Kazakhstan v England, World Cup qualifier, June 6, 2009
The Three Lions will play their first ever match in Kazakhstan on Saturday afternoon and the likely three points will mean Fabio Capelloâ€™s side can almost start to prepare for the main event next summer in South Africa.
With a game against Andorra next Wednesday, the star-studded England side could need just three points for guaranteed qualification after they surely bang in the goals against two minnows of world football.
With the long journey to Kazakhstan negotiated, most are expecting a repeat of the 5-1 scoreline England recorded last year in a game where all the goals came in the second half. (England are 28/1 to win 5-1.)
In a week where the build-up to this match has been distinctly low key, the transfer of Gareth Barry to Manchester City has taken center stage. The former Aston Villa captain was involved in a â€œtraining ground bust-upâ€ with ex-team mate Gary Cahill yesterday, which if anything proves that there is a motivation within this England squad to get things done despite the fact most of the players will be preparing for the sun loungers and exotic resorts in the coming weeks. (Barry is 6/1 to score.)
Despite worries over the pitch, this should be a cake-walk for England who will be eager to put on a show for the Kazakh fans who (as ever these days) are big fans of Premier League football.
Following his comments yesterday about his preferred striking position, Wayne Rooney (11/4 to score 2 or more) must be likely to get on the scoresheet. Whilst both Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard were in imperious form at the end of the season and can both be expected to grab some goals.
The other point of interest for Don Fabio will be the performance of Rob Green in goal, the West Ham keeper will make his first start for England and his first in a competitive match. The former England â€œnumber 6â€ should have an easy time of things against the team ranked 132nd in world football by FIFA. (England are 8/13 to keep a clean sheet.)
Kazakhstan appear to be the ultimate cannon fodder with their connection to Borat perhaps the only exciting connection in the build-up to this World Cup qualifier. After the 5-1 defeat to England, they followed up by losing by exactly the same scoreline to Belarus.
For what itâ€™s worth, they are without captain Ruslan Baltiyev and Andrei Karpovich will lead the side. Gerrard, Lampard Rooney et al, will also be buoyed by the fact that veteran keeper David Loria and Kazakh Premier League top goal scorer Murat Tleshev will both miss the game. (Kazakhstan are 16/1 to win and 11/2 to secure a draw.)
101gg predicts: Kazakhstan 0 – England 4 (9/1)