England v Tunisia: Back the Three Lions to Squeak through in Volgograd
From an England perspective, the wait is almost over as Gareth Southgate’s side enter the battle of their opening Group G World Cup group game against Tunisia in Volgograd on Monday evening – kick-off: 19:00 GMT.
The average – and perhaps slightly uneducated – England supporter would expect the Three Lions to roll over their North African opponents to kick-start their campaign, but Tunisia could well prove to be very difficult opposition first up.
Under Head Coach, Nabil Maâloul, Tunisia qualified for their fifth appearance at the World Cup finals with an unbeaten record of six wins and two draws from their eight qualification games. Two 1-0 home friendly victories over Iran and Costa Rica back in March have been followed by entertaining 2-2 draws with Portugal and Turkey leading up to the Russian showpiece.
A narrow 1-0 defeat against Spain in their final warm-up fixture also highlights that Tunisia are not involved in the World Cup just to make up the numbers. England cannot take this game lightly, otherwise they could come unstuck as in previous tournaments.
England coach Gareth Southgate has picked a youthful, exuberant squad for his first major tournament and it will be very interesting to see how it pans out, as the over-excessive hopes of a nation are slightly tempered in comparison to those of recent competitions.
Following their serene qualification experience, England undertook a difficult path of friendlies against Germany, Brazil, Netherlands and Italy to try and gain some competition toughness. One win and three draws from those four games can be deemed as relative success against such illustrious opposition, and following facile victories over Nigeria and Costa Rica, preparations now head to the important showdown on Monday evening.
The Outright pre-tournament odds on both teams lifting the World Cup have England as 18/1 hopes, while Tunisia are ranked as 1000/1 outsiders.
For Monday’s game, England are the overwhelming favourites as you might expect. Unibet offers the best industry price at the time of writing of 5/11 on an opening victory for Southgate’s men. The Draw could be a play for some punters considering that Tunisia have shown a sound rear guard in qualification at the top price of 19/5 with MarathonBet, while the same firm offers the top price of 19/2 on a win for The Eagles of Carthage.
I expect England to come through this examination of their World Cup credentials, but not via any convincing margins. You can expect Tunisia to be a dogged outfit, who could frustrate England so much to claim a share of the spoils, however, England can be expected to wear down Tunisia eventually to claim a precious opening victory.
Individual Goal Scorers
Looking at the First Goalscorer market, it is littered with England players at the head of the betting. It’s also no surprise to see England captain, Harry Kane as the market leader to open the scoring in Volgograd on Monday night. The Tottenham hitman is best priced 13/5 with 10Bet and Sport Pesa to get England off to a flyer. Kane is a solid selection in this market as he is a guaranteed starter and can be backed to break Tunisian hearts.
Leicester striker, Jamie Vardy is an 18/5 chance with 888Sport and Unibet to open the scoring, however his participation from the start is doubtful.
Marcus Rashford showcased his obvious talent in the recent friendly win over Costa Rica and can be backed as a 3/1 shot to score first here with several firms including, William Hill and Ladbrokes. A word of caution is that Rashford has missed some recent training sessions due to a minor injury.
Others to consider for an opening England goal include, Raheem Sterling at 24/5 with Unibet, while the same layer offers 6/1 on either Dele Alli or Jesse Lingard scoring first. Provided Southgate decides to go with Harry Maguire as part of the England defence, the Leicester centre-back is a real threat at set-pieces at the tempting odds of 25/1 with BetFred and BetBright.
The first Tunisian offering in the betting for the opening goal comes from midfield lynchpin, Wahab Khazri at 16/1 with Black Type. Khazri will be known to English supporters following his stint with Sunderland. The 27-year-old is still attached to the Mackems, but is currently playing on loan in France with Rennes. Khazri has hit 12 goals from 35 international appearances and is one of the Tunisian threats who England need to monitor closely.
Other Side Bets
A fiercely fought contest is expected in Volgograd on Monday evening, and with that in mind, the offer of 4/5 with MarathonBet for UNDER 2.5 goals should be worthy of serious consideration. Tunisia are unlikely to be a major threat to England in an attacking sense but the Three Lions are not expected to carve their opponents apart either. 4/5 looks to be decent value and should be taken up.
Betfred have priced up England to Win to Nil at the best industry price of 21/20 and that looks to be a decent offer for the reasons already stated as another option.
If our expected prediction of a close contest proves correct, then the Double Result of Draw at half-time but England to prevail after ninety minutes at the tempting odds of 33/10 with Unibet and 888Sport is definitely worth a nibble.
Our final offering is an England 1-0 Correct Score victory at 19/4 – again with Unibet and 888Sport.
Opening group games tend to be tense affairs with neither team going all-out for victory. I expect this game to be no exception, however, England can get the job done and move onto the second game against Panama with renewed belief.