NINE Euro 2016 qualifiers on Friday night. Chris Graham (@chrisgraham79) has picked out four bets to get involved with.
Bosnia v Israel | Friday 19:45 | Sky Sports Interactive
Off to Group B for the opening selection and there’s too big a gap in the prices between the sides for me here. Bosnia are best price 8/11 to beat visitors Israel on Friday night and I’m loathe to back them at odds on.
We’re halfway through Euro 2016 qualifiers and it’s been a fairly humbling opening half for Bosnia. They had to wait until Game 5 to record their first victory (a 3-0 win against uber-minnows Andorra) and that was after two shameful defeats earlier in the campaign.
They kicked things off in September with a 2-1 home loss to 20/1 Cyprus and then were beaten up 3-0 by the Israelis in November. Draws against Belgium and Wales sandwiched those matches but their poor form is why they sit 5th of 6th in Group B.
Why the poor form? Didn’t they make the World Cup last year? True, they did, but therein lies the problem for me. Reaching their first ever World Cup was a massive deal for the country and their disappointing showing in Brazil has caused a major hangover for the nation.
Did you know only two sides have qualified for a debut World Cup and gone on to reach a European Championship two years later? The Soviet Union in 1960 and Denmark in 1988 are the only sides to do it. Further reading on this subject is on that link if you fancy it. So if you believe in that stat then Bosnia were already up against it despite the easier qualification format.
Israel of course have only played in one World Cup and that was 45 years ago. They’ve definitely been creeping closer and closer to grabbing a play-off spot though and I can see them making the Top 3 in this particular group.
Their 2016 campaign kicked off wonderfully with three wins out of three (including a 3-0 defeat of Bosnia) but it’s hit the skids since with a rational 1-0 home loss to Belgium and an irrational 3-0 crushing by Wales. I’m still getting my head round that result to be honest.
I’m happy to give Israel a go here at the prices. Any sort of result will keep Bosnia out the picture and give them every chance of grabbing at least a play-off spot. I’ll back them +1 at 13/10 with Bet365, avoid defeat and I cash in.
Iceland v Czech Republic | Friday 19:45 | Sky Sports Interactive
I’ll keep this simple. I feel an obligation to back Iceland on Friday night. Bookmakers continue to dangle fancy prices on this wonderful team and I’m happy to take my chances. If I lose, I lose. If I win…well beers on me.
So far in this Euro 2016 qualifying campaign Iceland have played five games and won four of them. Their victims have been World Cup semi-finalists Holland, Turkey, Kazakhstan and Latvia. Very impressive.
If you look at those results more closely then it gets even more impressive. 11 goals scored. 0 conceded. Holland dispatched 2-0 while the other three knocked off 3-0. That’s 3-0 at home to Turkey and 3-0 in Kazakhstan, a horrid place to try to get three points.
The Czech Republic were the only ones to spoil the party in November when they beat them 2-1 in Plzen. But there was no shame in that result and Lars Lagerback and Heimer Halgrimsson’s side have now scored in their last 10 qualifying group games.
After a poor attempt at qualifying for Brazil, the Czech Republic look up for it this time round and will most definitely pose Iceland problems. They won their opening four fixtures in the group before bizarrely drawing with Latvia on home turf in March.
As good as they are, should they really be going off favourites? Not for me. Bookmakers remain reluctant to give Iceland any sort of respect despite their heroics here and in reaching the play-offs for Brazil so I’m naturally inclined to back them to win at a handsome 19/10 with Bet365.
Malta v Bulgaria | Friday 19:45 | Sky Sports Interactive
More of a fun bet here in Group H but I can’t resist getting with Malta on Friday. Siding with minnows in international football will one day reap rewards, you simply have to be patient. Malta are beginning to move into that category of teams you want to roll the dice on.
They’ve been rubbish for decades but in the last 15 months or so we’ve witnessed signs of life. Ok, they’re still losing most of the time, but they ain’t getting hammered.
Over their last 11 matches they’ve only succumbed to a more-than-two-goal defeat once. One of Europe’s form sides Slovakia only beat them 1-0, Italy by the same scoreline and Croatia 2-0. Pride has been restored!
And don’t worry there’s more positive news. On Monday night they beat Lithuania 2-0 in a friendly in what was their first two goal win for over three years.
More impressive than that though was their sensational draw in Bulgaria in November of last year. This was deeply embarrassing for the 1994 World Cup semi-finalists and of course they could be gunning for revenge on Friday night.
But while Malta are basking in that draw in Bulgaria and win over Lithuania, their visitors have got the hump. They were shellacked 4-0 by patchy Turkey on Monday night and they may be really nervous going into this game after that score and their previous meeting.
Malta are 15/2 to win with Coral. That’s certainly a leap of faith but I’m happy to stake a pint on that. Double Chance odds around the 7/4 mark make no appeal so my main bet in this game is backing Malta to score at a fair 21/20 with Betway.
Bulgaria may be very nervous and they’ve conceded in their last 10 competitive matches. Malta aren’t prolific scorers but after Monday night’s win belief will be high. It’s worth a go for me.
Bosnia v Israel – Israel +1 (13/10 Bet365)
Iceland v Czech Republic – Iceland to win (19/10 Bet365)
Malta v Bulgaria – Malta to win (15/2 Coral)
Malta v Bulgaria – Malta Over 0.5 Goals (21/20 Betway)
Fancy a hugely enhanced treble price on these three European giants.