Rooney looks friendly value

Ben Coley previews Friday's international action and is backing in-form Wayne Rooney to score first for England.

Last Updated: 15/11/13 at 19:43 Post Comment

Wayne Rooney has been in fine form for club and country

Wayne Rooney has been in fine form for club and country

There is a temptation, particularly with this writer, to discard international friendlies as betting shop fodder.

But, aware as I am that England are playing and the game is live on ITV, I've spent plenty of time scanning the various markets and one thing does stand out.

I'll come to that thing in a moment, but for now a little on Chile and why England are probably best avoided at odds-on.

Chile have goals in them, of that there is no doubt. Alexis Sanchez is perhaps the star name but Eduardo Vargas has been scoring for fun at Gremio, where he's on loan from Napoli, and rates a serious threat.

Their last game ended in a 3-3 draw with Colombia while before that they managed to draw 2-2 with Spain, and a glance through their South American formlines says this is a side close to if not the equal of England.

Another fact in their favour is Chile's record against the hosts, although to what extent is of course debatable. They've won one and drawn two of five meetings, the victory coming the last time these sides met when Marcelo Salas fired a brace in a 2-0 Wembley win back in 1998.

That England haven't found the net in their last three games with Chile is also worth noting, although clearly much has changed since even the most recent of those clashes so it'd be unwise to get too tangled up in history.

Recent history is surely far more relevant and while Chile's says goals, England's doesn't. Under Roy Hodgson they've become a tight ship, letting in one in their last four games. Hodgson has overseen just one defeat in 22 games at the helm.

All of this is rather perfunctory if truth be told, because, as mentioned, the match prices don't appeal even if slight preference would be towards the visitors on value grounds alone.

Instead, the bet here is surely Wayne Rooney to open the scoring at 5/1 for the plain old reason that his prospects appear much more likely than those odds imply.

Here we have a player who has scored nine goals in his last 10 England internationals, and has scored the first goal of the game in both England's last two home games and four of his last six appearances for the Three Lions on home turf.

He's fit and he's firing, buoyed no doubt by a man-of-the-match performance at club level last week which saw Manchester United re-establish themselves in the Premier League title race.

And with England finding solidity at the back, we may be able to rely on the defence providing us the platform for a winning bet. England are worthy favourites to score first and no man looks more likely than Rooney, particularly with Danny Welbeck injured, Daniel Sturridge a doubt and Steven Gerrard a confirmed absentee.

Simply put, if you like the look of England then at more than five times the price it's surely worth chancing that Rooney will be the man who triggers a home win with the opening goal, especially given the likelihood that he'll adopt a more traditional striker's role with Southampton's Jay Rodriguez set to be handed a debut.

The alternative is backing him to find the net at any time but while such a policy would appear more secure, there is of course a chance that if he hasn't already found the net come the hour mark he'll have been removed from the field of play anyway. Indeed, watch out for specials such as Rooney to score in the first half for an extra boost to the price.

As things stand, while it's not one to get carried away with, 5/1 about Rooney scoring first looks by far and away the outstanding bet in a game which should be entertaining enough.

There are four vastly more important fixtures on Friday night as eight teams do battle for four World Cup spots in the first legs of the European play-offs.

Pick of the ties is without doubt Portugal v Sweden, with two of the sport's entertainers on show in Cristiano Ronaldo and Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

It probably isn't stretching things to suggest that this tie could depend on which of those two superstars produces the most magic over 180 or more minutes, and there's no great rush to speculate on that front.

Instead, head to Ukraine v France for the bet of the night with under 1.5 goals looking very solid at around the 7/4 mark.

Hosts Ukraine have kept seven consecutive clean sheets including at home against England. Ignoring clashes with San Marino, eight of their last 15 internationals dating back to last summer's European Championships have seen either zero or one goal scored.

France have the luxury of being at home for the second leg and if coach Didier Deschamps gets there without a deficit, he'll rightly be confident that it's just about job done. With that in mind I'd be surprised if he risks much here and given that France have failed to score in four of their last five away games, goals should be in short supply.

Indeed, the more adventurous among you may want to consider no goalscorer prices of around the 15/2 mark but for us, under 1.5 will most certainly do.


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