The next round of World Cup qualifiers are set to take place on Sunday and Belgium could become the first European nation to book a place at Russia 2018. Managed by former Everton boss Roberto Martinez, the star-studded Belgian side thrashed Gibraltar 9-0 on Thursday to pull six points clear at the top of group H. Sunday’s match away at second placed Greece gives them an opportunity to create an unassailable lead at the top and guarantee a first-placed finish with two games to spare.
On-fire Manchester United hitman Romelu Lukaku hit a hat-trick against the international minnows, as did PSG’s Thomas Meunier. Greece will provide much stiffer opposition, but will struggle to contain a team which also includes the mercurial talents of Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne. The Greeks still hold a two-point lead over Bosnia & Herzegovina in the battle for second place, but have drawn their last four qualifiers in a row – including a disappointing 0-0 home draw with Estonia last Thursday night.
Group B is a much tighter affair in the battle for top spot, with Portugal and Switzerland battling it out for automatic qualification. European Champions Portugal find themselves in second place and three points adrift of the Swiss ahead of Sunday’s games. Switzerland’s perfect seven out of seven record has seen them amass 21 points, and they inflicted Portugal’s only defeat of the campaign in the opening group match back in September 2016. With very little opposition among the other group contenders, top spot is likely to come down to final group match between the two in Portugal. Ronaldo and co. have a far superior goal difference which stands them in good stead, but neither side can afford to skip a beat on Sunday. Switzerland travel to Latvia and Portugal visit Hungary – the side which held the Portuguese to that remarkable 3-3 draw at Euro 2016.
Greece v Belgium
Belgium are a best price of 17/251.68-1470.68-1.470.68 with Marathonbet to gain three points and book their place at next year’s World Cup.
After six wins and a draw from seven matches Belgium are six points clear at the top of group H. A win on Sunday will give them a 22-point haul, which would put them out of sight of the chasing Greece and Bosnia.
The Greeks have recovered from an atrocious Euro 2016 qualification campaign to be a competitive force in this group, but they are still a limited side. The three victories in group H have come against Gibraltar, Cyprus and Estonia, and they have drawn each of their other four matches so far. One of those was a surprise 1-1 away in Belgium where the host needed a late Lukaku equaliser to spare their blushes. That can give the Greeks confidence ahead of Sunday’s game, but the statistics from the match quell enthusiasm. Belgium had 69% of possession and had 17 attempts on goal compared to Greece’s two.
Those were the only points dropped in this campaign by Martinez’ side, and revenge is on the cards on Sunday evening. Greece have scored just twice in the last five internationals, while Belgium have hit 17 over the same five-game period. Their firepower and quality should give them enough to claim the prize of qualification ahead of October’s double-header of group matches.
Hungary v Portugal
Portugal are playing catch up against Switzerland in group B, and cannot afford to drop points away at Hungary. The European champions can be backed at 1/21.50-2000.50-2.000.50 with SkyBet and Bet365 to claim three points.
The memory of that 3-3 draw in France at the group stages was erased by a 3-0 Portuguese victory in this qualifying group back in March. Ronaldo was on target in spectacular fashion in Thursday’s 5-1 win over the Faroe Islands, adding another hat-trick to his impressive goal tally for club and country. He will lead his side again in this game and they should be good enough to beat a relatively poor Hungary side.
It’s true that the Hungarians pulled off a shock by not only qualifying for Euro 2016, but also navigating a way through the group before being soundly beaten 4-0 by Belgium in the second round. That was the pinnacle of recent Hungarian footballing history however, and they are almost certainly out of contention for qualification to Russia. They are eight points adrift of Portugal with three games to play, and would be unlikely to catch the top two even if they won all three games.
Latvia v Switzerland
In the same group Switzerland should account for Latvia at odds of 31/1001.31-3230.31-3.230.31 with Marathonbet.
The Swiss lost out on penalties to Poland in the second round at Euro 2016, after coming through the same group as France. They were hardly disgraced at that tournament where they didn’t lose a match over 90 minutes, and continued the good work in this qualification group. Seven wins from seven have given them 21 points, and they are already guaranteed the minimum of second place and a play off game. Automatic qualification is the biggest prize though, and they need to beat Latvia away and Hungary at home to head into that final group match against Portugal with the upper hand.
Lativa are bottom of the group with their only three points coming from a victory over Andorra. Hungary, Faroe Islands and Estonia have all won here in recent games, and the Latvians are on a run of eight straight defeats.
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.
SBO.net Bookie Selector
Our Bookie selector is designed to find the perfect place for you to bet. Simply answer a few quick questions and we’ll choose the best online bookmaker for you.