One is refusing to buy into the Iceland hype and one rates its next UEFA European Championship Group A opponent, the Czech Republic, as the best bet in the upcoming round.
Certain sections of the football media have fallen in love with Iceland, which is top of UEFA European Championship Group A after each of its three games to nil, including beating the Netherlands 2-0 in Reykjavik last month.
But one cannot help thinking that Iceland has enjoyed more than its fair share of good fortune in recent times. First, Iceland beat Turkey 3-0 in Reykjavik but it had the luck to play against 10 men for more than half an hour – the Turks were trailing 0-1 when Omer Toprak received his marching orders. Second, Iceland beat Latvia 3-0 in Riga but the match was tied at 0-0 until shortly after home striker Artoms Rudnevs was sent off in the 55th minute. And third, Iceland beat the Netherlands 2-0 in Reykjavik but its first goal was a penalty kick and the Dutch were, er, dreadful.
One will stop bagging Iceland if it beats the Czech Republic in Plzen but one thinks that will not happen. Victories over Kazakhstan (4-2 away), the Netherlands (2-1 home) and Turkey (2-1 away) have the Czech Republic equal with Iceland on nine points at the top of the UEFA European Championship Group A ladder. The Czech Republic is ranked above Iceland on the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, it has won all four of the previous meetings between the sides on Czech soil and Czech clubs have won eight, drawn two and lost zero of their 10 UEFA competition games with their Icelandic counterparts.
Coral is offering odds of -120 that the Czech Republic beats Iceland in Plzen and puts itself with touching distance of qualifying for the UEFA European Championship finals.
Italy is odds against to get the better of Croatia in Milan and, in light of the Azzurri’s outstanding home record in qualifying matches, one ought to be interested in snapping up William Hill‘s industry-leading offer of odds of +120 .
Never has Italy lost a FIFA World Cup qualifying game on home soil and the Azzurri have lost only four UEFA European Championship qualifying matches in front of their own fans, with each of their last eight such games resulting in wins.
Croatia became the third team to inflict a UEFA European Championship qualifying home defeat on Italy when it posted a 2-1 victory in Palermo 20 years ago, Davor Suker scoring one goal either side of half time for the visiting team.
And Croatia has one of the best head-to-head records versus Italy having won three and drawn three of their six clashes since the former gained independence in 1991 following the break up of Yugoslavia. Those are impressive numbers but the statistics that one rates higher are those pertaining to Italy’s record in home matches really, really matter.
Finally, there is a strong case for backing under two and a half goals in the UEFA European Championship Group G game between Austria and Russia in Vienna. With Austria on seven points, Russia and Sweden on five points and Montenegro on four points, UEFA European Championship Group G is proving to be one of the most tightly contested and, therefore, one expects that the Austria-Russia match will be fairly cagey.
One is banking on Russia coach Fabio Capello doing what he does usually and setting up his team not to lose. Each of Russia’s last five games outside its country has gone under two and a half goals, with the only such match to break the rule in its last 10 games being its 4-0 win in Luxembourg.
Austria’s numbers skew towards under two and a half goals as well, with none of its last 13 matches anywhere featuring more than three goals and seven of them going under the popular total with football punters around the world.
BetVictor is offering odds of -182 that the UEFA European Championship Group G game between Austria and Russia goes under two and a half goals. A bet on a 0-0 draw, available at odds of 8.00 with the same bookmaker, may be in order.
Czech Rep to beat Iceland
16th November 19.45 GMT
Where to Bet: Coral
Italy to beat Croatia
16th November 19.45 GMT
Where to Bet: William Hill
Austria v Russia Under 2.5 goals / 0-0
15th November 17:00 GMT
Odds: -182 / +700
Where to Bet: BetVictor
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