England and Australia are set to trade tackles in a rare international meeting between the two sides on Friday.
Australia ran out 3-1 winners in 2003 before Roy Hodgson’s England side settled the score with a 2-1 triumph in 2016, inspired by goals from Marcus Rashford and Wayne Rooney.
Buzzing from an emphatic 3-1 victory over Scotland in a friendly last time out, Gareth Southgate’s side are hot favourites to tilt the H2H scales in their favour at Wembley Stadium.
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While this should be another routine England fixture, at least on paper, the Aussies deserve the benefit of the doubt following their impressive 2022 World Cup exploits.
Graham Arnold’s team defied the odds in Qatar, progressing into the knockout stages for the first time since 2006, only to bow out at the hands of eventual winners Argentina in the round of 16.
However, the Socceroos have underperformed since exiting the tournament, racking up just one win in four international friendlies in 2023 (D1, L2).
They were on the verge of arresting a two-game losing streak with a win against Mexico in September but squandered a two-goal cushion in a morale-crushing 2-2 draw in the United States.
With a mouth-watering Euro 2024 qualifier against Italy waiting in the wings, Southgate will probably experiment with his starting line-up on Friday.
England have already set one foot in next summer’s Euros after winning four consecutive qualifiers before a 1-1 draw against Ukraine in their last Group C outing.
That result remains the only blemish on an otherwise flawless record in 2023 (W5), with the Three Lions netting at least two goals in all five wins since suffering a quarter-final exit in Qatar.
Another free-scoring performance is well on the cards, given that Southgate’s men have bagged multiple goals in their last three home games, averaging four per match.
Australia could be out of their depth in London after their porous backline capitulated precisely twice in four of their last five internationals, including three on the trot in the build-up to this trip.
If it’s any consolation, the Socceroos emerged victorious in their last encounter against European opposition, squeezing past Denmark 1-0 in the 2022 World Cup group stages.
They’ve also won their last two friendlies against European nations, putting six goals past the Czech Republic and Hungary while only conceding one in return.
But all that counts for nothing, considering they’ve gone winless on both international travels in 2023, letting Argentina and Mexico penetrate their backline two times each.
Bukayo Saka won’t be part of the squad after withdrawing from the national team due to injury. But Southgate’s decision to leave West Ham United ace James Ward-Prowse at home is unfathomable.
Several fringe England stars, including AC Milan’s Fikayo Tomori and West Ham’s Jarrod Bowen, could feature against Australia.
Arsenal’s Eddie Nketiah and Chelsea’s Levi Colwill are also in contention for their international debuts.
Middlesbrough goalkeeper Tom Glover is among three Australian players who could play for the national team for the first time, alongside Hibernian’s Lewis Miller and Parma’s Alessandro Circati.
Glover’s club teammate Samuel Silvera could lead the line after registering his first international appearance against Mexico in September.
England potential starting line-up:
(4-3-3): Aaron Ramsdale; Kieran Trippier, Fikayo Tomori, Harry Maguire, Levi Colwill; Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jude Bellingham, Conor Gallagher, Jarrod Bowen, James Maddison, Ollie Watkins.
Australia potential starting line-up:
(4-4-2): Matt Ryan; Aziz Behich, Harry Souttar, Kye Rowles, Cameron Burgess; Jackson Irvine, Keanu Baccus, Connor Metcalfe, Massimo Luongo; Marting Boyle, Samuel Silvera.
We Say: England 3-0 Australia
Given the substantial gulf in quality, even England’s second-string line-up should have a field day at Wembley.
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