IT’S the final night of Euro 2016 qualifiers in September on Tuesday and Mark O’Haire’s (@MarkOHaire) lined up his best bets.
Sweden v Austria | Tuesday 19.45 | Sky Sports Interactive
The door to Euro 2016 qualification was blown wide open on Saturday night in Group G with Sweden’s massive match against Russia in Moscow ending in a 1-0 defeat. The Blue-Yellow were unusually subdued, uninspired and well below-par for a good 70 minutes in the Russian capital before a late rally for a leveller.
It’s left the Swedes requiring a victory over group table-toppers Austria on Tuesday evening to feel confident of holding onto second spot with the Russians now just a point behind Erik Hamren’s men. But the task of despatching the impressive Austrians is far from straightforward.
Since opening their campaign with 1-1 draw against the Swedes in Vienna, Das Team have recorded six successive qualifying wins including maximum point returns in all three of their away assignments. Saturday’s narrow 1-0 success over Moldova on home soil has put Marcel Koller’s side on the brink of reaching next summer’s tournament – the guests require just two points from their final three fixtures.
And this is no flash in the pan, either. Austria have lost just once in their last 14 internationals – a friendly defeat to Brazil back in November – and have notched in each of their last 16 outings. Koller’s troops have only conceded twice during their seven qualifiers, one of which was a penalty, and that’s included home and away 1-0 beatings of Russia.
Clearly the visitors deserve maximum respect and Sweden will need to pull their fingers out after a lifeless showing in Moscow. Talisman Zlatan Ibrahimovic was withdrawn at half-time on Saturday with a tear to his abdomen and although it’s unclear whether he’ll be risked in this crucial showdown, I’m willing to put my faith in the Blue-Yellow playing their part in a goal-friendly game from Solna.
Sweden have notched at least twice in 14 of their last 16 meaningful matches on home soil and haven’t lost a European Championships qualifier as hosts for almost 12 years. Five of their past six in at the Friends Arena proved profitable for Both Teams To Score punters and with the Austrians netting in 11 of their previous 16 qualifiers on the road, Coral’s 11/10 on BTTS landing looks more than fair.
Belarus v Luxembourg | Tuesday 19.45 | Sky Sports Interactive
Neither Belarus nor Luxembourg can qualify for Euro 2016 and this fixture would normally not see the light of day in media coverage. But on Monday it emerged that 16 of Luxembourg’s 20-man squad were suffering with the effects of food poisoning after eating a dodgy spaghetti at their team hotel in Minsk.
The Luxembourg Football Federation has asked UEFA to potentially push the match further back but it looks set to go ahead with all of the squad taking to the pitch at the Borisov Arena for a training session on Monday evening. The food poisoning came a day after Luxembourg celebrated a rare competitive win, beating Macedonia 1-0 at home on Saturday.
Reports suggest the players effected spent hours in the bathroom on Sunday evening with “terrible stomach aches” and team doctors treated them with medicine and electrolytes. It’s hardly ideal preparation for the Red Lions, who are traditionally woeful travellers. I fully expected the prices to move with the news but if anything, it looks like the hosts have drifted in the market – from a first show at 1/5, the Belarusians are now available around the 1/4 mark. Odd.
Over the past 11 years, Luxembourg have returned W2-D3-L25 in their away qualifiers and whilst I’m well aware they’re a rapidly improving nation, their best work is often done at their Stade Josy Barthel base. In 16 of those 30 road trips the visitors have leaked at least three goals and that’s been the case in eight of their most recent 11 away days.
Belarus have often shown signs of life but Alyaksandr Khatskevich’s charges are too often riddled with inconsistency. However, since 2007 their only competitive defeats as hosts have come against leading nations such as England, Croatia, Bosnia, Spain, France and in this campaign, high-flying Slovakia and Ukraine. Sure, they’re not close to piercing the two tiers of European football but they’re certainly no mugs.
The Belarusians have an outstanding chance to clinch victory on Tuesday night. Luxembourg have leaked before half-time in 15 of their previous 19 meaningful matches on their travels and with spaghetti-gate still likely to have a big influence on proceedings at the Borisov Arena, I’ll be happy to have a play on Belarus-Belarus in the Double Result market at even-money with Coral.
Sweden v Austria – Both Teams To Score (11/10 Coral)
Belarus v Luxembourg – Belarus/Belarus double result (1/1 Coral)
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