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England vs Republic Of Ireland Preview

Much of the talk in the build-up to tonight’s friendly international between England and the Republic of Ireland has focused on Ashley Cole and whether he will captain the home side to celebrate his achievement of reaching 100 caps.

After some confusion, it turns out that he will lead the team out, but will not be doing any media interviews, so we’ll have to live with that and find out instead what Frank Lampard, captain in everything but name, has to make of England’s performance after the game.

And the suspicion is that Lampard, along with manager Roy Hodgson, might be on the back foot in post match grillings, defending a less than impressive display against a side most England fans would expect their boys to make short work of.

Coral go 1/2 an England win, 14/5 the draw and 13/2 ROI and, taking the draw out of the equation, 1/12 England, 6/1 ROI.

On form, those odds look spot on, but remember this is a friendly and not only is it a friendly, it is a friendly at the end of a long, hard season. Some of these players might be up for it a bit more than others, both physically and mentally, and it may well be that the ROI will, as underdogs with a bite, collectively be up for it more than England.

Giovanni Trapattoni oversees a well-organised, determined outfit, very difficult to beat on their day. They have goal threats, too, such as Robbie Keane and Shane Long. This is by no means the foregone conclusion some England fans look forward to.

Of more importance for England than tonight’s result will be how much promise is shown by Daniel Sturridge’s partnership with Wayne Rooney up front. Sturridge (5/1 with Coral to score first or last tonight, 5/4 to score any time, 7/1 to score twice and 25/1 to notch a hat-trick) has always had the talent, but is showing better awareness of those around him these days and is a genuine contender for a leading role when the World Cup campaign resumes in the autumn.

Danny Welbeck is in pole position as Rooney’s striking buddy and won’t be easy to ignore when fully fit again, but the more options the better and Sturridge is an exciting prospect.

Hodgson is also looking forward to teaming up Phil Jones and Phil Jagielka as centre backs. Jagielka is 31 this summer, but is still young enough to forge a solid partnership with the potentially world class Jones to see England through to the next Euros campaign at least.

But first things first and tonight it might well end in a low-scoring. Coral’s 15/2 for a 1-1 outcome makes plenty of appeal.

Written by Jon Freeman