WILL ENGLAND QUALIFY FOR THE 2010 WORLD CUP
Bet365 have England at 1/4 to qualify and 11/4 to fail.
The Football Association has set England coach Fabio Capello the target of reaching at least the semi-finals of the 2010 World Cup or Euro 2012. It is one of a series of ambitious aims set out by the FA in a wide-ranging review. The governing body also plans to appoint an international performance director and has given the go-ahead to the National Football Centre. The review, believed to be the most extensive ever carried out by the FA, was ordered following England’s failure to qualify for Euro 2008.
Fabio Capello has only been at the helm for a short period, but the FA document “Vision 2008-2012” makes it clear what is expected. England last reached a semi-final at Euro 1996, Terry Venables’ side losing to Germany on penalties. Capello must achieve at least as much in one of the next 2 major tournaments.
England’s fixtures for the qualifying stage of the 2010 World Cup
Andorra (Away) Saturday, September 6, 2008
Croatia (Away) Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Kazakhstan (Home) Saturday, October 11, 2008
Belarus (Away) Wednesday, October 15, 2008
Ukraine (Home) Wednesday, April 1, 2009
Kazakhstan (Away) Saturday, June 6, 2009
Andorra (Home) Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Croatia (Home) Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Ukraine (Away) Saturday, October 10, 2009
Belarus (Home) Wednesday, October 14, 2009
FA executives seem pleased with the chance of a “rematch” with Croatia, under new coach Fabio Capello, though whether Capello shares their view is a different story. Euro 2008 quarter-finalists Croatia’s 3-2 win over England at Wembley prevented them from qualifying and cost former coach Steve McClaren his job.
England, 6/5 favourites with SkyBet to win Group 6, kick off their 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign on September 6th, away to Andorra. The crucial away tie with Croatia (13/8 with Paddy Power) is on September 10th.
Croatia coach Slaven Bilic insisted that he hoped to avoid England, despite his country’s recent success against them. He pointed out that it is a testing group, given the presence of both England and Ukraine, and warned against focusing on the group winners coming from just England or Croatia.
However, Bilic is delighted that Arsenal striker, Eduardo Da Silva is recovering well from the double compound leg fracture he sustained in February and may well be fit to join his club for pre-season training. At 22, Luka Modric has already been capped 29 times by his country and represents the future of Croatian football. He was the creative genius in Croatia’s midfield and possesses a strong ability to easily outplay opposing midfielders despite his size. Following Croatia’s defeat of Germany in at Euro 2008, Croatian coach Slaven Bilic regarded him as the best player in Europe.
Following England and Croatia, Ukraine (15/2 with William Hill) cannot be discounted lightly. With a highly motivated team of young players, Ukraine are the “dark horses” of the group and seem certain to have some say in its outcome. Despite finishing only a disappointing 4th in their Euro 2008 qualification bid, they possess some skilful players, including powerful striker Artem Milevskiy, from Dynamo Kiev.
Belarus (100/1 with William Hill) have produced players of great skill in their recent history and it might prove foolish to dismiss their chances of qualification completely. Amongst their current crop of players is the dynamic midfielder, Alexander Hleb, who has recently moved to Barcelona.
Kazakhstan (1000/1 with 888sport) and Andorra (10000/1 with sportingbet) simply make up the numbers in Group 6. Both teams will struggle to compete against the other nations, because of the lack of quality in terms of players and highly uncompetitive domestic leagues.
Fabio Capello needs to get the most out of his squad of talented under-achievers. Many “experts” are of the opinion that powerful physique and effort are taught in preference to technical expertise in youth teams, resulting in players with insufficient technical skill to compete at the highest level. A successful team is a blend of these attributes and it can only be hoped that the new coach finds the correct combination as soon as possible. England should qualify with a minimum of fuss, as Group winners, given the opposition with which they are presented.
Bet365 have England at 1/4 to qualify and 11/4 to fail. Even if the English side slip up and finish second, there is always the “playoff” route by which to qualify. However, provided England don’t throw points away as they have been prone to do, the qualification path looks pretty straight and smooth. With a fresh outlook and some fresh faces, hopefully at this time two years from now, Fabio Capello will be due for toasting, not roasting.