Can England keep a half-full Wembley entertained?
It doesn’t seem like 73 days since England were knocked out of the World Cup. Emotions are still raw over what was a pretty pitiful two weeks in Brazil with Roy Hodgson’s side managing just one point from three games – subsequent results showed that they were hardly taking on the world’s elite.
The manager remains but captain Steven Gerrard has decided enough is enough and Frank Lampard has also thrown in the international towel.
So a new era dawns with Wayne Rooney assuming the armband for the upcoming Euro 2016 qualifiers and this week’s warm-up game against Norway at Wembley. If expectations were low in the World Cup, they’ve more or less dropped through the bottom of the graph over prospects in France in two year’s time.
Rooney’s appointment wasn’t universally popular. He’s had a love-hate relationship with England fans down the years and many feel he might not be the ideal role model for younger team-mates.
That said, the striker is also captain at his club nowadays but it’s a very long time since he showed his best form for his country and he will lead a squad that’s painfully short of meaningful competition experience.
You could also say that it lacks proven quality and injuries haven’t helped the manager. A dozen senior players are already unavailable to Hodgson and Gary Cahill and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain were among those who suffered knocks at the weekend.
Cahill was one of the few England players to emerge with any credit in Brazil and he’s the cornerstone of the defence. He may not be risked against the Norwegians in a match that’s turned into an obstacle rather than a benefit for a stretched squad.
Per-Mathias Høgmo’s Norway team is also a work in progress. They haven’t managed a win in any of their last five matches but that record is no worse than England’s.
Former Blackburn winger Morten Gamst Pedersen is the most experienced player in their new-look squad but four of those likely to be on duty at Wembley play in either England or Scotland, including Norwich’s Alex Tettey.
There’s only been one goal between the two countries in their last three meetings and a small crowd may not have much to keep them warm in this one. A match total of one goal is 4/1 with England 9/2 to win 1-0 on the correct score.
The match kicks off at 8.00pm on Wednesday, September 3rd at Wembley.