IT’S the final day of Euro 2016 group qualifying and Chris Graham (@chrisgraham79) shares his best bets.
Latvia v Kazakhstan | Tuesday 19:45 | Sky Interactive
Both these sides go into their final Group A fixture still seeking a win in the section. Kazakhstan have drawn two of their nine matches while for Latvia it’s been five draws out of nine.
Perhaps the most impressive of those draws came on Saturday night when they came back from two goals down to draw 2-2 with Iceland. Now in their easiest fixture of the group (on paper) they’ll look to go out on a high and pick up that elusive win.
I think they’ll achieve that but it won’t be easy at all. Kazakhstan drew in Iceland and only lost by one goal in Prague so they are an awkward opponent for any team. Don’t be surprised to see them fighting it out for a play-off spot in the next European Championships.
Latvia’s recent results have been fairly decent. A 1-1 draw in Turkey was followed by a narrow 2-1 defeat to the Czech Republic before that 2-2 draw against Iceland on Saturday.
They’ll go into this game on a high after that draw in Iceland and I’ll back them at 11/4 with Boylesports to win by exactly one goal. There’s not much between these sides at all but Latvia can go out on a high on Tuesday.
Malta v Croatia | Tuesday 19:45 | Sky Interactive
I could very well end up with egg on my face here but the price on Malta is just too big so I need to find a way to get with them. 33/1 for a side at home up against an inconsistent outfit makes no sense to me.
Let’s look at Malta first. For me, they’ve performed with dignity in this competition despite losing seven of their nine matches. The days when they used to get thrashed seem a long way away on these performances and the fact they’ve only conceded 15 goals in their nine matches tells you all you need to know.
Draws against Bulgaria and Azerbaijan were the peak but on three other occasions in this group Malta only lost by exactly one goal to Italy (twice) and Bulgaria.
Indeed on only one occasion in their nine matches did they lose by more than two goals. As I’m backing them +2 on the Asian Handicap they just need to avoid that reoccurring to make sure I don’t lose my money.
Croatia have had a somewhat erratic campaign. Sensational at some points, lacklustre in others. Ante Cacic is their second coach of the campaign with Niko Kovac getting the boot last month.
The negatives about this bet are that Croatia need to win to have any hope of qualifying automatically and Cacic’s first game in charge was a 3-0 win over Bulgaria on Saturday night.
Still, at 1/8 away from home they look short and let’s not forget this is a side that just last month couldn’t win in Azerbaijan. I have to take them on at these prices.
Italy v Norway | Tuesday 19:45 | ITV4
This looks an enthralling tie and the onus is 100% affixed on the Norwegians. Three wins in a row over Bulgaria, Croatia and Malta have put them right in the mix to qualify but they’re still likely to fall short unless they win here.
Norway are two points ahead of Croatia but with the Croats playing Malta you suspect they’ll take three points. A draw for Norway wouldn’t be enough as they have an inferior head to head record over Croatia and they’d drop into the play-offs.
So essentially Norway need to win here to qualify automatically. One positive is that Italy have already qualified so face no pressure, the negative is that they haven’t lost a qualifier for almost a decade.
Although the Italians are odds on to win the group, for me they’ve been ponderous in this campaign. They’ve only scored 14 goals and failed to beat any side at home by more than one goal. Malta, Azerbaijan and Bulgaria all left their land with just a one goal defeat.
I’m convinced Norway can get something in Rome on Tuesday. They have everything to play for while the Italians have nothing to care about. Antonio Conte’s side have been unimpressive on home soil all campaign and can cede points here.
Latvia v Kazakhstan – Latvia to win by exactly one goal (11/4 Boylesports)
Malta v Croatia – Malta +2 Asian Handicap (13/10 Stan James)
Italy v Norway – Norway Double Chance (20/21 Boylesports)
Qualified or not, Chris Coleman’s side should show their mettle against the no-hopers on Tuesday.
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