The problem most punters have with international breaks is finding good value bets when there are so many lop-sided games. Backing the likes of Germany to beat San Marino will almost guarantee a winning bet, but one has to question not only the value, but the point in even playing such games.
Saturday’s games feature a number of matches that fall into that category, with a short-priced favourite that should win at a canter. For betting purposes these games are often avoided, and our attention is turned to two much more competitive fixtures in group D of the European World Cup qualifying section. Republic of Ireland face a tough trip to Austria, while Wales and Gareth Bale take on Serbia – a side with which they have unfinished business.
Serbia humbled the Welsh 6-1 in World Cup qualifying in 2012, and followed that up with a 3-0 win in Cardiff a year later. That was Gareth Bale’s first international after his record-breaking move to Real Madrid, and his progress since then has been mirrored by his country’s rise up the rankings. Fortunes have changed for both teams since those heavy defeats, and the Welsh will feel they can exact some revenge on Saturday night as they look to follow up their qualification for Euro 2016 with a place in Russia 2018.
Wales v Serbia
Serbia may be top of the group at the moment, but it is a tight section with four teams in with a realistic chance of qualifying. The Serbs are level with Republic of Ireland on 7 points, Wales are next with 5, and Austria sit in 4th place with 4 points.
Serbia will miss influential defender Kolarov for this match, while Chelsea’s Ivanovic is a shadow of the player he was when the Serbs recorded those two outstanding victories. Wales in the other hand have improved beyond all recognition, and they welcome back Aaron Ramsey after injury. Gareth Bale is rated as one of the world’s best, and in Joe Allen and Ashley Williams there is a certain steel to the spine of the Welsh side these days. That was proven in Euro 2016 when they made a remarkable run to the semi-finals, only to lose out to eventual winners Portugal. However, after not qualifying for a tournament for such a long time, it was a superb effort and one they will want to repeat as they aim for a World Cup spot.
A 4-0 win over Moldova got them off to the perfect start in this campaign, and a 2-2 draw in Austria was a fair result in the context. the 1-1 home draw with Georgia was perhaps a disappointment, but that only serves to increase the importance of getting a result in this one.
Serbia failed to qualify for Euro 2016, but they’ve started their World Cup qualification campaign well. They were held to a 2-2 draw at home by Ireland in the first game, but have recorded a 3-0 win over Moldova and a 3-2 home win over Austria in the next two. However, away from home they’ve been beaten in six of the last ten internationals, and they go to a Wales side that has won four of the last five on home turf. With a vocal crowd behind them and revenge in the air, Wales are worth backing at a very generous price.
Austria v Ireland
One suspects that Austria are slightly over-rated on account of their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, and Ireland are a touch of value to get at least a point at -110 with Coral
The Austrians topped their Euro qualifying group with nine wins and a draw from 10 matches, but it wasn’t the most competitive section with Russia and Sweden the main contenders. They were dismal in the tournament in France, losing to both Hungary and Iceland, and gaining a solitary point from a 0-0 draw with Portugal. They’re also missing three key players for this game – goalkeeper Almer, defender Prodl, and playmaker Junuzovic. They’ve managed just one win in the last seven internationals – away at Georgia – and have only won twice in the last six on home ground.
Martin O’Neill’s Irish side returned from a heroic defeat to France in Euro 2016, and have continued their good form in the World Cup qualifiers. They’ve scored in 18 of their last 19 internationals, and are three from four since the summer tournament. A friendly win over Oman was followed by a draw with Serbia and victories over Moldova and Georgia. They’re joint top of the section and deserve more credit than the bookies are giving them for this match.
Daryl Murphy and James McCarthy are out injured, but John O’Shea and James McClean are both fit for the game. One thing that O’Neill and Roy Keane can guarantee is a side that will work for each other and be very hard to beat, and one doubts that Austria have the required quality. At the odds, Ireland are a great shout to get at least a point from this game.
Wales to beat Serbia
Saturday 12th November, 19:45 GMT
Ireland or Draw
Saturday 12th November, 17:00 GMT