Hope is an emotion which beleaguered England fans have become increasingly estranged from in recent years. There is, of course, the fleeting sense of optimism on the eve of a major tournament, but it is all too quickly followed by a familiar sense of disappointment, as the Three Lions crash out prematurely with not even a semblance of a roar.
However, that depressing dynamic finally changed on Sunday when England won the FIFA Under-20 World Cup in South Korea, beating Venezuela in the final. As the Under-21s prepare for their assault on the European Championships in Poland, hope is back in fashion at the FA.
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Aidy Boothrooyd’s boys qualified from Group 9 for the finals unbeaten; winning six and drawing two of their eight games en route to Poland. In the process, they scored 20 goals and conceded just three.
The young Three Lions have been drawn in Group A with hosts Poland, defending champions Sweden and the minnows of Slovakia. They kick off against the Swedes in Kielce on Friday evening. Although facing the winners from two years ago in their first match is undoubtedly a tough opener, England can take heart from the fact they were the only team to beat the Scandinavians in the 2015 edition of the tournament.
The bad news for Boothroyd is his squad has been shorn of Chuba Akpom, Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford; the trio contributing eight goals between them in qualifying. Much will depend on the form of Chelsea striker Tammy Abraham, as England look to successfully negotiate the group phase and reach the semi-finals. The Blues forward is 5/4 to be England’s top scorer in Poland, with Southampton’s Nathan Redmond 4/1. Jacob Murphy (Norwich City) and Cauley Woodrow (Fulham) are both 5/1.
England are the shortest priced team in Group A to be crowned European champions (9/1). The draw has certainly been kind to them: Spain (3/1) and Portugal (7/1) battle it out in Group B, while Germany (4/1) and Italy (6/1) lock horns in Group C. The chances of Boothroyd’s team making it through to the last four of the competition are rated 5/9, while the Three Lions are 11/4 to emulate their Under-20 counterparts and go all the way to the final.
The overall betting for the tournament’s top scorer sees Abraham third favourite to win the Golden Boot at 4/1. Germany’s Davie Selke and Spain’s Inaki Williams are the top two picks at 3/1. Selke hit seven in qualifying, as the Germans won 10 out of 10 in Group 7, while Williams was on target twice as Spain booked their place in the finals.
The prospect of any player – from any nation – scoring a hat-trick during the tournament is rated 9/10.
The discipline, or lack of, from the assembled young players could prove pivotal in Poland. In turn, odds of 3/1 are given for 0-61 yellow cards to be shown. Similarly, 62-70 yellow cards is 5/4, and 71 or more bookings is 6/4. Six or more red cards is rated 11/4, while the chances of a manager being sent to the stands is 5/1.
For more football odds, take a look at Grosvenor Sport’s football betting.