While a kind draw should see them end their long wait for a knockout stage win, Al Hain-Cole expects the Three Lions to fall to strong opposition
Considering the expectation placed on the team, it seems hard to believe that England have only won six knockout stage matches at major tournaments since their 1966 World Cup triumph – and none since a narrow 1-0 victory over Ecuador in 2006.
Indeed, the Three Lions have only won a single match in seven attempts over the last two World Cups and were embarrassingly knocked out at the group stage in Brazil four years ago.
Having been draw alongside Belgium, Tunisia and rank outsiders Panama this time out, they will surely back themselves to at least avoid a similar fate in Russia.
Group stage woe?
Although the Belgians are narrow favourites for top spot in Group G, Gareth Southgate’s men are expected to at least finish in the top two.
In fact, you can get generous 5/1 (6.00) odds with bet365 on them falling at the first hurdle for the second World Cup in succession this summer.
First place in the group would mean a last 16 clash against the runners-up from Group H, which contains Poland, Colombia, Japan and Senegal. Second place would see them take on the group winners.
With that group looking particularly open and evenly matched, it is hard to predict which of those four will go through and in what order.
Nevertheless, it seems safe to suggest that England would stand a strong chance against any one of them but you can get odds of 11/5 (3.20) available on them exiting the competition at that last 16 stage.
However, progression to the quarter-finals would most likely mean a showdown with either Germany or Brazil, when it would take a brave punter to back Southgate’s inexperienced side to come out on top.
With this in mind, odds of 11/5 (3.20) look like strong value on English dreams ending in heroic quarter-final defeat this summer.
While even that would actually represent progress after a string of disappointing tournaments, brave fans can back their team at 15/2 (8.50) to suffer elimination at the semi-final stage, 20/1 (21.00) to finish as runners-up, or 40/1 (41.00) to actually go all the way and end 52 years of hurt.