The last round of World Cup qualifying fixtures in the European section takes place on Tuesday night, and there are some important games in store. Iceland were well on track to finish in the top two of group I prior to the matches on Saturday night, but a shock defeat in Finland saw them fall behind Croatia and Ukraine in the standings. The tiny island faces the latter of those sides on Tuesday night and it has become a must-win game for the team that took Europe by surprise at France 2016.
17-year-old Ben Woodburn’s spectacular strike against Austria breathed new life into Wales’ qualification campaign on Saturday night, and they have a chance of making it six points from this international break when they travel to minnows Moldova. They remain third in group D, two points behind Ireland and four behind Serbia, but those sides play each other on Tuesday so Wales have a chance to make up more ground. They thumped Moldova 4-0 in the reverse fixture a year ago in September, and a follow up will put them right back in the mix for a top two spot in the section.
Italy succumbed 3-0 to a talented Spanish side on Saturday night, probably giving up any chance of winning group G in the process. Second place is not quite wrapped up yet with Albania on the chase, so an Italian win at home to Israel is important for the Azzurri to consolidate their position for the play off round.
Iceland v Ukraine
First we’re backing Iceland at very tempting odds of 17/102.70+1701.701.70-0.59 with Bet365 and William Hill to come out on top against Ukraine.
Croatia lead group I with 16 points, Ukraine are second with 14, and Iceland sit third with 13 points. Croatia face a tricky tie away at fourth-placed Turkey on Tuesday night – another side bidding to keep qualification hopes alive – so the Iceland v Ukraine game can be vital for the victor. If Croatia drop points in Turkey, either of these sides can make up ground and push for top spot in the group.
It was a 1-1 draw the last time these two met in the reverse fixture in Ukraine last September, but Iceland rode their luck in getting the point. They took the lead after just five minutes, but were pegged back by half time before Ukraine missed a late penalty and a chance to win the match. Yarmolenko was on target twice in Saturday’s impressive home win over Turkey, and Ukraine will be determined to at least maintain their one-point lead over Iceland in the group.
Iceland will rue missed chances against Finland on Saturday in a game they dominated for large periods but ended up losing 1-0. That makes this game all the more important in terms of qualification, but their record in front of their partisan fans is strong enough to give them plenty of confidence. They’ve only lost once in the last 11 internationals on home soil, a 1-0 friendly defeat to Chile. Eight of the other games have resulted in victories, including wins against Turkey and Croatia in this group.
Moldova v Wales
Paddy Power stand out at 11/102.10+1101.101.10-0.91 about a Wales win by at least two goals in Moldova, and the Welsh are tipped to cover the -1.5 Asian handicap.
Gareth Bale hit a brace when Wales stuffed Moldova 4-0 in the opposite fixture in the group last September, and he will lead his side again on Tuesday night. Manager Chris Coleman had said prior to the Austria game that he felt his side would need to win each of the last four qualifiers to reach Russia 2018, and they made the perfect start with the 1-0 win. Ben Woodburn reminded everyone of his precocious talent with a brilliant strike from the edge of the area to give his country the win. With the ‘hard work’ out of the way in this international break, Wales cannot afford to let it go to waste by failing to take maximum points from this game.
Moldova have only won one game in the last 13 internationals – a 2-0 friendly victory over San Marino – but they have lost five and drawn two of their seven qualifiers in group D. They were beaten 3-0 away at Serbia on Saturday night, and although a 2-2 draw with Georgia in their last home fixture is a decent result, they’ve lost five of the last six at home.
Italy v Israel
We’re also tipping Italy to cover the same -1.5 Asian handicap at odds of 14/251.56-1790.56-1.790.56 with Marathonbet when they entertain Israel.
Isco’s double and a third from Morata saw off Italy 3-0 on Saturday night, but there is no huge embarrassment about losing to a Spanish side which is at the top of its game. Otherwise Italy’s record against the other teams in group G has been foot-perfect, and they’ve recorded some big wins to boot.
The last two home qualifiers have seen them beat Liechtenstein 5-0 and Albania 2-0, and they also beat Israel 3-1 in the reverse fixture last September. Other home results in recent friendlies include a 3-0 beating of Uruguay and an 8-0 thrashing of San Marino. Against a side of the calibre of Israel, Italy should dominate from start to finish and are good value to win the game by two clear goals.
Israel warmed up for this with a 1-0 home defeat to Macedonia – their third qualifying loss in a row after losing to Spain and Albania.
Eric has been a sports journalist for over 20 years and has travelled the world covering top sporting events for a number of publications. He also has a passion for betting and uses his in-depth knowledge of the sports world to pinpoint outstanding odds and value betting opportunities.
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