NINE games this Saturday from the Euro 2016 qualifiers. Chris Graham (@chrisgraham79) gave us his two best bets.
Kazakhstan v Iceland | Saturday 15:00 | Sky Sports 5
On paper this doesn’t look too big a match, but for Iceland it’s huge. The antics of Lars Lagerback’s side at the tail end of last year has put them deep inside the mix for Euro 2016 qualification. And what an achievement that would be.
Iceland kicked off this campaign with three straight wins.
POW! Turkey were, err, stuffed 3-0. SQUASH! Latvia were flattened 3-0. WOW! Holland came a cropper 2-0 in Reykjavik.
Sadly the run didn’t continue in November when Iceland were beaten 2-1 by the Czech Republic, but if they can continue that level of form then they have every chance of playing in France next year.
Their opponents on Saturday are Kazakhstan. Such an awkward opponent. Such a tough trip. What a test. But before I end up putting myself off backing Iceland at 20/21 it is worth saying that the Kazakhs don’t look as strong in this campaign.
For a start they’ve conceded 10 goals in their last three games. They conceded 21 throughout their whole 10 game World Cup 2014 programme. The Czechs scored four in Astana in October. Not even Germany could do that in the last campaign. In fact it was the first time they’d conceded more than three goals at home since 2009.
This is a game Iceland simply have to be winning if they want to reach the Euro 2016 finals. The Kazakhstan team seem to be on a downward curve and with the Icelanders moving in the opposite direction they need to take advantage here.
Belgium v Cyprus | Saturday 19:45 | Sky Sports Interactive
No set of odds have caught my attention more this week than those chalked up for Saturday’s Belgium – Cyprus game. I’ll keep it simple – Cyprus are far too big at 28/1. Our Bookie Of The Month 888 Sport have them at 16/1 and that’s a much fairer assessment in my opinion.
These qualifiers have produced some fantastic moments so far with sides like Cyprus earning their 90 minutes in the sun. In fact, Cyprus’ victory over Bosnia in September is the second biggest shock of the qualifiers so far. They were 20/1 that day.
Cyprus used to be a by-word for an easy game. Then they started to get better, famously thrashing Ireland 5-2 in 2006, but in the last campaign they won just once, finishing bottom of their group.
Like so many lower-ranked sides though they seem to have been motivated by the new qualifying structure and have started this campaign more solidly. Okay, after that amazing win in Bosnia they lost to Israel and Wales, but both were narrow one goal defeats. Next time out, they ripped apart Andorra 5-0, scoring more goals against them than Holland did in the last qualifying campaign. Respect!
So what about Belgium then? Well, of course they reached the Quarter-Finals of the World Cup last summer (a great achievement), but since then have, like so many established nations, took their foot off the pedal.
They drew in Bosnia (Cyprus won there) and then followed that up with a 0-0 draw at home to Wales. Wake the fuck up lads!
This matchday might see the big sides return to their level of form. It’s nine months since the World Cup, we’re deep into the season, it’s time to screw the nut.
If that’s the case then Belgium will win here. In fact, they may win comfortably. If it’s not, and that lethargic relax-we-just-need-to-finish-in-the-Top-3 attitude prevails then I’m all over that 28/1. Let’s see what kind of Belgium turn up here.
It’s entirely up to you, but I don’t see any point in taking touch-of-odds-against prices on Cyprus in the handicap. What’s the point? I can see them causing a shock or getting shafted so I’ll back them to win, avoid defeat and Belgium to win by exactly one goal. All are good prices.
Kazakhstan v Iceland – Iceland to win (20/21 BetVictor)
Belgium v Cyprus – Cyprus to win (28/1 BetVictor)
Belgium v Cyprus – Cyprus +1 (6/1 BetVictor)
Belgium v Cyprus – Belgium to win by exactly one goal (15/4 BetVictor)
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