FIFA World Cup qualifying groups resume around the globe on Thursday and one rates Saudi Arabia as the top international bet to win in Thailand.
The AFC pool in which Saudi Arabia and Thailand are two of the six teams fighting over two automatic FIFA World Cup berths – the third-ranked side goes into a play-off tie – and the state of play after five rounds means that the Falcons cannot afford to drop points against the worst outfit in the group, which are the War Elephants. Saudi Arabia heads AFC Group B but the Falcons are one of four teams on either nine or 10 points and their last three fixtures are about as difficult as they get in Asia.
Saudi Arabia and Thailand kicked off their respective AFC Group B campaigns with their head-to-head clash in Riyadh six months ago and the Falcons converted their dominance into three points when Nawaf Al Abid scored an 84th-minute penalty kick. It was Saudi Arabia’s seventh game versus Thailand and now the Falcons lead the series 5-2-0.
According to FIFA, Saudi Arabia is the world’s 57th best national side and Thailand is in 127th place. According to the World Football Elo Ratings, Saudi Arabia is the world’s 62nd best national side and Thailand is in 102nd place. One has seen some of the AFC Group B matches and Thailand, while the War Elephants are one of Asia’s improving teams, they remain quite a way behind Saudi Arabia. Thailand has lost four of its five AFC Group B games and it was fortunate to host an appalling Australia side in November – the Socceroos were off the pace and need two penalty kicks to draw 2-2. According to one’s AFC Group B collateral form analysis, Saudi Arabia enjoys a 4-1-0 advantage over Thailand and are worthy of support at odds of -105 with William Hill.
Finding fault with FIFA World Cup markets is difficult due to the large number of mismatches but one thinks that the bookmaking fraternity has gone too far in their odds about Northern Ireland posting a UEFA Group C home victory over Norway. Northern Ireland is available at odds of +145 with William Hill to take out Sunday’s game in Belfast.
Northern Ireland and Norway are very different teams to the one that met in a Belfast friendly four years ago, a match that the Norwegians won 3-0. According to FIFA, Northern Ireland is the world’s 35th best national side and Norway is in 81st place. According to the World Football Elo Ratings, Northern Ireland is the world’s 53rd best national side and Norway is in 71st place. And according to one’s UEFA Group C collateral form analysis, Northern Ireland boasts a 4-0-0 edge over Norway. William Hill’s odds imply that Northern Ireland would be the underdog against Norway on neutral territory and one cannot agree with that assessment.
Finally, one thinks that the United Arab Emirates are good odds at -118 with Ladbrokes not to lose to Japan in the AFC Group B game between the White Jersey and the Samurai Blue.
The United Arab Emirates won 2-1 at Japan in September and that alone should fill the White Jersey with confidence going into Thursday’s AFC Group B game. According to one’s AFC Group B collateral form analysis, Japan only leads the United Arab Emirates 3-0-2 and Samurai Blue captain Makoto Hasebe will miss his team’s trip to the Middle East after failing to recover from a knee injury that he sustained playing for Frankfurt versus Bayern Munchen in the German Bundesliga. Hasebe has won 104 Japan caps and Blue Samurai coach Vahid Halihodzic is distraught regarding his absence.
Saudi Arabia to beat Thailand
Thursday 23rd March, 12:00 GMT
Northern Ireland to beat Norway
Sunday 26th March, 19:45 GMT
United Arab Emirates Win/Draw Double Chance
Thursday 23rd March, 15:30 GMT