The European round of FIFA World Cup qualifying kicks off on Sunday but the best bet on the program that covers three days is Croatia to beat Turkey in Zagreb on Monday.
Croatia versus Turkey is a repeat of the UEFA Euro 2016 game in Paris that the Croatians won 1-0 but should have won more convincingly. Luka Modric scored a superb long-range volley four minutes before half time but, even though Croatia had Turkey on the back foot for the remainder of the match, it could not stretch its lead. Both Ivan Perisic and Darijo Srna struck the woodwork for Croatia and Turkey goalkeeper Volkan Babacan pulled off a series of excellent saves. A fair reflection of the game would have been a 3-0 or 4-0 victory for Croatia and, remember, that match was at a neutral venue, whereas Monday’s clash is in Zagreb.
Croatia’s home form in competitive games is more than up to scratch – for example, the Croatians 4-1-0 en route to UEFA Euro 2016 in front of their own supporters and their goal difference was plus 15 – and Ante Cacic’s team is worth backing at odds of -175 with several bookmakers, including Betfred, BoyleSports and William Hill, to gobble up Turkey.
One thinks that England will improve under Sam Allardyce because, even though Big Sam has his detractors, most of their criticisms are not valid. Managing national sides is all about analysing opponents, picking players to play in a specific system and motivating millionaires. Allardyce has proven time and time again that he can each of those things.
England’s FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign will kick off against Slovakia in Trnava on Sunday and one believes that Allardyce’s team will be out to prove a point. England’s UEFA Euro 2016 title bid began to go off the rails when, fielding a second-string side, the Three Lions failed to roar versus Slovakia in Saint-Etienne and drew 0-0. With England’s flop against Slovakia under Roy Hodgson in the minds of everyone in the country, Allardyce will be extra keen for the Three Lions to signify a new era with a road victory over the same relatively limited opponent.
Slovakia’s form has gone backwards since it peaked with a 2-1 home win over Spain during UEFA Euro 2016 qualifying. Slovakia stumbled into UEFA Euro 2016 and never did it threaten to feature in the latter stages, scraping into the last 16 and losing 0-3 to Germany at that particular stage.
Betfred is offering odds of +105 about England getting the better of Slovakia, something that the Three Lions have managed in three of their four head-to-head meetings.
Finally, Poland ought to justify odds-on favouritism and topple Kazakhstan in Astana on Sunday. The Astana Arena artificial pitch did not assist Kazakhstan to post a victory during UEFA Euro 2016 qualifying, with the Kazakhs losing 2-4 to the Czech Republic, losing 0-3 to Iceland, losing 1-2 to the Netherlands, losing 0-1 to Turkey and drawing 0-0 versus Latvia. Poland exited UEFA Euro 2016 without losing in either normal time or extra time, bowing out on penalties following a 120-minute draw against Portugal. Poland boasts Europe’s deadliest striker, Robert Lewandowski, and he has hit his straps with Bayern Munchen, netting a hat-trick in the German Bundesliga team’s 6-0 home win over Bremen.
Croatia to beat Turkey
Monday 5th September, 19:45 GMT
England to beat Slovakia
Sunday 4th September, 17:00 GMT
Poland to beat Kazakhstan
Sunday 4th September, 17:00 GMT