Norway 3.35, the draw 3.25, England 2.15
The Three Lions’ Roy Hodgson era kicks off with a whimper in Oslo tonight, where a depleted England side will warm up for Euro 2012 in the back yard of unqualified Norway…
England qualified for Euro 2012 with little fuss and then inexplicably beat Spain in a friendly last year. But they've since changed managers. Twice. So a repeat of the inhibited display Stuart Pearce's experimental side mustered against the Dutch at Wembley in February could be on the cards.
Norway were drawn in a tough Euro 2012 qualifying group and can count themselves unfortunate not to have at least made the playoffs. They have won their last three games on home soil and have a decent record at home to England, winning two and drawing one of the last three meetings.
Admiral Hodgson will be without all four of his likely starting defenders. On the missing list are Ashley Cole and Gary Cahill, who are resting after their Champions League final exploits - and strangely John Terry, who must've overexerted himself in celebration - plus first choice right back Glen Johnson who is nursing a toe injury. Therefore England will field a makeshift back line and look susceptible to concession - Norway to score at 1.42 is worth a punt.
In spite of not reaching the Euros, Norway will feel hard done having been narrowly squeezed out of a playoff spot by Portugal. Egil Olsen’s side are still a force to be reckoned with, boasting Fulham’s Hangeland and Riise in their backline, Blackburn’s dead ball specialist Mortem Gamst Pedersen in their midfield and an attack led by highly-rated Hannover forward Moa Abdellaoue.
What the Gaffers Say
Roy Hodgson: “Scott Parker is good, we were concerned about his Achilles but he's taken part in all the training and will be taking part tomorrow. Glen Johnson has an infected toe that will keep him out of the game tomorrow Rob Green will be in goal and Steven Gerrard will start as captain”
Egil Olsen: “What I care about is that we perform well. If we put in a good performance, but still lose I will not be so very sorry for that. We meet a team with players who are a little better than ours - I grew up with English football. Everyone had an English team. It was my childhood.”
Andy Carroll is set to lead the line with Ashley Young and Theo Walcott either side of him. Not the most prolific of attacking line-ups by any means - so the pessimistic nationalists among you might well fancy England not to score is at 3.50. At the very least look at plumping for a speculative 'no' on England scoring in both halves at a penny-pinching, but fair, 1.22.
With a new system to take on board and a lack of familiarity with one another, I can see England struggling here. Norway, meanwhile, have nothing to lose and a bright young attacking line-up ready to pile on the pressure. All in all, I'm going for the draw at an appetising 3.25.
There's no doubt we'll see players keen to impress from the outset. But also consider the likely mass of subs late on, and with match fitness on the blunt side after a two-week break, expect a frantic first half and a nondescript second. So, back a goal in the first half hour at 1.95 and also over 1.5 first half goals at 2.95.