Commodore's Euro Qualifier Picks

I’ve never been a fan of this international break. Coming as it does just a matter of weeks into the new season, it’s a needless distraction to the European football calender. Last weekend we watched Chelsea play Everton, this weekend we’ve got Faroe Islands against Finland. Hardly a classic clash. The joy of punting knows no bounds, though, and if you have some inside information about the Faroe Islands star striker missing the game to go on a whale hunt, then you fire, sit back and enjoy Finland’s 1-0 victory like you never could’ve imagined. Euro qualifiers tend to run a particular course and, unlike the Premier League, they’re a bit easier to predict. Let’s get into it why don’t we?

Georgia 22/10 draw 9/4 Ireland 11/10
The Euro 2016 qualifiers will be Martin O’Neill’s first in charge of the Irish, having taken over from Giovanni Trapattoni after his failure to guide them to the World Cup. They kick things off with a trip to Georgia, a team they have never lost to in six previous encounters. With Germany, Poland and Scotland rounding out an imposing group, nothing short of a win will do on Saturday. This Irish squad has a wealth of experience, with Robbie Keane, Shay Given and John O’Shea all having won over 90 caps for their country. They seem a bit long in the tooth though, and although I don’t expect them to make it out of this group, Ireland should knock over the Georgians here. A solid bet at 11/10.

Germany 1/8 draw 15/2 Scotland 11/1
World Champions Germany start their qualifying campaign with a home tie against Scotland. The Scots can be tricky characters when they want to, which is normally confined to the four corners of Hampden Park. Germany have been known to breeze through qualifying and, despite a testing group, I expect them to do the same here. They’ll be without the services of the retired Miroslav Klose, Philipp Lahm, and Per Mertesaker, but as they showed in Brazil, the new generation has more than enough ability to fill the void. Scotland have so little up front that I can’t see them troubling Manuel Neuer and co. There’s no value on the home win so go with Ze Germans to be the only team to score at 8/10.

Greece 1/1 draw 9/4 Romania 27/10
Romania will be seeking revenge when they visit Greece for their opening qualifying match. It was the Greeks that denied them a spot in the World Cup in Brazil, defeating them over two legs in the play-offs to progress to Brazil. Greece may not play the prettiest of football, but as witnessed in the tournament proper, they know how to do enough to get a result. Former Fulham striker Konstantinos Mitroglou was the hero during the play-offs, scoring twice in a 3-1 win in Athens. Greece were unbeaten in qualifying on their home patch, and are favourites once again here. At evens the Greeks look well worth a punt.

Portugal 1/4 draw 48/10 Albania 74/10
Portugal were one of the major disappointments at the World Cup. Fortunately my foresight allowed me to profit from their misery. Cristiano Ronaldo is getting on a bit, and should they fail to impress at Euro 2016, he may well end his career without an international honour. He was born a generation too late, left to lead a mediocre bunch to greatness. He’s a top talent, but even that is beyond him. They’ll start their quest against lowly Albania in Aveiro on Saturday. The last meeting between the two on Portuguese soil came in 2008, ending in a 0-0 draw. All other results have been more decisive though, so I’m going with over 2.5 goals at 7/10.

Austria 13/10 draw 21/10 Sweden 2/1
Both Austria and Sweden missed out on the festivities in Brazil, and they’ll be looking to make sure that they’re in attendance in France 2016. This one should be an enthralling affair, with players like David Alaba and Zlatan Ibrahimovic on display. It was Ibrahimovic that was the difference when these two met last year, grabbing a late winner to secure Sweden’s place in the World Cup play-offs. The reverse fixture in Austria ended 2-1 in favour of the hosts, reflecting that these two sides are evenly matched. Both team’s have enough about them to get on the scoresheet, so I’m going with Both Teams To Score at 19/20.

Switzerland 17/10 draw 21/10 England 16/10
I underestimated just how bad England are at the World Cup. My reasoning that they’ve never really been any good seemed sensible enough, but in hindsight it was flawed. This English side is one of the worst in recent memory. Roy Hodgson, the man that thought Paul Konchesky a good signing, is the man tasked with building a new generation. It’s delusion of the highest levels. This weekend they’ve got Switzerland, who were as impressive as England were underwhelming in Brazil. This generation of Swiss footballers were runners-up at the U21 European Championships in 2011, and look a decent side. They’re available at 17/10 to overturn the English, well worth a punt.

Czech Republic 29/10 draw 24/10 Netherlands 9/10
Netherlands will begin a new era on Monday night, with Guus Hiddink tasked with ending the years of underachievement. They proved at the World Cup that Dutch football remains as strong as ever, even if a title continues to elude them. A trip to Czech Republic to open their campaign might prove testing, but this isn’t the Czech team of old. Euro ‘96 is a long way in the past, and with few Patrick Berger’s or Karel Poborsky’s on the radar, the Czech’s have slipped down the world rankings. These team’s haven’t met since 2005, so not much can be gleamed from previous meetings. Recent form suggests that Netherlands are good for the win, available at 9/10.

Israel 48/10 draw 27/10 Belgium 6/10
Belgium’s golden generation flattered to deceive at the World Cup. Too many square pegs, too few round holes – they never really clicked. There’s no doubting the talent at their disposal, but until they find a system that complements the players at their disposal, they’re destined to go the way of so many golden generations before them. Think England circa 2006, or Portugal circa 2002. A trip to Israel lies ahead of them, hardly ideal given the current unrest in the country. Israel is a notoriously tough place to visit, and I don’t think this Belgian side has the resolve to go there and win. Back the draw at 27/10.

Norway 34/10 draw 24/10 Italy 8/10
Another World Cup disappointment, Italy have a new manager in place as they look to return to former glories. Mario Balotelli has been culled and a host of fresh faces added to the mix. Conte worked wonders during his spell with Juventus and will be hoping to turn around the fortunes of this “Old Lady”. His first opponents are Norway, who despite a poor record in European qualifying (they’ve only qualified once) have a decent enough history against Italy. Their only loss on home soil came back in 1937, and they’ve managed two wins and two draws since. There won’t be too many goals here, so I’m going for another draw at 24/10.

It may just be me, but I’m sensing quite a lot of value here. I’ve had some terrible luck with multiples recently, but why can’t a change of competition bring about a change in luck? Call me crazy but I’m liking the look of Greece/Netherlands/Draw(Norway vs Italy) at a massive 12/1. That shall be all dear readers. Now if we can just get this out of the way and get back to the good stuff next weekend. Sala Kahle.

Written by Commodore Vegas
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Commodore’s Weekend Picks
Ireland WIN 11/10
Greece WIN 1/1
Portugal OVER 2.5 GOALS 7/10
Austria BTTS 19/20
Switzerland WIN 17/10
Netherlands WIN 9/10
Belgium DRAW 36/10
Norway DRAW 24/10