England have secured their place at Euro 2016 but will want to maintain their 100% qualification record against Estonia at Wembley on Friday (19:45 BST, live on ITV1).
England are unbeaten in 12 internationals following their disappointing group-stage exit from last summer’s World Cup in Brazil. They top Euro 2016 qualification Group E with 24 points from an unblemished record of eight wins from as many matches.
Roy Hodgson’s (pictured) side recorded a 2-0 victory over Switzerland last month. They were given a good game by the second-placed team in the group, who passed the ball crisply and confidently and created some good opportunities. It took until the 67th minute for Harry Kane to break the deadlock, before Wayne Rooney added a second from the penalty spot late on.
England’s qualification for Euro 2016 had already been confirmed a few days earlier but the victory added some extra gloss in confirming them as group winners. To progress through the qualifiers so comfortably is a praiseworthy feat. Hodgson has plenty of time to experiment and fine tune his squad prior to next summer’s tournament in France.
The England manager has made a few adjustments for the final two qualifiers, including a surprise first call-up for 19-year-old midfielder Dele Alli following his impressive start to the season at Tottenham Hotspur. Danny Ings has also received his first senior summons, while Adam Lallana, Phil Jones and Ryan Betrand return after missing out on last month’s fixtures.
Hodgson was unable to call upon the injured Danny Welbeck (knee), Jack Wilshere (ankle) and Luke Shaw (broken leg) for the final two qualifiers, while he chose not to select Daniel Sturridge as the Liverpool striker has only recently returned to action. John Stones (knee) has since pulled out, while Ings, Rooney and Jonjo Shelvey are all doubts for this match.
Estonia come into the final two qualifiers with a mathematical, if improbable, chance of pipping Slovenia to third in the group and securing the playoff place that comes with it. They are fourth in Group E with 10 points from three wins, one draw and four defeats.
Magnus Pehrsson’s side fell to a narrow 1-0 defeat away to Slovenia last month. They defended strongly and created a few half-chances on the counter-attack in a tightly contested encounter. Their hosts did, however, gradually start to find a way through the Estonian back-line and took all three points thanks to a 63rd-minute strike from Robert Beric.
The defeat saw Slovenia leapfrog Estonia into third place, where they now hold a two-point advantage over Pehrsson’s side. A draw would have given Estonia the marginal upper hand going into the final two fixtures, but their chances of qualifying now look slim. Slovenia face the group’s bottom two sides, while Estonia face the top two in England and Switzerland.
It has nevertheless been a decent campaign for a country who are yet to qualify for a major tournament since gaining independence from the USSR in 1991. They have the second best defensive record in the group, with six goals conceded in eight games, and while they have only scored four at the other end, that is due more to a lack of quality than any structural faults.
Pehrsson is without the injured goalkeeper Kristjan Tamme and forwards Henry Anier and Albert Prosa for Estonia’s final two qualifiers. Experienced midfielder Aleksandr Dmitrijev returns from suspension.
Our England v Estonia Preview’s Betting Tips
England laboured a little before eventually emerging victorious through a 73rd-minute strike from Rooney when these sides met in Tallinn this time last year. The two sides had previously squared off during England’s unsuccessful qualification campaign for Euro 2008, with the Three Lions recording comfortable 3-0 victories home and away.
England have little to play for, with qualification and their status as group-winners already assured. The match will, however, offer certain players an opportunity to show what they can do and potentially go some way towards earning them a place in Hodgson’s squad for Euro 2016. Motivation is unlikely to be a significant problem.
Estonia will take a similar approach on Friday to that which they have used in all of their matches against the top three sides in the group. They will sit deep, defend stoutly and look for opportunities to hit England on the counter-attack. Yet with anything less than two victories unlikely to see them through, they may be forced to open up earlier than usual.
England are well-primed to take advantage of such a situation and this preview expects them to record a comfortable victory on Friday. With that in mind, here are our match betting tips:
- Bet on England -2 on the Asian Handicap @ best odds 4/5 with Unibet or BetVictor. The bet pays out if they win by three or more goals, while your stake is returned if they win by two.
- Harry Kane has struggled for goals at club level so far this season, with just one in 11 appearances in all competitions for Spurs. But he has scored in each of his three appearances for England during the qualifiers and can be fancied to get himself on the scoresheet again on Friday. Back Harry Kane to score at anytime @ best betting odds of 10/11 with Bet365.