Roy Hodgson takes his England team to Moldova this week hoping to get their 2014 World Cup campaign off to the perfect start with three points.
With Euro 2012 behind them, attention is wholly focussed on qualifying for Brazil in two years time and a win on Friday will be the only acceptable result as the Roy Hodgson era starts in earnest.
Hodgson’s quest for three points has not been helped by losing Wayne Rooney and fellow striker Andy Carroll for the match to injury but he should have enough firepower available in Jermaine Defoe, Danny Welbeck and Daniel Sturridge to choose from.
It will be interesting to see exactly what formation he adopts for the match and if that formation will have enough scope to include both captain, Steven Gerrard and veteran, Frank Lampard, a partnership that has been much criticised in the past when selected by previous managers. Lampard was recalled to the squad for the recent friendly against Italy and played exceptionally well linking with Michael Carrick, who could also retain his place in the starting line-up. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is the likely fourth member of a midfield quartet.
Former captain, John Terry, will almost certainly start in the centre of defence, where he is likely to line up alongside Joleon Lescott. Ashley Cole should be restored at left back while Glen Johnson is likely to get the vote over Kyle Walker at right back. Joe Hart is certain to return in goal.
It will be remembered that England began their 1998 World Cup campaign in Moldova where they won under Glenn Hoddle’s stewardship, 3-0. A similar score on Friday will be just the tonic for Hodgson and based on his team’s performance against Italy last month, there is no reason why they should not achieve at least that.
A quick glance at Moldova’s last five fixtures, three defeats to Georgia, El Salvador and Venezuela and two draws against Belarus and Albania, failing to score in all five, illustrates the chance of a winning start for England.
A clean sheet therefore looks to be the cornerstone for any bet on this game and at 8/11 with Ladbrokes, that makes more appeal than the 3/10 about an England win.
A 3-0 win for England at odds of 7/1, also with Ladbrokes, looks to provide a bit more value whilst 2-0 is another shout at 11/2. Jermaine Defoe is the favourite to score the first goal of the night with odds of 4/1, however, the more astute punter will recognise that England have scored one or two goals from set pieces in recent matches and a goal from an early corner or set piece, scored by either and as such, Terry or Lescott could be worth a couple of quid in the anytime scorer market. Lescott is the bigger price of the two at 12/1 with William Hill to score anytime.
Hodgson will knows that a winning start is vital to improve confidence ahead of next week’s game against Ukraine at Wembley, one that is likely to be much tougher than Friday night and a convincing performance and score is the only way England can ensure that is the case.
England are the 2/5 favourites to win World Cup qualification Group H and qualify automatically for Brazil ahead of Ukraine who are best priced 11/2 and Poland, who can be backed at 8/1, along with Montenegro. Moldova and San Marino are 1,500/1 and 10,000/1, odds that suggest they’re the group “whipping boys”.
Moldova v England Predictions
England to keep a clean sheet @ 8/11 with Ladbrokes
England to win 3-0 @ 7/1 with Ladbrokes
Joleon Lescott to score at anytime @ 12/1 with William Hill