French Fancy Goals in Belarus World Cup Qualifier

France beat Italy 3-1 away from home last week.

International breaks so early in the domestic season aren’t always welcome for fans and players alike, but it’s certainly been a good thing for punters so far. Adam Lallana’s late show for England kept many an accumulator intact, while Germany, Scotland and Denmark all landed favourites odds. The only real let down on Sunday was Poland, who somehow contrived to throw away a two-goal lead in Kazakhstan to draw 2-2.

It will all come to an end on Tuesday night for the European teams, but with France, Belgium, Sweden and Netherlands all in action, there’s lots to look forward to. The French travel to Belarus fresh from beating Italy 3-1 on Italian soil last week, while Belgium renew rivalries with Cyprus – a side they beat twice in Qualifying for Euro 2016. Another intriguing match is Sweden versus the Netherlands, where the hosts are starting life without Zlatan Ibrahimovic, and the visitors are desperately trying to recover from failure to qualify for France this summer.

There’s several angles to consider, but both France and Belgium look good things to start their campaigns with three points, while the bookmakers might be taking a risk when it comes to goals in the Sweden v Netherlands fixture.

Belarus v France

France are  +128  with 888Sport and Unibet to win by at least a two goal margin, and for those who aren’t keen to back France to win at around  -250  it looks a fair wager.

Martial, Giroud and Kurzawa were on target for France in the 3-1 victory over Italy last Thursday, as Didier Deschamps side showed no signs of a Euro hangover. On balance of results over the last couple of years, including a 2-0 win against Germany at the Euros, France are arguably Europe’s best side at the moment. They have huge amounts of talent at their disposal, not least the Premier League contingent of Payet, Pogba, Kante and Martial. Antoine Griezmann showed in this summer’s tournament that he is one of the hottest strikers on the continent at the moment, and they will expect to top a group which also features Sweden, Netherlands, Bulgaria and Luxembourg.

They also have recent history against Belarus, having competed against them in the last World Cup qualifying campaign prior to Brazil 2014. They beat Belarus 3-1 at home and 4-2 away, and it would be no stretch to say that they have a better side now than they did during that qualification phase.

Their hosts have recorded a couple of decent results in their last two internationals – a 1-0 win away in Norway and a 2-1 victory over Ireland just before the Euros. However, they also went down 3-0 to Northern Ireland in Euro warm-up games, and have been beaten at home in recent games against Ukraine, Spain and Slovakia. Tellingly, Ukraine and Slovakia beat them by a two-goal margin, and France are more than capable of doing the same.

Cyprus v Belgium

Bet365 stand out at  +100  about Belgium covering the same handicap against Cyprus.

Perhaps those odds have come about due to the insipid 2-0 defeat to Spain at home last week, in which Roberto Martinez’ side were booed off in his first game in charge. The former Everton boss would probably have preferred a ‘weaker’ team for his first match as national boss, but this gives him and his players a chance to reprieve themselves.

Much like France, this is a ‘golden generation’ of Belgium players including the likes of Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne, but they have failed to live up to the hype in recent tournaments. They were beaten by Italy in their opening Euro group game before being knocked out by Wales in the quarter finals. That was seen as a failure back at home and after Marc Wilmots resigned, the sacked Everton manager was a surprise selection. However, he will not be judged on a friendly result against Spain, and should be able to take this talented pool of players to the World Cup via a group in which the biggest threat is Greece.

Belgium have recent history against Cyprus, having played them in the qualifiers for France 2016, so these two teams will know plenty about each other. The Belgian side struggled to a 1-0 victory in the away fixture through Hazard’s 86th minute goal, but the 5-0 thrashing in the return fixture in Belgium was more representative of the gulf between the teams.

Cyprus have lost five of the last six internationals, and four of the last five at home, and it would be a disaster for Martinez if they don’t get three points here. Such is the quality in the side that they are backed to score at least twice and cover the handicap.

Sweden v Netherlands

Finally, BetVictor may be taking a risk by quoting  +138  on over 2.5 goals in this group A clash.

The odds are probably on account of Sweden’s penchant for organisation and discipline, and without Ibrahimovic it’s hard to see where the goals will come from. But these two teams have shared in many high-scoring games in the recent past, and the Netherlands are erratic at best right now.

Eight of the last ten Dutch games have seen at least three goals, including the rather humiliating 2-1 home defeat to Greece last week. Prior to that Danny Blind’s side had beaten England, Poland and Austria, but their defensive frailties obviously came back to haunt them. They’ve only kept four clean sheets in the last twenty games, and although they can score against anyone, they are also capable of conceding against anyone too.

Only five of Sweden’s last ten home internationals have gone over the 2.5 mark, but this is a game where they will look to attack and exploit the Dutch weaknesses. With France likely to top the group, the fixtures between these two could prove vital in qualification, and Sweden may well show plenty of ambition here with a new team and a new manager. To further the cause for goals – each of the last four games between the sides have had over 2.5 goals, with a total of 18 strikes across the four matches.

Tips Summary

France -1.5 to beat Belarus
Tuesday 6th September, 19:45 GMT
Odds: +128

Belgium -1.5 to beat Cyprus
Tuesday 6th September, 19:45 GMT
Odds: +128

Sweden v Netherlands – Over 2.5 Goals
Tuesday 6th September, 19:45 GMT
Odds: +138

Belgium
France
Netherlands
Sweden
World Cup Qualifiers

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