Euro 2016 Qualifiers Preview

With a final double set of fixtures occurring for potential European qualifying nations over the coming weekend, the race for the competition has most certainly reached crunch time. Those sides still in contention for booking a place in France 2016 will know exactly what is required of them over a tense five days. While there is a plethora of action available for punters to sink their teeth into, I’ll be providing some good value bets to take over Friday and Saturday. It’s sure to be a scintillating weekend full of the usual drama and intrigue.

Friday 9th October

Spain 1/100 | Draw 16/1 | Luxembourg 32/1

The reigning European champions are in the pound seat to finish top of Group C and need only a point from their next two fixtures to book qualification, starting with Luxembourg. Spain have triumphed in seven of their eight matches with a loss 2-1 loss to Slovakia this time last year being their only blip. A squad rich with talent despite having shed the crux of the side that made history prior to their unceremonious 2014 World Cup exit, Spain will chase an unprecedented third consecutive European Championship in France next year - and second under the tutelage of sage Vicente Del Bosque. Luxembourg have only a win against Macedonia and a draw against Belarus to show for their efforts. They lost 4-0 to Spain at home a year ago and shouldn’t trouble La Roja in Logrono. Spain are tipped for the win but are priced up too low to bet on at 1/100.  

Slovakia 11/20 | Draw 28/10 | Belarus 5/1

Slovakia lie second in Group C, two points behind Spain. They’ll book their qualification for the European showpiece with a win over Belarus, a side they have never lost to. Slovakia will be eager to get back to winning ways following a stalemate with Ukraine, preceded by a loss to La Roja. Those two results have been the only points lost by an impressive Slovakian team during qualifying. Belarus, on the other hand, have lost five of their eight qualifying matches to date and will not making the trip to France. They don’t lack experience internationally, but are certainly short on quality. Slovakia at 11/20 presents enough value for me. 

Montenegro 31/20 | Draw 2/1 | Austria 31/20

Montenegro will likely live to rue their home fixture with Russia in March, which was awarded as a 3-0 win to the away side following serious crowd trouble in Podgorica. The Balkan side would be level with Sweden on twelve points and only two behind Russia in second-place in Group G had they held out for at least a draw from the remaining 23 minutes. Consecutive wins over Liechtenstein and Moldova have put Montenegro back into group contention, but they must pick up wins over Austria and Russia to have even an outside chance at qualification. Austria will finish on top of Group G having already booked their place in Euro 2016 courtesy of an unbeaten qualifying run with just one draw. With Austria having little left to prove, I’m tipping Montenegro to win or draw on the Double Chance at 9/20.

Moldova 12/1 | Draw 5/1 | Russia 2/9

Moldova have been resigned to the bottom of Group G. They’ve picked up a mere two points from their eight matches but interestingly, have not conceded more than two goals in any of their fixtures. Scoring has been the issue for the Eastern Europeans with only three strikes finding the back of the net in the entire qualifying run. This problem has been compounded at home, where they meet a Russian side who still need to win both of their remaining matches to gain automatic qualification. It has been a turbulent campaign for the Russians, especially given the sacking of Fabio Capello midway through the qualifiers. However, with manager Leonid Slutsky having recalled a few Capello stalwarts for the final two fixtures, Russia should find a bit more solidity. I’m keen on utilising the Matchbet + Totals market for better value here. Under 2.5 Goals and the Away Win is tipped at 17/10. 

England 1/7 | Draw 6/1 | Estonia 18/1

The Three Lions are the only side in all of the qualifying groups to have claimed maximum points from their fixtures. Eight matches, eight wins and Roy Hodgson must be pleased as punch. One must still feel that England lack some quality in the centre of the park, but it’s difficult to argue against eight consecutive competitive victories. They were the first side to qualify for the European showpiece with the exception of the hosts. Hodgson and his troops will no doubt be keen to keep their 100% record intact, but the manager will likely attempt to balance pragmatism with experimentation against Estonia. The Balkan nation will still harbour ambitions of sneaking into a play-off spot but need to beat both England and Switzerland to pull it off. They narrowly lost 1-0 in the reverse fixture but are unlikely to put up as much of a fight at Wembley. In the quest for some value, take Over 2.5 Goals at 11/20. 

