate to lash out and exert some pent up frustration. But those theories were quickly dashed when England only managed a less than convincing 2-1 win over Hungary in a recently friendly, with captain Steven Gerrard sparing England’s blushes with a sublime brace in front of a well turned out Wembley crowd which really should have been baying for blood but instead, the vast majority anyway, gave their support – And Capello will be hoping England’s fans will become the 12th man on Friday as the Italian’s weakened side look to get back to winning ways in competitive action.
Of those which would have definitely featured but are no longer available through injury; John Terry and Frank Lampard provide the biggest hiccup for Capello, who is now set to embark upon his second notable campaign as England manager with the expectations level within the country now at its highest following the disappointments of South Africa. There are even some corners which suggested Capello shouldn’t even be at the helm, which just goes to show how much pressure the Italian disciplinarian is under to get the very best out of a team which recently got nowhere near their true potential. Rio Ferdinand is also out with a knee injury, but Jermaine Defoe has postponed a groin operation in order to play a part in England’s Group G opener – Just the commitment Fabio Capello needed ahead of a ’must win’ encounter.
Fabio Capello has also made headlines with his squad selections, naming eleven players which didn’t travel to South Africa in June. The most poignant inclusion was winger Theo Walcott, who was one of Capello’s shock omission from the World Cup squad but his form at the start of the season for Arsenal, opening with four goals, including a hat-trick, in three games, has seen him become almost a certain starter for Friday’s match up with the Bulgarians. The Arsenal Gunner will hope to link up well with an out-of-sorts Wayne Rooney, who has found the net just once since March for club and country, but the main concerns lye in defence, as without John Terry, Rio Ferdinand and Ledley King, Capello may have to entrust an unlikely England centre-back duo with guarding Joe Hart’s goal in Michael Dawson and Phil Jagielka.
The south-eastern Europeans don’t have the most ideal of records against the English having never recording a win over the team from the British Isles, but their coach, Stanimir Stoilov, is confident the 21-man party he’s assembled to take on England and then Montenegro four days later are more than capable of banishing memories of a poor World Cup qualifying campaign, when finishing third in a group containing Italy and Republic of Ireland and therefore missing out on the play-off’s, and making the dream start to EURO 2012 qualifying.
Stanimir Stoilov has assembled a team comprising mainly of overseas players, which will surely mean his knowledge of his 21-man squad won’t be as sharp as he would like, this despite the amount of scouting most team do nowadays. Stoilov is also without the country’s all-time leading goalscorer in Dimitar Berbatov, who earlier in the year decided to enter into early international retirement in a bid to focus on his club career following stinging criticism during his time in a Manchester United shirt. The Bulgarian does, though, still contain a host of accomplished stars and household English names. Captain Stiliyan Petrov and Martin Petrov of Aston Villa and Bolton respectively, as well as former Man City forward Valeri Bojinov, are all an integral part of the Bulgarian set up and their experience from playing in the English Premier League will serve them well when pitting themselves against English opposition.
Since missing out on South Africa, Bulgaria have struggled for form and have even tried to bolster their away credentials by playing a succession of away internationals – Which had they of won would have been formidable form coming into Wembley’s encounter with England. However, losses Poland, Belgium and Russia have cast doubts over their credentials of challenging for a play-off berth in Group G, with England the firm favourites to clinch top spot. They are, nevertheless, tricky opposition, a team boasting a great deal of valuable European knowledge, and are worthy of England’s respect on Friday.
Match Verdict: England to WIN – 1.33 SkyBet
Injuries have blighted Capello’s preparations for this Bulgarian tester, but anything less than a performance baring three points would be both a huge disappointment and a significant setback considering England should be looking to win all four of their home encounters in a group where they are firm favourites to win outright thus qualifying automatically for the finals in two years time.
The worries are at the back as this is where England encountered so many problems during the World Cup, and even in a recent EURO 2012 warm up international with Hungary. We have every faith and belief in Joe Hart becoming England’s regular number one from this point on, but his defence let him down agaisnt Hungary and with Capello having no option but to field an untested centre-back partnership at this level, perhaps England aren’t quite worth their strong favourites tag. However, there are so many match winners in the squad, as well as certain individuals eager to impress and prove the manager wrong for discarding them for England’s dire World Cup campaign, that England just look too good to oppose.
England’s record at home to Bulgaria: W2 D3 L0
England’s record at home during 2010 World Cup qualifying: W5 D0 L0 (Goals – F: 21 A:3)
Soccer-Betting Value Tip: Wayne Rooney to Score Two or More – 4.50 SkyBet
1st September 2010 / Matt - Category: Euro Betting