England needs to beat Sweden to have a serious chance of progressing beyond the Group stages of Euro 2012. In fact they are strong favourites at 11/8 with Bet365, the top online bookmaker, to do just that. But you will have to read on for our big-match preview and betting tips (match played Friday, June 15).
England impressed some observers with their 1-1 draw against Group D favourites France. There is no doubting that they were well organised by new manager Roy Hodgson. What they lacked in flair they made up for in rare discipline. There was a lot to like about it. The coach made his team play tight and the French were either unwilling or unable to get players into the box.
Despite outplaying their opponents, the cautious French were taking shots from outside the area that were always likely to fail. It seemed Les Bleus were paying too much respect to Angleterre. That was understandable because both teams felt a draw would give them the impetus to beat the apparently lesser teams of Sweden and Ukraine and so both progress. It is slightly ironic that the French have subsequently blamed their northern neighbours for negative tactics.
Another positive for England was the speed and skill of 18-year-old Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. It was reminiscent of a young David Beckham or Michael Owen, before those two former footballing stars lost their speed and desire. A concern has to be whether the constrictive and tight method Hodgson advocates will stifle the natural talent of the youngster, who loves to run at opponents and needs a free rein to be seen at his most dangerous.
Fortunately the game against Sweden is likely to be far more open that the tactical pussy footing witnessed against France. Both teams will be after the valuable three points that a win will give. It is a ‘must win’ and that will open the game up nicely.
England scored their goal in the last match from a neatly worked set piece and, still without Rooney for this game, it is hard to see where the goals will come from in open play. The same can not be said of Sweden. In the strong and intimidating Zlatan Ibrahimovic they have a natural born goalscorer, who has hit the back of the net in the last quartet of games for his country. That included when they were beaten 2-1 by host nation Ukraine in their first Group D match of this Euro 2012 tournament.
There is also the added interest of a referee, Damir Skomina from Slovenia, with a reputation for handing out yellow cards and free kicks like a traffic warden on crack. Quite how this added ingredient will affect the match it is hard to say. Certainly, Ibrahimovic can be very physical indeed and may catch the referee’s eye. However Skomina does have history with English teams, notably Arsenal and Arsene Wenger who will never be sending this man in black a Christmas card. Wenger’s attempt to have an aggressive little word on his ‘shell-like’ managed to get him a lengthy touchline ban.
Oddly, Sweden does have a great record against the English in competitive, as opposed to ‘friendly’ matches. When it has counted, Sweden has not lost an international against them. Before you question that unbelievable statistic, it is true. But we must also point out England’s quite impressive recent record of nine competitive matches without the bitter taste of defeat.
Top bookmaker Betfred is offering these match betting odds: 11/8 England, 11/5 Draw, 11/5 Sweden.
So the match could be finely poised and more evenly matched than the odds may portray. There is plenty at stake so expect action at both ends this time. With England’s lack of finishing prowess we expect them to make a host a chances but maybe only take one or two of them.
For our betting tip on the match, we could see it ending as a 1-1 or 2-2 draw and England with the not unfamiliar feeling that they were ‘robbed’. You can get around 9/4 as a best price for the draw with the major bookmakers. Use this link to check out the Sweden v England Euro 2016 match odds and to place your bets.