Germany set to qualify for next summer’s World Cup finals with two games to spare?
England fans booing their own team despite a 4-0 away win that puts their side on the brink of guaranteeing at least a play-off place?
The bookmakers unmoved in their opinion of the home nations’ chances of glory in 2018 despite a haul of four wins from four qualifiers over the past four days? Plus ça change.
World Cup betting expert Dan Roebuck gives his predictions for the upcoming qualifiers.
In fairness, given Joachim Low’s ‘B team’ captured the Confederations Cup in the summer, it’s no surprise the world champions, 11/2 favourites to retain the trophy, are on course to book their place in Russia.
For England (20/1), Scotland (500/1), Wales (200/1) and Northern Ireland (500/1), though, there is also the real prospect of all four playing in the same finals since 1958 – something that would give the firms’ traders considerable worry when it comes to their long-term liabilities.
Kane Able To Help England Cause
Those visiting fans that left the Ta’Qali Stadium five minutes early (after which three goals were scored) last Friday failed to see England put the gloss on a workmanlike 4-0 win over Malta.
Sure, it wasn’t what many supporters wanted from Gareth Southgate’s side against a true minnow of the global game, but isn’t it always the case that bottom seeded nations can be stubborn opponents?
At Wembley on Monday night, it’s difficult to know how much ambition Slovakia will show.
Yes, a win, at 15/2, would see them leapfrog England in the Group F standings into top spot, but avoiding defeat might be more on the agenda for Jan Kozak’s men.
Slovakia have won their last two away games and can boast friendly successes on their travels against both Germany and Russia in the last 18 months, so are capable, but they’ve never beaten England (losing four of five meetings), and the hosts are deservedly chalked up at 4/11.
That’s hardly a working man’s price, though, and a better bet might be back Harry Kane to grab the first goal at 13/5.
With August out of the way, the Spurs striker has started to find the net again. Kane is king of the scoring streaks. Only four times last season did he fail to follow up one goal with at least another in his next outing (and remember he notched 38 times for club and country).
Scotland And Northern Ireland To Stay On Course
This is one of those rare occasions that Scotland fans will be actively hoping England secure a win, as a defeat of Slovakia will aid Gordon Strachan’s team in their attempt to make the finals.
The Scots trade at 1/20 to beat Malta at Hampden Park – the visitors are 35/1 to pull off a shock win.
I was really impressed with Scotland in their 3-0 away victory over Lithuania and they will surely beat the section whipping boys. Where is the angle in for punters?
Well, in six of Malta’s last seven matches there have been under 1.5 goals in the first half, which seems a value play at 3/4. A more speculative bet might be to back Scotland to win 2-0 at 24/5 – the scoreline in six of Malta’s last seven competitive away fixtures (including their last four).
Northern Ireland can guarantee a play-off place by avoiding defeat in Belfast against the Czech Republic. The visitors, therefore, must attack, and that surely means goals.
The fact the Czechs have kept only one clean sheet away from home (and that against San Marino) in nearly four years suggests investing in ‘both teams to score’, at 57/50, and over 2.5 goals, at 13/8, will reap rewards.