Home Nation Euro 2020 Qualifying Previews
Holland v Northern Ireland
Fascinating qualifier from Group C as the Netherlands in third place host Northern Ireland who can currently be found in second. This is one of the most exciting and competitive pools of the Euro 2020 qualifiers and, going into this match, Germany and Northern Ireland are locked on 12 points with Holland back in third on nine but with a game in hand.
The winner of this game will take a massive leap towards a place in at Euro 2020. The winner of the group may not even come out of this match with Germany picked by most to hold their current position and progress as winners. That means the race for second place is live and this game doubles up as a shoot-out. Nothing will be decided here, other than the three points, but armchair fans will be treated to a thrilling encounter. Play goes from 7.45pm on Thursday and will be shown live on Sky Sports. Who will come out on top?
Bookmakers offer backers the chance to ramp up their interest with a bet. You can predict the match winner or get your stake money down on one of the many specials available, such as both teams to score, total goals, handicap, first goalscorer, half time/full time and plenty more besides. Most of the markets will remain live throughout the course of the 90 minutes thanks to in-play betting and that means a punt is as exciting in the final few minutes as it was before the first whistle. There’s everything to play for here and everything to bet on.
Holland Fancied at Home
Holland enjoys home advantage in this midweek delight and will move level on points with their opponents if they are able to live up to expectations and get the win. They prepare with group stats reading three wins and one defeat from their first four games, that form broken down into win-lose-win-win. Another maximum pay-out would breathe new life into Holland’s campaign as they aim to battle their way back into major competition, defeat would deliver a body blow to their chances of making it to Euro 2020 proper.
The host nation has been impressive enough so far, despite suffering that one loss, and if they can join Northern Ireland on a dozen points with a game in hand you’d really fancy their chances to finish second and have a real go at pushing Germany for pole. They’ve won each of their last two, have scored 14 goals in four games and conceded five. Tightening up in defence is important if they are to rediscover past glories but everyone connected to the team will take confidence from their attacking stats so far.
Bookmakers seem keen to keep on the right side of Holland and they have priced the home win up as favourite. That will come as no major shock to those who have followed this pool so far but the fact there’s little more than 2/11 available at Ladbrokes for Holland is sure to put a few off. There’s no real value in that price, especially against a plucky opponent who has won four and lost just one so far. Both teams to score has been scratched up at 13/8 and that’s best price when doing your betting at bet365. That’s easier to like than the 4/9 with the same firm about the no options.
Norn Iron Can be Proud
Northern Ireland has plenty to be proud of so far and they have handled themselves better than most expected them too. When drawn in a group alongside Germany and Holland, most experts had Norn Iron written off as a team that will do little more than making life difficult for their opponents when playing at home. The team has worked hard, however, and have caused a few upsets already. There’s a real team spirit in the camp with the squad working hard for each other and for the cause. That has seen them win four and lose one of five games.
The spare in that list came last time out when Northern Ireland was beaten by Germany at home on Monday 9 September. That first group loss came hot on the heels of a solid 1-0 at the same venue when Luxembourg came calling just a few days before. The beaten team held firm during the first half to go into the break at 0-0 but conceded to Halstenberg inside three minutes of the re-start and Gnabry added a second in stoppage time near the end of the match. Northern Ireland was given the credit they deserve but the right team won on the day, there could be no denying that.
The match stats proved this with the beaten team finishing the game with just 26% of the match possession and two shots at goal. It was a tough night at the office but one the players will be eager to bounce back from. Two defeats in-a-row would knock Northern Ireland off-course. Traders at bet365 have Norn Iron as big as 20/1 to pull off a famous upset and win in Holland. A big price and we expect to see bits and pieces of attention come for that one.
Slovakia v Wales
There may be no Premier League action to speak of this weekend but there’s plenty for football fans to get stuck into on Thursday night with the return of the Euro 2020 qualifiers. Each of the home nations are in action this midweek with all games involving England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales shown live on TV. This fixture will be played out before the Sky Sports crew from 7.45pm and promises to provide a treat to armchair fans.
Choosing the match to watch live will be the most difficult aspect of the evening but Slovakia v Wales is sure to attract a fair share of attention amongst football fans and sports bettors. There’s enough at stake here to hold our interest as Wales battle to get their Group E campaign back on track while their hosts target the three points needed to keep the pressure on leaders Croatia. Wales are second bottom of the pile but are just four points behind the leaders in what is fast becoming the most competition Euro 2020 qualifying division.
Sit back and enjoy the show live on Sky Sports or take advantage of one of the many exciting betting markets offered by bookmakers. You can get your cash down on the winner of the points or take a stab at the bigger prices available in the specials markets. Those bold enough to predict the correct score in this game will give themselves a great chance at banking a large return. The 1-1 draw is 5/1 favourite with bet365. Most of the original betting markets will remain live throughout the course of the 90 minutes thanks to in-play betting meaning a bet is always possible, right up until the final whistle.
Slovakia Looking to Impress
Slovakia set up with home advantage looking to boost their points tally by three, keep themselves in contention for the top spot in the group and impress the majority of those packed into the stadium for matchday six. They are just a point behind current leaders Croatia who were ante-post favourites to win the division. Three wins and a couple of defeats has given them nine points and that’s three more than their opponents. Win here and Slovakia will not only drive themselves towards the next phase, but they will also end the hopes and dreams of Wales.
