THREE Euro 2016 qualification groups conclude on Sunday evening. Mark O’Haire’s (@MarkOHaire) had a look at the best bets on offer.
Greece v Hungary | Sunday 17.00 | Sky Sports Interactive
I wrongly assumed that Greece could have delayed the Northern Ireland party on Thursday night. The Pirate Ship were taking on a side without their top marksman and with a host of injury and suspension concerns. The 3-1 defeat has left the 2004 European Championship winners winless after nine qualifiers (W0-D3-L6) and confirmed rock bottom Group F finishers.
Since Fernando Santos’ departure post-World Cup, Claudio Ranieri and Sergio Markarian have both tried and failed to recapture Greece’s former glories and now caretaker coach Kostas Tsanas looks destined to follow after that poor performance in Belfast. It’s been a shocking and appalling drop-off in form in a matter of months and it’s a little perturbing to see the Pirate Ship chalked up as favourites for Sunday night’s visit from Hungary.
The Magyars are still in the running for automatic qualification and know a victory will put them right in contention with Romania away at Faroe Islands. Should Romania drop points and Hungary take all three in Piraeus, Bernd Storck’s side will clinch a top-two finish. Even so, the visitors are in pole position to take the best third-placed spot ensuring there’s plenty of reason to believe the travellers are worth siding with.
Hungary have already won in Finland and the Faeroes whilst holding Romania and Northern Ireland to draws in their own backyard. The Magyars have notched in each fixture and leaked just two themselves. Contrast that with Greece’s pointless return from four home encounters as the Pirate Ship fired blanks in all four losses.
Hungary are worth siding with at 7/6 (888) in the Draw No Bet market tonight.
Armenia v Albania | Sunday 17.00 | Sky Sports Interactive
Should Armenia be as big as 3/1 to beat Albania on Sunday? I don’t reckon so, although a quick peek at their recent run of results suggests perhaps. The Collective have W0-D2-L10 of their last 12 dating back to May 2014. Ouch.
The hosts have taken just two points from a possible 21 in a difficult Group I but it deserves noting, Armenia held both Denmark and Serbia to draws in Yerevan and were only squeezed out by the odd when table-topping Portugal came to town. Of their five total defeats, just one arrived by two-goals or more.
Clearly the margins have been tight whilst injuries have taken their toll throughout the campaign. But The Collective are in decent nick going into Sunday’s fixture and can call upon captain Henrikh Mkhitaryan going forward – the Dortmund playmaking wizard has been in the form of his life this season and is capable of unlocking the tightest of defences.
Armenia may be down and out in the pool but they’re a proud nation and won’t allow Albania just to turn up and collect three points. The visitors are still in the hunt for automatic qualification but I’m not sure they’ll have recovered emotionally and physically from the draining exercise in Serbia on Thursday.
The fierce hostility and rivalry between the two countries meant the match was highly charged and the 2-0 defeat in Belgrade must surely have had a knock-on effect to Gianni De Biasi’s boys. Am I convinced they’ll be at their absolute peak come 5pm? No, not at all.
And I certainly don’t believe the Eagles deserve to be 13/10 favourites. Sure, they’re the better team – on results and squad-wise – but so short after such a morale-sapping experience? For what it’s worth, Albania did turn Portugal over away, right at the start of this campaign, and picked up a point in Denmark.
However, those are Albania’s only two road results in competitive games in Group I and the Eagles have W2-D3-L7 of their past 12 qualifiers on the road dating back to 2010. That run of results includes trips to Cyprus, Luxembourg, Slovenia and Belarus with Norway the only other side to suffer a reverse when hosting the Red and Blacks.
I’ll back Armenia to avoid defeat in the Double Chance market at 13/16 with 888.
Greece v Hungary – Hungary draw no bet (7/6 888)
Armenia v Albania – Armenia double chance (13/16 888)
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