FootballInternational FootballNations League

England v Hungary betting tips: The Three Lions are tired and predictable, but it’s time for one last push

June 14, 2022

England are now halfway through their Nations League campaign and have yet to post a win. Against Hungary they were insipid and decidedly ‘leggy’. Against Germany they were better, but still had flaws and failings for all to see. Against Italy, a reconfigured Three Lions team rendered formulaic by circumstances were predictably predictable.

Those circumstances are impossible to ignore and should absolutely be factored into any criticism of England’s recent outings. The starting eleven for their opening task in Budapest for example had already played a combined 38,933 minutes of club football in 2021/22, with international ‘breaks’ squeezed into every opportunity for a breather. They were shattered and it showed, devoid of ideas and merely going through the motions and indeed, this has been evidenced all across Europe this past fortnight, with players turning to muscle memory in lieu of inspiration.

Whatever your thoughts on the Nations League as a concept, the timing of these games and condensing four of them into ten days is the equivalent of demanding a burst of push-ups straight after a marathon.

Still, Gareth Southgate’s men have not scored from open play now for three games, a shortcoming that would barely qualify as a crisis at club level but at international level takes us back to a Tyrone Mings header in March. At the back meanwhile, we’re witnessing glitches and uncertainty that are anomalous with a defence that had kept 16 clean sheets in 20 prior to this month.

Don’t bet on England keeping a shut-out tonight v Hungary. The Magyars have scored against Germany, Italy and, yes, England in the past fortnight so back BTTS at 7/5

Staying with their problems up front – if ‘problems’ isn’t too strong a term for a side that averaged 3.9 goals-per-game throughout their World Cup qualifying campaign – the prominent narrative in the media at present is that England are too reliant on Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling for their goals and in truth, this has long been the case, but during the good times this is understandably overlooked. With a World Cup on the horizon however, the narrow scope of England’s attacking threat is becoming an increasing concern, one that became ever more acute when chances went begging against Italy last Saturday in Kane’s absence.

Mason Mount has only four goals in 30 at international level and that isn’t good enough. Admittedly, Bukayo Saka chips in with the odd strike but Jack Grealish and Jude Bellingham do not. Jadon Sancho and Marcus Rashford meanwhile have fallen off the radar. As for Phil Foden, he may rightfully represent a bright future, but his goal-scoring ratio is exactly twice as good for Manchester City than for his country.

There are of course exceptions, but when looking back on England’s goal-haul in recent times the vast majority fall into three categories, the first and most prominent being Kane and/or Sterling coming to the fore. Then there’s the understudy strikers, who impress in their auditions before fading back to the periphery of the squad. Tammy Abraham, Ollie Watkins, and Dominic Calvert-Lewin are chief among these.

Last up, are the defenders, typically converting from set-pieces. Six of England’s last 22 goals have been sourced from their rear-guard.

Is this enough attacking variety to go deep in Qatar? The last World Cup winners France boasted eight different scorers in 2018, spread out throughout their side.

Go for over 3.5 shots for Kane this evening at 7/10

That however is a concern for another day, because right now England have far more pressing problems at hand, namely the very real possibility of finishing bottom of their Nations League group and suffering the ignominy of relegation.

Defeat to Hungary at Molineux this evening will leave England five points adrift of the Magyars with Italy and Germany both advanced of them too and this would bleed into a September double-header against old foes, starting with a formidable trip to the San Siro, where results will be needed or else face the ramifications of dropping into Group B. And if the Nations League holds little appeal now, wait until England are pitting their wits in Albania, Slovenia and Finland.

If nothing else, it would be one hell of a comedown for a side that reached a Euro final last year before smashing an – admittedly straightforward – World Cup qualifying campaign.

England’s supporting cast up front therefore really need to step up tonight, because even if Kane gives the strong impression he can carry this team on his own, scoring a remarkable 16 in his last 12 starts, by depending on his prolificacy it only makes Southgate’s side one-dimensional, if not predictable.

Over 2.5 offsides for England is well-priced at 8/5

As important is to not under-estimate their opponents who have already revealed they have England’s number, drawing at Wembley last October, then beating them in a farcically half-filled Puskas Arena a week last Saturday. Both performances highlighted the outstanding work that coach Marco Rossi has done, forging an organised collective of genuine substance from players who individually are at Championship level and these two impressive results were not outliers either. Hungary have lost only three of their last 10, conceding just eight goals along the way and included in that number is an impressive victory in Poland and holding Germany just last week.

Regarding their main threats, forward Adam Szalai is experiencing his joint-worst drought for his country since 2015. Could he be due one? The slightly better odds on Roland Sallai notching is preferred, the player who slotted home a pen at England’s expense last autumn.

The Freiburg winger is 15/1 to be the first goal-scorer

Don’t rule out either the possibility of an early shock to England’s system. On seven occasions in Hungary’s last 13 games they have scored inside 25 minutes and all told they are not shy in coming forward. In their three Nations League encounters to date they have averaged 5.6 shots on target. This exceeds England’s average.

Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions are battle-weary right now and it is questionable how much they have left in the tank. One big last push is needed here though, and it should not be under-appreciated for a moment how much it is needed when the big picture is viewed.

Back Draw/England at a very reasonable 3/1