England moved one step closer towards Euro 2016 qualification after a 4-0 thrashing of Lithuania at Wembley. The victory helped Roy Hodgson’s team established a six-point advantage over Slovenia in the table. England cannot still remain complacent about an automatic qualification spot given that there are still five matches left in the campaign, but it realistically puts them on the verge of a place in the finals. The win over Lithuania was also the national team’s seventh consecutive victory across qualification and friendly matches. Despite this form, England are placed at a distant 12/1 for the title in the latest Euro 2016 odds from Betfair.
Germany, France, and Spain are seen as the favourites for the tournament in France.
Wayne Rooney and the rest of the team celebrated each of the four goals with passion. Later, the Manchester United striker said that other teams will be frightened about the form shown by England is their early exit from the World Cup 2014. However, there is a danger of the nation once again becoming complacent just before a major tournament. England have come up against only one team in the top 30 of the world FIFA rankings – Switzerland – in this period. A more accurate assessment of the team will be available as they take on the likes of Italy and France in 2015.
Despite the lack of top quality opposition, it is fair to say that the team has been playing with a lot of speed than before. The team now enjoys bundles of energy through the likes of Raheem Sterling and Jordan Henderson. After having been a team that relies excessively on the finishing skills of Rooney, England may have a great alternative in the form of Harry Kane. The Tottenham striker has scored an impressive 29 goals in all competitions for Tottenham this season. He announced his international debut in style after scoring within 76 seconds of being introduced as a substitute in the game against Lithuania.
Welbeck may not necessarily have the finishing skills to be a top player at international level, but it appears as if Kane can certainly be moulded into one. Aside from Kane, manager Roy Hodgson will also be looking forward to welcoming Daniel Sturridge back to the team. The quartet are certainly a huge upgrade in terms of quality over the previous crop of England strikers like Peter Crouch or Andy Carroll.
Hodgson was expected to be sacked from his role after a very disappointing World Cup, but he has certainly given himself a lot of positive reviews in the last few months. England’s biggest test in the short-term will come in the form of a friendly against Italy at the Juventus stadium in Turin on April 1. Just like England, Antonio Conte has also been able to infuse some life into the Italian team after a disappointing World Cup. They have won all but one match since their early departure from Brazil 2014.
A disappointing result against the Italian team will not be the end of the world for England, as Hodgson will be without a number of his important players. James Milner, Raheem Sterling, Danny Welbeck, and Leighton Baines are some of the players could not be involved against Italy. Instead, backup players like Ryan Bertrand have been drafted into the squad for this trip to Italy. Hodgson confirmed before the international break that he did not intend to overwork the players, who have already played a lot of games for their clubs, in friendly matches.
Before the match against England, Italy will be concentrating on their Euro 2016 qualifying match against Bulgaria. The Group H is far tighter than England’s group with both Croatia and Italy still fighting for a top spot. The trio of Norway, Italy, and Croatia are almost certain to qualify following the latest round of results, but it is still unclear if Italy will be able to secure an automatic qualification spot. The three teams are separated by just one point. Betfair still backs Italy at 2/1 to top the group and they are closely followed by Croatia in the second spot with odds of 2/1.
Hodgson confirmed after the win over Lithuania that Sterling’s absence from the squad to face Juventus has nothing to do with the reported controversial request from Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers. Sterling has suffered a toe injury, but he is almost certain to feature against Arsenal next weekend when the Premier League returns.