Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Euro 2008--England's Prospects

Consecutive 3-0 victories at home for England over Israel and Russia last month have put the Three Lions in the driver's seat to qualification for Euro 2008, cohosted by Austria and Switzerland next June. With 3 group games left to play, England currently sit in second place in Group E, 3 points behind Croatia, 2 points ahead of Russia, and 3 ahead of Israel. The first and second place finishers in each group qualify for next summer's competition and for England, they've done a good job to this point of fighting through the immense media pressure and speculation they've encountered at home about manager Steve McLaren, his squad selection, and the team's overall play.

Let's face a few facts here. England host Estonia in three days' time, a basically guaranteed 3 points. Take care of business there and England would be 5 points ahead of Russia, though Russia would have a game in hand. It will all boil down to the match on October 17, where England will have to make the long flight to Russia and play on the synthetic field in front of a hostile crowd in Moscow (talk about home-field advantage here!). At best, I could see England getting a draw out of that game and if they can do that, that would pretty much stamp their ticket to the beautiful Alpine region for Europe's biggest tournament. The more likely result seems to be a Russian victory, however, considering the desperation with which the Russian squad will be playing.

If England beats Estonia (they will) and lose to Russia (real possibility), Russia would only be 2 points back with a game in hand. England's last group game is at home against Croatia, the leader of Group E. The two teams' first meeting was a 2-0 Croatian victory and England would absolutely need full points from this game as Russia play host to Israel and then go to Andorra, which could easily turn into 6 points for Guus Hiddink's squad.

It comes down to this: an English draw or victory against Russia would surely see them through to Euro 2008, but a loss would really put them up against it. England controls their own destiny and it'll be interesting to see how things play out.


tyduffy said...

I think its fairly safe at this point to mark down another qualification followed by quarterfinal exit in Euro 2008.

STICKYBOI - said...

you spoke to soon duffy... the real test came... and mclaren failed... quite miserably. im guessing many of us english will not be putting a bet on football matches during the Euro Finals next year. Just out of interest, if you were to participate in a bit of football betting at some stage during the Euros, who would you back?

MJ said...

To be honest, I'd put my money on either Portugal or Italy.