Euro 2016 is less than two weeks away and all of the international sides are using their final few friendlies to build towards the tournament in France. The action continues throughout this week and several top teams take to field again on Tuesday and Wednesday.
The Republic of Ireland were held to a 1-1 draw by the Netherlands last Friday and they have another home game against Belarus on Tuesday night. Spain host South Korea after a comfortable win over 10-man Bosnia, while Belgium welcome Finland to home soil after a road win in Switzerland on Saturday. Another eye-catching game is the one between Poland and Holland, where the home side look somewhat overpriced after five straight victories in a row.
Republic of Ireland v Belarus
Belarus made the trip to Windsor Park to play Northern Ireland last Friday night, but were soundly beaten 3-0 as Lafferty, Washington and Grigg all found the net in a 3-0 win. It was a first defeat in six matches for Belarus, but the quality of opposition tells the full story of that statistic. Wins over Slovakia and Luxembourg and draws against Armenia, Montenegro and Macedonia are indicative of the level that Belarus are playing at. Prior to that unbeaten run they had lost internationals to Ukraine, Spain and Russia.
Ireland are making final preparations for the Euros, and are unbeaten on home ground since May 2014. They’ve beaten the likes of Germany, Switzerland and Bosnia in that run, and Martin O’Neill has put together a strong squad with the typical heart associated with the Irish national team. Alongside that endeavour they also have more than their share of quality, and showed once again against Holland that they are a force to be reckoned with on the international stage. Shane Long confirmed his likely starting place in the Ireland line up with the opening goal, and there were chances to increase the lead before De Jong’s header squared it up after 85 minutes. It was a strong performance overall though, and will give Martin O’Neill plenty to think about as he selects his final squad.
Injuries to Robbie Keane and Harry Artur may have clouded the issues for O’Neill, with both due to miss out on this game as the extent of the damage is assessed. Ipswich striker Murphy looks likely to start as he searches for his first international goal, and with places on the plane and in the starting eleven up for grabs we can expect another positive Ireland performance.
Spain v South Korea
Spain made it 8 wins in 10 games with the 3-1 win over Bosnia and can be backed at -222 with BetVictor to continue the winning thread against South Korea.
Nolito scored two early goals to put Spain in command on Sunday, before Spahic pulled one back and promptly got himself sent off before half-time. Pedro added the third deep into injury time to confirm the win, and the Spanish look back to their clinical best. This ought to be another confidence-boosting win as they prepare to defend their status as European Champions in the summer.
South Korea are on a cracking run of their own after 13 wins in 15 games, but once again the statistic doesn’t tell the full story. South Korea are one of the big guns of Asian football and the likes of Laos and Myanmer are a million miles away from the quality oozing through this Spain side. The last time they met in 2012 Spain ran out 4-1 winners in a friendly and they should be plenty good enough to score goals against this Korean team.
Belgium v Finland
Belgium are another top side offered at a short price, but they should also be too good for a poor Finland team at -323 with Marathonbet
Goals from Lukaku and De Bruyne gave Belgium a 2-1 win in Switzerland last week, and the Swiss are a much better side than Finland. That made it 8 wins in the last 10 internationals for Belgium, and the run includes victories over the likes of France and Italy. They’ve been tipped as dark horses for recent tournaments and will be fancied by many to be a real contender in this summer’s Euros.
Finland are on a poor run of four straight defeats and their last victory came in a 1-0 win over the Faroe Islands last September. They’ve been beaten by Norway and Iceland this year, as well as taking a 3-0 thumping from Sweden and a 5-0 thrashing from Poland. They come up against one of the best sides in Europe here and it’s very hard to look past a comfortable home win.
Poland v Netherlands
Finally Poland are worth a punt at a big price of +155 with BetVictor to beat Holland on Wednesday night.
The Dutch are continually over-rated in the betting markets, and appear to be priced on reputation rather than form. They were far too short to beat Ireland last week as highlighted in our column, and they were easy to lay on the night. One of the problems is at the back and there is a shortage of top class defenders around the Dutch side at the moment. They’ve conceded 11 goals in the last six internationals, at a rate of more than two per game. Those games have yielded three wins, two defeats and a draw, and that inconsistency makes it difficult to back the Netherlands in any game.
By contrast Poland have been a model of consistency with five straight wins in which they’ve scored 15 and conceded just 4. They’ve beaten Ireland, Serbia and Czech Republic, and after running Germany close for top spot in their qualifying group, they go to France for the Euros as a live outsider.
At the prices and on home soil, Poland are worth a small bet to get the better of a frail Netherlands side.
Ireland to beat Belarus
Tuesday 31st May, 19:45 GMT
Spain to beat South Korea
Wednesday 1st June, 15:30 GMT
Belgium to beat Finland
Wednesday 1st June, 19:45 GMT
Poland to beat Netherlands
Wednesday 1st June, 19:45 GMT