England return to action after Euro 2020 heartbreak with a tough tie in Budapest, where Paul Higham expects them to grind out victory...
"Hungary can be resilient and England will always be cautious under Southgate so the Three Lions will have to work for the points but have enough quality."
Hungary v England
Thursday 2 September, 19:45 kick-off
Live on ITV 1
England return after Euro 2020 heartbreak
Just 53 days after suffering penalty shoot-out heartache in the final of Euro 2020, Gareth Southgate's England will look to put that misery behind them and start looking forward to the 2022 World Cup with a qualifying triple-header.
The first of three games takes place in Hungary on Thursday, before a return to Wembley to host Andorra and a trip to Poland. Three wins are expected and three wins will basically have them booking their place in Qatar.
It's just 15 months until the unique winter World Cup kicks off in the Middle East, and if Southgate can shake-off that disappointment there are plenty of positives to build on as the Three Lions look to go one better after near misses in the last two major tournaments.
Patrick Bamford gets his first senior call-up and with Marcus Rashford injured and Dominic Calvert-Lewin pulling out then he'll get to make his debut at some point with Harry Kane unlikely to play three games in a week.
Southgate has his full compliment of four right backs restored with Trent Alexander-Arnold returning to the squad and expect plenty of squad rotation with these three games coming so early in the season.
Three Lions third favourites for World Cup
England are the 8.88/1 third favourites to win the World Cup behind Brazil and France and they should have few problems progressing from this group and maintaining their excellent record of 24 World Cup qualifiers without defeat (W18 D6).
Overall it's just one defeat in 50 qualifying matches if you include the Euros, with 40 wins, and Southgate's side are big 1.4640/85 favourites for victory in Budapest, with the draw priced up at 4.47/2.
Hungary are a huge 9.89/1 to end their 13-game winless run and earn a first victory over England since 1962.
Ranked 37 in the world, Hungary are England's nearest challengers in the standings after comfortable wins against Andorra and San Marino followed an entertaining 3-3 draw with Poland in their opening fixture.
They showed they can mix it with the big boys at Euro 2020 with draws against Germany and France and only losing out to Portugal with late goals inside the final four minutes.
Even if they lose, Hungary usually need to be ground down as they've not been behind at half time in their last 10 matches, whereas England have led at the break in all three qualifiers so far in this campaign.
In-play bettors should note that six of England's last seven away games have finished with the same result as it was at half time, so the result is usually in the bag after 45 minutes.
Sterling and Kane to lead response in Budapest
England won't have it their own way at the Puskas Arena, as Hungary have proven they can be tough nuts to crack but also have goals in them - they've scored in their last 13 competitive home games and were impressive in their Euro 2020 'group of death'.
Their record was two draws and a 3-0 loss to Portugal, but they scored first in a 1-1 with France and led twice in a 2-2 with Germany. They were six minutes from a draw before a late flurry of Portugal goals and also six minutes away from a famous victory over the Germans that would have put them into the knockouts.
If Hungary do score, Adam Szalai will be involved as he's got seven goals and an assist in his last eight World Cup qualifying starts. He's 4.57/2 to bag a goal for the hosts.
Southgate needs to be wary, especially of a fast start from the hosts, so it'll be the usual cautious England with the usual suspects starting the game, namely Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling providing the goal threat alongside either Bukayo Saka or Jadon Sancho.
Jack Grealish will most likely start on the bench.
England captain Kane seemed relatively calm and composed pre-match despite such an eventful summer, and after returning to Spurs action with goals he seems focused on putting a few things right.
Kane's got a fantastic record in qualifiers having scored in his last 12 and notching 22 in 21 appearances - he's only 1.9110/11 to score here but it's still worth taking, and also including in your Bet Builder selections.
Sterling was sensational at the Euros and he's only had limited playing time back at Man City, where his future was also uncertain in the summer. He's spoken about being a happier player with England and at 2.77/4 to score anytime he should prove a popular bet.
The width and the ball control England should enjoy also means that they'll have most of their joy out wide - and as such adding them to win the corner battle at 1.444/9 is also a nice Bet Builder addition.
Ultimately, the way the teams play it's hard to see too many goals, but England have the undoubted quality advantage and if Southgate clears their heads then they'll have enough to make it four wins from four in qualifying.
It will be a tough work out but the road to Qatar 2022 can get fully on track for the Three Lions.
Track England's World Cup chances, according to the Exchange, with our coming home-o-meter...
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