Be patient in Podgorica

Expect the first goal to arrive well into the Montenegro v England game - we've got betting tips for Tuesday's World Cup qualifiers.

Last Updated: 26/03/13 at 19:40 Post Comment   

Roy Hodgson: Safety-first approach in his big games so far with England

Roy Hodgson: Safety-first approach in his big games so far with England

Let's be clear.

Despite shortening up in the last few days, England's chances of beating Montenegro have not improved as a result of Friday's 8-0 thrashing of San Marino.

Yes, the demolition was throughly professional but it was achieved against a team who seemed happy to permanently concede possession, one which had no idea whatsoever how to trouble Roy Hodgson's side.

That will not be the case on Tuesday night in Podgorica.

Montenegro sit well clear of Ukraine and Poland in Group H and have emerged as the biggest threat to England in terms of winning the pool and progressing to the finals in Brazil in 2014.

For those still doubting their credentials, their results are no fluke. It should be remembered they finished runners-up to England during Euro 2012 qualifying and had they had a few more minutes against a 10-man side in October 2011, they might well have caused a serious upset rather than simply taking a 2-2 draw.

Mirko Vucinic and Stevan Jovetic are genuine Serie A stars who will look to pick holes in what will once again be a makeshift England defence.

However, it is arguably at the back, where former Manchester City defender Stefan Savic is a key figure, where the Montenegrins have been most impressive.

Just two goals have been conceded in five qualifiers so far, with the backline standing firm against the 10 men of Moldova on Friday to earn three more points.

England, who are around the 4/5 mark, will certainly have to work for a win. The draw at 11/4 could offer some value - it would hardly be a disastrous result for England and with a home clash with Montenegro to come would leave the group outcome in their own hands - but I feel Roy Hodgson's team should make their quantity of talent show.

Instead of getting involved in the match result betting, it's to the time of the first goal market I'm going to look to in search of profit.

Under Hodgson, England have now played nine competitive games with first goal times of 30, 23, 48, -, 3, 38, 35, 31 and 12.

It seems reasonable to take largely ignore the 12 and 3, which came against vastly inferior opposition in the form of San Marino and Moldova. Once that is done, a clear pattern of an England game not producing a goal in the first half an hour emerges.

As already explained, Montenegro are likely to prove hard to break down, while England will themselves be keen not to put themselves in a hole early on. Big games so far under Hodgson have very much been a case of safety first - see clashes with France and Italy at Euro 2012 - and I can see that being the case again here.

Betting on the first goal coming in the 27th minute or later looks the way forward.

Of course, there's a chance that defences could totally reign and the game end goalless - just as it did when these two met at Wembley in October 2010.

However, with plenty of decent attacking talent on display, you have to fancy one to emerge somewhere down the line.

Looking elsewhere, Scotland will surely head to Serbia in miserable mood having suffered a late defeat at the hands of Wales at Hampden on Friday.

The result ended their slim hopes of qualification and while you will find many who don't agree, there's a reason why Mickey Thomas last week labelled this the worst Scotland team ever.

It's just got weaker too. Robert Snodgrass is suspended after his red card against the Welsh. Striker Steven Fletcher is injured, thus joining other significant absentees in the form of Scott Brown, Darren Fletcher and James Morrison.

Russell Martin and Kris Commons are also out, while defenders Gary Caldwell and Charlie Mulgrew have knocks they need to shake off so it looks like it will be a patched up side that appears in Novi Sad.

The good news for the Scots is that Serbia have also made a poor start to qualifying and also look unlikely to be playing in Brazil.

They've failed to score in their last three qualifiers.

However, it should be remembered when Wales headed to Serbia in October they suffered a 6-1 hiding, while Serbia found the net quite easily in their recent friendly fixtures against Chile and Cyprus.

Their dodgy spell has had the effect of pushing their price out to 8/13 to beat the Scots - one you wouldn't expect under normal circumstances.

It looks very tempting and I'm going to double them up with the Netherlands - a pair of wins will pay odds-against.

The Dutch are the kings of qualifying. They've won five out of five in their group, a run which means they have now won 22 of their last 23 qualifiers, their only defeat coming in a 'dead' game in Sweden before Euro 2012.

They face Romania at home on Tuesday, a side they've already thrashed 4-1 in the reverse fixture when they were three up by half time.

The double pays a shade under 6/5 which seems more than fair.

  • The England game is being televised live in the UK on ITV, while the Scotland match is live on BBC Scotland and ESPN.


Price boost with Sky Bet for England to win 1-0 tonight at 11/2


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