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Malta v England
England’s 100% Euro 2024 Qualification record comes up against Malta’s two defeats and it would be a shock of seismic proportions if any of that was to change on Friday evening.
It is the type of fixture that always calls into question the merit of these types of qualifiers. England have never lost any points against the minnows of the group in any World Cup or Euro qualification campaign.
The argument that playing against the better sides might make the minnows better has very little merit, however, as a member nation of FIFA and UEFA it is understandable that they are treated as equals in the organisation of the major tournaments.
From an England perspective it can often be an opportunity to see new stars emerge. Whilst some don’t necessarily go on to have a great England career, see Jonjo Shelvey, man of the match vs San Marino in 2016 as an example, many do go on to play a key role for England.
If history is any type of guide then Gareth Southgate is likely to play something of a hybrid team. Malta will be given their due respect but England will look to assert themselves.
Regardless of the merit, or otherwise, of the fixture, research suggests that there are angles that can be used for a smart betting angle.
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Spartans Pivotal To Holding Back Invaders
The spirit of the 300 Spartans will be required if Malta are to get anything out of this match. So it is just as well that the majority of their playing squad are made up of players from the Hamrun Spartans.
The Maltese champions did produce a few shocks of their own in this season’s UEFA Conference League as they defeated Alashkert, Velez Mostar, and then the famous Levski Sofia to become the first Maltese club to contest a play-off in an official UEFA competition. Partizan from Serbia proved too strong over the two legs, but that experience should serve many of the players well for this match.
The only non-domestic players in the squad are defender Zach Muscat, who has just won promotion back to the Portugese top tier with Farense, and Jodi Jones, who many EFL fans will be very familiar with having had spells with Coventry, Oxford, and now represents Notts County.
England are for me one of the best teams in the world,
They have already proved that they are the best team in the group as it’s not easy to go to Italy and win the match after putting up a very strong first-half performance and creating a lot of chances to score.Malta coach Michele Marcolini discusses the size of the challenge ahead for Malta
Malta, like many of the smaller nations, have really enjoyed Nations League football. They won twice against San Marino in their last Nations League campaign, and have won friendlies against Azerbaijan, Kuwait, and, impressively, Israel, last September.
In terms of carrying that form through to the qualifiers, Maltese results haven’t been awful. They scored a consolation against recent qualifiers for major tournaments North Macedonia, and then kept Italy to two goals at home last time out.
Malta team news
The squad is shorn of a couple of very good, experienced players such as Union Saint-Gilloise captain Teddy Teuma, but we can we pretty certain that they will start with a 5-man defensive structure.
Experienced goalkeeper Henry Bonello will start with Muscat, captain Steve Borg, and probably Ferdinando Apap as the three central defenders.
Jodi Jones will play as a forward alongside Kyrian Nwoko. The midfield is likely to be Mbong, Camenzuli, Yankam, Grech, and Guillaumier.
Evolution, Not Revolution for Gareth Southgate’s England
Jude Bellingham’s transfer to Real Madrid has been wrapped up early and the teenager’s meteoric rise to the top of the game is well on course, all before the midfielder turns 20 as well.
The former Birmingham man is likely to start and is one of the great symbols of the evolution in Gareth Southgate’s team. The manager is being given the opportunity that few England managers get, the chance to refresh a squad.
Eberechi Eze is the latest new face in the squad and the Palace man will surely get a chance to influence proceedings here. It is unlikely that he will start the match, but even an impact off the bench would be a positive for him.
Having been so close to achieving their ultimate goals over the last three major tournaments, the Euro 2024 tournament has to be seen as a huge opportunity. The aim is that England no longer have ‘golden generations’ that come and go, but that there is a sustainable level at the top of the game.
If we want to be a top team and we want to be European champions, we’ve got to nail the big games like we did in March and you’ve got to make sure that you nail the more complicated ones because everybody has the view that you’ve just given.
So I think it’s a good test of commitment, it’s a good test of togetherness – I think this group don’t want to let each other down – and we want to keep progressing as a team.Gareth Southgate on the mentality England need to have ahead of Euro 2024.
England’s FIFA ranking has barely moved in the last four seasons. It oscillates between 4 and 5, indicating pretty much exactly what we know. This is a group that are professional, consistent, reliable, but perhaps not quite possessing that highest level that wins the biggest events.
This is unlikely to be proven against Malta, but Southgate will be keen to use this match to re-introduce those key values, re-introduce the players to the squad, and keep the soft evolution of the team moving along smoothly. They will not take this game lightly.
England team news
A lot of the question marks around England selection revolve around the celebrations of England players from their club triumphs.
The antics of Jack Grealish and his Manchester City teammates need no further discussion here, but the lateness of the Champions League final may mean that any City players may have to wait until the next fixture to be in contention to start.
Jordan Pickford will be in goal, Harry Maguire is pretty certain to start as well in central defence with probably Kieran Trippier and Luke Shaw getting the full-back slots. The other central defensive berth is up for grabs, but Crystal Palace’s Marc Guehi could perhaps make his first competitive England start.
Declan Rice has probably had enough time to recover from West Ham’s celebrations to take his place alongside Bellingham in midfield.
Bukayo Saka, Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford would be the first choice front three. Conor Gallagher could support the attack from a more attacking midfield role, or could Eberechi Eze take that spot?
Malta v England Cheat Sheet
Harry Kane’s shooting stats are incredibly high for the national side, with England’s record goalscorer having 3.4 attempts per 90. Though he may well come off early here, his desire to increase his lead in the goalscoring charts is well known, so expect Kane to have plenty of shots in a game England will dominate.
With England likely to have so much of the ball, there are likely to be plenty of Maltese fouls. Unfortunately, no bookmakers are offering odds on fouls from Malta players, but there are options in the cards market. Fernandino Apap makes the most fouls, and though he has not been carded yet, he will have his work cut out for him against Bukayo Saka.
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Malta v England bet builder tips
Malta v England
The research is a bit of a mixed bag for this selection but on the whole this looks the value play.
In the last two matches against Malta in competitive internationals only one card was given out.
Indeed, Under 3.5 cards landed in five matches that England played against minnows in a row, prior to the last three. Andorra picked up 4 yellows and a red at Wembley, England and Andorra shared five in the return fixture and San Marino picked up five themselves in 2021 as well.
However, England’s record of yellows in these mismatches reads 1,2,1,1,0,0,0,1 and Southgate’s side have actually only picked up cautions in 2 of their last 8 matches. It is worth noting that Malta are clearly a level above Andorra and San Marino, so they are less likely to give up cheap cards.
The prices for corners appear to be based on predicted England dominance. Whilst this is likely to be the pattern of the match, research suggests that this does not always translate into lots of corners.
England only average 7.5 corners against the minnows in their last 8 matches and haven’t notched double figures in corners in this type of match since getting 16 vs San Marino way back in 2014.
The unders are the clear value choice in this market, and those looking to increase their odds may well choose to drop down a line or two based off this strong research.
This price looks a touch generous and it is probably based a lot on the fact that Malta kept Italy to only two goals in their last qualifier.
However, England have recently been a lot more ruthless against the smaller nations and have lots of exciting options going forward, even compared to Italy.
England will likely start with Harry Kane, Bukayo Saka, and Marcus Rashford, and can pair that with set piece dominance with Harry Maguire in particular, then there are lots of goal options.
Historically, England have done well at taking the lead in the first half in these matches, having done so in 7 of the 8 most recent matches against lowly ranked nations. If this pattern is repeated then the over 3.5 goal line should be reachable. England have passed it themselves in 7 of their last 8 matches against European minnows.
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