England’s 2014 World Cup campaign gets underway on Saturday in Manaus, with a very tough game against Italy

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Danny Welbeck to start the first game for England 5/4 WinnerSports

England v Italy Draw at 2-1 Ladbrokes

Correct scores 0-0, play via No Goalscorer at 6/1 Ladbrokes

Qualification from Group D is likely to be very tight, with closely matched teams in the group. Several factors indicate that this will be a very cagey game indeed

- Its the first of three group games for each team. A draw is a perfectly acceptable result, a defeat makes qualification immediately more difficult
- The game is in Manaus, in the Amazon, a four hour flight from the England Rio base. In sweltering conditions, a slow pace is likely
- The teams know each other well, and tactical innovation is unlikely
- Both managers might regard this as the toughest test of the group, and conservatism is likely

All this suggests that the 2/1 generally offered about the draw is a fair price, and furthermore correct scores of 0-0 and 1-1 stand a favourites chance of coming in.

For England, three warm up games against South and Central American Opposition have given valuable clues about the team line up for the first game. In every game Hodgson has used 4-2-3-1, and in two of the games has used Gerrard and Henderson in front of the back four, Sturridge on his own up front. The remaining uncertainty is the make up of the attacking midfield three, and this is reflected in current prices in the “to start opening world cup match” market. Taking Winner Sports prices for the four contenders to play alongside Rooney in the three:

Lallana 1/4
Welbeck 5/4
Milner 23/20
Sterling 27/20

and there is value here, in Danny Welbeck, who started against Peru and Honduras, and scored four goals in World Cup Qualifying. An odds-on shot at every other bookmaker, the 5/4 is a very attractive price, with the decision for the final place likely to come down to Milner (to shackle Pirlo?) or Sterling (for pace and attacking potential).

For Italy the Italians are expected the have one of the most experienced starting XI’s of any side. Figures like Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Pirlo, Daniele De Rossi and Giorgio Chiellini still make up the core of this side, but youngsters like Marco Veratti and Mattia De Sciglio could be blooded in to give the first XI a revitalized feel.

With the baulk of the Italian squad coming from Juventus and , the players will have a cohesive understanding of how their team mates operate. The starting XI will be full of club partnerships – particularly in defence and midfield – and that familiarity will no doubt serve them well here.

Recommendations

Danny Welbeck to start the first game for England 5/4 WinnerSports

England v Italy Draw at 2-1 Ladbrokes

Correct scores 0-0, play via No Goalscorer at 6/1 Ladbrokes

Please see http://www.betpal.com/fifa-world-cup-2014-betting-and-offers for Betpal’s guide to the World cup and betting offers