Their form reads win-lose-win-lose-win. That’s not the kind of results that are going to inspire punters to rush out and back Slovakia with their hard-earned cash but they do find themselves in a great position and have benefited from some slack play from Wales who were expected to be a lot closer to the leaders at this stage. There’s still plenty of football to be played before the major places are decided and everything could change between now and then, but Slovakia has kept themselves competitive and fans can’t ask for much more than that.
The home team takes confidence from the fact it has won two of its last three and banked a maximum last time out. The betting has the team as favourites to add another three points on Thursday evening and those who agree with that call can get their hands on a decent 7/5 at William Hill for a home win. The fact the favourites are available at such an attractive price proves the money men are still unconvinced on this one.
Wales Has to Win Here
When the draw for this group was made it was immediately obvious Wales had a great chance of finishing in the top two and pushing for qualification to Euro 2020. The players had to be at their best to give themselves any chance of worrying the likes of Croatia and Slovakia and fans are upset to admit their team have underperformed so far. The visitors travel with form reading two wins against two defeats, leaving them down in fourth place. At the time of writing, Wales has only Azerbaijan below them in the pecking order.
They started off with a win by then lost back-to-back games and that saw them slide down through the ranks. It’s still too early to press the panic button, however, as Wales have a game in hand over the teams around them in the division. If they can pull off a win in Slovakia and win their extra game, there’s every chance they will heap pressure on the leaders and finish pushing for top spot in the pool. To have any chance of that they simply have to win here. Will they get the desired result? They did last time out when beating Belarus 1-0 in Cardiff, a result achieved thanks to a single goal from James on 17 minutes. A more comfortable margin was expected but, in the end, Wales was happy enough to scrape through with the points.
The betting is interesting for this match and has Wales priced up at 9/4 with bet365. That quote makes them outsider of three in the match betting, behind the draw at 11/5 – top price with the same firm. Wales are capable of winning here and look value to do just that. They are bigger than they should be.
Russia v Scotland
It has been another disastrous qualifying campaign for Scotland as the team have gone through two managers, won just two of six games, lost four and conceded no less than 13 goals. They also make this trip on the back of three defeats on the bounce and can be found down in fifth place in Group I with only San Marino currently worse off in the pecking order. It has been a campaign to forget for all concerned but the thinking is that things will get worse before they get better, starting here.
Russia won in Glasgow not too long ago, a match that was noted as an all or nothing for the Tartan Army. Russia found themselves a goal down early but battled back at Hampden to clinch all three points and stick a pin in the chances of Scotland getting out of this group in one piece. Critics suggest manager Steve Clarke should concentrate on getting through via the Nations League route, blooding youngsters and experimenting with his squad until then.
That’s not an idea shared by all and it certainly won’t impress those who are paying to get over to Russia and support the team, but fan numbers are going down all the time. Hampden has been closer to empty than full in recent times and there has even been a war of words between supporters and the SFA concerning the price of tickets for matches that are now seen as meaningless. That row won’t end anytime soon but it’s the players and coaching staff who will feel the brunt of that divide. The quickest way to get the crowds back is by winning football matches. Will Scotland start here? It won’t be popular with bettors, that’s for sure.
Russia in the Mix
When the draw for Group I was made many expected to see Russ and Scotland battle it out for second place behind Belgium. The latter was expected to take a keen hold of the pool from very early on and that’s exactly what they have done. Belgium can be found in pole position with stats of six wins from six games, 19 goals scored and only one conceded. They have one foot in Euro 2020 proper and won’t be slowing down between now and the finish line.
Russia has lost only one game to date and that came against Belgium in their opening match. A blow almost before they got out of the traps, but the Russians were good enough to dust themselves down and fire back. They have since embarked on a run of wins and have won five and lost one so far, scoring 18 goals and conceding just four. Much has been made of just how good Belgium has been so far, and rightly so, but Russia hasn’t quite got the credit their form deserves. They’ve lost once, scored one fewer goal than Belgium and are just three points behind. They are now eight points better than Kazakhstan in third and well on their way to the playoffs.
The favourites beat Kazakhstan 1-0 at home last time out and earned the points that day thanks to a late goal from Figueira Fernandes who bulged the net with 89 minutes on the clock. A much more comfortable margin of victory was expected that night, but they ground out the win and collected all three points to guarantee their place in the next round. The home win is 8/15 at bet365 with a draw priced up at 16/5 with the same bookie.
Scotland Has Nothing to Play For
Scotland travels to Russia with nothing to play for other than national pride but there isn’t an awful lot of that around at the minute either. It’s never easy following Scotland and the team haven’t featured at a major tournament since France 1998 but it’s difficult to remember a time when morale was as low amongst fans as it is now. It’s accepted Scotland do have some decent players and individual talent. They also now have a talented and fresh manger in Steve Clarke who worked wonders at Kilmarnock, getting them into the Europa League, but results on the park have been shocking, to say the least.
The crowds at Hampden have fallen to an all-time low, there’s a cold war going on between the SFA and Rangers fans, Steven Gerrard publicly criticised the set-up recently for causing an injury to Ryan Jack and a fanbase known the world over for its loyalty seems to have had enough. Supporters want to see improved results and performances and have made it clear they won’t be back at the national stadium until things get better. There’s a new generation of followers who refuse to be sucked in and put up with the gallant losers tag that was pinned to Scotland many years ago. Football is a results-driven business and results have been woeful.
The away win has been written off by all major bookmakers and those looking to get their cash down on the upset will be delighted to see a punchy 13/2 available at bet365. That’s a big price but it deserves to be and, having watched Russia out-muscle Scotland at Hampden recently, it’s unlikely the visitors will attract too much attention.