The UEFA groups for FIFA World Cup qualifying have reached their halfway point and one thinks that three teams are worth backing to make the tournament automatically.
Ireland has not participated in a FIFA World Cup since 2002 but the Boys in Green are in a great position to finish in the top two of UEFA Group D. Ireland is tied with Serbia on 11 points at the top of the UEFA Group D ladder, with four points back to Wales and Austria. Of Ireland’s five UEFA Group D games remaining, one expects the Boys in Green to kick off four of them as favourites, the exception being their final match away to Wales, by which stage they may have booked their prized berth in Russia anyway.
According to the World Football Elo Ratings, which one rates as a more meaningful statistical measure than the FIFA World Ranking, Ireland is the strongest side in UEFA Group D – the Boys in Green are ranked 21st, putting them ahead of Wales (28th), Serbia (33rd), Austria (42nd), Georgia (95th) and Moldova (126th). Ireland has won in Austria and drawn in Serbia so the Boys in Green have negotiated two of their toughest three UEFA Group D fixtures already and they are four points clear of the all-important third-placed team.
Unibet is offering odds of -133 about Ireland ending UEFA Group D in either first or second position and one cannot agree that the probability of the Boys in Green qualifying automatically for the FIFA World Cup is lower than 58 per cent. A Ireland home victory over Austria and a Serbia home defeat of Wales in the next set of UEFA Group D games would put the Boys in Green seven points ahead of the Welsh and Austrians with four matches to go and in terrific shape.
England is running away with UEFA Group F, leaving Slovakia, Slovenia, Scotland and Lithuania to argue over the section’s other automatic qualifying spot. Slovakia is one point ahead of Slovenia, with Scotland another point further back and Lithuania probably having blown its chance of finishing in UEFA Group F’s top two. One thinks that Slovakia is likely to beat Slovenia on home soil and, after posting a 3-0 home victory over Scotland, the Slovaks should be confident of registering a positive result away to the Scots. According to the World Football Elo Ratings, Slovakia is UEFA Group F’s second best side (31st) behind England (11th) but in front of Scotland (47th), Slovenia (53rd), Lithuania (94th) and Malta (164th) and one concurs with that assessment.
Slovakia is available at odds of +110 with BetVictor to make it through its second FIFA World Cup via UEFA Group F.
Finally, one thinks that Greece is overpriced at odds of +138 with BetVictor to pip either Bosnia-Herzegovina or Belgium to one of UEFA Group H’s top two positions.
Possession is nine-tenths of the law and, if Greece avoids defeat away to Bosnia-Herzegovina in the next batch of UEFA Group H games, the Greeks are going to take a lot of moving. Three of Greece’s remaining five UEFA Group H matches are on home soil and one of its away games will occur in Cyprus. Anyone who has seen the Eurovision Song Contest will know that Cyprus can be friendly towards Greece and it is not as though the Cypriots can qualify for the FIFA World Cup.
Ireland to qualify for Russia 2018
Slovakia to qualify for Russia 2018
Greece to qualify for Russia 2018