The Battle of Britain: Can England Maintain Their Edge Over the Auld Enemy
November 08, 2016
When the qualifying groups were first announced for Russian World Cup in 2018, all eyes were instantly drawn to the so-called ‘Battle of Britain’ between England and Scotland. After months of speculation and three initial qualifiers, the Auld enemies are finally set to do battle on November 11th, before meeting in a summer return on June 10th at Hampden Park.
A Must-win for Scotland, and a Must-not Lose for England
The first game will take on special significance in many ways, however, not least because it is the first clash between the two since England’s 3-1 friendly win against the Scots at Celtic Park in November, 2014. It is also the first competitive clash in nearly 17 years, after Scotland a heroic display that saw them win 1-0 at Wembley and narrowly miss out on a place at Euro 2000.
This match is also one that Scotland need to win, as they currently languish in fourth place in the qualification group. Despite starting their campaign with a superb 5-1 win in Malta, the Scots were held at home by Lithuania in a 1-1 draw before suffering a disastrous, 3-0 defeat in Slovakia just three days later. This puts them three points behind England in pursuit of the sole, automatic qualification place, meaning that defeat could leave them adrift with almost half of their matches played.
Of course, it is not all doom and gloom for the Scots. A win would draw them level with their bitter rivals, and they are set to face an England side that remains gripped by anxiety and uncertainty. Under Gareth Southgate’s interim leadership, the Three Lions looked unconvincing throughout during their recent, 0-0 draw with Slovenia, as their hosts pressed them aggressively and created by far the better chances. A repeat performance for England could cost them dear, particularly with Scotland determined to win and empowered in the role of the underdog.
This makes it a game that England dare not lose, suggesting that a draw may be a result that Southgate and his team would inwardly consider as positive one.
Why England are Favourites, but Only Just
When you consider the state of play in the qualification group and the superior individuals that exist within England’s squad, the Three Lions are clearly the favourites to prosper at Wembley. In fact, you can back England to beat Scotland at 1/2 at present, and this is unlikely to change in the next two weeks or so. Don’t forget, England also hold a slight edge in the historical head-to-head, winning 47 games to the Scots 41 (with a total of 24 draws).
The question that remains is whether Scotland, driven by the need to win, are capable of bridging the gap in quality with drive, determination and team-work. If they can press aggressively in a similar manner to Slovenia and further damage England’s relatively low levels of confidence, they will have an opportunity to negate recent history and rejoin the qualification race for Russia 2018.
If not, England will take another sizeable step towards the main event in 18 months time.