Headed into Sunday’s Euro 2012 quarter-final with Italy, England have five players walking a disciplinary tightrope, as they aim to justify 4/5 odds for qualification.
Ashley Cole, Steven Gerrard, James Milner, Ashley Young and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain all collected bookings during the group stage, meaning a yellow card on Sunday would rule them out of a potential semi-final with Germany or Greece.
This isn’t worrying England boss Roy Hodgson though, who has stated that he wants the players, at least four of which are expected to start, to “play their normal game” in Kiev.
Young is the only doubt of the aforementioned players, after collecting a shin injury against Ukraine, but the Manchester United winger is expected to shake off the knock to line up against the Italians.
Oxlade-Chamberlain is likely to remain on the bench for the tie meanwhile, as Hodgson appears primed to start with the same first 11 that triumphed over Ukraine on Tuesday.
He will have added attacking options available however, amidst Jermain Defoe’s return to the squad, after the Tottenham striker had flown home to attend his father’s funeral.
The squad currently remains at its Krakow base, and will do prior to flying to Kiev on Monday, as they did in preparation for their final group game with Ukraine.
That sees the Three Lions squad continuing to train at the Hutnik Stadium, where it is thought penalties are now being regularly practiced ahead of the knockout phase of the competition.
Goalkeeper Joe Hart seems particularly confident should the tie go the distance, telling the Independent, “If worst comes to worst on Sunday and it comes to penalties, I’d like to think I’ve got some kind of advantage.
“I don’t know if I’ll be one of the five penalty-takers, but I’ll definitely put my name forward. But we’ve got some quality players in this squad and if there are five other potentially better than me, I’ll be cool with that.”
Given England’s dismal recent record in major tournament penalty shootouts, Hart could well be called upon to step up on Sunday.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.