Iceland did not manage a shot on target in the first leg of its 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification play-off tie against Croatia so backing the Croatians to win to nil versus the Icelanders in Zagreb is an attractive punting proposition.
Paddy Power is offering odds of 1.91 that Croatia, bronze medallist at the 1998 FIFA World Cup, defeats Iceland in normal time and keeps a clean sheet as well. Croatia was dominant in last week’s 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification play-off first leg before Olafur Ingi Skulason committed a professional foul on Ivan Persic in the 50th minute. Only Hannes Thor Halldorsson’s excellent performance between the sticks for Iceland prevented Croatia returning home with a half-time advantage and the underdog, for all its huff and puff, mustered just four shots, none of which forced away goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa to make a noteworthy save.
Croatia’s home form in UEFA Group A of 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying tailed off once it was clear that the Croatians would have to settle for second place behind Belgium. But before Croatia lost its focus it had defeated Belarus, Macedonia, Serbia and Wales without conceding a goal.
Admittedly, Iceland scored in all bar one of its UEFA Group E away games of 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying, including four goals in its 4-4 draw in Switzerland. That will be sufficient to put off some punters from backing Croatia to win to nil but, remember, the goalposts have moved. Croatia cannot afford to concede a cheap away goal because, in the event of an aggregate tie, the side that scores the most away goals will earn a ticket to Brazil. One can expect Croatia to play with a mixture of confidence and caution, thereby making the suggested play much more appealing than if the teams were meeting under different circumstances.
Algeria beat Burkina Faso 2-0 in a friendly international five months ago and, with home advantage once again, the Fennec Foxes are worth supporting at odds of 1.62 with Betfred to uphold the form. Algeria trails Burkina Faso 2-3 after losing the first leg of its 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification play-off tie last month so the Fennec Foxes have to win the second leg to book their place in Brazil. Algeria, whose two away goals will turn up the heat on Burkina Faso if it opens the scoring, has won each of its last 10 FIFA World Cup home matches dating back over more than five years. Burkina Faso, whose nickname is the Stallions, has lost each of its last three road games.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal and Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s Sweden managed only five shots on target between them last week but one can expect the second leg of their 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification play-off tie to be a lot more exciting given the state of play. Portugal leads 1-0 thanks to Ronaldo’s 82nd-minute goal in Lisbon so Sweden cannot sit back and defend in Solna. Betting on both Sweden and Portugal to score, an option that is available at odds of 1.95 with William Hill, is appetising. Sweden has scored in each of its last five home matches, while Portugal has found the back of the net in each of its last six away games.
Finally, English Conference National leader Cambridge is over the odds at 3.40 with Bet365 to beat Bury at Gigg Lane in the English FA Cup first round. Cambridge is playing to the standard of a mid-table English League Two team, which means that United is probably superior to Bury, which us 21st in England’s fourth tier and without a home victory since August. Cambridge should be trading at odds around the 2.75 mark so backing United, which is six point clear at the top of the English Conference National ladder, is a simple case of snapping up a value price about a confident side.