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Most people have to wait until Christmas morning before gleefully unwrapping their presents. Not Gareth Southgate though, he got to open his a whole month early last year when he received a lovely, gift-wrapped four-year contract as England manager c/o The Football Association.
It was exactly what he’d asked Father Christmas for and to be fair, he had been a very good boy. Two wins and two draws in four games as interim boss in 2016 were exactly what the beleaguered Three Lions needed after the debacle that was Euro 2016 and the omnishambles of Sam Allardyce’s one-match reign. England were in disarray and Southgate was the man to restore a timely semblance of national pride.
Wednesday night’s clash with Germany in Dortmund (19:45) however will be the sternest test of the 46-year-old’s bright but brief tenure so far. The world champions are currently third in the FIFA world rankings and, as everyone knows, there’s no such thing as a ‘friendly’ Anglo-German encounter.
That said, England have found Germany a surprisingly happy hunting ground over the years. Their last seven visits have yielded six wins and a draw – the most recent a 3-2 win in Berlin a year ago courtesy of Eric Dier’s injury-time header – and the last time the Three Lions were tamed by the Germans on home soil was in Nuremberg back in 1965.
Die Mannschaft however are still favourites to win at the Westfalenstadion at 3/4 while Southgate’s are 15/4 to do the business. What would be only a fourth draw in the 31st meeting between the old rivals is 11/4.
A rerun of England’s 3-2 triumph 12 months ago is 40/1 while it’s 23/1 on the Germans exacting their revenge by the same scoreline. A repeat of the famous 5-1 victory for Sven-Goran Eriksson’s side in Munich in 2001 is 350/1.
The headline news when the Three Lions squad was announced was the recall of 34-year-old Jermain Defoe and although the Sunderland striker is no spring chicken – and hasn’t scored for the Black Cats in his last four appearances – Southgate wasn’t exactly blessed with an embarrassment of attacking riches.
The loss of Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney forced his hand and it’s worth remembering that of the 46 international goals the current England squad boast between them, 19 belong to the evergreen Defoe.
His last goal for his country came against San Marino four years ago and the striker is the shortest priced English player to net in Dortmund at 14/5. Jamie Vardy is 3/1 to score his sixth international goal – the first coming against Germany in 2016 – while Tottenham’s Dier is 12/1 to get his name on the score sheet again.
There are four uncapped players in the squad and West Ham’s Michail Antonio is the favourite of the quartet to mark his possible debut with a goal at 22/5. Southampton duo Nathan Redmond and James Ward-Prowse are 53/10 and 15/2 respectively while Burnley defender Michael Keane is rated 17/1 to find the back of the net.
Germany boss Joachim Löw named four Premier League players in his squad for Wednesday’s showdown and Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil and Man City youngster Leroy Sané are both 29/10 to score. Liverpool midfielder Emre Can is 6/1 while Arsenal defender Shkodran Mustafi is rated 13/1 to unlock the Three Lions defence.
The German defence has proved remarkably stubborn since Euro 2016 with Löw’s team yet to concede a goal in six fixtures since the finals in France and the home side are 41/20 to beat England and keep yet another clean sheet. Goals from both sides in the 90 minutes in Dortmund is 4/5 while it’s 13/1 for something of a scoring spree and goals from both sides in both halves.