Pickford odds-on for England World Cup start

Jordan Pickford enhanced his claims to be England’s number one for the World Cup in Russia with a clean sheet against Holland on Friday and the Everton goalkeeper is 10-11 with Sky Bet to start against Tunisia in the Three Lions’ opening Group G game.

The 1-0 victory over the Dutch in Amsterdam extended England’s run of clean sheets to five matches and they are 7-5 with Betfair to shut out Italy in Tuesday’s friendly at Wembley.

Gareth Southgate’s men are 9-4 to win to nil against the Azzurri, who lost 2-0 to Argentina in Friday’s friendly meeting at Old Trafford.

Southgate has confirmed that Jack Butland will start against Italy and the Stoke keeper is 15-8 with Sky Bet to get the nod in England’s opening game of the World Cup.

75-cap Joe Hart is a 7-2 shot while Burnley’s Nick Pope, who is also in the squad for the Holland and Italy friendlies, is 10-1.

Butland started October’s 1-0 win in Lithuania – the final game of England’s World Cup qualifying campaign – while Pickford kept out world champions Germany in a November friendly and Hart was recalled for the stalemate with Brazil four days later.

Pickford, signed by Everton from Sunderland last summer, had been 3-1 to start the Tunisia match at the beginning of 2018 but he has clearly impressed his national manager.

Asked about the keeper’s performance against Holland, Southgate said: “He played excellently. We saw all the attributes he has, he was tidy with his feet and good with decision-making.”

Manchester United’s Jesse Lingard, who scored England’s winner against Holland, is 1-8 to make the World Cup squad but 7-2 with Sky Bet to start the opening game.

England are 18-1 to win the World Cup and 5-4 to top Group G, with Belgium 5-6 favourites for the section. They are 23-20 for victory over 13-5 Italy on Tuesday night.

QPR youngster Paul Smyth scored the winner on his Northern Ireland debut as Michael O’Neill’s men beat well-backed South Korea 2-1 on Saturday.

There were Friday friendly defeats for Ireland – who lost 1-0 in Turkey – and Scotland, beaten 1-0 at home by Costa Rica in the first game of Alex McLeish’s second spell in charge.

Wales are looking forward to the China Cup final against Uruguay which kicks off at 12.35pm on Monday.

Ryan Giggs’s side, who beat China 6-0 on Thursday, are 5-2 to win in 90 minutes while Uruguay, with Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani likely to feature up front, are 11-10 favourites.

Match in Focus

13:00 TODAY BBC1

Belgium v Tunisia

Home Win Draw Away Win
Key stats
  • Belgium have kept clean sheets in six of their last eight fixtures
Expert verdict
Belgium cruised to an easy win over Panama in their World Cup opener and could be just as comfortable against Tunisia in Moscow. The Belgians took a while to get going against Panama but should be better for the experience and face very little threat from the defensive-minded Tunisians.

 

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