England v Norway
Wednesday September 3, 20:00
Live on ITV1
For once England didn't expect - and we didn't get much either.
It's back to the drawing board for Roy Hodgson's men as they turn their attention to Euro 2016 after a depressingly familiar below-par showing at the World Cup that saw them slip to 20th in the FIFA World Rankings. Even the staunchest of England optimists would have had trouble foreseeing a deep run at the finals, though the Three Lions still eventually disappointed after an initial encouraging start in the opener against Italy.
The squad that went to Brazil embodied a youthful identity, but the 22-man group selected this time around is arguably even more experimental following the retirements of stalwarts Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard. Hodgson has included the uncapped quartet of Calum Chambers, Danny Rose, Fabian Delph and Jack Colback, who will all want to make the most of their opportunity.
A tricky assignment in Switzerland awaits England this weekend as they begin their route to France, so a positive result would go down very nicely for the boss. Hodgson remains in the hotseat despite calls to be replaced, and you feel that if there are any complications to come in what is a relatively straight forward group, the 67-year-old will not be afforded the same leniency as before.
The less-than-glamorous opposition comes in the form of Norway, who themselves missed out on World Cup qualification, finishing 4th in their group. Italy await Per Mathias Hogmo's side on Saturday, so the visitors will likely be fielding a strong side in preparation.
Hogmo, appointed in February this year, has spoke this week of a more "proactive" attitude within his outfit, though one win in his first ten games hints at a side clearly in transition.
England have declared a fully fit squad to choose from with the exception of newcomer Jack Colback who has been ruled out due to injury. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Danny Rose and Gary Cahill all picked up knocks over the weekend but should be fit.
You may have seen the name Martin Odegaard pop up on your Twitter feed recently. The 15-year-old is Norway's youngest ever player and is being tracked by the biggest clubs in Europe, though the young starlet is unlikely to feature after playing 90 minutes last week.
England are available at 1.51/2, and it's not hard to see why given their opponents' shortcomings, particularly away from home. Norway's only away victory in the last 18 months came at lowly Moldova, while their last three trips have seen them concede nine goals, scoring just twice.
England's home record stands up well, with the back-to-back losses to Chile and Germany last November the only blot in their copybook. This has all the makings of an unwanted, ill-timed distraction of a friendly and if the Three Lions don't fancy it, the draw could be a touch of value at 4.67/2. England's two World Cup warm-up games ended in draws, while three of Norway's last four have also seen the spoils shared.
Over/Under 2.5 Goals
"We attack the way Manchester City attack, almost in a 2-2-4-2." Hogmo's cocksure soundbite talks a good game, but recent evidence suggests otherwise for the team currently ranked 53rd in the world. They have failed to find the net three times in their last five, and were held by United Arab Emirates last Saturday. That said, it's still each of two in this market, so if you think the Norway boss is a man of his word, the 2.0421/20 about Over 2.5 Goals could look very big in hindsight, though I would be inclined to leave this alone.
Both Teams To Score
Ashley Young's goal gave England a 1-0 win last time these two met back in 2012, and I'm counting on a similar outcome here. (The 1-0 scoreline is available at 7.2). Though England's defensive frailties were painfully exposed in Brazil, Norway may not provide the same rigorous test. No player scored more than twice in a poor qualifying campaign, and one of those was the retired Brede Hangeland - say no more.
There doesn't appear to be a clear focal point of attack, and England can build on an already impressive record at Wembley, where they haven't conceded on home turf since Per Mertesacker's winner in November last year. Of the four friendlies this year, three have resulted in clean sheets for the Three Lions.
For the trend bettors among you, consider that seven of England's last 10 matches have seen at least one team fail to score. In front of what is predicted to be Wembley's lowest ever crowd, at a time when more people are talking about Falcao's wages then Hodgson's formations, we could see a game that meanders along slowly, so here the play is to take the 1.84/5 on one or both teams not to score.
Back 'No' in Both Teams to Score market at 1.84/5 (3pts)
Back The Draw @ 4.67/2 (1pt)
Check out the latest Betfair Sports Update where Joe Dyer joins Brett Williams to discuss England v Norway as well as Andy Murray v Novak Djokovic in the US Open and golf's BMW Championship