World Cup qualifiers come thick and fast and there are some crucial fixtures to be played on Saturday night. With just two qualifiers to be played there are a number of teams fighting for a place at the tournament in Russia next summer, and we’ve reached the business end of the campaign.
Netherlands failed to qualify for Euro 2016, an embarrassment for a team with such an international pedigree, but they risk the humiliation of failing to reach next year’s World Cup too. At the moment they trail France and Sweden at the top of group A, but they are only three points behind the Swedes and welcome that rival in the final group fixture on Tuesday. Sweden are expected to beat Luxembourg on home ground on Saturday night, and that means the Netherlands must win in Belarus to stay in contention.
There are no such worries for a Switzerland side which, along with Germany, has a 100% record in qualification so far. The Swiss have won eight from eight and top group B ahead of Portugal by three points. They travel to the Portuguese in the final group match next Tuesday, and it is shaping up to be the decider between who finishes first and second in the section. Portugal are likely to take three points away from Andorra on Saturday, and Switzerland will want to earn three of their own from a home game against Hungary before that final showdown.
The waters are slightly more muddy in group H, where Bosnia & Herzegovina are in a battle with Greece to finish second behind already-qualified Belgium. Bosnia face Belgium and Estonia in their last two, while Greece play Cyprus and Gibraltar. The Bosnians are one point to the good ahead of Saturday’s games, but could see their chances slip away unless they consign Belgium to their first defeat of the campaign. Greece meanwhile, will expect to beat Gibraltar in the final game, but must take three points away from Cyprus if they are to squeeze ahead of Bosnia.
Switzerland v Hungary
The first bet on Saturday is on Switzerland to beat Hungary to nil at 83/1001.83-1200.83-1.200.83 with Bet365 and BoyleSports.
The Hungary side that punched above it’s weight at Euro 2016 has failed to match those heights in World Cup qualifying. Although third in the group, they have long been left behind by Portugal and Switzerland, and are currently on a run of five defeats in six without scoring a goal in any of the losses.
Switzerland won the reverse fixture away in Hungary 3-2, but have kept six clean sheets in seven wins since then (qualifiers and friendlies). The Swiss have won all four home qualifiers without conceding, and that includes the 2-0 victory over Portugal which got them off to a flying start in this campaign. Needing a win to maintain their three-point lead over the Portuguese, Switzerland are fancied to keep up the good record against a goal-shy Hungary team.
Belarus v Netherlands
A more risky proposition is a bet on Netherlands to beat a -1.5 Asian handicap against Belarus on Saturday night at 73/1001.73-1370.73-1.370.73 with Paddy Power and SunBets.
The Dutch continue to make things hard for themselves, but at least are still in with a chance of snatching second place off Sweden. France can still technically be caught at the top by both of those sides, but with games against Bulgaria and Belarus, Les Blues are expected to make up for that humiliating 0-0 against Luxembourg in their latest qualifier.
Netherlands won the reverse fixture 4-1, and despite their recent woes, they are actually on a run of four wins in the last five. They scored 15 goals in those four victories too, so they have the necessary fire power to come good here.
Belarus are bottom of the group and their only win has come in a home match against Bulgaria. they’ve lost five of their eight qualifiers, scoring four goals and conceding sixteen. This is a do-or-die match for Netherlands in terms of qualification, so we can expect a good run for our money as the Dutch throw the kitchen sink at Belarus.
Cyprus v Greece
Finally we’re backing Greece to shake off a five game winless run by beating Cyprus at odds of 14/251.56-1790.56-1.790.56 with Marathonbet.
That may not sound too promising, but analysis of Greek results shows they have performed to a good level. They lost 2-1 to Belgium in the last qualifier and drew the previous four, but three of those fixtures were against Belgium and Bosnia (twice). The only disappointing result was the 0-0 draw they were held to by a determined Estonia side. However, they are still in contention for qualification after three wins earlier in the campaign, and they beat Cyprus 2-0 in the reverse game back in October 2016.
Cyprus are third in the group with ten points, three of which were gained in a shock 3-2 win over Bosnia in August. That should sound a note of caution for Greece, but they’ve beaten Cyprus in four of the last five meetings and know that anything less than a win here will probably see their qualification hopes fade away. Much like the Netherlands, Greece should give us a good run for our money as they will be pushing for the three points throughout.
Switzerland to win to nil
Saturday 7th October, 19:45 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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