England will be confident of continuing their perfect start to Euro 2020 qualification when they host Kosovo at Southampton’s St Mary’s Stadium (7.45pm Tuesday, live on ITV).
England have won three out of three to top qualification Group A despite having played at least a match less than all the other teams in the group. They followed up thrashings of the Czech Republic and Montenegro with a 4-0 demolition of Bulgaria at Wembley on Saturday.
An errant pass from the Bulgarian goalkeeper allowed Raheem Sterling to nip in and square for Harry Kane to give England the lead 24 minutes in. Bulgaria put together a few decent attacks but were unable to consistently threaten, and their best chance came early second half, just before England began to pull away definitively from them.
After a save from Jordan Pickford, England went straight up the other end and won a penalty, converted by Kane for 2-0 on 49 minutes. The Tottenham striker then returned the favour to Sterling by setting him up for a third around five minutes later. Kane completed his second international hat-trick with another penalty, having been brought down himself, with just over a quarter of an hour still to play.
It was another demonstration of England’s attacking potency against lesser opponents. Marcus Rashford was the third member of the front three and didn’t get on the scoresheet himself, but worked hard for the team and helped stretched the Bulgarian defence. He was the one brought down for the first penalty. Sterling has now scored seven times in his last seven internationals. Kane has six in his last six.
Across their three qualifiers to date, England have scored 14 times and conceded just once. They are clearly the favourites to triumph again against Kosovo on Tuesday, although their opponents have so far performed above expectations in the qualifying process. Kosovo sit second in the group, with eight points from an undefeated record of two wins and two draws.
The second of those victories came at home to the Czech Republic on Saturday. Their visitors took an early lead, but Kosovo struck back straight away through Vedat Muriqi, and then secured all three points with a second-half strike from Mergim Vojvoda. It could easily prove to be a key victory against the team who were expected to head the race for second place.
This is only the second tournament qualification process Kosovo have been involved in since receiving UEFA and FIFA recognition in 2016. They finished bottom of their group, with just one point from 10 matches, during qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, but have begun this campaign in a much stronger manner. Even if they fail to take one of the top two qualifying spots, they still have a playoff to fall back on after topping their UEFA Nations League group.
Kosovo are actually undefeated in 14 matches since the experienced Swiss coach Bernard Challandes took charge in March of last year. He has a pretty good young squad to work with, including a trio of players who ply their trade in Italy’s Serie A and four who compete in the English Championship, including Swansea City’s rapid attacking midfielder Bersant Celina.
So Tuesday’s match is unlikely to be quite as comfortable for England as their qualifiers to date have been. At the same time, they still have more than enough quality to overcome Kosovo and take another three points, even if Gareth Southgate is likely to make alterations to his starting XI. Trent Alexander-Arnold and Jadon Sancho can both be expected to start, and the changes might even be far more wholesale.
Our Preview’s England vs Kosovo Betting Tips Verdict
The betting value here may be in backing England to win in a match in which Kosovo also get on the scoresheet. Challandes’ side have scored in 13 of their 14 internationals under his charge and have done so twice or more in three of their five matches this calendar year. Even without the injured Milot Rashica, a very able creator of shots, between Celina, Muriqi and Elba Rashani, they still have players capable of causing England some problems. Here is the betting tips’ selection for this England vs Kosovo preview:
- Bet on ‘England to win and both teams to score’ @ best odds of 15/4 (almost 4/1) with BoyleSports.
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