The Euro 2016 qualifying campaign gets back underway next Friday (27th March) with the latest set of group fixtures spanning the weekend. Last year we backed Croatia to win group H and Wales to qualify from group B, and both bets are looking good, with Croatia currently top of the group ahead of Italy on goal difference, and Wales sitting 2nd in their group behind Israel.
The road to Euro 2016 will be at the halfway stage after next week’s games, and with that in mind we’ve been picking the bones off of each group to spot potential value in the betting markets. Both Sweden and the Czech Republic look overpriced to win their respective groups, and they are worth following for the second half of the qualifying campaign.
The Czech Republic have a 100% record in group A with 12 points from four games, yet find themselves +175 second favourites behind the Dutch to win it. That seems like a huge price considering that Holland have already lost two qualifiers and are trailing behind with just 6 points.
This is a tricky little group that also contains Iceland, who sit second with 9 points, and Turkey who are back in fourth with 4 points. Holland have suffered a bit of a World Cup hangover and have been beaten away by both the Czech Republic and Iceland, and although they’ve beaten Kazakhstan and Latvia comfortably at home, they can’t afford many more slip ups if they want to grab a top two spot. Remember, third place in a group could be good enough for a play-off place, but that would be an embarrassment for the Dutch. However, they won’t be too worried about finishing second, as long as they qualify, and they may find it tough to reel in the Czech Republic for top spot.
The Czech’s have been flawless, beating Holland, Iceland, Turkey and Kazakhstan, and with wins over all their main rivals, look poised to qualify for the tournament in France. They face a final game showdown in Holland, but by then they will hope to have top spot in the bag, and it’s definitely theirs to lose. Iceland have won three of their four games so far, including wins over Holland and Turkey, and they pose a threat; as do Turkey, who can beat anyone on their day, particularly at home.
To Win Group A
Holland – -120 with Bet365
Czech Republic – +175 with William Hill
Iceland – +1200 with Betvictor
Holland have the quality and the experience, and it seems impossible that they won’t qualify, but they look far to short to actually go on and win the group from the position that they’re in. That means there’s a little bit of value about the Czech Republic, and if they can maintain as much of that six point gap as possible before they meet the Dutch on the final day, they have every chance of coming out on top.
It’s Austria who are the runaway leaders in group G, and they top the table with 10 points after three wins and a draw from four games. However, we think they can be caught and overtaken by Sweden, in a group that remains wide open.
The Swedes are also unbeaten so far, but they sit second with 6 points after three draws and one win. Russia are live contenders in the group, and they’re joint-third with Montenegro on 5 points. Sweden have had a tough run of fixtures though, and can come on strong in the second half of the campaign. They drew away in Austria on the opening day, before being held 1-1 at home by Russia in the second game. They followed that up with a 2-0 home win over Liechtenstein, and then a slightly disappointing away draw in Montenegro. It’s another away day in Moldova next week for Sweden and that one is vital for their chances. A win there and they will be keeping Austria within touching distance. They beat the Austrians 2-1 at home in World Cup qualifying in 2014, and will fancy their chances of doing so again when the fixture comes round in September.
Austria have recorded excellent results so far, with the 1-0 win over Russia the highlight, but they still have to travel to Sweden, Russia and Montenegro, and those three away games will be tough. It’s a telling statistic that they have never qualified for a European Championship, and although the new format gives them every chance of getting there, it might be via a third-placed finish rather than as group winners.
Russia are the fly in the ointment for Austria and Sweden, and under Fabio Capello could pip both to the post. They had a good World Cup qualifying campaign, albeit a rather disappointing tournament, but much like England under Capello, they’ve become quite methodical and predictable. They beat Liechtenstein 4-0 in their first fixture, and a 1-1 away draw in Sweden was fairly promising, but the 1-1 home draw with Moldova was a huge disappointment, as was the 1-0 loss in Austria. Their best could be yet to come though, and they have already played their hardest two away games in Austria and Sweden. They face another tricky away game next week in Montenegro, and anything less than a win will leave them a lot to do to catch up in the group.
To Win Group G
Austria – +175 with Coral
Russia – +250 with Bet365
Of the other groups, we’ll stick with our bet on Wales to qualify from group B. Group C looks like a straightforward task for Spain, and likewise group D for Germany. England have group E at their mercy, and Northern Ireland are still in with a good shout in group F. We’ve already tipped Croatia to come out on top in group H, and Portugal look good for group I but are too short at the odds.
Czech Republic to win Group A – +175 with William Hill
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