England qualified for Russia 2018 by taking top spot in group F, but Thursday night’s 1-0 win was hardly inspirational stuff. The English side laboured through 90 minutes and looked all set for a drab goalless draw until Kyle Walker took the initiative and and swept in a cross from the right for Harry Kane to finish from a few yards out.
The Spurs striker continued his goal-scoring run, and it may pay to back him to find the net again in England’s final qualifier away in Lithuania. The Three Lions are short odds to win the match, but with nothing riding on it and in light of recent performances, we won’t be backing them to rack up a big score against relative international minnows. On the plus side, Dele Alli should return after a one-game ban, but he alone cannot inject pace and creativity into an England team which looked pedestrian against Slovenia.
The side that nearly held England to a 0-0 draw return home to face a Scotland side on Sunday which against the odds is in a position to snatch second place with a win. A late 1-0 win over Slovakia through a Martin Skrtel own goal gave Gordon Strachan’s team three points against ten men, but that crucial result saw them leapfrog Slovakia in the group into second place. The Slovaks are near certain to beat Malta on Sunday, but if Scotland can win in Slovenia they are guaranteed 2nd and a place in the play offs.
In group E meanwhile, both Poland and Denmark need points to secure 1st and 2nd respectively, and both have very winnable home matches which should see them through. The Poles are at home to Montenegro and a point would see them clear of Denmark at the top, while the Danes are at home to Romania and need a point to be certain of claiming 2nd ahead of Montenegro.
Lithuania v England
Let’s back Harry Kane to get on the scoresheet at anytime during the Lithuania match at 7/101.70-1430.70-1.430.70 with BetStars.
Tottenham’s hitman has been one of the few bright spots for Gareth Southgate’s England, in a period which has produced more questions than answers. The history books will record three wins in a row against Malta, Slovakia and Slovenia, but the latter two matches left much to be desired. The Three Lions fell behind at Wembley to Slovakia before eventually fighting back for an unconvincing 2-1 win. Thursday’s match against Slovenia was arguably the worse performance as England huffed and puffed without really creating many clear cut chances, before Kane stepped up to bag the three points.
Lithuania do not represent the highest calibre of opposition, and although England do not need points, they will want to maintain their unbeaten record in this final group game. Thursday’s 1-1 draw in Malta brought to an end a run of six straight defeats for Lithuania, but they remain second bottom of the group standings with six points and just one win (against Malta) to their name. They lost the last two group matches here against Slovakia (2-1) and Scotland (3-0), but will raise their game for a match against England.
Gareth Southgate can expect to see his team win, but whether it will be a sterling performance in light of circumstances is another matter. At least it’s an opportunity for Kane to add to his international goal tally, and England’s new captain is unlikely to pass up the chance.
Slovenia v Scotland
We’re going out on a limb to back Scotland to complete a remarkable turnaround and win in Slovenia to book a place in the play offs at 7/42.75+1751.751.75-0.57 with BetVictor and Betfair.
Slovakia’s coach bemoaned ‘coincidences’ that contributed to his side’s 1-0 defeat in Scotland, from lost luggage to the red card which saw them play most of the game with ten men. He may be talking about more conspiracy theories after this game, where local rivals Slovenia may not bust a gut to prevent Scotland beating Slovakia to 2nd spot.
There is nothing at stake for the home side, but they are unbeaten at home in the last four and haven’t conceded a goal in any of those. That includes a 0-0 against England and a 1-0 win over Slovakia. However, any faint hopes of qualifying were lost with that defeat at Wembley, and Scotland have much more to play for.
Gordon Strachan was under pressure as Scotland boss after a poor start to qualification which saw them draw with Lithuania and lose 3-0 to both England and Slovakia. Four wins in the last five and a 2-2 draw with England have turned it around for the Scots though, and after beating their closest competitor for 2nd in Slovakia on Thursday night, they are one step away from securing 2nd spot.
Poland v Montenegro
A much less risky bet is to back Poland to get the points they need to win group E by beating Montenegro at 33/1001.33-3030.33-3.030.33 with Bet365.
Any chance Montenegro had of usurping Denmark for 2nd place fell away with a 1-0 home defeat to the Danes on Thursday night, and there is little left to play for now. The Danish are at home to Romania and should get the point they need to finish 2nd at least.
A Polish defeat could let Denmark sneak past on goal difference and snatch top spot, so Lewandowski and co. cannot afford to let anything slip on Sunday evening. A 6-1 away thumping of Armenia suggests they are in good heart going into this one, and they beat Montenegro 2-1 away in the reverse fixture. This should be a solid home win to add to the Sunday accas.
Harry Kane to score at anytime
Sunday 8th October, 17:00 GMT
Eric has been a sports journalist for over 20 years and has travelled the world covering top sporting events for a number of publications. He also has a passion for betting and uses his in-depth knowledge of the sports world to pinpoint outstanding odds and value betting opportunities.
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