England start their World Cup campaign with a clash against Iran on Monday, a game they are widely expected to win.
However, the Three Lions very rarely start this tournament with any fluency – their first four World Cup campaigns in the 21st century started with a 1-1 draw against Sweden, a 1-0 win over Paraguay, a 1-1 draw with the USA, and a 2-1 loss to Italy.
England also lacked attacking fluency in this year’s Nations League campaign, while they now face a veteran coach Carlos Queiroz, who knows how to set up a team to frustrate opponents.
English coach Gareth Southgate is also very pragmatic, who is likely to try and ensure defensive stability first and foremost, probably in the form of three central defenders and wingbacks. Whoever plays at right wingback, probably Kieran Trippier but possibly Trent Alexander-Arnold, will ensure set piece delivery is probably the main threat.
Southgate has pinned a lot of faith in central defender Harry Maguire despite the veteran’s lack of form with Manchester United. A clean sheet and a goal would take the pressure off, and we think England will be looking for him from set pieces. We’ll take a punt he scores a header today.
For those with a greater appetite for risk, Paddy Power offers 80/1 that Maguire is England’s top goalscorer in the tournament. If England play as poorly as they did in the Nations League earlier this year, they could leave the event early in the knockout phase, assuming they get through the group, and it could only take two/three goals to be top scorer.
Maguire to score a header, 1 pt, at 18/1, William Hill
Maguire to be England’s top goalscorer, 1 pt, at 80/1, Paddy Power
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