Ireland Stand Out in World Cup Qualifying Group D

Ireland drew 2-2 away in Serbia in their opening qualifier.

The first round of World Cup 2018 qualifiers in Europe has finished, and the long campaign to make it to Russia is underway. The winners of each group will qualify for the finals, and the best 8 runners up from the 9 qualification groups will join them. As ever, the groups are seeded in favour of the big teams, but there have already been a few early surprises.

France were expected by most to wipe the floor with Belarus, but they were held to a 0-0 draw on Tuesday evening in their group A opener. Poland let a two-goal lead slip away in Kazakhstan to draw 2-2, while new European Champions Portugal were humbled 2-0 away in Switzerland.

The Usual Suspects

There were relatively few other shocks though, as the usual big hitters tended to get the results they expected. Germany comfortably beat Norway 3-0, while Spain smashed eight past Liechtenstein. Italy won 3-1 away in Israel, while England left it incredibly late to snatch a 1-0 victory in Slovakia. Gareth Bales was on target twice as Wales beat Moldova 4-0, and Scotland racked up five in the 5-1 win in Malta. Ireland grabbed an impressive draw in Serbia, while Northern Ireland were equally impressive in a 0-0 draw away in the Czech Republic.

After just the one game, there are some decent value bets to be had in some of the group winners markets.

Group A

Despite being held by Belarus, France are a solid proposition at  -120  with SkyBetLadbrokes and Coral to top group A after all ten games have been completed.

There’s a distinct lack of quality opposition in this group for the Euro finalists. The Netherlands, Sweden, Bulgaria and Luxembourg make up the rest of the section, and France are head and shoulders above each of those. Sweden and Netherlands played out a 1-1 draw during the week, while Bulgaria got the better of Luxembourg in a seven-goal thriller. The Bulgarians eventually winning 4-3.

Each of the teams in this group are capable of taking points off each other, and even Luxembourg are no longer the whipping boys they used to be. Sweden are a functional team, but they are having to cope without Zlatan Ibrahimovic this time around. Netherlands have been in trouble for the last two years, and the 1-1 draw in Sweden was preceded by a 2-1 home friendly defeat to Greece. They are not a team to rely upon, and France should easily gain more points than any other in group A.

Group D

Group D is where the real value is, and Ireland look like an outstanding bet at  +500  with Bet365.

It’s one of the most competitive sections in qualifying, with Wales, Austria, Serbia and Ireland all capable of reaching the World Cup finals. Georgia and Moldova are the other two in the group, but neither can be expected to make an impact.

Wales and Austria are joint favourites to take out the group. The Welsh come off the back of a remarkable run to the semi finals of the Euros where they were beaten by eventual winners Portugal. Austria qualified for the Euros in style, but performed poorly with defeats to Hungary and Iceland, and just a point from a draw with the Portuguese in the group stages.

However, Ireland also had a good campaign in France, beating Italy in the group stages before running into France in the second round. They gave the French a scare in that game too. Wales went two stages further courtesy of wins over Northern Ireland, and Belgium, but in reality there is little between the Welsh and the Irish. The ELO World rankings place Wales at 23rd and Ireland at 26th. For comparison, Austria and Serbia are ranked 37th and 38th.

At the respective odds, Ireland are too big a price, and will run any of it’s opposition close for top spot in the group.

Group E

Poland suffered one of the shocks of the round after giving up a 2-0 lead to draw with Kazakhstan. However, they are still the best side in group E and can finish top ahead of Denmark, Montenegro, Romania and Armenia. The Danes scored a 1-0 win over Armenia in the first round of matches, while Montenegro and Romania played out a 1-1 draw.

Over the course of ten games Poland are fancied to be too strong, and the only realistic contenders for top spot look to be limited Denmark and Romania sides. The Poles are a generous  +225  with Betfair.

Group I

Finally Croatia are the bet in group I, despite falling to a disappointing 1-1 home draw with Turkey last week. With Modric and Rakitic the Croats have two of the world’s best midfielders, but they were one of Portugal’s victims on the way to success in France.

They are competing with Turkey, Iceland, Finland, Ukraine and Kosovo in this section, and remarkably all three opening games ended in 1-1 draws. That means it’s still wide open but there is no doubt that Croatia are the class act in this group, and it would be a big shock if they weren’t at the top by the end of the campaign. They can be backed at  +125  with Betfair and Coral.

Tips Summary

France to win Group A
World Cup 2018 Qualification
Odds:  -120

Ireland to win Group D
World Cup 2018 Qualification
Odds:  +500

Poland to win Group E
World Cup 2018 Qualification
Odds:  +225

Croatia to win Group I
World Cup 2018 Qualification
Odds:  +125

Croatia
France
ireland
Poland
World Cup Qualifying

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