England need to recover from a surprise defeat when they travel to Sofia to take on Bulgaria in a Euro 2020 qualifier at the Stadion Vasil Levski on Monday (7.45pm, live on ITV).
England top Group A on 12 points, the same total as a Czech Republic side who have played a game more but still managed to move level with them by defeating them 1-2 in Prague on Friday.
England took the lead when Harry Kane converted from the spot after Raheem Sterling had been felled. They went in level at the end of a first half in which they had struggled to get going offensively in an unfamiliar 4-2-3-1 formation. They had already looked vulnerable at the other end a couple of times before the home equaliser.
After a slightly improved second half performance, coinciding with a switch to a 4-3-3 formation, Gareth Southgate’s side nevertheless conceded a sloppy goal late on to fall to defeat. It was their first of the group, and their first in any qualifier under his command.
“We’ve had a lot of plaudits but we’ve always maintained that there’s a lot of work to be done to be a really top team,” Southgate said. “We haven’t had a result like that, we haven’t had a performance like that and we’ll learn a lot more about ourselves over the next 48-72 hours.”
The immediate result is that England cannot confirm their place at Euro 2020 on Monday unless Kosovo lose at home to Montenegro in their concurrent game. At the very least they can take a further step towards that goal by securing an eminently achievable win against Bulgaria, an opponent against whom England are undefeated in their 12 previous internationals stretching back to 1962.
The Three Lions won 3-0 last time the teams locked horns in Sofia in 2011 and were also comfortable 4-0 winners when the sides met at Wembley last month, with Kane scoring a hat-trick (including two penalties) and Sterling getting the other.
This is not a good Bulgaria side. Friday’s 0-0 draw away to Montenegro at least snapped a streak of four consecutive defeats but nevertheless extended their run of winless internationals to 10 matches.
There was a good chance apiece but the two sides had to settle for a share of the points in a result that ended their respective hopes of qualifying directly from the group. Bulgaria may, though, get a second opportunity in the playoffs based on UEFA Nations League results, depending on which other teams qualify directly.
It is 15 years since they last took part in a major international tournament, at Euro 2004. After a couple of good generations, little else has emerged. After hovering between 20th and 40th in the FIFA rankings through the first decade of the new millennium, they have since fallen down to 62nd.
Bulgaria did beat both Netherlands and Sweden at home during qualifying for the last World Cup, but their last match on home soil ended in a 2-3 defeat to Kosovo.
England have also achieved good results away from home in qualifying fixtures over the last decade. Until Friday’s reverse away to the Czech Republic their last defeat had been away to Ukraine in 2009.
There is a good chance coach Gareth Southgate will make some changes to the starting XI for the trip to Sofia. Tammy Abraham seems like a prime candidate to start following his strong start to the season at Chelsea, and others may get in too. Whatever strength of team England send out, they are clear favourites to prevail, a best price of 1/4 with the better UK bookmakers.
There is a feeling of needing to show how they will react to a setback. There is little genuine danger of England failing to qualify from their position in the group but it is still important to get back on track immediately.
Our Preview’s Bulgaria vs England Betting Tips Verdict
A fairly comfortable and high-scoring England win seems the most likely result. So this is our Bulgaria vs England betting tip:
- Bet on England to score over 2.5 goals on the ‘Total England Goals’ market @ 5/4 with BetVictor.
Compare Bulgaria vs England Match Betting Odds from Top Bookies