No more penalty pain for Psycho
Stuart "Psycho" Pearce leads his England U21 team into battle against the hosts Sweden in the first European Under-21 Championships semi-final in Gothenburg.
Two years ago Pearce's side agonisingly were defeated in a marathon penalty shoot-out by 13-12 against the Netherlands. It was the latest in a number of high profile penalty heartaches for the former England left back.
Pearce famously missed his penalty against West Germany in Italia '90 before redeeming himself six years later in Euro '96 by scoring in the shoot-out against Spain before the inevitable occurred in the semi-finals against Germany with England losing on penalties.
In the build-up to the tournament Pearce stated that his players had been practicing penalties in training but in Gothenburg there shouldn't be a need for such an eventuality.
Sweden may have home advantage but England have the biggest advantage of them all superior talent. That is why the Three Lions are 21/20 favourites to win the semi in 90 minutes, 4/7 to qualify for the final and current 13/8 jollies to win the tournament.
England sailed through the group stage collecting seven points from their three matches. They won their opening match against Finland despite being down to 10 men for over an hour, then beat Spain 2-0, before drawing 1-1 with Germany with a second-string side.
Sweden on the other hand thrashed Belarus 5-1, then lost 2-1 to Italy before sealing their place in the semis with a 3-1 win over Serbia in their last group match.
The hosts can be backed at 11/5 to win within 90 minutes (the draw is 21/10), 5/4 to qualify for the final and are 7/2 to win the tournament.
There is no doubt that the Swedes are good going forward and in Marcus Berg they have the tournament's top scorer with five goals but England are relatively solid at the back and have an array of players that ply their trade in the best league of the world, the Premier League.
Berg is a 7/4 shot to add to his five goals and this looks like a bit of a value. The striker is already a full international plus he has become the first player to score five goals in an U21s finals.
Despite England's impressive results in the group stages the young lions are yet to perform at their peak and if Gabriel Agbonlahor and Theo Walcott find their top form then the pacy duo could cause havoc among the Swedish defence. While Mark Noble looks a good price at 12/1 to open the scoring.
If England are firing on all cylinders then it is a must to back the over 2 goals at 10/11. The correct score tip would be a 3-1 win for England at a cracking price of 20/1.
The faith in England may be patriotic punting but the calibre of players at Stuart Pearce's disposable should ensure that the manager does not have to endure penalties once again and a place in the final beckons, besides when are an England national team ever favourites for any football tournament?