Three Lions to pounce early
When you've seen England at one major tournament, you've seen them all.
And one of the many recurring themes that has typified the Bulldog spirit down the years is a penchant for scoring early goals in opening group matches. If trophies were handed out for sheer desire over 45 minutes, the English would be a real force.
The Three Lions have been quick out of the blocks in their last seven major tournament appearances, breaking the deadlock in the first half on each occasion, and five of them quick enough to land a bet on the time of the first England goal to be under 27 minutes.
Therefore, you'll understand why we can't resist taking the 7/2 quote on offer about that particular outcome against France on Monday and backing it up with a bet on England to score the first goal at 7/5.
It might look like a risky angle as Les Bleus come into the tournament with high expectations on the back of a 22-match unbeaten run, having rounded-off their preparations impressively with a 4-0 win over Estonia on Wednesday but we don't see a great deal between the two sides.
Back first England goal to be scored under 27 minutes at 7/2
The French might have taught the English a lesson at Wembley in November 2010 but Roy Hodgson's men present a much more reliable proposition it terms of mental strength in competitive football, even though it comes without stamina. A lack of intelligence is usually their downfall.
In terms of personnel, French superiority isn't obviously greater than it was at Euro 2004 when England were ahead by half-time and would have put Jacques Santini's men to the sword had Fabien Barthez not saved David Beckham's late penalty. In the end, the erstwhile anonymous Zinedine Zidane stepped up to take full advantage with two deadly strikes in injury time.
If anything, England have the clearer sense of their own identity right now insomuch that they have little option other than to adopt a pragmatic counter-attacking approach under a tailor-made tactician in Hodgson and we're inclined to refute the idea that chaotic preparations will undermine their chances here.
If anything, low expectations will lighten the mood and the Three Lions could be something of a surprise package, in this particular game at least, because they have chances of catching Les Bleus cold with a swift counter. The central defensive partnership of Adil Rami and Philippe Mexes looks a little shaky and it's a weakness that Ashley Young and Danny Welbeck possess enough pace and trickery to exploit.
Whether first blood would be enough to secure victory is another debate. On those seven previous occasions when England have opened their tournament account before the opposition, they have failed to close the game out for victory no fewer than five times.
With that in mind, the England/France double result at 40/1 might appeal to some. But we're willing to put faith in Hodgson. If England get their noses in front, we fancy his two banks of four might just get the job done.
Back England to score the first goal against France at 7/5
Read Mike Holden's preview of the other match in Group D on Monday: Sweden v Ukraine.
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