Back

A must win game for England vs Moldova

England are without Wayne Rooney, Glen Johnson and Phil Jones and there is also a doubt surrounding Daniel Sturridge, but home fans are still demanding nothing less than a convincing victory against Moldova on Friday as they strive to qualify for the World Cup Finals in Brazil next summer.

Coral go 1/20 an England win and that might appear like stealing money to those who watched Roy Hodgson’s men demolish the Moldovans 5-0 when the sides met in Chisinau last September. The scoreline wasn’t flattering – the gulf in class that night was huge – and you wouldn’t expect it to be much different at Wembley this weekend.

But a small word of warning. Moldova have, on paper at least, improved considerably since that dismal performance. In their subsequent six qualifiers, they have conceded a total of just six goals while recording draws against Ukraine and Poland to go with respectable narrow defeats. Nobody has really turned them over since England did – this is no San Marino.

So, though England should indeed win comfortably, it might not be quite the walk in the park many anticipate. A repeat 5-0 is 7/1 with Coral and may appear tempting, but there is strong evidence that the eastern Europeans learned their lesson and have tightened up since their humiliation a year ago and are capable of making a much better fist of it.

Hodgson would rather have Rooney and co. to pick from than not, of course, but England should still be good enough without them to beat a team of Moldova’s standing – if not then we are really in trouble.

The defence still looks solid enough for the challenge, while Danny Welbeck, Ricky Lambert and Theo Walcott would give Moldova plenty to think about even if Sturridge isn’t fit to play (or, if it’s touch and go, is more wisely kept back for the much tougher assignment in the Ukraine next Tuesday).

And England are almost spoiled for choice in midfield, especially with Ashley Young back fit again as a further option to give more balance and attacking threat from the left.

This, of course, is a game England have to win if they are to retain any reasonable hope of topping the group; indeed anything less than three points would seriously jeopardise their chances of even making the play-offs.

It should be all right on the night, but maybe it’s best not to bank on another goal-fest. Coral’s 5/1 for a 3-0 home win looks a good call with Welbeck, more prolific in front of goal for England than he is for Manchester United, a fair bet at 11/4 to net first.

Written by Jon Freeman