You Bet

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 09 October, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 09 October, 2010, 12:00am

England, having sat out last night's Euro qualifiers, will be back in action on Tuesday with a great chance of continuing their perfect start on the road to Poland and Ukraine in 2012. There should not be too much doubt about the outcome, leaving many punters to concentrate on how England will perform in the supremacy markets.

Fabio Capello's squad have bounced back from their awful World Cup with a pair of clear-cut wins over Bulgaria and Switzerland, putting them in pole position in group G. They do not have to leave the British Isles for their next three qualifiers, which means they should be well on their way to the 2012 championships by next autumn.

England's competitive home results under Capello have been impressive - last month's 4-0 victory over Bulgaria having been preceded by winning scorelines of 3-0, 5-1, 6-0, 2-1 and 5-1. The first conclusion to be drawn from those results is that at least three goals look likely on Tuesday.

The sole failure to win by a margin of three goals or more was against Ukraine, who finished runners-up to England in World Cup qualifying and were the only team to beat them on the way to South Africa. That suggests another clear-cut win is on the cards against Montenegro, who are 14 places below Ukraine in the world rankings.

There are a couple of doubts. One is that England's supremacy often materialises late in matches, as they have entered the last quarter of an hour with just one or two goals on the board in four of their six competitive home internationals under Capello. That means punters who favour England supremacy usually face a nervous wait to see if their bet will pay off.

A good example came against Kazakhstan two years ago, which was Capello's first competitive home match. England went into the game in the same position as now, having won their first two qualifiers, and they emerged 5-1 winners, but it was not quite as easy as the scoreline suggests. Kazakhstan, then ranked 131st in the world, got back to 2-1 in the 68th minute and England drew clear only after Wayne Rooney scored their third in the 76th minute, with the other two goals coming in the last four minutes.

The other doubt is raised by Montenegro's creditable away record. Against the best two teams in their group in the last World Cup qualifying campaign, they lost 2-1 in Italy and held Ireland to a goalless draw, with their only heavy defeat being the 4-1 loss in Bulgaria. Montenegro gained revenge for that result with a 1-0 win in Bulgaria last month, though that may have had more to do with Bulgaria's disarray than any improvement by the away side.

Even so, Montenegro's results are indicative of a side that is resilient and hard to break down, although ultimately lacking the quality to upset the big countries.

They key figure for England again will be Rooney, who has recovered from his ankle injury and is likely to be paired with Darren Bent. Although that is not exactly a proven combination and Rooney has been out of sorts with Manchester United, he was in good form in England's first two qualifiers and a similar performance should help his country to a comfortable win.

Over 2.5 goals is a solid bet, with a 3-0 or 3-1 scoreline the longer-priced suggestions for those looking for a bigger payout.

While England have turned around their summer form, France still bear the scars of their World Cup disaster as they go into today's home qualifier against Romania. Last month's results were mixed, with a 1-0 home defeat followed by a 2-0 win in Bosnia, and the pressure is on Laurent Blanc to make quick repairs to his fractured squad.

France and Romania have been regular opponents in recent years, drawing both meetings in World Cup qualifying and in their Euro 2008 clash. Another low-scoring draw looks on the cards.

Today's other Euro qualifier also has the ring of familiarity, with Israel and Croatia paired together for the second successive qualifying campaign. Croatia won both meetings in Euro 2008 qualifying, including a thrilling 4-3 victory in Israel, but they might have to settle for a draw this time.

In that same qualifying campaign, Israel drew with England at home and beat Russia, and their proud home record makes them the pick on the handicap.

Israel are likely to be involved in another tight game on Tuesday when they visit Greece. This could be a low-scoring match and other bets to consider on Tuesday are under 2.5 goals in Holland v Sweden, Denmark v Cyprus and Scotland v Spain.

Among the lesser matches on Tuesday, Latvia stand out at home to Georgia. The hosts have won five of their past six competitive home matches against teams ranked outside the top 25, with the other match drawn, and Tuesday's visitors are ranked a lowly 89.

Slovenia and Russia are tempting odds for their respective trips to Estonia and Macedonia, with Russia making particular appeal. Russia beat Macedonia home and away in Euro 2008 qualifying and they remain a talented team, despite last month's disappointing home defeat by Slovakia.

Hungary have a good chance on the handicap away to Finland, who have lost their first two qualifiers, and at big odds Austria could cause an upset in Belgium.

Shortlist: Slovenia, Russia, Hungary, Latvia, Austria

Top 5 bets

1 Latvia home win

Excellent home record against low-ranking countries

2 Russia away win

Had a 5-0 aggregate supremacy over Macedonia in Euro 2008 qualifying

3 Hungary on handicap

Hosts Finland rarely beat a higher-ranked country

4 Under 2.5 goals in Denmark v Cyprus

Denmark's past four home matches have all been low-scoring

5 Under 2.5 goals in Holland v Sweden

Sweden usually put up a strong barrier in away matches