The Bet Enthusiast Report – England World Cup Qualifiers
England’s chances of qualifying for next year’s World Cup in Brazil have diminished somewhat with a group of injuries that could affect the quality of the side that plays Moldova and Ukraine in crucial qualifiers over the next few days. England are still odds-on to make the finals but if they do not win the group they will face a two-legged play-off tie against a side that could be ahead of them in the FIFA rankings.
England are 1/16 to beat Moldova at Wembley on Friday evening and anything other than a win would have serious consequences in terms of qualifying for festival of football in South America next summer. The away match against Ukraine will be a much harder test and defeat in that match would make qualification by winning the group extremely difficult.
Roy Hodgson’s side will have to face this double header of key matches without Glen Johnson and Phil Jones, both injured in the match between Liverpool and Manchester United on Sunday. There are also fitness worries with regards Jack Wilshere and Wayne Rooney has withdrawn ahead of a pivotal few days in the context of Hodgson’s job as national team manager.
The logical replacement for Rooney would be Daniel Sturridge who has scored the winning goal in each of Liverpool’s 1-0 wins that has taken them to the top of the Premier League table. However, there is a doubt about Sturridge who has a groin injury that might keep him out of the first match. Some better news concerned Wilshere who was taken off in Arsenal’s win over Spurs, but only with a minor injury and should be fit to play against Moldova.
Injury problems with the forwards means the Rickie Lambert story could continue to run. He is just the fourth English player to score one goal in one international to date as a substitute. Scoring in a friendly late on against a tiring Scotland is one thing but converting a chance from a limited number of opportunities in a crucial World Cup qualifier is another matter.
There have been rumours in the press that Hodgson would keep his job even if England do not qualify for the World Cup. However, better managers than Hodgson, including Sir Alf Ramsey, have lost their jobs when failing to lead their sides to the World Cup or European Championships.
England are a best priced 25/1 to win the World Cup next year but even at double those odds do not represent a viable betting opportunity. No European side has won the World Cup in South America and matches in the Federations Cup held in Brazil over the summer indicate why this is the case.
The World Cup final is being played at the iconic Maracana Stadium in Rio next July, midway through the winter in this Southern Hemisphere city. The temperatures do dip significantly during the winter in this city but other venues will see extreme heat and humidity even at what is supposed to be the coolest time of the year.
The Federations Cup semi-final between Italy and Spain was played in Fortaleza, a city near the Equator and as such characterised by extreme heat and humidity throughout all the year. In fact, conditions become even muggier in the evening when most of the matches in next year’s World Cup will be played.
Italy and Spain would be on most pundits’ shortlists as potential winners of the world championships next year. However, most of their players seemed exhausted even before the end of normal time and they still had to find the energy to face an extra thirty minutes of play. With the match ending goalless after 120 minutes the players then had to call on some reserves to contest a penalty shoot out.
So, if England qualify for the World Cup finals, and that’s not a certainty, they may have to play matches near to the Equator and face extreme heat. This is at the end of a long season which cannot be the best way to prepare. It seems ridiculous that some players in England were already facing pre-season training during the first week of the tennis at Wimbledon.
The England Under 21s were dismal in the European Championships and the senior’s draw with Ireland is more representative of the quality of the side than the somewhat flattering draw with Brazil four days later. The national team will only be genuine contenders if the Premier League is reduced to 18 teams, allowing for more rest and preparation for the Euros and World Cup.
England’s prospects of winning the World Cup next year could only be enhanced in bizarre circumstances but a precedent has been set in 1986. Columbia were scheduled to host the World Cup but Mexico had to step in as late replacements due to economic turmoil in Colombia. FIFA may take the World Cup from Brazil if demonstrations and violence on the streets make hosting the event untenable.
At as short as six months notice a new host country may be required and Great Britain and Ireland as a whole would be an option. Throughout the four nations and the Republic there are at least 14 stadiums with the facilities and infrastructure to host World Cup matches. Rugby grounds in Dublin, Cardiff and Edinburgh in addition to the Olympic Stadium would supplement the ten soccer grounds in England and Scotland that could stage matches, including Wembley.
This might seem a fanciful theory but Brazil looks an unstable country and FIFA would hate to see their tournament used for political purposes. Shanty towns stand close to luxury hotels and that juxtaposition may also prompt a dramatic decision to move the World Cup away from Brazil. The London Olympics showed that the British people can embrace a global sporting event and transport links and hotels would not be a problem. Great Britain could solve a problem for FIFA and if so that 25/1 for England to win the World Cup may then be worth considering.