England v Nigeria: Three Lions can edge low-scoring friendly

England boss Gareth Southgate
Gareth Southgate has his defence well drilled
Join today View market

England can grind out a narrow win over Nigeria in Saturday evening's friendly international at Wembley, says Dave Tindall...

"The Three Lions have won by the minimum margin in three of their last six matches and were three minutes away from making it four in six before conceding a late penalty against Italy."

1pt England to win 1-0 at [7.2]

England v Nigeria
Saturday, 17:15
Live on ITV

England set up to be solid

"We're on our way. We are Gareth's 23." Hmmm. It doesn't quite have the same ring to it as England's 1982 World Cup song but, strangely, there could be echoes of that tournament in Russia this time.

That England team came home unbeaten but lack of goals killed them. After ending the group stage with a 2-0 win over Czechoslovakia and scraping past Kuwait 1-0, England had to settle for a pair of 0-0s in the second group phase in operation back then and went out.

While England suffered on that occasion, Greece and Portugal have shown that it's possible to win trophies by keeping it tight and nicking goals at the other end and that's the recipe Gareth Southgate seems to be adopting for England.

Being hard to beat can work very well in tournament football and England have honed that act in a string of recent friendlies against Germany, Brazil, the Netherlands and Italy.

While more attacking intent will be expected against Nigeria, Southgate isn't suddenly going to go all Brazil '82 on us so this could well turn into a rather stodgy affair.

Energetic Nigerians no pushovers

Nigeria will have some familiar faces on show at Wembley on Saturday night with Victor Moses, Alex Iwobi and Kelechi Iheanacho all likely to be involved in advanced positions.

Moses plays much further forward than he does for Chelsea and has 11 goals in 32 internationals while Leicester's Wilfred Ndidi will help shield the back four.

Iheanacho and Kane actually shared three goals on this same Wembley pitch when they came up against each other in club colours on the final day of the season but let's just say that a 5-4 scoreline isn't very likely this time.

Nigeria are a young side with good energy and certainly have surprise-package potential in Russia even though they've been given a contender for this year's Group of Death after drawing Argentina, Croatia and Iceland.

The Super Eagles actually beat Argentina 4-2 in a friendly at the back end of last year but recent warm-ups against Poland (1-0), Serbia (0-2) and DR Congo (1-1) have been much less wide open.

They certainly won't be pushovers.

England favourites

Backing England at less than 1/2 in situations like these doesn't seem the smartest idea. They're [1.45] for the win, while Nigeria are [10] and The Draw [4.5].

In their only two past meetings, a David Platt winner helped England to a 1-0 win in a friendly, also at Wembley, in 1994 (crowd of just 37,196!) while they played out a 0-0 draw in the 2002 World Cup in humid conditions in Osaka, Japan.

England only had to avoid defeat in that match to go through so were happy to take the stalemate while Nigeria were already out.

Overs looks tempting

It's very, very easy to see why Under 2.5 goals is odds-on at [1.78] compared to the [2.1] For Overs.

Unders has landed in England's last six games although a counter-argument would be that they've been particularly on guard against heavyweights Brazil and Germany and also given respect to the Netherlands and Italy.

However, there's the usual and valid reasoning that neither side will want to bust a gut or risk injury with a World Cup around the corner and substitutions will disrupt both sides' rhythm.

The most compelling argument is that England just don't score that many goals under Southgate - 18 in their qualifying campaign this time compared to 31 for both Euro 2016 and World Cup 2014.

Nigeria are solid enough, conceding four in their six African qualifiers, and Unders has landed in each of their friendlies against Poland, Serbia and Congo DR since March.

This looks one of those occasions when the obvious, first thought - lack of goals - is the right one.

I'll back Unders at [1.78].

One-nil to the En-ger-lund

If England do win this, it's hard to see it being by much from all the recent clues we've seen so the 1-0 seems very much a live runner at [7.2].

The Three Lions have won by the minimum margin in three of their last six matches and were three minutes away from making it four in six before conceding a late penalty against Italy.

If England do lead late, will either side be really busting a gut?

Stats support Kane

Harry Kane is the obvious favourite for first goal but it's well worth noting that he's scored the opener in four of his last five England internationals. With [3.3] on offer for Kane netting first, it's an obvious bet to have.

It could also pay to combine the correct score punt so let's head to the Sportsbook's Scorecast market and back Kane to score first in a 1-0 win at 7/1.

No-one else on the England side stands out in any scorer market but Victor Moses looks interesting at [21] for the Super Eagles.

As noted above, he's averaged better than one in three for his country and fired home the opener in the recent 1-0 win over Poland.

Ref watch

Italian Marco Guida gets the Wembley gig. As a good omen for the 1-0, he was in charge when England beat Portugal by that scoreline in 2016, showing a red card to Bruno Alves.

Dave Tindall's P/L, 2017/18

Staked: 127.00pts
Returned: 88.93pts
P/L: -38.07pts

Join today View market

Discover the latest articles

Read past articles