Saturday 10th October

Kazakhstan 10/1 | Draw 42/10 | Netherlands 1/4

Kazakhstan have proved the whipping boys in Group A and are rooted to the bottom of the table. A relatively impressive draw with group leaders Iceland in their last outing may help them draw some confidence to play spoilers to the Dutch trip to France. The only hope the Netherlands have of making the tournament is by leapfrogging Turkey to third spot and progressing via the play-offs. They’ll need victories against both Kazakhstan and Czech Republic to make that dream a reality, while hoping that Turkey slip up against either the Czechs or Iceland, both of which have already qualified for Euro 2016. It’s been a miserable campaign for the Dutch, who also face a lengthy injury list to overcome. Captain Arjen Robben will be missing, along with Ron Vlaar, Stefan de Vrij, Davy Klaassen and Quincy Promes. I’m still confident that the Dutch will win this one, but wouldn’t recommend looking for more value than the 1/4 on offer. 

Azerbaijan 12/1 | Draw 37/10 | Italy 3/10

Azerbaijan are well and truly out of the running for Euro 2016 having picked up only one win from their qualifiers. However, they’ll relish the opportunity of facing an Italian side not yet out of the woods. All of Azerbaijan’s points have been picked up in their last four matches, with a win over Malta followed by draws with Norway and Croatia. They subsequently drew their reverse fixture in Malta and previously ran Italy close, narrowly losing 2-1 in Palermo. Although Italy top the group unbeaten, they have looked thoroughly unimpressive in going about it. They’ve managed to find the back of the net in all of their fixtures but have yet to score more than two in any match-ups. I actually fancy the draw but the Under 2.5 Goals market should do the trick for multiples at 11/20. 

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Czech Republic 15/10 | Draw 22/10 | Turkey 18/10

This match will have massive ramifications in Group A. The Czechs have little reason to stress having already qualified for next year’s tournament, beating a Latvian team not satisfied with simply lying down. Czech Republic boss Pavel Vrba seems likely to tinker with the makeup of his starting line-up ahead of this clash, with Euro 2016 looming large. Turkey, however, will need to give everything to collect three points here. They’ll be hell-bent on preventing the Netherlands from stealing third spot in the group and could conceivably secure automatic qualification to the tournament as best third-place finisher if they win their remaining matches. I’m tipping a Turkish upset at 18/10 following their 3-0 rout of the Dutch. 

Croatia 3/10 | Draw 36/10 | Bulgaria 17/2

Croatia were docked a point for more racist behavior from their fans in their second fixture with Italy. A history of racist abuse from the Croatian supporters makes this unsurprising, but the disgusting appearance of a swastika etched into the Poljud Stadium pitch was the last straw for UEFA. One can only assume that the punishment is consistently too lenient to prevent these occurrences. It’s about time UEFA became more heavy-handed in dealing with these incidents. But I digress. Croatia currently occupies third spot in Group H and could move up a place if they beat Bulgaria and Malta, and should Norway lose to Italy. Bulgaria are almost certainly out of the equation, save miracle wins in their next two matches to vastly improve their goal difference. They have however been involved in some close matches and have been resolute defensively. I foresee another low scoring encounter and Under 2.5 Goals offers good value at 8/10. 

Bosnia & Herzegovina 8/10 | Draw 23/10 | Wales 33/10

Bosnia & Herzegovina have much to play for in hosting Wales. Lying fourth in Group B with eleven points, they need to claim the maximum allotment in order to have any hope of qualification. Qualifying directly is likely a step too far but a play-off spot is not out of their reach with Israel still to play Belgium. However, Bosnia’s campaign has been lacklustre having only found their touch in their last two home fixtures. Wales have had a dream run through European qualification and need only two points from their remaining fixtures to book their place in their first major tournament since the 1958 World Cup. The Welsh remain unbeaten with five wins and three draws and unsurprisingly, Gareth Bale has starred throughout. He has six goals in qualification and could once again be the difference here. I think the bookies have got this wrong. I’d love to risk the 33/10 on offer for the Welsh win but instead I’ll opt for safety and back them on the Double Chance at a tasty 9/10.

Euro Qualifiers Picks
Slovakia WIN 11/20
Montenegro WIN/DRAW 9/20
Russia WIN + UNDER 2.5 GOALS 17/10
England OVER 2.5 GOALS 11/20
Netherlands WIN 1/4
Italy UNDER 2.5 GOALS 11/20 
Turkey WIN 18/10
Croatia UNDER 2.5 GOALS 8/10
Wales WIN/DRAW 9/10

Written by Rick John Henry for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!