UEFA conducted the Euro 2016 qualifying draw this week and, if one does not mind waiting more than 18 months for a potential payout, there is a couple of long-term bets whose odds justify taking a position at this point in proceedings.
Scotland has not qualified for a major football tournament since the 1998 FIFA World Cup France but, given the UEFA Euro 2016 qualifying rules, there is no way that Bet365 should be offering odds of +200 about the Tartan Army marching to the expanded 24-team event, also in France.
UEFA Euro 2016 Group D sees Scotland drawn alongside the might of Germany and the not so scary sides of Georgia, Gibraltar, Ireland and Poland. Germany’s five rivals have pretty much admitted that the Germans will snaffle one of the top two spots but one is surprised that bookmakers rate Scotland as the fourth strongest side in the section. FIFA does not and that is one of the reasons why the odds appear attractive. Scotland is trading at odds of +250 with Coral to qualify for UEFA Euro 2016, whereas the same bookmaker is quoting Poland at odds of +100 and Ireland at odds of +120 .
The FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking cops a lot of flak, most of it unfair because, while it does throw up interesting sides towards the top of its ladder, the further that one goes down the list the more accurate that it becomes. So while few people, including those carrying Swiss passports, would argue that Switzerland is the world’s sixth-best team, there is less disagreement about the sides not inside the top 20.
According to the February edition of the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, Scotland is the second strongest side in UEFA Euro 2016 Group D and not by a small margin, either. For the record, Germany is ranked second, with Scotland (34th), Ireland (67th), Poland (70th), Georgia (103rd) and Gibraltar (yet to play a sufficient number of games to earn a ranking) making up the section. And it is not as if Scotland shot up to 34th overnight. It has been well ahead of Ireland, Poland, Georgia and Gibraltar for quite some time.
In the most recent World Rankings, Germany are top of the tree after their World Cup 2014 victory, with Scotland (28th), Ireland (66th), Poland (61st), Georgia (95th) and Gibraltar (yet to play a sufficient number of games to earn a ranking).
Ireland has been in decline for several years now and its recent appointment of Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane as its management team is a gamble to say the least. There is a theory that O’Neill and Keane will play good cop, bad cop given their respective personalities and that it will work out well. However, Keane’s history with Irish football is chequered and, apart from early success coaching Sunderland, his managerial career has had many more downs than ups.
Poland will play Scotland in a friendly match arranged long before UEFA officials put them in the same UEFA Euro 2016 group. The game will take place in Warsaw next month. If Scotland loses, bookmakers will probably not tinker with their odds. If Scotland wins or draws, expect to see the Tartan Army slashed to make the upcoming tournament.
Scotland is over the odds at +250 to qualify for UEFA Euro 2016. The top two sides will go through, along with the third-placed team with the best record out of the nine groups. The other eight third-placed sides will play off for the final four berths. Scotland is the 22nd-ranked UEFA team and, so, it has every right to be bullish about its chance.
Also, the Czech Republic is available at odds of +175 with BetVictor to finish either first or second in UEFA Euro 2016 Group A, which includes Iceland, Kazakhstan, Latvia, the Netherlands and Turkey as well. The Czech Republic is 31st in the latest publication of the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, 11 places above Turkey and 17 places above Iceland. (at the time of the article – Czech now 35th, Turkey 32nd, Iceland 46th) That bookmakers are favouring Turkey over the Czech Republic does not make a great deal of sense, although one admits that the Netherlands should qualify with a degree of ease.
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