Euro 2020 qualification – the latest goings on from the weekend
International football has been the focus during these last few days, and after a busy weekend schedule, we can now begin to get a better idea of who will be appearing at next summer’s European Championship.
The footballing fiesta will take place across no fewer than 13 separate venues, and although the host nations don’t get an automatic qualification berth as party planners, a large handful of them are in very strong positions when it comes to gaining VIP entry.
That’s not to say that things are all done and dusted in terms of qualification, and with a number of fixtures still scheduled, there will undoubtedly be a few more twists and turns along the way, and that’s before we’ve even got to the Euro 2020 play-off phase.
With a whole host of action taking place across the continent, we now have the perfect opportunity to look back at the weekend’s biggest headlines and also look ahead to what is still on the agenda for both Monday and Tuesday’s Euro 2020 qualifiers.
Hat-trick Harry leads England to victory
England’s perfect start to their Euro 2020 qualification plans continued on Saturday as Gareth Southgate’s men made light work of Bulgaria at Wembley, and with Harry Kane scoring a hat-trick, the Tottenham forward rightfully earned the plaudits and the match ball.
It was a rather routine win for England, as Bulgaria’s sole plan was to sit deep and frustrate the hosts, and although the Three Lions only went into the interval with a 1-0 lead, you did get the feeling that more was still to come.
A team talk from manager Southgate obviously did the trick, as just a couple of minutes after the break, it was 2-0, and Kane would easily dispatch his second of the evening, while also netting the first of two England penalties.
Soon afterwards, Kane turned from goal-scorer to provider, as he squared the ball to Raheem Stirling, and the Manchester City star had the simple job of nudging the ball over the line, to all but wrap up maximum points.
There was, however, time for Kane to seal his hat-trick and put the cherry on top of a near perfect England performance, and although they were not tested by Bulgaria, it is certainly a win that boosts the squad’s confidence before a return to action on Tuesday.
Tuesday sees them play host to Kosovo, who have genuine Euro 2020 finals aspirations of their own, and after getting the better of the Czech Republic at the weekend, they will look to pull off the biggest shock of their short international history.
If you think that the Kosovans can create some magic, you can back them at Sportsbet at odds of 27.00, but if you think that England will make it four qualification wins from four, you can back them at the much shorter but more probable odds of 1.06.
The Flower of Scotland is wilting
After Scotland’s 2-1 home defeat to Russia on Friday night, their hopes of earning an automatic qualification berth have all but diminished for good, and although Steve Clarke and his players already have a play-off place as plan B, their results will certainly need to improve before that stage.
This means that they are seriously going to be up against it when they play host to a Belgium side who have an embarrassment of riches at their disposal, and although manager Roberto Martínez cannot call upon Eden Hazard, you cannot envisage that being all that much of an issue either.
The Belgians have already met Scotland in this qualification process, and they were responsible for handing Steve Clarke his first defeat while in charge of the national team, and a look at the Sportsbet odds suggests that it will be more of the same this evening.
With Belgium the overwhelming favourites going into this game, it comes as no surprise that they are as short as 1.38 to win in Scotland, and although the hosts have the ability to sometimes shock the footballing world, it will take a brave man to back a Scottish victory at odds of 8.00.
All to play for in Group C
Germany playing host to the Netherlands on Friday night was always going to be a fixture that garnered a lot of interest, and although Northern Ireland fans were miles away from the outcome, they would have no doubt been delighted at full-time.
Ronald Koeman masterminded an incredible win for the Dutch, and this means that Northern Ireland’s Euro 2020 qualification hopes have been strengthened, in what is now looking like a three-horse race for the finals.
Germany will obviously be licking their wounds after suffering a 4-2 home defeat to their most arch of international rivals, and coming worse off in such an enthralling six-goal thriller was also the first blemish on their qualification record.
Going into tonight’s clash at Windsor Park, Michael O’Neill’s men have picked up four wins from four, and as a consequence, they find themselves top of Group C before preparing to entertain the Germans.
Even though Joachim Löw’s men suffered a first qualification group loss on Friday night, they will still come into this game as heavy favourites, and if you fancy them to bounce back, Sportsbet are serving up odds of 1.29 for an away win in Belfast.
However, if you think that the Green and White Army will make a cauldron of noise and one that makes life incredibly difficult for the 2014 World Cup winners, they can be backed for a home victory at odds of 9.50.
In the other Group C tie on Monday night, the Netherlands should have a lot less work to do this time around, and although they travel to Tallinn to face Estonia, odds of 1.05 for a Dutch win suggests that this is nothing short of a banker result.
There’s more international action to come. Visit Sportsbet, your home of European Championship betting.
Words: Josh Dixon