England continue their preparations for the European Championship in France against Asian champions Australia on Friday night (7.45pm on ITV1). Here is our match preview of this international friendly match.
A 2-1 victory over Turkey at the Etihad Stadium last Sunday ensured England got their pre-tournament round of friendlies off to a good start, with Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy both getting their names on the scoresheet and impressing with their all-round performances.
The Three Lions’ overall display was positive in some senses and less so in others. While Roy Hodgson’s men were, at times, excellent going forward in an attacking sense, they were often rather defensively shaky at the other end of the pitch. Vulnerability at the back is England’s principal concern ahead of Euro 2016, and it will be interesting to see if Hodgson makes any major changes to his side’s defensive setup against Australia in an attempt to bring about an increase in solidity.
Australia boss Ange Postecoglou is using this friendly and the upcoming encounter with Greece to try out some of the younger players at his disposal, with Australia’s next competitive fixtures not taking place until the start of September in what is the final round of Asian qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
There are no Asian-based players in Postecoglou’s group, with clubs on the continent retaining their international stars for domestic games given that Friday’s match does not fall within a FIFA window, which means the likes of Tim Cahill, Apostolos Giannoi and Trent Sainsbury are unavailable for selection. Bournemouth’s Adam Fedirici, Preston North End’s Bailey Wright, Crystal Palace captain Mile Jedinak, Brad Smith of Liverpool and Queens Park Rangers midfielder Massimo Luongo could all be involved, however, as could Valencia’s Matt Ryan, Bayer Leverkusen striker Max Kruse and Celtic’s Tom Rogic.
Vardy is set to get married this weekend so will miss the encounter at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light, which could see Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge or Marcus Rashford join Kane up front. There is a chance that Manchester United man Rashford will miss out through injury after limping out of his club side’s 2-1 extra-time win over Crystal Palace in the final of the FA Cup at Wembley last Saturday.
Jack Wilshere (pictured) is likely to be handed another start as the Arsenal midfielder attempts to increase his fitness levels after missing most of the domestic season. The likes of Ryan Bertrand, Ross Barkley, Andros Townsend, Nathaniel Clyne, Adam Lallana, James Milner Chris Smalling and Fabian Delph – who did not get any playing time in the clash with Turkey – will all be desperate to prove their worth before Hodgson finalises the 23-man squad that will go with him across the English Channel to France next month.
It is difficult to look past a comfortable England victory on Friday night. This is likely to be a more straightforward game than last weekend’s meeting with a Turkey outfit, who were also preparing for the 2016 European Championship. The fact that Australia will be without key players, have no tournament in the coming weeks to get ready for and have named an experimental and new-look squad means that a repeat of their famous 3-1 victory at the Boleyn Ground in 2003 is unlikely.
The odds for a 4-1 England win therefore look tempting, as do the prices available on both teams to find the back of the net, which is a bet that is certainly worth backing giving England’s defensive troubles and the probability that Hodgson will rotate his team to hand as many players as much meaningful game time as possible. In terms of potential scorers, meanwhile, Sturridge could be a solid choice seeing as he has a fine record in front of goal since moving to Liverpool in 2013.