Euro 2024

Serbia v England: Three Lions and an Eagle to back, including a 17/2 shot

Trent Alexander-Arnold, Liverpool
Trent exaggerates the size of fish he's caught

Ste Tudor assesses England's Euro opener, focusing on four players expected to make the difference...

England Superboost

The two main men who can propel England to glory this summer are captain Harry Kane and wonderkid Jude Bellingham. They will be at the forefront for the Three Lions.

We know this, and so do the opposition, who will be looking to stop them both by any means necessary.

has been fouled 24 times in his last 20 England starts, and multiple times eight of his last 13 as he drops deep to pick up the ball and make things happen. His numbers heightened during the last major tournament too, winning nine fouls in just five games in Qatar.

Bellingham, meanwhile, averages 2.09 fouls won per 90 for England, and has been fouled 4+ times in each of his last three caps, and 20 times in just seven recent games.

Together, they have been fouled a combined 55 times in their last 15 England games!

Months of escalating hype, hope and excitement leads us to Gelsenkirchen this Sunday night as England launch their Euro 2024 bid, coming up against a Serbian side who are a study in unpredictability.

The Eagles have recently thrashed Sweden but have come unstuck several times over this past calendar year, their defence an Achilles Heel. Up front though they're capable of just about anything.

The three Lions highlighted below have the ways and means to justify England's 2/51.40 odds to secure three precious early points in Group C. Just beware because the opening mile of their journey this summer could well be a bumpy one.

Corner king

All the leaks and rumours suggest that Trent Alexander-Arnold will start alongside Declan Rice on Sunday evening, with Gareth Southgate valuing the Liverpool man's passing range over Conor Gallagher's industry.

A notable five key passes against Bosnia, along with seven long balls finding their target, will have surely swayed the England gaffer in this regard, even if it does feel like a plan long in the pipeline.

If the 25-year-old does indeed feature that puts him on corner duty down the right and corners may well play a part in this clash, one that is expected to be tight and tense in the first half, as the teams feel their way into the tournament.

It's perhaps pertinent that vs Bosnia the deadlock was eventually broken courtesy of a Trent out-swinger, his delivery resulting in a pen after VAR spotted a shirt-pull. Late in the contest, the full-back-by-trade then concluded matters with a neat volley.

In their last six outings, England have averaged 7.1 corners per 90. In their last six, Serbia have averaged 4.1.

Jude the Ob-score

The advancing of Jude Bellingham into a midfielder/striker hybrid for both Real Madrid and England has elevated his stats from extremely impressive into the realms of the ridiculous.

Last season the future Ballon d'Or winner scored every 122 minutes in La Liga, matching the 19-goal haul of Barcelona's arch-poacher Robert Lewandowski. Yet remarkably only 7.2% of Bellingham's touches came inside the box.

That demonstrates his unerring ability to time his runs but there is also his cool, accurate finishing to consider. In 2023/24 he boasted the second-best shot accuracy in the Spanish top-flight.

For England meanwhile five goal involvements in his last four highlights his greater worth in the final third. Since being pushed further forward as an out-and-out number 10 he has also averaged 3.3 shots per 90 and created 1.9 chances.

A marked man

We are all acutely aware of Harry Kane's goal-threat.

Last term, he broke a long-standing record for goals scored in a debut Bundesliga campaign. For England, he has notched 63 in 91 appearances and goes into the Euros boasting 12 in his last 11 starts for his country. Since really finding his international legs in the summer of 2017 the 30-year-old has converted 30.1% of England's goals.

Kane is 1/12.00 to score anytime on Sunday evening and that's as sensible a bet as you'll find.

Harry Kane.jpg

Yet so often his remarkable finishing detracts from other attributes he has, namely his physicality. Forever a marked man, Kane goes into this weekend's opener prepared to take the hits from a three-man Serbian rearguard, in doing so winning free-kicks in dangerous areas.

In 2023/24 he was fouled 39 times in the Bundesliga. He's been fouled twice or more in three of his last five full outings for England.

The forward gives as good as he gets, incidentally. He fouled twice after coming off the bench vs North Macedonia last November.

Here he comes up against Nikola Milenkovic, who averaged 0.9 fouls per 90 in Serie A last season. The 6ft 5 stopper was booked twice in the group stages at Qatar 22.

Opposition threat

The vast majority of Wembley grimaced every time Iceland broke last Friday. With England's press malfunctioning, and with a defence minus their organizer-in-chief Harry Maguire, the visitors could have easily returned to Scandinavia with an even better win margin. As it was their 63% pass completion rate in the final third let them down.

We can expect much better from Sergej Milinkovic-Savic this weekend, the Serbian playmaker being a careful craftsman with the ball at his feet. In his last five seasons with Lazio the 29-year-old accrued a 83.6% pass completion rate and even when he went long he still surpassed Iceland's tally from closer range in the attacking third.

Seven assists in his last 12 outings for Al-Hilal is testament to his creative endeavours and though the inferior environs of the Saudi league must be accounted for Milinkovic-Savic is also a danger in front of goal. He's bagged two in his last three for the Eagles.

Serbia may be decidedly suspect at the back, but with Mitrovic peeling off at the back post, and a plethora of technicians scheming behind - not least the playmaker they call the 'Sergeant' - they pose a genuine threat.

Serbia have only failed to get on the score-sheet twice in their last 16 fixtures.

Listen to Football...Only Bettor - Euro 2024 Day Three

Now read Opta Predicts on England v Serbia here.

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