There are a range of international World Cup qualifiers over the next few days, and we’ve earmarked the best punts on Sunday and Monday. After the highs and lows of Euro 2016 it’s back to square one for every nation as they attempt to earn a spot at the World Cup in Russia in 2018.
Ireland said a final farewell to prolific striker Robbie Keane last time out with a 4-0 thumping of Oman, in which the talisman fittingly got on the scoresheet. It’s now down to the real business for Martin O’Neill’s men as they face a tough away trip to Serbia. Scotland meanwhile kick off their campaign with a much more palatable away trip to minnows Malta. The Scots are in the same qualifying group as England and will want to get points on the board quickly before they meet the ‘Auld’ enemy.
Germany predictably beat Finland at a canter in their warm-up game last week, and they visit Norway to open their account. Italy were beaten 3-1 at home by France in new manager Giampiero Ventura’s first game, and they need to bounce back in a tough trip away in Israel.
Serbia v Ireland
Ladbrokes go 17/201.85-1180.85-1.180.85 about Ireland avoiding defeat in Serbia, and on balance that looks a cracking bet.
The Irish demonstrated their quality and dogged spirit in the Euro 2016 campaign, which saw them draw with Sweden and beat Italy. The 4-0 win over Oman in the week shows that they are in fine fettle, and those odds on the double chance are highly tempting. This is a team that has managed away draws in Germany, Poland and Italy in recent times and they have nothing to fear from Serbia.
The Serbians failed to qualify for Euro 2016, although a 3-0 result awarded to Albania for crowd disturbances hardly helped their cause. They have some good quality in their ranks and are generally a strong home side, but they were held to a 1-1 draw by Russia in their last home international, and were beaten on home turf by Portugal and Denmark during the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign. Ireland are more than capable of coming away with a positive result.
Malta v Scotland
Scotland are 11/251.44-2270.44-2.270.44 with Bet365, BetVictor and SkyBet to beat international minnows Malta, and it would be a huge shock if they failed to do so.
The Maltese have won just one of their last 20 internationals – a 2-0 victory over Lithuania – and they’ve lost 15 of the remainder. The two teams haven’t met since a World Cup qualifying campaign in 1993 in which Scotland won 2-0 and 3-0, and Gordon Strachan will be expecting a similar outcome.
The Scots had a tough group in Euro qualification, finishing fourth in their group behind Germany, Poland and Ireland. They did amass 15 points during that campaign though, and weren’t far away from being in the shake up. This World Cup group contains England, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Lithuania, so these types of games are ones that Scotland must win to enhance their chances of reaching Russia in 2018.
Norway v Germany
Germany are worth backing at 1/21.50-2000.50-2.000.50 with Ladbrokes, Coral and Betfred to get the better of Norway and that also looks a reasonable bet.
The current World Champions have Czech Republic, Northern Ireland and Norway as realistic competition in group C, with San Marino and Azerbaijan making up the numbers. Meyer and Ozil were on target in the 2-0 victory over Finland during the week, and this is a squad which possesses a serious amount of talent. They’ve won five of their last six competitive away internationals, and are good enough to beat a limited Norway team.
Norway did well enough to finish third in Euro qualifying behind Italy and Croatia, but went on to lose the two-legged play off to Hungary. Their most recent international game saw them lose 1-0 at home to Belarus in August, and Germany should be far too good on Sunday night.
Israel v Italy
Finally, the Italians are 7/101.70-1430.70-1.430.70 with Betfred and William Hill to grab three points in Israel, and they are worth a punt on Monday evening.
They might have been beaten 3-1 by France at the start of a new era under Giampiero Ventura, but Israel are several rungs below the French in terms of footballing quality. In fact, that result on home soil will give Italy even more motivation to get off to a good start in group G, in which they will also face Spain, Macedonia, Albania, and Liechtenstein.
Israel have been competitive in international football in the not too distant past, but they are not in a good place in terms of football right now. They were fourth in their Euro 2016 qualifying group behind Belgium, Wales and Bosnia. They’ve lost seven of the last nine internationals, with just a 0-0 draw against Wales and a 4-0 win over Andorra in-between.
Italy have been beaten on the road recently by Germany and Belgium in friendlies, but prior to that they’d won five of seven away games.
Ireland or Draw
Monday 5th September, 19:45 GMT
Scotland to beat Malta
Sunday 4th September, 19:45 GMT
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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