The 2018 UEFA World Cup Qualifiers resume with just four teams making perfect starts so far.
The opening exchanges have given a glimpse of insight into how Europe will be represented at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Switzerland, Germany, Belgium and Greece have all made perfect starts with nine points from three matches while it’s already panic stations for nations like the Czech Republic, who are still winless and wallowing. This weekend I’ll take a look at the pick of the weekend’s important UEFA World Cup Qualifiers.
Friday 11 November
1/4 France | Draw 17/4 | Sweden 19/2
France have made an undefeated start to qualifying with wins over Bulgaria and the Netherlands, drawing with Belarus in their opening fixture. News in the squad comes in the form of a call-up for PSG midfielder Adrien Rabiot, with Anthony Martial overlooked by manager Didier Deschamps.
Sweden have made an identical start, beating Bulgaria and Luxembourg and sharing the spoils with the Netherlands. Both sides have scored and conceded equally, making this a top of the table clash in Group A. France should have enough to claim the three points at 1/4.
19/20 Czech Republic | Draw 9/4 | Norway 3/1
Czech Republic have made a poor start to their qualifying campaign with two draws and one defeat. Goalless draws with Northern Ireland and Azerbaijan came either side of a 3-0 drubbing from Germany, meaning that the Czechs are yet to score in European qualification.
Norway haven’t fared much better and are only a point above the home side. Losses to Germany and Azerbaijan in which they drew blanks gave way to a 4-1 victory over San Marino. Under 2.5 Goals is the tip at 11/20.
2/1 Romania | Draw 21/10 | Poland 14/10
Romania have began qualifying with two draws and one win, meaning they host Poland as yet undefeated. Romania shared the spoils with both Montenegro and Kazakhstan, beating Armenia 5-0 away from home. Three points from this match will allow Romania to leapfrog Poland in the standings, however it will be their toughest test yet.
Robert Lewandowski has been typically devastating for Poland, netting five times in qualifying so far. A hat-trick against Denmark gifted his nation all three points, as well as a last minute winner against Armenia. Poland are 7/20 to get a result from this match on the Double Chance.
Saturday 12 November
19/20 Austria | Draw 23/10 | Rep. of Ireland 29/10
Austria have made an inconsistent start to qualifying with one win, one draw and one loss. A 2-1 win over Georgia was followed by a 2-2 draw at home with Wales. However, Austria were beaten 3-2 by Serbia as Dusan Tadic scored the final goal in a match that went back and forth. The Republic of Ireland have made an unbeaten start to proceedings in Group D. A 2-2 draw in Serbia was followed by wins over Moldova and Georgia.
The Republic of Ireland are equal on points with group leaders Serbia and will be intent on picking up something from this fixture in a very tough group. Another away win/draw Double Chance is the tip at 15/20.
5/4 Wales | Draw 43/20 | Serbia 9/4
This match promises to be a cracking encounter in a fiercely contested Group D. Wales thrashed Moldova before playing out a well fought draw against Austria and a disappointing stalemate at home with Georgia. The Welsh will now eye out group leaders Serbia, who have been in fantastic form with two wins and a draw.
The Serbians disposed of Moldova easily after drawing with the Republic of Ireland and before a strong 3-2 victory over Austria. This match could really go either way but I’m not passing up on the 5/4 price for a home win.
5/4 Albania | Draw 2/1 | Israel 24/10
Albania made a great start to qualifying in Group G with victories over Macedonia and Liechtenstein before coming unstuck against Spain. Equal on points with Israel, and only a point behind both Spain and Italy, this is certainly one of the more important fixture for both of these sides.
Israel have beaten the same sides as Albania and lost to Italy. In all honestly it is unlikely that either of these sides will catch the group’s major players. However, victory here will be crucial if they are to do so. As such, I’m backing the straight draw at 2/1.
24/1 Liechtenstein | Draw 10/1 | Italy 1/16
Liechtenstein have predictably proven the Group G whipping boys, losing all three of their matches and conceding 12 times, scoring once. Their last victory came in March 2015 against San Marino and the nation have only won two football matches since the end of 2012.
Italy have done well to keep pace with Spain in the group, a penalty gifting the Azzurri a point at home against their biggest group rivals. Italy should have no problem disposing of Liechtenstein. Over 3.5 Goals is a great bet at 9/10.
1/25 Spain | Draw 11/1 | Macedonia 35/1
Spain have scored 11 goals on their way to two wins and one draw so far in qualifying, conceding once to share the spoils with Italy. As a result, Spain are clear of Italy by virtue of a goal difference seven better than their closest rivals.
Macedonia have lost all three of their qualifying matches against Albania, Israel and Italy. They have little to offer against a rampant Spanish side and the value is in Over 3.5 Goals at 8/10.
Sunday 13 November
16/1 Luxembourg | Draw 15/2 | Netherlands 1/8
Although Luxembourg reside at the bottom of Group A, they’ve put up a really good fight in all of their qualifying matches. They fought back against Bulgaria only to concede in injury time to lose the match 4-3. Sweden found Luxembourg tough to break down in their 1-0 win while Aurelien Joachim’s third goal of qualifying picked up a point against Belarus in their last outing.
The Netherlands have looked uncertain once again, one win, one draw and one loss highlighting their inconsistency. The Dutch shared the spoils with Sweden, beat Belarus 4-1 and lost to France. They’ll have enough to get the three points here and should be added to multiples at 1/8.
1/20 Portugal | Draw 11/1 | Latvia 28/1
Portugal made a disappointing start to qualifying, beaten 2-0 by Switzerland in their opening fixture. The European champions then responded strongly with 6-0 wins over Andorra and the Faroe Islands, leaving them second in Group B and trailing Switzerland by three points. Portugal will be aware that they’ll need to continue their recent form to keep the pressure on the group leaders.
Latvia beat Andorra but lost to both Faroe Islands and Hungary, leaving the nation on three points after three matches. This is another Over 3.5 Goals bet at 7/10.
1/16 Belgium | Draw 10/1 | Estonia 25/1
Belgium have made a perfect start to qualifying with three wins on the trot against Cyprus, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Gibraltar. Belgium have scored 13 goals and conceded none, having a goal difference six better than Greece, who have also won all three matches in Group H.
Estonia picked up three points from a victory over Gibraltar but have otherwise been soundly beaten. With Belgium in rampant form, this is another Over 3.5 Goals tip at 7/10.
Weekend Quad @ 8/1
This weekend I’m quite keen on an Over 3.5 Goals quad in the fixtures that look like mismatches. Take Over 3.5 Goals in Italy, Spain, Portugal and Belgium’s matches at a valuable 8/1!
Written by Rick John Henry @Hollywoodbets