Healing World Cup Wounds?
The football calendar throws up another round of international matches this week, with the new mix of international football friendlies and UEFA National League matches providing us with some interesting and important clashes.
There are two friendlies on Thursday as Wales host Spain, whilst we can only hope that France vs Iceland provides us with a similar seven-goal-thriller to their match at Euro 2016. Meanwhile, the UEFA Nations League matches on Thursday include Israel vs Scotland, Russia vs Sweden, and Poland vs Portugal.
Friday’s UEFA Nations League matches then include Austria vs Northern Ireland, before England take on Croatia in a rematch of the 2018 World Cup semi-finals. It could be a crucial match too, as the result could be a major factor in deciding which of the two teams gets relegated from the highest tier of the UEFA Nations League at the end of the season.
Wales vs Spain (Thursday 11 October, 19.45)
A friendly between Wales and Spain looks a mismatch on paper, with Spain favourites to qualify from Group A4 of the UEFA Nations League and Wales currently sitting second in Group B4. Wales may have secured a 4-1 win against Ireland in their opening UEFA Nations League match, but a subsequent 2-0 defeat by Denmark suggests they haven’t got the class to trouble the current Spanish side.
Indeed, it will be interesting to see whether Ryan Giggs uses this match to give baptisms of fire to some new players. Whether Giggs fields his best side or not may well be irrelevant, though as Spain blew out at the 2018 World Cup after a pre-tournament management change, new manager Luis Enrique has quickly remoulded the amazing legion of talent at his disposal into a side that has easily beat Croatia and England in their opening two UEFA Nations League matches. Spain may only be a best-priced 2/5 to beat Wales, but are worth considering as a banker for any international accumulators this week.
France vs Iceland (Thursday 11 October, 20.00)
France also look worth of inclusion in any international accas this week at odds of 2/9 to beat Iceland in France. The French Team have already beaten The Netherlands, whilst a draw in Germany is always a good point in anyone’s book. Meanwhile, Iceland are reeling after losing 6-0 in their last away match in Switzerland, whilst they were also beaten 3-0 at home by Belgium in their first UEFA Nations League match, meaning they sit a long way bottom of Group A2.
Matches between the two sides also have a habit of producing lots of goals, with their last encounter at Euro 2016 ending up 5-2 to France, whilst their previous two clashes also each produced five goals. 3/1, and bigger in places, is available about there being more than 4.5 goals, and there may be plenty of takers.
Israel vs Scotland (Thursday 11 October, 19.45)
Scotland and Israel are both languishing way down the pecking order in Group C1 of the UEFA Nations League, but promotion from this group will raise either team’s profile considerably. Scotland are currently in pole position to achieve promotion after beating Albania in their first match, especially as Albania have since beaten Israel. Israel do have home advantage, but the bookies may be giving that too much significance by pricing both teams up at similar odds to emerge victorious.
Admittedly, confidence in Scotland isn’t high enough to include them in this week’s accas, but they may be worth a bet at around 19/10 to get three points and establish themselves firmly at the top of their group.
Russia vs Sweden (Thursday 11 October, 19.45)
Russia and Sweden were two of the surprise packages at the 2018 World Cup, with Russia beating Spain in the round-of-last-16 before succumbing to Croatia in the quarter-finals. Before the World Cup, they had looked a poor side, but have managed to continue their progression with a win over Turkey in Turkey and a 5-1 home win over the Czech Republic. That win over Turkey also takes on more significance when you consider that Turkey beat Sweden in Sweden.
However, whether Russia deserve to be evens and Sweden deserve to be 7/2 is a different matter, as Sweden have defied the odds several times in the last 12 months. They beat Italy to qualify for the World Cup, whilst they also beat Switzerland and Mexico during the World Cup Finals. This is also a match that Sweden can’t afford to lose, so they may be value to get at least a draw.
Poland vs Portugal (Thursday 11 October, 19.45)
Portugal’s talisman Christiano Ronaldo may be used to hitting the headlines, but some of his current headlines may well be causing him some concern. However, he seems to have settled into his new role at Juventus pretty quickly and he’s already amongst the goals in Serie A, a league which seldom produces as many goals as the Spanish League.
The bookies have probably got the prices just about right by making Portugal slight favourites. However, the 11/5 for a draw sticks out like a sore thumb when you consider the last three matches between the two sides have ended in draws, including when they last met at Euro 2016.
Austria vs Northern Ireland (Friday 12 October, 7.45)
After beating both Northern Ireland and Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina will be hoping this match is a draw. However, it’s no surprise that the bookies have Austria priced-up at around the 1/2 mark. The Austrians were in great form before their opening UEFA Nations League defeat, and they could still catch Bosnia and Herzegovina if they win this match, whilst winning will also be paramount if Austria are to avoid relegation.
Austria have beaten the likes of Germany, Sweden, and Russia this year and, with Brazil the only other team to beat them in their last seven matches, Northern Ireland may have a tough night ahead, especially if Austrian striker Marko Arnautovic can continue his good form against a team of players that aren’t as good on paper as the teams he faces week in week out in the English Premier League. Austria also look worthy of inclusion in this week’s acca.
Croatia vs England (Friday 12 October 19.45)
England having to play Croatia again so soon after their World Cup demi-final defeat seems a cruel twist of fate, but it’s also a chance for Gareth Southgate’s young England side to stand up and show downhearted England fans that the future may still be bright as they had hoped.
Of course, both teams are probably only playing for survival in Group A4 of the UEFA Nations League, as Spain have already put both teams well and truly in their place. England can take some hope from those two games though as, whilst they scored first before losing 2-1 to Spain, Croatia were humbled 6-0 by Spain.
However, England showing their best early on in matches before fading late on is becoming a bit of a pattern. Croatia will certainly know this after going behind early at the World Cup only to level the match in the second-half before winning it in extra-time.
Meanwhile, whilst the Croatian midfield was no match for Spain’s, they should be more than a match for England’s. England may be good enough to get a draw, but home advantage does make the 7/4 about Croatia more tempting. If you think England might start well, Croatia may be an even more attractive in-play bet.