England remain unbeaten after the opening four games of their qualifying campaign for the 2014 World Cup but draws in Poland and, perhaps more surprisingly, at home to Ukraine mean that Roy Hodgson’s men don’t actually occupy top spot in Group H, although they remain odds-on favourites at 4/11 via bet365 to ultimately emerge as pool winners.
The Three Lions should move a step closer to that goal on Friday evening as they face San Marino and although there are no foregone conclusions in football, it would arguably be the biggest upset in sporting history if England were to fail to defeat a team rated rock bottom in 207th, alongside Bhutan and the Turks and Caicos Islands, in FIFA’s official rankings.
Accordingly then, Hodgson’s charges are just 1/100 at Stan James to collect maximum points at the expense of a country with a population of around 32,000 – around half that of Bognor Regis – while the hosts are 80/1 (BetVictor) to pick up their first ever competitive victory and it’s 22/1 courtesy of Skybet to finish all square.
Realistically for punters, it’s a question of how many England will score and Betfred quote them at 7/1 to manage a repeat of the 5-0 triumph they registered against San Marino at Wembley back in October. A 6/1 shot with the same bookmaker, is a 4-0 success and for punters expecting stubborn resistance from the inevitably defensively-minded minnows, Skybet chalk the visitors up at 10/1 to notch twice without reply.
Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck grabbed a brace apiece when the sides met last and BetVictor mark 2/1 and 11/4 respectively against the Manchester United duo striking at least twice on this occasion. Rooney is just 11/5 (bet365) to break the deadlock in the Stadio Olimpico, where Ladbrokes price a Welbeck opener at 7/2 but it could be worth taking a chance on the pace of Theo Walcott eventually unlocking the San Marino rearguard and the Arsenal man is a 5/1 shot via Ladbrokes to score first.
Meanwhile, it took until the 34th minute for England to break down the same opponents in the reverse fixture and a penalty was required on that occasion, so a case can be made for William Hill’s 14/5 marked against the opener arriving after the 31-minute mark in this one.