A look ahead to the Euro 2020 qualifiers
With another weekend of enthralling Premier League action behind us, we have now reached our first hiatus of the season, and although club football is parked for nearly a fortnight, the international theatre of war is back in full swing.
On the agenda are the qualifiers for next summer’s European Championship, and with us being less than halfway through the fixture schedule, there is still plenty of time for nations to book their ticket to the finals.
With a full programme of matches over the next few weeks, there is a lot of action to choose from, and in this article, we are going to look at what the Home Nations face in terms of upcoming opposition.
Three Lions meet Bulgaria
As far as England are concerned, it has been the perfect start to their Euro 2020 qualification preparations thus far, and that is exactly how manager Gareth Southgate will want it to stay this weekend.
Saturday sees them play host to Bulgaria at Wembley, having already picked up maximum points from their first two matches, and in doing so, the Three Lions have scored no fewer than 10 goals in the process.
After the disappointment of failing to win the UEFA Nations League in June, it is fair to say that England have shaken off the cobwebs after emphatic wins over both the Czech Republic and Montenegro.
Both these matches have seen England record five-goal hauls, and with the 2018 World Cup semi-finalists being in such rampant mood, fans will be optimistic at the thought of this young squad dishing out another heavy defeat.
With the roar of a Wembley crowd behind them, England will be well placed to come out on top, and although there is little value in backing this particular outcome, it could be the goal markets that provide the biggest reward.
If you think that England will once again turn in a five-star performance and record a quintet of strikes in the opposition’s net, then you can back over 4.5 team goals at Sportsbet at odds of 7/2, and if you think that they might be a little more conservative, then you can back over 3.5 at 8/5.
A huge clash awaits Northern Ireland
It’s fair to say that Northern Ireland have been something of a surprise act in regard to international performances over the last few years, though if they keep repeating such incredible achievements, can it still be considered a surprise?
Manager Michael O’Neill will hope that the Green and White Army have something up their sleeve when they play host to Germany on Monday 9th September, and if they can produce more magic, then the Ulstermen will move a huge step closer to a second-successive finals appearance.
Going into the international break, Northern Ireland top Group C with a perfect record of four wins from four, and in the process they lead Germany by three points – albeit due to the 2014 World Cup winners having played a game less.
Germany’s opportunity to go top of the group is presented to them on Friday night as they play host to the Netherlands in what is going to once again be a game that has a huge bearing on who reaches the finals next summer.
If you think that Joachim Löw’s men can continue their perfect start to qualification, you can back them with Sportsbet at evens. If you think Ronald Koeman’s men will do the job against their nearest rivals, it is odds of 49/20 for them to win.
Wales looking for a home banker
It’s fair to say that Wales are struggling to match the heights of the previous European Championship qualifying campaign, and after two defeats from their first three outings, manager Ryan Giggs has a real challenge on his hands.
It will therefore come as some relief that it is Azerbaijan who provide the next opposition this Friday night, and with the Welsh also having home advantage, this should prove to be nothing less than a home banker.
Failure to win this routine encounter and the writing will be on the wall for this Wales squad, and any hopes of matching their incredible run to the Euro 2016 semi-final stage will be all but dead and buried.
If you are looking for a fixture to add to your international accumulator, then this should be the perfect fodder, and with Sportsbet offering odds of 1/4 for a Wales win, all signs point to a home win this weekend.
You can also back the Welsh to win and keep a clean sheet at odds of 20/31, something that might just add a little more interest to proceedings in Cardiff.
Scotland looking to drive into automatic
Even though Scotland have played just four Euro 2020 qualifiers so fair, it has still been enough time for Alex McLeish to be shown the Hampden Park exit door and for former Kilmarnock boss Steve Clarke to be installed as the new footballing head steward.
Clarke got his tenure off to an ideal start as Scotland earned a late dramatic win over Cyprus, and although there would have been a level of optimism for the Belgium encounter that followed, there was only going to be one winner in Brussels.
This has meant that Scotland have won two of their first four qualifiers – one of those being the sluggish performance against San Marino, which ultimately would go on to cost McLeish his status as manager.
Thankfully, Scotland do have a guaranteed play-off berth as a safety net and therefore results are not as important for them as the other Home Nations. However, Clarke will want to foster a winning culture and get the better of Russia this Friday night.
The Russians are in fine fettle after earning nine points from the first 12 on offer, and they will be confident of adding three more to their already burgeoning tally of Euro 2020 qualification points.
If you are as confident of Russia returning to Moscow with a win, you can back them with Sportsbet at odds of 8/5, but if you think that Scotland can revive their automatic qualification hopes with victory, you can back Clarke’s men at the rather inviting odds of 39/20.
Are you ready for another round of international football? Visit Sportsbet, your home of Euro 2020 qualification betting.
Words: Josh Dixon