All eyes this weekend will be on the Champions League final between Real Madrid and Juventus, but there are also plenty of international friendlies as teams prepare for next week’s World Cup qualifiers. Russia 2018 qualification points will be up for grabs next weekend in a three-day blitz of matches, but there are a handful of games which deserve some betting attention in the next few days.
We tipped the Netherlands to win their first friendly under Dick Advocaat’s reign, and they landed some juicy odds with a 2-1 away win, despite playing the last twenty minutes with ten men. Advocaat was unable to attend the match, so interim boss Fred Grim held the fort. The new manager, along with assistant Ruud Gullit, will be in the dug out for Sunday’s home game against Ivory Coast.
In other matches on Sunday, the eye-catcher is Ireland’s home tie with Uruguay. The Irish are on course for a place at Russia 2018, and currently stand joint-top of their qualifying group with Serbia. They’ll face a crucial match with Austria on home soil next Sunday, and Uruguay will provide a stiff test in preparation. Belgium have to wait until Monday for their match at home to the Czech Republic, but have been good enough under former Everton boss Roberto Martinez to suggest they are on course for victory.
Netherlands v Ivory Coast
First we’ll take the Netherlands to make it a perfect start under Dick Advocaat at -132 with Marathonbet.
The 2-1 win in Morocco was all the more impressive as several key players were unavailable for selection. Daley Blind, Davy Klaassen, Jeremain Lens, Arjen Robben, Kevin Strootman, Stefan de Vrij and Georginio Wijnaldum could all return to the starting line up for Sunday’s game. Spurs’ striker Victor Janssen was on the scoresheet against the Moroccans, so he might well keep his place in the starting eleven.
It’s been difficult to side with the Dutch over the last few seasons, and their unpredictability remains. Prior to the win over Morocco they were beaten in a friendly by Italy, and a World Cup qualifier by Bulgaria – a result that ultimately cost Danny Blind his job. However, we’re taking the view that Advocaat may be able to steady the ship somewhat, and he goes into this game off the back of a victory and with all of his star names at his disposal.
Ivory Coast will be a tough nut to crack, but look unlikely to pull off a shock away win. They’ve only lost twice in the last twenty games – to Morocco and Mali – but there have been far too many draws. This points to a side which is hard to beat, as their 0-0 draw in France demonstrated. The Netherlands have ground to make up in qualification and in the FIFA rankings though, and they also have a reputation to restore. If Advocaat can instil a winning attitude again, it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise to see the Dutch go on a decent run of form in a bid to salvage World Cup qualification.
Ireland v Uruguay
Ireland and Uruguay looks a tough game to call, but the value is arguably with the draw at +220 with Bet365.
The Irish squad is on the way back from New Jersey after playing out a 3-1 defeat to Mexico in the early hours of Friday morning, but they are always strong on home ground. After a thrilling Euro 2016 campaign, the Irish have kept up the good work in World Cup qualifying, in what is a particularly difficult group. They are currently atop group D alongside Serbia with 11 points, but Wales and Austria are breathing down their necks, both on 7 points. Only one side goes to Russia automatically, with the 2nd placed team entering a play off, so this group could well go to the wire in terms of qualification.
This match against Uruguay will provide an excellent rehearsal for next week’s tie against Austria, and the South American side are blessed with some huge talents. In terms of qualifying, Uruguay sit comfortably third in the ten-team South American section and should be involved in the World Cup. However, they have now lost the last three games on the bounce, and away form has been poor for an extended period. They’ve lost eight and drawn two of the last 12 road games, winning just twice in Panama and Bolivia.
Belgium v Czech Republic
We saw plenty of both of these teams in Euro 2016. The Czech Republic’s limitations were exposed in defeats to Spain and Turkey, and although they fought back for a 2-2 draw with Croatia, circumstances were in their favour over those last 5-10 minutes. Belgium’s ‘golden generation’ were expected to challenge for the trophy, but they fell at the quarter final stage to Wales, possibly not living up to their pre-tournament potential.
The Belgians are top of qualifying having won four out of five qualifying games so far under Martinez, the only black mark a 1-1 draw with Greece. Czech Republic had an inauspicious start to their campaign, with defeat to Germany and a 0-0 draw with Azerbaijan. They sit third in group C behind the Germans and Northern Ireland.
It’s always advisable to be wary with stakes on international friendlies as we never know how seriously the respective sides will take the game, but if both play to average form Belgium should win comfortably.
Netherlands to beat Ivory Coast
Sunday 4th June, 18:30 GMT
Ireland and Uruguay to Draw
Sunday 4th June, 18:00 GMT
Belgium to beat Czech Republic
Monday 5th June, 19:45 GMT