Can England Finally Grab The Brass Ring?

England 2022 World Cup

Progress is not always linear, but England is hoping that will be the case for the World Cup in Qatar.

The Three Lions are still on the prowl for their first international title since their lone World Cup victory as hosts in 1966. They came of age in Russia four years ago, reaching the semifinals before losing after extra time to Croatia. Hosting the European Championship final against Italy last year, an early goal by Luke Shaw had the nation hoping it was finally “coming home,” only to have the guile-filled Azzurri find a second-half equalizer before consigning England to its cruelest fate — defeat by penalty kicks.

Soccer fans talk wistfully about a country’s “golden generation” when it comes to the World Cup and, indeed, this group could be one for England. Gareth Southgate’s side has the talent and depth to lift the Jules Rimet trophy and end 56 years of hurt, and the Three Lions are arguably the second-best team in Europe after reigning champion France.

But the best-assembled talent a country has in a generation does not always guarantee success. England needs look no further than Belgium, which is returning to the World Cup with such a roster, fighting against time with its heroes having achieved a high-water mark of a third-place finish in Russia bracketed by quarterfinal Euro exits.

The continued popularity of the English Premier League in the United States means England’s full 26-man roster is almost as well-known to American soccer fans as are the Yanks, and the Group B clash between the sides on Nov. 25 — Black Friday — will arguably be the biggest sports wagering draw of the entire group stage and perhaps the tournament, given how much could be at stake for both. Oddsmakers will spend the run-up to England’s opener against Iran on Nov. 21 fine-tuning their offers for a Three Lions side tipped for a deep run.

It all starts with Harry Kane leading the line

Harry Kane heads in one of his six goals to win the Golden Boot 👟

(via @FIFAWorldCup)

— B/R Football (@brfootball) November 9, 2022

England’s World Cup hopes, rightly or wrongly, fall on the shoulders of talisman and Tottenham Hotspur striker Harry Kane. The Three Lions captain claimed Golden Boot honors in Russia with six goals, joining Geoff Hurst and Gary Lineker as the only players from England to record a hat trick at the World Cup and accompanying Lineker as the only Golden Boot winners in the country’s storied history.

The 29-year-old has gotten off to a blazing start in the Premier League with 11 goals in 14 matches — good for second in the top flight — but it has barely registered beyond England’s shores because Erling Haaland has been terrorizing defenses for Manchester City and has 18 in 12. At the international level, though, Kane is equal parts smooth and consistent.

He maintained his prolific scoring post-World Cup, netting three goals at Euro 2020 and bagging another seven during World Cup qualifying. Kane has 51 goals in 75 international appearances, two behind Wayne Rooney for the most in Three Lions history.

It is no coincidence that oddsmakers have shortlisted Kane for top goal-scorer and Golden Boot honors. The best value to get him in the former category is +900 on the Kambi platform powering Barstool Sportsbook and BetRivers, which is substantially better than the most common offering of +700 at multiple locations. There is a tighter band in the Golden Boot markets, though Kambi and Caesars Sportsbook lead the way there at +800.

The Spurs striker is also a prohibitive favorite to lead England in scoring, with the shortest offering in that market belonging to PointsBet at -150, followed by FanDuel at -160. FanDuel also has an interesting prop offering of -116 for Kane to score on at least one header during the World Cup. Kane did score once via header in 2018, but his aerial prowess has picked up for Spurs, as five of his 11 goals have come off his noggin.

Those wanting to pair Kane in combo plays also have options. The double of Kane winning the Golden Boot and England winning the World Cup is a +2600 option at FanDuel and +2500 most other places. FanDuel also is letting bettors pair Kane and Raheem Sterling to score five goals during the tournament at -118 odds or Kane and Manchester City’s Phil Foden at -108. Another listing is to combine the trio for seven goals, also at -108.

There are markets beyond Kane

Every James Maddison goal or assist in 22/23 so far

— ⁿ³³ (@tisdillon) November 7, 2022

The closest thing England has to a pure playmaking “10” in the midfield is Leicester City’s James Maddison, but Manchester City’s Jack Grealish is also capable of directing the national team’s offense and taking defenders off the dribble. Whoever provides service in the final third will not lack for quality choices, as Kane will again be joined by Sterling, fellow 2018 holdover Marcus Rashford from Manchester United, and World Cup debutants Foden and Callum Wilson from Newcastle United.

