England went very close in this tournament last two years ago, losing in a unbelievably penalty shoot out to eventual champions and host nation Netherlands. They have a lot of stability both on and off the pitch, coach Stuart Pearce knows the players as well as his own family, has just signed a contract extension and the squad have been together a long time.
They arrive here in good form and are extremely confident of doing well. Upfront , Agbonlahor, Walcott and Campbell have unlimited pace and will terrorise a lot of defences and elsewhere, such experienced campaigners as Joe Hart , Micah Richards (who has 11 full caps) and James Milner (an incredible 42 U21 caps), offer far more than you would normally expect at this level. Cut off point for eligibility is being born in 1986 or later, so you could actually be 23( and a half) and still be able to play.
Even the more inexperienced players in this talented squad, like Kieran Gibbs, has played in two Champions League and one FA Cup semi finals this season !
Finland are something of a surprise package and base their game around a solid defence, they are not helped in this respect by losing goalkeeper Tomi Maanoja, who saved them more than once during qualification. They look outsiders and I know of one Finnish oddsmaker for a major European bookmaker, who is desperate to lay them and he has been top quote for his country in every market, offered, believing that they will disappoint big time.
I am sure that they will try to defend with ten men behind the ball and look for a goal on the break, which will hand the advantage to Pearce's boys and with Spain and traditional rival Germany still to come, England will be desperate to start with three points. If they take the lead, Finland will have to push forward, which is when England's pace will prove decisive. Solid start and comfortable win for England.
5 points England -1.5 goals 1.95 asian line.