England World Cup Specials: Kane too short to be team top scorer

Gareth Southgate prepares for World Cup 2018
Can Gareth Southgate bring the best out of Harry Kane in an England shirt?
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There are many ways to turn a profit at the World Cup, so we asked Jamie Pacheco to look for the best bets from Betfair's England Specials markets...

"He’s a far better player now after two years under Pep Guardiola than the speedy headless chicken who made his debut way back in 2012.
Sterling has improved in terms of movement, decision-making and finishing. After all, he did score 23 goals in all competitions last season."

England's outright price not one to get excited about

Yeah, it's come to that time in a World Cup year when we have to assess what are the realistic expectations for a side that hasn't made the semi-finals of a major competition in 22 years.

England are [19.0] seventh favourites to go all the way. For once they're not criminally short, but there will be a few punters thinking that if you're going to be dodging the favourites, any one of Portugal (30.0), Uruguay (32.0), Croatia (36.0) or even Poland (85.0) look better options, at the very least as back-to-lays on the Exchange. How well they each play as a team will be the key factor. Recent results at major tournaments suggest these teams offer better value.

Five England points a good bet

The general consensus is England will finish as runners-up to Belgium in Group G. At least a 1st Belgium/2nd England outcome is the 6/5 favourite on the Group G Straight Forecast. It's 15/8 that England win it with Eden Hazard and co finishing as runners-up.

There's a market on how many points England will get in their Group. Tunisia aren't to be under-estimated. They showed plenty of heart and stamina in coming from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 against Portugal in a recent friendly and may just catch England a little cold and hang on for a draw.

England really should beat Panama and, with Belgium their opponents in the last game, both sides may settle for a draw. That chain of events would mean England end up with five points and is probably the pick of the runners in this market at 8/1.

If that were to happen, they'd almost certainly go through and would face one of Senegal, Poland or Colombia in the next round, with Japan unlikely to make it out of Group H. The Three Lions would fancy themselves to beat Senegal but either of the other two would provide a very stiff test. So there could be a few takers of the 15/8 that they're knocked out at the Last 16 stage. It's 21/10 if you think England will go out in the Quarters.

England Top Goalscorer

The best bet from the England specials lies in the England Top Goalscorer market.

It was never going to be anyone other than Harry Kane leading this market, but let's weight up the arguments for and against backing the England captain.

The case for Harry Kane at 7/5

Main striker and captain so certain to start every game, he's finished second, first, first and second in each of the last four Premier League campaigns on the top goalscorer charts.

His five goals in qualifying were three more than Adam Lallana and Daniel Sturridge. That duo aren't even in the squad. Kane will take any penalties and should share free-kick duties with a couple of others.

The case against Harry Kane at 7/5

Two years ago in France the Spurs man went into the tournament as favourite to be England's top goalscorer and, despite Roy Hodgson's men scoring four goals, Kane didn't get any of them. Eric Dier, Jamie Vardy, Daniel Sturridge and Wayne Rooney each scored one and this was despite Kane starting three of the four games.

Yes, he's a better player now than he was two years ago but, playing for England, he never quite looks the player he does for Spurs. Maybe wearing the lilywhite of Tottenham is his comfort zone and the white of England just isn't.

We'll also have to wait and see how he responds to being skipper. It's all well and good having the honour, but it brings extra responsibilities, such as media commitments. Some players rise to the the extra responsibility and become better players for it. David Beckham certainly did. Will Kane?

If not Kane, then who?

If the World Cup involved playing a guaranteed ten matches, or if England were deserved favourites and were expected to make the final and play seven, Kane might be hard to beat despite what's said above.

But they may play just four and, given that only Panama looks an easy match on paper, England might not score many. So two goals could well be enough to win this heat. One player stands out to get them.

Raheem's Sterling's scoring record for England is poor with just two goals from 37 matches. But that has to be taken into context. He's a far better player now after two years under Pep Guardiola than the speedy but slightly headless chicken who made his debut way back in 2012.

He's improved in terms of movement, decision-making and finishing. He scored 23 goals in all competitions last season.

Yes, England are unlikely to carve out as many opportunities for Sterling per game as City do. But he's almost certain to start after a brilliant season for the Premier League champions and has one thing that Kane doesn't and will continue to be arguably the most important asset for a forward in international football: raw pace.

He has to be considered value at 7/1.

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