Wales hit five as England’s Euro 2012 rivals fire warning shots

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While pantomime villains England laboured to a 2-1 victory over Hungary, all but one of their four rivals from their Euro 2012 qualifying group won their friendlies in convincing fashion.

Switzerland, the second favourites to top Group G at 6/1, secured a solid 1-0 away win over neighbours Austria, thanks to a first international strike from Moreno Costanzo.

Costanzo is one of many youngsters breaking into a Swiss side which has proven itself more than capable of shocking bigger teams, as was abundantly evident when they beat Spain at the World Cup.

Perhaps most crucially for Switzerland’s hopes of qualifying, however, is their retention of double Champions League-winning manager Ottmar Hitzfeld, who has shunned numerous club offers to stay in Switzerland.

Wales, who are an outside 16/1 to win Group G, condemned Luxembourg to a 5-1 drubbing at Llanelli’s Parc y Scarlets.

Goals from David Cotterill, Joe Ledley, Andy King, Ashley Williams and captain Craig Bellamy sealed what was a sometimes patchy, though ultimately comprehensive and morale-boosting victory.

Bellamy was at his impish, brilliant best, and despite threatening to retire from football altogether having been made an outcast at Manchester City, the forward will be integral to Wales’ faint hopes of qualification.

With odds of 20/1 to top Group G, Montenegro are seen as the minnows of the piece. England, however, can ill afford to underestimate the young nation.

Their 2-0 win against Northern Ireland underlined their credentials as potential dark horses to qualify for their first major tournament, and their squad is sprinkled with star quality.

Roma’s totemic forward Mirko Vucinic is their inspiration and main source of goals, while Fiorentina’s Stevan Jovetic is one of Europe’s most exciting young playmakers, though the latter will miss the beginning of the campaign with injury.

Bulgaria, who will be the first to face Fabio Capello’s men, were the only one of England’s rivals to lose their friendly, going down to a first half Roman Shirokov goal in Russia. Bulgaria are 8/1 to win Group G. See the full Euro 2012 Qualifying Group G market.

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Robbie Morris

Robbie studied sports journalism at the University of Gloucestershire, an establishment chosen for its proximity to Cheltenham racecourse, where he was a season ticket holder. Upon graduation, Robbie was a contributor to GolfPunk, a national magazine aimed at ridding golf of its traditionalist image, before joining the news.ladbrokes team.