The 22-year-old Foden, winner of the Golden Ball at the 2017 U-17 World Cup, could be a sleeper pick for those looking beyond Kane in all these markets. Foden is a +1400 pick at FanDuel to lead England in scoring and a -118 option to score more than two goals while in Qatar. Sterling, whose industry is as notable as his lack of finishing at times, is -152 to notch at least two goals and a +850 pick to lead England atop the goal list.

All that attacking talent has some books offering over/under markets for goals scored during the tournament. DraftKings is offering a -110/-125 split for 8.5 goals, while FanDuel has a sliding scale for overs, starting with -152 for 8.5, -106 for 9.5, and +136 for 10.5.

On the other side of the pitch, Jordan Pickford is among a second tier of goalkeepers up for the Golden Glove. The best play on that offering is +1400 at FanDuel, with DraftKings a distant second at +1000. England’s defense, though, may be more creaky compared to 2018. Centerback Harry Maguire — also a force offensively on corner kicks — has seen limited playing time at Manchester United, opening the door for Wolverhampton’s Conor Coady or Man City’s John Stones to anchor the expected three-man backline.

Southgate was forced to omit wide backs Ben Chilwell and Reece James due to injury, and 2018 standout Kyle Walker is racing to get match fit to serve as right back after undergoing groin surgery. Kieran Trippier could be slotted into that spot if Walker is unable to play at the outset.

Looking at England in the marketplace

3rd World Cup with the Three Lions 🦁 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿

— Raheem Sterling (@sterling7) November 10, 2022

The best price for England to win the World Cup is +850 at DraftKings, with BetMGM, PointsBet, and FanDuel all lurking at +800. BetRivers has a +950 Win/Place offering that pays out if the Three Lions make the finals. Interestingly, the highest-priced individual offering comes from PointsBet: The Aussie-based book is offering +900 for England to finish  as runner-up.

For those picking how far England will advance, DraftKings has the best finals (+400) and semifinals (+190) offerings, while Caesars (-175) is tops for progressing to the quarterfinals. If picking when the Three Lions get sent packing, PointsBet’s aforementioned +900 is tops for runners-up, with FanDuel lurking at +850.

PointsBet offers the best plays at each stage of elimination: +550 in the semis, +250 in the quarters, and +275 in the round of 16. FanDuel is closest for a quarterfinal exit at +240, and WynnBET is matching the +275 price for the round of 16 exit. For those with a wicked sense of humor, BetMGM is offering a +350/-650 play on England being eliminated via penalty kicks.

The Three Lions are an overwhelming favorite to win Group B, which also features the U.S., Iran, and Wales. The shortest odds on winning the group is -250 at FanDuel, followed by -275 at Hard Rock. BetMGM is offering a yes/no option of -3000/+800 to advance out of the group stage, but WynnBet has the best overall price of +1000 for a group stage elimination offering.

FanDuel and BetMGM are offering picks for group stage point totals, with BetMGM the better play across the board. It is offering +400 for six points and +225 for both seven and nine. The spread between BetMGM and FanDuel is the largest on seven points, while FanDuel has +380 for six and +220 for nine.

In looking at individual matches, England is favored in all three group contests where books have lines established. Hard Rock and BetMGM are both offering -300 as the shortest odds in the group opener versus Iran, while England can be grabbed at -150 at WynnBET and -155 most other places to beat the U.S. and atone for its shocking 1-1 draw during group play in 2010. For the Three Lions’ grudge match against Wales, WynnBET is again the best play at -165, though the most common offering of -175 is decent value.

In terms of picking teams to advance out of Group B, the best straight offer for a 1-2 England-U.S. or England-Wales finish is +220 at FanDuel, though England-Wales can be had for +200 at DraftKings and BetMGM. In a dual forecast, FanDuel also has the best England-U.S. listing at +135, while BetMGM (+140) edges out Caesars (+138) for top England-Wales option.

Photo by Tim Groothuis/USA TODAY

Author: Ryan Gonzales