Even though England’s constantly one of the favorites for international soccer tournaments the truth is they’ve had limited success in the ones they’ve qualified for. Their moment of glory came way back in 1966 when they best West Germany 4-2 in extra time at home in Wembley Stadium. Since then the well’s been pretty dry.
However, at the moment they’re leading Group G in Euro 2012 qualifying with a record of three wins and a two draws after five games. The problem is, Montenegro also has 13 points with an identical record and shares the group lead with them. England has a plus eight goal difference compared to plus three for Montenegro and that has them technically in the lead.
This is what makes England’s Sept. 2nd game at Vassil Levski Stadion in Bulgaria so important. Montenegro visits last place Wales the same day and it’s likely they’ll leave with all three points. Anything but a win for England will see their hopes of qualifying for the European Championship in Poland and Ukraine next summer seriously dented.
Bulgaria sits in fourth place in Group G with a win, two losses and two draws for five points. They still have a shot at winning the group, but have to beat England to do it. They’re no pushover, even though England beat them 4-0 in their previous group matchup at Wembley last September.
Bulgaria’s on a pretty bad streak at the moment though and hasn’t won a game in their past five attempts, with three draws and two losses. They last played on Aug. 10th in Belarus and were beaten 1-0. Their last two Euro 2012 qualifiers were draws, 1-1 in Montenegro, and 0-0 against Switzerland. Before that they lost 1-0 to Serbia and tied 2-2 with Estonia in international friendlies.
England has fared better in their last five games with two wins, two draws, and a loss. They haven’t had the benefit of a warm-up game since their scheduled match against Holland at Wembley on Aug. 10th was called off due to the English riots. Their last contest was back in June when they drew Switzerland 2-2 at home. They allowed Ghana to score a last-minute equalizer before that in a 1-1 draw at home in March in another friendly. In addition, they traveled to Wales and came away with a 2-0 win in a Euro qualifying game in March, beat Denmark in a friendly 2-1 away, and were beaten 2-1 at home by France in a friendly.
England manager Fabio Capello has tried to inject some young blood into the lineup and has called up Tom Cleverly, Phil Jones, and Chris Smalling, all from Manchester United. Many of the regulars were also named to the squad, such as John Terry, Frank Lampard, Wayne Rooney, Ashley Cole, Gareth Barry, James Milner, and Jermain Defoe. However, Rio Ferdinand is out with an injury as is Steven Gerrard. They’re a lot better off without Ferdinand, but Gerrard will be missed.
Bulgaria hasn’t quite been the same since Dimitar Berbatov retired from international soccer, but they’re still capable of beating anybody when they’re in form. Winger Martin Petrov may also miss the game due to injury. Midfielder Chavdar Yankov and defender Apostol Popov are also sidelined while midfielder Tsvetomir Tsonkov and striker Georgi Bozhilov could make their debuts for the Bulgarians.
England has the horses to win the game, but they never do anything the easy way. They can be among the best and worst teams in the world all in the same match. Look for them to take all three points here with a two-goal win.
Sportsbook 5Dimes has the odds of an England win at -168 with a Bulgaria victory at +556 and a draw at +300.